Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

Preparing your server for success

So what happens when your church or charity website gets mentioned on a popular blog, like say Instapundit or Slashdot? Are you ready for the surge in traffic when a popular radio host or TV station plugs your URL? How about for the Thursday night before Easter services?

Odds are, probably not.Stay connected, even during the good times

I’ve personally enjoyed an occasional ‘Instalanche,’ and once even the dreaded ‘Slashdot effect,’ along with some air time when I first started this blog. I’ve seen first hand the type of volume that can hammer away at a server when this happens?

So what to do?

Well let’s talk about some of the low lying fruit first. I’ll go ahead and use WordPress as an example platform as that covers the majority of HYCW cult members out there other than Mike Boyink, whom has special dispensation for his Expression Engine ways … but I digress …

  1. Caching is your friend – meaning if you’re not caching your content, do so now. There are plenty of plug-ins available including Super-Cache which rolls out with version 2.8. There are even 3rd party services if you’re in the big leagues.
  2. Optimize them images – I’ve written more than once about image bloat, which basically means for those who are not equipped and knowledgeable PhotoShop practitioners – get IrfanView and resize and optmize your .JPG, .GIF and .PNG images using the application’s default settings.
  3. Update your platform – Even though later versions of WordPress and associated plug-ins are likely to contain new features that increase their server footprint, they often include bug fixes and optimizations that help them perform better downstream.

So now that we’ve stated the obvious, let’s talk about a few more intermediate things we can do that’ll help things keep chugging along – provided you remember to make backups:

  1. Optimize your database – which is built-into phpMyAdmin that most hosts provide gratis. Otherwise, this can be accomplished at the command line by backing-up and then restoring one’s database – which is a good procedure to know regardless of optimization.
  2. Compress your CSS & JavaScript – for those of you who don’t code, there’s alot of repetitive white spaces, commands and operands that can be ‘tokenized’ into smaller symbology. YUI Compressor does a good job with JavaScript. CSS Drive offers one of many competent CSS Compressors out there.
  3. Turn-off unnecessary plug-ins, remove unused plugins – especially the former as they inject code and processing cycles into the page delivery process. No need to burden the user with this stuff if it’s not helping the cause.

Okay, now for the advanced stuff , the type of tasks no one likes because for the most part, these steps either require engaging in planning or policy:

  1. Email notifications – Consider turning off select groups of email notifications temporarily while the rush is on, for example, new registration notifications. This means knowing what emails you get from your site and what happens to whom when they’re altered.
  2. Old Post Comments – Think about using plugins that allow you to switch comments and/or pings on or off for batches of existing posts. I personally use Extended Comments Options such as those over a year old. This may be tough when dealing with pastors with several years of sermon submissions.
  3. Contingency plan –
    • I mentioned this before, but is your data backed-up on a regular basis? Do you know how to restore it?
    • It might help to have an alternate theme that is less graphic and media intensive for use during the rush. You know, one without all the ‘flashination?’
    • Work out an alternate domain with your service provider, and/or a sub-domain with neighboring organization. This could even be a microsite platform temporarily drafted to help with the load.
    • Discuss with your hosting provider other alternatives they might offer.

There are still some other real-hairy things you can do, but I suspect if you’re the type of reader who already knows about employing dual-server gardens for data and application, then I don’t really need to explain such big-league tactics.

The point is, be ready for success.

After all, Easter is just around the corner, and I can guarantee you, even if you don’t get mentioned by an A-blogger, you’re site is going to get hit with first time visitors looking for service times, directions, things for the kids, and what type of pancakes you’re serving at the sunrise service.

It might not hurt to have your analytics goals set up to capture such events either … more on that later.


  1. You can also use Movable Type which creates posts and pages in fast loading static HTML, avoiding server draining database calls for every page load. (Mike’s not the only reader who hasn’t drunk the WP Kool-Aid. :-D)

  2. I wish we had the problem of server overload. Still, optimizing your code is a good idea, regardless.