Tag Archive: Super Cache

Akismet and Jetpack Issues, Stop Spammers and CloudFlare Save the Day

My Web Host Penalised Me Yet Helped Speed Up My Site

Introduction

shared web hosting

shared web hosting

This site used to be hosted on Site5, in Texas.  I had a shared web host account, about the cheapest there is on Site5 though by no means the cheapest around (I’ve had experience of really cheap hosts….).  It worked alright, site management was good.  Then, I got hit by spammers.  Twice.  Big time.

Each time, this slowed the site down, made life hell for other shared accounts, especially when I introduced WordPress plugins to counter this.

Naturally, Site5 advised me to stop the hits or they’d pull my account (they’d already temporarily disabled it).  They advised me to cut the plugins, using GoDaddy’s plugin testing tool, WordPress Plugin Performance Profiler (P3).  So I did this, and after some trial and error, got the running processes down.  Of course, I lost a bit of neat functionality.

Testing Times

Apart from internal WordPress testing, it pays to test your site as if you are someone else somewhere else.  Pingdom have a set of tools that does just this, testing from various global locations and I can recommend it.

Result!

I used an iterative approach, testing various combinations of plugins and systems to end up as being in the top 8% sites for speed in the world!  Not bad for free is all I can say!   You’ll see in the screenshot above, that 92% of websites are slower than mine….   So is it really free?  Here goes…..

Paid For:
  • Web Hosting.  Shared.
  • My domain registration.
Free:
  • WordPress and all the LAMP functionality
  • WordPress plugins
  • CloudFlare
Pingdom Says

Pingdom Says

Automattic Issues

WordPress (which this site uses) is built by the Automattic team and naturally have expanded over time.  I’ve used their plugins for many years, Akismet from the off, which is a comment spam blocking system.  Latterly, they came out with Jetpack, where they say,

Supercharge your WordPress site with powerful features previously only available to WordPress.com users.

Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that supercharges your self-hosted WordPress site with the awesome cloud power of WordPress.com.

P3 Selected Output

P3 Selected Output

This is all well and good, except when I tested it using the P3 plugin profiler, Jetpack was the biggest drag on everything!   The worst part of it, was that actually, I was only using a small part of its features and it was still the biggest suck on performance.

  • I didn’t use Carousel for photos since I had an old solution, NextGen Gallery, that I’m loathe to change.
  • The comments system mucked up all other comment plugins, grabbing all for itself (a bit like Microsoft here!)
  • I used the stats, and that was about all, yet they were very slow and not that informative, actually.
  • Nearly all the other stuff I looked at, tried and ditched for similar reasons.

So much for the awesome cloud power.  On top of this, you’re now supposed to pay for parts of Automattic’s offerings, like Akismet, the comment spam blocker while a major offering of theirs was actually slowing my site right up!

What Did I do?

Change host!

Well not initially, actually, though the heavy-handed Site5 approach got my ire a bit I must admit.  I did do loads of tests with a host of caching, anti-spam and page load improvement plugins first…

Vidahost

Vidahost

I now use Vidahost in the UK.  The site is faster to manage (along with my others) since the servers are in the UK with me, and it’s cheaper, providing almost the same functionality and tools as Site 5.  I took the opportunity to clean out a few dead files in the process, but essentially, all was moved, database and files.  The lot.  Just twiddled config.php and the .htaccess file a bit.

did worry that my American visitors, who are actually in the majority, would  suffer slower speed and thus I’d get hit in Google rankings, but hey, wait for later…!

I got it all working and as part of the whole “thinking” process since the very first warnings from Site 5, I’d been looking for better things.

Looking at Things Closely

  • I like Related Posts.   Related Posts plugins do just that.  I love the idea of pulling out meta-data relevant stuff from a website.  Site 5 had said, as have others on the web, that this sort of plugin makes big hits on a site.  Some of them really do!  I use  YARPP, with a limited subset of features enabled which cuts down processing.
  • I also like Andrew Ozz’s Shutter Reloaded which shows images nicely.   I also like his post editor, TinyMCE Advanced, it being the best of many I’ve tested over the years.
  • I like NextGEN Gallery having used it since before WordPress got all image fancy.  I haven’t got time to fiddle with thousands of photos now…
  • I’d like some statistics within WordPress.
  • I’m not that interested, any-more (though I was) in Social Networking sharing features.  Truth be told, if someone wants to share, they will.
  • I’ve read a lot on image improvements.  I’ve always shrunk images manually before uploading using the excellent IrfanView application.  But during this enforced research, other things like sprites and delayed image loading popped into the equation.

So I like certain plugins or functionality.  I try and use the one that works best for me.  Too many plugins make a big hit on the server and thus website loading.

Caching

A way round this is caching.  e.g. If a post is created and has related posts clagged on the bottom using YARPP, then the post is cached and YARRP is only running once.  How and where the caching is done is the crux of the issue…

Site 5 suggested W3 Total Cache as a better alternative to Wp Super Cache,  which I’ve used for years.    Naturally, I’ve tested this and my conclusion was that it could be fast, and it was fast for a while, but over time on each of my sites I got issues around lock-ups and the huge and complex caching system around files, databases and sprites.  This list is long.

I’ve also tested various database query caching plugins likewise over the years.  W3 Total Cache incorporates this method too, but ultimately, it made too much work for not a lot of difference IMHO, since I’m lazy.

However, it did point me to one thing!  CloudFlare.

CloudFlare

CloudFlare Admin1

CloudFlare Admin1

Ah.  The power of the cloud is back!

Not only that – it works!

CloudFlare Admin2

CloudFlare Admin2

You re-direct your DNS at your domain registrar (joker.com in my case) to CloudFlare’s DNS servers, set up the site malware protection level you want – then after a few hours your whole site is cached and protected.  Best of all, it’s free for a little site like this!

In fact, using CloudFlare speeded everything up even before I got caching going again…

Further Plugin Work

Now, I went back to Wp Super Cache from Doncha and it all works fine.  Site speed good.  I then ditched Jetpack after testing it again.  It really does interfere with all comment plugins, and I really like this comment one as do people who comment here:

  • U Extended Comment

It works great and does everything I want.  So Jetpack, it’s bye bye.  Take all your fancy commenting system, your stats, your social media and fancy image handling.

But What About Comment Spam?

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results2

Stop Spammer Results1

Stop Spammer Results1

I’ve found the best solution is a plugin called Stop Spammer Registrations Plugin.  It needed a bit of fine tuning and a re-activation of Akismet to whip out a few wisps of spammer, but it works and seems to trap and report more spammers than ever Akismet did alone.  Akismet, by itself, does the commenting bit in tandem with the plugin, rather well.

Registration Spam

SABRE Results

SABRE Results

Unfortunately, during testing, a few unwanted visitors managed to register on the website.  They can’t do real harm since I use the lowest role level at registration time.  So I re-enabled SABRE and since then, no more unwanted visitors.  I’ve tested SABRE as a visitor and the settings I’ve chosen are just about right – I’ve had issues with it previously when it blocked registration!  But reducing the feature set and re-uploading a clean plugin fixes that.

CloudFlare and the CDN Issue

I toyed around getting a CDN to host images.  But they (can) cost and anyway, I’ve gone off Amazon and others because of their anti-Wikileaks actions plus they don’t pay UK tax…

Delayed Image Loading

However, in the course of my reading, I found that images can be loaded just as the page comes into view, which speeds up page loading, and as a consequence the perceived nippiness of a site.  The plugin BJ Lazy Load does this for me and works brilliantly.  Check this last post about Australia which has a lot of medium sized images to see them pop into view!

Delayed Javascript Loading

I use two plugins that handle this end of the issue around JavaScript.

Statistics

WP SlimStat1

WP SlimStat1

Well, Jetpack is gone.  I won’t be using it unless some serious improvements are made, it being the prime reason for the server load that brought me to this position in  the first place.  As soon as I disabled it (and simultaneously blocked all comments to the site, which isn’t the best thing, this being a blog after all), all server loads went away.

I now use SlimStat and it works very well.  I’ve tried many over time, including Google’s analysis tools, my webhost’s stats tools, Wassup and more, but for now, this is it.

Conclusion

My site works pretty fast and is pretty protected from the bad guys.  I actually still use more plugins than what is usually recommended – 50 is a huge lot according to web gurus and sages.  Currently there are 31 in active operation with 8 inactivated.  I love trying new ones, it’s like that, that’s just the way it is.

The delayed image loading is particularly apparent on a post with a lot of images, say this recent one.  The post loads fast and you see the first images load, and as you scroll down you’ll see other images appear with a slight delay.

All the other stuff is incremental improvement, with the biggest, by far, being the free CloudFlare service which I cannot recommend highly enough.  It’s a no-brainer, go and do it?

My Full List?

These are the plugins currently running that help my site work.  Many are for security, which demonstrates the state of play versus the bad internet guys full well.

Related Posts:

What a Super, Super Cache

Strangely post on June 16th, 2010
Posted in Internet Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve just upgraded WP Super Cache.

I use WordPress to generate and manage the webpages on this website.  Useful features are that it is flexible with plugins and themes.  You can do what you want.

Today came the time to upgrade WP Super Cache.

After a niggly start where it popped up a red message saying I needed the wpfooter() function inserted into my theme, when I knew fine well that it was there anyway….  it works fine!

I just switched it on and off a few times and the red error message went.

I have it set to cache every single post on the website!  This is supposed to potentially hammer your server, but it only took a few minutes in reality and I’ve set a large time between cache rebuilds, so hopefully, Site 5, who’ve been very good over the past year, won’t mind…

This way, all posts, when checked by a bot like the Googlebot, will be served from cache. ( Previously, the plugin only served a cached page to a user if someone else had previously viewed it between garbage collections ).  Now, the bot will see any page, cached.

I’ve checked, and the biggest posts take 8 secs to load and show for a unlogged-in user.

This is very good, IMHO, and much better than before.

The benefit from a SEO view is because it’s now been reported that Google do speed tests on pages and will use this as part of their relevancy ratings when returning search results.  My pages load a lot faster as they’re all cached, obviously.  This also is good from a user usage viewpoint as well.

Crawling Chaos

This plugin now works on the Crawling Chaos website that I also manage.  Very well, I might add!

Related Posts:

Page versus Database Query Caching

Introduction

I’m a born twiddler.  Even though something works quite happily, I’ll try something else.

So it was yesterday. In an effort to improve the ‘user experience’ and promote a bit of feedback on this website, I’ve been twiddling with various plugins.

Caching for Speed

Some time ago I changed caching methods from Donncha’s WP Supercache to Dmitry’s Db Cache.  To be fair, there wasn’t much in it, especially then.

  • One reason was probably my sympathy for the little man!  Donncha’s plugin is heavily plugged (pun intended), and even though that’s because he’s a good programmer and the tool has super ratings, I still thought I’d give something else a go.
  • Another reason is the “emperor’s new clothes” effect!  Donncha is part of the core WP personnel and in my long and flawed life I’ve come to observe the obsequious nature of people in the most unlikely of places!  So to eliminate that, it seemed fair to try alternatives.  This is something I continue to do – i.e. not trust anyone’s word fully until I’ve tried or observed it myself.  (Heroin is like this – it’s obviously crap by observation; I can see the effect on lives and society so I don’t need to test it.  Beer is a different matter though…)

Now

I’m not an expert, but I understand the arguments behind the two methods of caching.  The query caching has actually worked very well, until yesterday.  Then, all the plugin twiddling I was doing coincided with a big pile of hits (for me!) at about 21:00 GMT, mainly sourced from http://whatreallyhappened.com/ and other linked pages.  I was getting about one every 3 secs at one point.

Then the website fell over.

I struggled to turn off plugins – my plugin permutation testing strategy now being consigned to a future date – and wondered what was happening.  The database was alive but returning failed access.  So I eventually went to bed!!

Today, I’ve gone back to WP Super Cache, cleaned out all duff caches I can find, turned off a few plugins and tested using http://ismyblogworking.com/.   Well it is!

And very nippy it is too! (for me that is… as I said, I love twiddling and I love gadgets, and I’ve probably got way too many running for dedicated web purists – but that’s me!)

Conclusion

@AmazonNever, ever, be afraid to experiment.  All I’ve lost is few hits which in the scheme of the wider universe is pretty pathetic.  But I’ve learned so much more.  I’ll possibly go into this another time.  But for now, it appears that Donncha’s WP Super Cache is super!  The problems I had some months back were a combination of other things, and to some extent they are on-going.  I’m not the first person, and I know I won’t be the last to be drawn down the wrong path when troubleshooting.  The issue of my webhost is starting to come back again.  I’ve checked out different hosts in my price band (actually that means as cheap as it’ll go…!) and they are all much the same.  People are actually having much worse downtime rates than me among all the major players in this part of the market when I’ve checked forums etc.  So that’s still to be looked at and decided upon…hmmm.  Should I pay (a lot) more for a better service or just sit…..?

Related Posts:

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DB Cache Replaces WP Super Cache

Strangely post on March 18th, 2009
Posted in Technology Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Following on from my previous little post about DB Cache, I’ve been using it since that time and it seems to be faster to me from little old Blighty.  I use a USA based host so anything I see has to cross the pond anyway, but in a non-logged-in state, page loading is definitely faster than it was.  WP Super Cache is now consigned to the test bed of history.  Long live DB Cache, ha, ha.

Seriously, DB Cache is faster than no caching and Super Cache from my viewpoint, and in the end, that’s what counts.  And BTW, my permalinks work fine now, Hurrah!

Paradoxically, since this time, my host has had quite a few drop-outs and the web access has been lost intermittently.  One time was due to the database server falling over but the rest have been web server issues as far as I can tell.  The mail server has worked okay even when the web server has been off, as has the customer service system server!  I can’t see how the DB Cache plugin is doing this – it’s just co-incidence, I’m 99% sure.  Anyway, I’ve politely told iXWebhosting that their chances are running out and they’ve been very apologetic etc etc.

Watch this space!

Links:

Related Posts:

Trying a New WordPress Cache Method

Strangely post on February 16th, 2009
Posted in Technology Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve decided in my twiddling madness, to try a new caching plug-in;

DB Cache

So far, it seems to be quicker at page loading compared to the previous caching method, WP-(Super) Cache, which isn’t bad considering all the ones and zeroes are crossing the Atlantic Ocean to get to my humble abode.

Whether the claimed times and query counts are true, I don’t rightly know.  All I know is that I’m a bit of a clueless c**t at this lark sometimes and rely wholly on personal observation.

Related Posts:

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