I finally found out why my WordPress is so slow on DreamHost

I’ve had DreamHost Shared hosting for about 9-10 years. For the first 5-6 years, everything was great, but then my site started to slow down. After years of trying different things, I think I’ve finally figured out what the issue was, and it doesn’t really make any sense to me, but it works, so I’m not going to complain.

When my site started to slow down, it wasn’t just that the blog itself was loading slowly when you pulled it up as a reader, though it was doing that too, it was more that it was slow when using the Dashboard or any kind of admin function. It would often time out or return a 504 error, even on a simple operation like uploading a photo. I actually started to dread using my WordPress because writing a simple post could turn into a one hour affair if I tried to upload a photo and it hit an error. I would have to use FTP to find the file that didn’t upload properly and then delete it manually. I guess it’s a miracle that the site never crapped out while I was updating WordPress, though it would often not delete the maintenance file and I’d have to manually remove that so the site would load normally again.

I removed almost every widget on the site. I went from using a complex theme that I paid for to a simple free theme that’s incredibly basic. I removed almost every plugin I was using. I used database cleaner plugins, caching plugins, and found a resizing tool that let me reduce the image file size of images that I was uploading to mere kilobytes, when in reality I should have been able to upload files up to, I think, 50 MB at a time.

None of it helped.

A few weeks ago I started thinking about moving to another hosting provider as a possible solution to the problem and I looked at the size of my blog in the DreamHost cpanel to get an idea of what sort of plan I would need. I was really surprised by how big it was. After looking at the files through FileZilla, I realized there was a second, unnecessary copy of the whole blog sitting there for some reason that was a few years old so I deleted that. Then I used a plugin to remove photos that weren’t actually being used in any posts. That brought the size down to 5 GB. I still felt like that was a little wild for a blog, even if the blog is 13 years old.

I figured, why not clear the cache and see what happens. The cache was 1.4 GB.

After clearing the cache, the site ran fine for a day or two and then went back to being really, really slow. When I checked the cache size, it was at about 1.7 GB.

I decided to just delete the caching plugin and see what happened. So, I did that and then went into Jetpack and turned on image CDN. Now the site loads really quickly both on the blog itself and on the admin panel.

It’s really bizarre to me that a caching plugin meant to speed up site performance was actually killing my blog’s performance for years. I’m on a legacy shared hosting plan that comes with 3 free domain names, unlimited storage, and unlimited bandwidth, so I’m really hesitant to give that up. I doubt I could find a deal like that anywhere else, and that’s really the reason why I stuck with the service for so long, thinking the main issue was on DreamHost’s end.

I guess there must have been a conflict between the plugin and maybe Jetpack’s caching, or CloudFlare’s caching. I have no clue. I’m just glad it’s fixed. Now that the site is running fine, I’m going to do my best to not mess with any of the settings and just enjoy blogging again.

tldr;: the wp-optimize plugin was actually screwing up my site and everything was fine once I deleted it

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