Reading time 5 mins

Beyond the Books is a weekly feature hosted right here at KBK. Beyond the Books is a weekly writing prompt where I throw out a topic (mostly non-bookish), and you guys blog about it. Come back here and share the link to your blog post, and we all have fun learning about each other. For more information and future topics click click here.

Today we are discussing a technical problem we encountered with our blog and how we resolved it.

So, sometimes things break. I have had approximately 10 issues with my site going completely wonky (that’s after 5 years guys, it happens). Here’s a break down of what caused the problem:

  • 7/10 times my website problems have been due to plug-ins
  • 1/10 times the problem was my theme
  • 1/10 it was ME make a mistake
  • 1/10 times it was my CPU (more on that later)

So now I go through each issue, real quick, and tell you what what I did about it.

Is it my plug-in?

The first thing I always do when I have a problem is to check all my plug-ins. The easiest way to figure this out is to shut all my plug-ins down and then re-activate them one-by-one. I have lost use of some awesome plug-ins (or at least i thought they were cool) by doing this. I find the problem by activating a plug-in. Now I can fix my site by not using that plug-in. Sometimes it is a plug-in I got used to using, so then I need to find a new one like it. It’s a pain in the ass, but this is actually the easier solution. (i only pay for one plug-in, so no big loss to find a new free plug-in for my site)

Is it a WordPress vs. Theme issue?

Just recently, WordPress did a major update. It updated automatically, so I didn’t think anything of it. Pretty soon afterwards, I started noticing some of my theme’s features weren’t working anymore. I immediately checked with my theme’s website to see if there was a patch or something, but there was no information yet. I then checked the site to see what other people were saying, (i literally typed in “update 4.5” and hit search). It turns out a lot of people were having issues but the common denominator was theme incompatibility. When I got back to my site I saw there was an update available for my theme. Everything went back to normal as soon as I updated, problem solved! (btw, it is really important to keep your site/plug-ins updated, those updates make it harder for hackers to break your site)

I broke my website!

Once, and only once, I tried to change something in my editor and it went terribly wrong. I don’t generally try to change things myself, but usually it is not a big deal. I might have been a bit overconfident this one time. I made the change, then hit “delete catche” to see the change. Then the worst possible thing happened, I tried to log onto my site and got a “500 Internal Server Error”. At this point, I knew I made a mistake. I reached out for help from a person I know on twitter and he was able to fix it fast. I am still grateful! (thank you @domsigns!)

That time I used too much CPU and what the hell is CPU anyways?

A few months ago, I got the email every blogger dreads. It was from my web host informing me that my website was using too many resources on their server and had to be shut down until I found a way to fix it. Here’s what really happened: My little ‘ole website used way too much of the server without my knowledge. This has happened before, but I had no idea what to do about it. The email I got basically said this:

We have temporarily disabled your website because it was causing performance issues on the server.

CPU is the shared host server’s central processing units (for more about shared hosts, click here). When a website uses too much CPU, other Web sites housed on the same server could suffer a loss in performance. My web host caught my over usage right away. They suspended my site until I fixed the problem. Usually when a website uses too much, there is some sort of abuse. In my case it was a combination of too many plug-ins and not enough monitoring.

Here is the list they sent me of suggested ways to fix my high CPU usage:

  • Install a caching plugin (like WP Super Cache)
  • Reduce the size of your databases by removing old content, clearing out post revisions and spam comments, or simply archiving old table data
  • Reduce the item count in pagination. Instead of 30 items per page, try 10 or 20
  • Add captchas to the login and comment areas to prevent bot abuse
  • Prevent security plugins from scanning incoming web requests or large directories
  • Reduce the overall plugin count. Any plugins that are not vital should be removed
  • Limit resource heavy plugins like:  Related posts plugins (WordPress Related Posts, YARPP) / WP Robot and other AutoBlogging plugins / WP Post Views, StatPress, and other wordpress statistics software
  • Link Checkers or aggressive Sitemap generators

I did (almost) all that and the problem went away. Honestly, I think this is the sort of thing that could happen to almost anyone. There are a few plug-ins that monitor CPU usage, but most of the sites I looked at for help state the same things in this list, so why add another plug-in.

Those are some problems I have had. What issues have you had, and how did you fix it?

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