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In your experience, when is the time one needs to start thinking about scaling up?

What is the expected performance of a common WordPress installation on a standard Apache web server, without any [performance tweaks or plugins](Steps to Optimize WordPress in Regard to Server Load?)?

In terms of page loads (let's assume no caching): Is it in range of 100's/1000's/+ of page loads per second?

In terms of traffic: At which number of users per day can one expect to start hitting performance bottlenecks (ignoring traffic, assuming great connection)?

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A lot of this is very subjective and hard to answer because of different server environments, themes, size of database etc.

In your experience, when is the time one needs to start thinking about scaling up?

If you are concerned with your users experience you should already be practicing sound front end performance techniques. When is it time to scale up? When your users experience starts degrading and slow page loads are causing your bounce rate to increase.

What is the expected performance of a common WordPress installation on a standard Apache web server, without any performance tweaks or plugins?

A common WordPress installation running the default theme for a small to medium blog on one of the recommended shared hosts should be able to handle hundreds of users a day without issue.

In terms of page loads (let's assume no caching): Is it in range of 100's/1000's/+ of page loads per second?

For this question I ran a Apache Benchmark on a WordPress installation running the default 2010 theme with no caching.

alt text

I made 500 requests at 10 requests per second and was able to average 3.6 requests per second but as the requests started piling up the longest request took almost 2 minutes.

In terms of traffic: At which number of users per day can one expect to start hitting performance bottlenecks (ignoring traffic, assuming great connection)?

It is impossible to answer this question without running load tests or benchmarks on the server. For the benchmark above you would start having bottlenecks anytime there were more than 10 users using the site at once.

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Sorry for being vague in question definition. I appreciate the effort you have put to answering the question, including the stats. –  Marek Aug 24 '10 at 16:29
    
Great example. Just tested my blog, your site is faster than wordpress.com (which maybe is no surprise). –  hakre Aug 24 '10 at 16:41
    
That site is on a small VPS running APC w/768M memory. I have another site on the server using MarK Jaquith's APC object cache plugin that runs much faster. –  Chris_O Aug 24 '10 at 17:09
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Marek, your question is highly subjective and therefore can not be properly answered. You must provide properly defined context, definition of terms and values and so on that this comes close. Something most certainly not possible here. Unless you don't do the answer is very easy:

It depends.

For example, if your site feels slow directly after a blank setup and takes about 30 seconds to respond I can without doubt say that it's time you need to start thinking about scaling up.

A rule of thumb could be that your life site should respond below x amount of time (e.g. the 10th of a second) for any request while under load. If not, start to think about scaling up. Set the time for your needs, then monitor your site and if it runs over the line, start to think about scaling up. With sites it always depends so you need to measure it.

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Sorry for being vague and asking a highly subjective question. Actually, I was hoping for some vague advice, like "my wordpress installation handles 10K users/day without any problems" or "any wordpress can handle 30 of requests per second without problem on any decent server" –  Marek Aug 24 '10 at 16:30
    
Even a vague advice like 10k per day or so would not be very helpful because you might attract some other sort of users and you site might be thickier or so. It's just not easy to find some useful answer. –  hakre Aug 24 '10 at 16:48
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