I realize that this question is being asked in a very generic fashion, without detailed specifics of the configuration in question, and thus I am not expecting answers that go beyond anything but general guidance.

With that, given a WordPress site that is:

  • based on a typical "heavy" ("kitchen-sink included") theme, purchased via ThemeForest.net, and

  • hosted on typical (entry-level, Linux-based) "cheap hosting," priced at under $10/month

... to what degree can one realistically expect that the use of properly-configured caching-plugins (such as W3 Total Cache) and a CDN solution (such as CloudFlare or MaxCDN) can significantly boost the sluggish performance of the current setup?

In other words, if we take as an upper limit the performance that might be achieved hosting that very same website on a "high-end" hosting package (say, WPEngine's "Professional" plan, at $99/month, or even their "Business" plan, at $249/month):

  • Is there any realistic chance of achieving relatively-"zippy" performance despite the underlying "heavy" theme and relatively-weak infrastructure of the cheap hosting?

  • Specifically, what ballpark percentage of "high-end" performance might realistically be achieved?

  • And what estimated plugin- and CDN-related expenses would be required each month? Also: what ballpark percentage of peak performance might be achieved using only a "free" CDN plan?

Primarily, I'd like to receive -- if possible -- a "sanity check" that at least a "semi-respectable" level of performance can nevertheless be achieved with cheap hosting in my situation, with the proper tuning and external support (as well as general guidelines on the direction to take).

  • Downvoted as there is no realistic way to give any useful answer to this question with the amount of details given. May 25 '16 at 12:54
  • I stated from the beginning that the question was being asked very generically. And thus all that I had hoped for or expected were answers of a similarly general nature, to provide a "sanity check" for my hope that even-semi-acceptable performance might be squeezed out of a cheap server, with the help of supporting mechanisms. The helpful answers provided so far by Antony, NightHawk, and CodyA were at the exact level of detail that I had hoped to receive. :-)
    – NewBee
    May 25 '16 at 13:01
  • 1
    Bad question do not become a good one if you know from the start it is a bad one. Answers to this kind of question are meaningless. Your question has several assumptions that are simply not true like cheap hosting costing 10$ (that is not cheap) or that they have bad infrastructure. You compare to WPE, but in WPE you pay a lot for the brand name and support and not for the technical infrastructure.. May 25 '16 at 13:26
  • I have to double what @MarkKaplun already said. The only way would be to test this, but this site is not a performance blog that compares different commercial hosters against each other. In theory, your RaspberryPi might benefit less when well configured than some hosters with a big marketing budget. You can just try it, nothing to answer here.
    – kaiser
    May 29 '16 at 19:12

If your content is rarely updated and that you have configured a caching solution to have what is commonly called a 'supercache'.

This means that ounce a page is cached, next call to that page will return a static content, without requiring a call to a php interpreter.

Even on a cheap hosting, you can hold some huge traffic (over 1000 hits/s) and your next limit will then be bandwidth.

  • Thanks! But is 1K hits/s truly realistic for a (presumably-bandwidth-limited?) cheap host with large static content? And if next hurdle is indeed purely bandwidth, can free or cheap CDN boost that bandwidth to anywhere near "high-end" levels?
    – NewBee
    May 24 '16 at 11:00
  • if you can delegate images and javascript libs threw cdn. Your html is gzip on the fly and is probably below 20k. 1k * 20k = 20M/s. Your hosting contract might have a monthly traffic load so you could have to pay some extra or get cut off before the end of the month, but this should let you handle a big amount of viewed pages (around 1Million/day assuming your content doesn't get updated to often... If you open comments this is where you'll get your bottle neck. You should probably look into delegating comments to disqus.com services) May 24 '16 at 12:35
  • BTW 1k hits/s on static html can be handled by any cheap hosting solution. What can change is your contract, weather it limits you on bandwidth or hits (or both), this is what will make a difference, not at technical level but at commercial level. 1k hits/s on php call is a totally different story. 1 hits on static html requires less then 1ms of cpu when just initiating a php script comes to 20ms... even for just a "hello world"... a usual wordpress php call can be around 0.6s to 1s (scale is around one thousand times more demanding on cpu to run the php then to serve a static content) May 24 '16 at 12:49

As Antony Gibbs noted the caching plugin will work best if you have rarely updated content. This is in my experience a key factor to caching tools.

As for using a CDN, I use Cloud Flare on a few of my busier sites and the analytics screen from Cloud Flare regularly shows that I save an average bandwidth anywhere between 30%-60% depending on the type of traffic I have on a given day.

I would say that a CDN like Cloud Flare is the simplest to get setup/started. It will save your bandwidth, but it's not going to help much with the CPU and RAM usage on your hosting server.

Something else that is totally worth checking into is raising the PHP version if you can. Simply moving from v5.4 to 5.5 or 5.6 will speed up your PHP and help quite a lot. One of my sites that I switched from PHP v5.5 to 5.6 used nearly half as much memory per page load.

I'm not against caching plugins, but they generally require that they be fine tuned to your site, otherwise I have seen them actually do more harm than good.

  • Not yet enough "reputation points" to upvote your (and Antony's) answer ;-) , so -- for now -- THANKS!
    – NewBee
    May 25 '16 at 11:26

There are no doubt a lot of factors at play when talking Wordpress performance optimization. Implementing a caching plugin and a CDN are certainly great options for accelerating your site speed. A CDN will help speed up your static content globally, will help with scalability, among many other things.

A caching plugin will generate a static HTML file of your page so that the system isn't slowed down by backend processes (i.e. plugins, database, etc).

Although you likely won't achieve the speeds of a high-end hosting plan, if you optimize all other aspects of your speed you should still be able to attain very fast speeds.

Implementing a CDN and caching plugin are important aspects for optimization, although there can be many other things done as well. I would recommend reading through this Speed up Wordpress post for a full list of suggestions.

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