High CPU usage and load average in our WordPress blog

James Ryan Jonas

Those who frequently visit our site are probably confused by now by the constant change of our blog theme. Until early this week, we were using Brian Gardner’s Revolution Theme which we got as a prize from McBilly‘s contest (thanks again, Mr. Blogger-turned-model!). But for more than three days now, we have been shifting back and forth to the WordPress Default Theme.

The move is meant to isolate the problem related to downtimes in the PMT blog caused by high CPU usage and load averages (see screenshot below). Whenever the CPU usage or the load average peaks, the website stalls because it cannot anymore handle queries.

High CPU usage and load average

By shifting to the Default Theme, we want to know: What’s causing the CPU usage and load average to spike? How can this be solved?

One thing we know, though, is that the spike occurs in the PMT Blog and not in the PMT Forum. Our internal stats also show that more resources are being eaten up by the blog.

Database tables are optimized at least once a week, so we’ve isolated that.

We also disabled some WordPress plugins that require major database queries, such as the Subscribe to Comments and WP-Users Online plugins.

For some reason, when we decided to use the WordPress Default Theme, the CPU usage and load average stats became manageable. That’s not to say, however, that the theme itself causes the spike.

Jaypee told us to look into the plugins associated with the Revolution Theme. Only two plugins come with it — Breadcrumb Navigation XT and Limit Posts plugins — but we don’t think they’re really causing the problem.

And yet everytime we use the Revolution Theme, the site starts to stall again and only after we revert to the Default Theme will the site return to normal. That explains why the blog is using the Default Theme for now.

Upgrading to a Dedicated Server might solve the problem, but we don’t think we’re ready for that yet.

Any other ideas what causes the WordPress blog to register high CPU usage and load averages? And what might be the possible solutions?

Any help is appreciated.

James Ryan Jonas teaches business management, investments, and entrepreneurship at the University of the Philippines (UP). He is also the Executive Director of UP Provident Fund Inc., managing and investing P3.2 Billion ($56.4 Million) worth of retirement funds on behalf of thousands of UP employees.