Scalable WordPress: Not a Myth

Through my entire career, I’ve run into people that didn’t believe that WordPress could scale. They looked at sites weighed down by poorly coded themes and plugins or just made assumptions based on experiences from a long time ago.

WordPress can scale to meet the needs of any size website if developed and managed correctly.

One of the clients I worked with a few years ago was a non-profit organization that was building an audio management system on top of WordPress using the new-at-the-time WordPress REST API. Their project garnered more and more attention until Google decided they were going to promote it.

I was working with a team that was responsible for the server platform that this nonprofit was using and the news about Google came in only days before the promotion was to happen. The project was going to be linked to on the homepage of Google, right below their iconic search input box.

We had less than a week to find a cost-effective solution to run the site, but thankfully, we had done many code audits and improvements in the months leading up to the event that the site was fairly performant.

Running a stateless WordPress set-up on autoscaling architecture with Amazon Web Services, my team and I was able to keep the site running through the entire promotion at a reasonable cost and in a highly efficient and very responsive way. We had basically created our own custom cloud specifically for high-performance, high-availability WordPress and it survived the tidal wave of traffic from Google.

The number of servers increased as the site got more traffic, and then were de-provisioned when the traffic numbers went down. We weren’t able to cache many users as they had to be able to interact with the site in a logged-in state and upload files, but we did cache as many as we could using Varnish.

Over the course of the couple days of the promotion, there were millions of page views, thousands of audio files uploaded, and terabytes of data transferred without an outage. We didn’t even need some of our failover hardware for our database or file server equipment.

So when people tell me that WordPress doesn’t scale, I try to bite my tongue and dig into why they believe that, as I know first hand that WordPress, done right, can handle any amount of traffic.

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