If I copy the complete public_html folder from my WP site to another webhost, is the site 'dormant' until on the internet calls index.php, which in turn accesses the database (via another php file, phpmyadmin), or am I misunderstanding WP architecture? I've been reading all afternoon into WP architecture but can't really find a good resource.

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    Just like any typical website, WordPress will just sit there as a collection of files until an incoming HTTP request "fires" things up. – TheDeadMedic Jul 12 '15 at 15:37
  • so the automatic plugin updating isn't even happening until someone HTTP requests the site? – Plumpie Jul 13 '15 at 20:42
  • Automatic plugin updating is part of WordPress' cron system, which (as @Pieter Goosen says) relies on at least 1 HTTP request (unless configured otherwise i.e. with a UNIX cron to trigger wp-cron.php). – TheDeadMedic Jul 15 '15 at 10:04

Its not entirely dormant, wp has a cron system to automate scheduled tasks. So even if noone accesses it it will keep plugging away at scheduled tasks. *** as long ad someone has accessed the site to trigger it. It will run until all tasks completed or the max execution time for scripts on the server has been reached

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    Wordpress cron system only fires when someone access the site. – Pieter Goosen Jul 15 '15 at 5:49

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