Optimize(d) WordPress hosting (9+ practical tips)

Optimized WordPress hosting is a subject on which a lot is written about. And therefore, this post is not about where to host your WordPress blog, or who offers the best WordPress hosting. This post is for you developers, what you can do to optimize your WordPress hosting stack.

Or for any other PHP web application for that matter.

This post is not about setting up high-availability, fail-over, clustering, IIS versus Nginx versus Apache, RAID 1, 5, 6, 10, different types of storage, and so on. It’s about solving performance issues! This post tackles most of your performance issues, by explaining important configuration settings for PHP & MySQL, server, security, and so on.

Discover how this very blog has optimized its WordPress hosting environment
and how you can too…

When reading Facebook groups like Advanced WordPress (AWP) or WordPress Development Stack Exchange, you often find questions like:

Will it affect the performance of the site if we increase the number of records in wp_posts table by 10000 records? At this moment there are 200 posts.

Of course it will affect performance, doh! :) But, you can do a lot to optimize & tune your server/VPS and WordPress hosting.

Server hardware & separate web and MySQL services

One of the most important tips I can give you: separate services.

Whether you run your WordPress blogs on a VPS or bare-metal server, make sure you separate different server types and services. A lot of problems arise from having both Apache/PHP and MySQL on the same server, because MySQL loves memory. Approximately 80% memory needs to be available to MySQL.

My advice for you is to separate them to two servers, dedicated and optimized for their purpose (web or MySQL). Sure it’ll cost you an additional $10/m for an extra DigitalOcean droplet, but trust me: it’s worth it.

Isn’t it true that, when you (start to) develop WordPress websites for clients, and you host them yourself, you find yourself in a situation where you need to know a lot about “stuff” other than WordPress development? These 10 practical tips helps you tackle the most common performance issues.

MySQL optimization

As always, to tune MySQL you need to run an as high version of MySQL as possible. That means running MySQL 5.7, MariaDB 10.1 or Percona Server 5.6, at the time of this writing. Some MySQL administration experience is recommended for optimizing these settings.

InnoDB storage engine

Make sure your MySQL database tables are of the InnoDB storage engine. Nowadays MyISAM is outdated, just like PHP 5.3/5.4, .NET 3.5 and Windows Server 2008/2003 are. All MySQL optimizations are for the InnoDB storage engine, so switch to that and convert MyISAM tables to InnoDB. Here’s how.

InnoDB Disk I/O performance:
As of MySQL 5.5, InnoDB disk i/o performance can be increased by increasing the innodb_write_io_threads and innodb_read_io_threads settings in your MySQL server’s my.cnf file. These are very important settings.

Starting with MySQL 5.5.4, you can also divide the InnoDB buffer pool into multiple instances with multiple innodb_buffer_pool_instances. However, one important detail to remember is:

This options takes effect only when you set the innodb_buffer_pool_size to a size of 1 gigabyte or more.

MySQL InnoDB performance improvement: InnoDB buffer pool instances

So when dividing your InnoDB buffer pool into 6 instances, you’ll need at least 6 GiB RAM. Please note innodb_buffer_pool_instances is removed from MariaDB, but still available in Oracle MySQL.

MySQL query cache

You want to have MySQL query cache enabled on your MySQL database server, and have it configured with a proper value.

MySQL Query Cache is deprecated as of MySQL 5.7.20, and is removed in MySQL 8.0, but still available in MariaDB


MySQL loves memory (RAM). Make sure your server has plenty of it, and some more. About 80% of the RAM needs to be available for MySQL, and when you start dividing Innodb_buffer_pool_instances, adding query-cache, and various buffer sizes, RAM consumption increases rapidly.

Because SSD offers the best read/write (disk I/O) performance, SSD’s are a must too. If you can, switch to NVME disks.

If you don’t need MySQL’s binlog -or binary log, then disable it. Having MySQL’s binary log enabled will increase read/write operations on your disk. Do enable the slow query log to identify slow running database queries. The following example enables the slow query log for queries running three (3) seconds or more:

slow_query_log = 1
long_query_time = 3.000000
slow_query_log_file = /var/log/mysql/slow.log

Through this MySQL slow log, I once found that the autoload column of the wp_options table wasn’t indexed. You can fix that easily too: wp_options table autoload index.

Don’t save on CPU power, because MySQL likes to use the CPU for heavy calculations as well.

Web server optimization – PHP

No Apache, Nginx or IIS optimizations here, as I feel the web server is not often the bottleneck when a WordPress site is slow – but maybe you have a great tip for this? Share a comment!.

PHP Optimization:
As with MySQL versions, go with the highest possible version: 5.6.18, or preferably 7.0.3 -at the time of this writing, if all your code is PHP 7 compatible. Some PHP settings need optimization too, I discuss them below:

PHP OPcache

Zend OPcache PHP extension is in PHP nowadays, so why not enable OPcache and use it? I recommend you do. In your php.ini verify the following line is not commented out:

zend_extension = php_opcache.dll

You have to properly configure and optimize OPcache to take fully advantage of this opcode cache.

For IIS, set up WinCache and be sure to disable WinCache opcode cache in favor of OPcache’s opcode cache:

wincache.ocenabled = 0
wincache.ocachesize = 0

Note: The .dll-part comes from my Windows Server hosting environment. Because of slow development, I stopped using WinCache on our web servers. OPcache is good enough, even on Windows Server.

Be careful when enabling WinCache server-wide though, it might consume all available memory.

Set a good realpath_cache_size for PHP

PHP realpath_cache_size sets the size of the realpath cache to be used by PHP (e.g, the file locations on disk). Increasing realpath_cache_size can improve PHP performance a lot, and this value should be increased on systems where PHP opens many files.

Your WordPress Hosting at Warp Speed - img. credits: Christian Daryanto Limas @ flickr
Your WordPress Hosting at Warp Speed – img. credits: Christian Daryanto Limas @ flickr

WordPress optimization

The following section will give you some quick tips on how to improve the speed of your website.

Optimization is key.

Enable GZIP compression in WordPress .htaccess

The easiest way to enable gzip compression in WordPress, for your images, CSS and JS files, is to add these lines to your .htaccess file in the root WordPress folder:

<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/plain
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/css
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/xhtml+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/rss+xml
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/javascript
AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE application/x-javascript

If your server supports it, enable BROTLI compression instead of gzip. Set an Brotli output filter in .htaccess:


Caveat: be aware that not all plugins and external optimization sites / services recognize Brotli compression yet. You may get notices about not having gzip enabled…

Leverage browser caching

Add the following lines to your WordPress .htaccess to enable browser caching for resources:

<IfModule mod_expires.c>
    ExpiresActive On
    ExpiresByType image/jpg "access 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/jpeg "access 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/gif "access 1 year"
    ExpiresByType image/png "access 1 year"
    ExpiresByType text/css "access 1 month"
    ExpiresByType text/html "access 1 month"
    ExpiresByType application/pdf "access 1 month"
    ExpiresByType text/x-javascript "access 1 month"
    ExpiresByType application/x-shockwave-flash "access 1 month"
    ExpiresByType image/x-icon "access 1 year"
    ExpiresDefault "access 1 month"
    # Web feeds
    ExpiresByType application/atom+xml "access plus 1 hour"
    ExpiresByType application/rss+xml "access plus 1 hour"

Enable HTTP Connection keep-alive

Set the following header directive in your .htaccess file to enable HTTP Connection keep-alive:

Header set Connection keep-alive

Remember that for everything you add to your .htaccess file to optimize WordPress, you don’t have to install a plugin! This saves on PHP files and CPU processing time. Win win!

WordPress development tips – DevOps :)

An area I’m not very experienced in, but here goes… A tip: always (try to) follow WordPress development guidelines. For optimized PHP code, check out the PHP Benchmark tests, it’s a real must!

Also, it’s recommended to try to avoid catching exceptions in PHP. Exception handling can cause a performance penalty: Checking the performance of PHP exceptions, Speed performance of Trying and catching Exceptions in PHP.


When you develop WordPress websites for clients, and you want to host them yourself, you find yourself in a situation where you need to know a lot about systems administration “stuff“. Completely different topics than WordPress development. Like MySQL configuration, web server configuration, PHP settings, server security, and so on.

I often receive, and read about, questions from developers saying their hosting performance has degraded drastically over the course of time, and have no idea how to resolve the performance issues. In this optimized WordPress hosting post, I provided some important tips to improve hosting performance, for when you plan to host websites yourself.

If you have a valuable tip, please do share! And don’t forget to share this post with your friends and co-workers, thanks!

16 thoughts on “Optimize(d) WordPress hosting (9+ practical tips)”

  1. Thanks for the great article.

    i have a few questions regarding opcache on php 5.x up to 7.x, i read that php-fpm doesn’t play well with opcache in shared hosting environments, allowing one site to read another site’s files. This is because opcache=on means all sites share the same memory pool, and php-fpm doesn’t check for ACLs. My question is whether the same security issue occur on IIS shared hosting environment where is opcache is a shared memory pool? Does opcache run in the context of a site’s ApplicationPoolIdentity which check for ACLs before serving from the shared opcache memory pool?

    I know a way of testing by using url_fopen on php to test if a crafty file on one site can access files of another site because of opcache enabled. Solution would be to turn off url_fopen like in most production envs but that still doesn’t eliminate all possibilities at least in a shared hosting for environment.

    • Hi Leo, thank you for your interesting question!

      Yes, under rare circumstances it was possible to get control of OPcache memory files, under PHP 7 though. You may want to read Binary webshell through OPcache in PHP 7 for more information on this. This only was an issue when file based caching is enabled with opcache.file_cache=. On the Windows IIS web servers I manage, it is kept in memory.

      Furthermore, it is recommended to ensure file permissions are properly in place, so website/user_A cannot access temporary files created by website/user_B. Even when they share the temporary folder. Where possible you must provide a dedicated temporary location on a per website/user basis.

  2. Where you discuss “install a cache plugin like WP-Super-Cache” you could add a link to your article with the rewrite rules for WP Super Cache – https://www.saotn.org/valuable-wordpress-snippets/#wp-super-cache-rewrite-fix

    Rewriting to the static files offers a huge performance gain for five minutes work. And you don’t need to dig into the hardware setup or software config.

    I wish more of my resellers would do this instead of hammering MySQL over and over.

    • Hi Chris, thank you for your comment and suggestion. I kind of forgot about that link :-) I just spotted an error, there can’t be two or more HTTP_USER_AGENT lines when logicalGrouping is set to “MatchAll”. I’ve fixed that now.

      All you can do is pointing your resellers to information like this and urge them to setting it up.

      There are more WP-Super-Cache enhancements you can make: how about minifying the static supercache files or serve gzip supercache files on IIS (rewrites included). I also did an enhancement request for web.config support in WP-Super-Cache: issue #93 on GitHub.

  3. Really good article, it tackles some important topics. I feel like the “avoid catching exceptions” part is unnecessary, It’s the kind of micro-optimization I would never recommend.

    • Hi Milos, thank you for your comment!

      I’ve had my thoughts and questions about including the “catching exceptions” part. And true, it’s not really something for WordPress, but more for general PHP. I feel it can make a difference, especially when done wrong (I’ve tested the examples a few years ago and could reproduce the results, I don’t know if the exception handling has improved in PHP since).

  4. Hello Jan, your post is interesting. I have to say here that you have done a really good job by publishing the article above. This is really going to help a huge audience searching for such information. Have to seen Cloudways? Its a super fast managed cloud hosting platform. You can explore all its features by getting started for free. managed WordPress hosting

      • Cloudways isn’t a CDN, they offer optimized WordPress hosting servers of four popular clouds (DigitalOcean, Vultr, GCE, AWS).
        The stack they have is Nginx, Varnish, Apache, Memcached, MySQL, PHP 5.6.


Hi! Join the discussion, leave a reply!

%d bloggers like this:

Loading time: 112 queries, 0.392 seconds using 14890568 bytes memory. Peak memory usage: 15630608 bytes.