The pain of popularity

WordPress generates pages dynamically as people load them. No page is ever out of date; WordPress always displays the information as you have it entered in your database. Update a post, and the very next person who reads that post sees your changes. This feature truly is great.

Well, actually, it's great until a link to your blog gets posted to Digg. Then thousands of people start loading your blog, generating tens of thousands of queries against your database server to generate the same page for each visitor. This sudden upswing in traffic brings down your database, and as you know, WordPress can't display anything without a database. This situation is where the concept of caching comes into play.

Several WordPress plug-ins can help you weather a sudden influx of traffic without having to pony up the money for a beefier Web-hosting contract. I'm a fan of WP Super Cache, myself (http://wordpress.org/ extend/plugins/wp-super-cache/).

Caching works on the simple concept that most of the content on your blog doesn't change much, so why create the pages from scratch every time someone visits? Instead, you can keep a premade copy on hand and serve that up to your visitors. This method lessens the impact on the database server, which doesn't need to provide all that information for every page, and it lessens the load on the Web server, which can serve up only static files that don't require processing.

You don't have to wait for your blog to become incredibly popular to install these caching options. Forewarned is forearmed. It's best to prepare your blog for heavy traffic, because you can't always predict what will catch the eyes of the Internet hordes.

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