When considering a blog for Ford of Canada, I wanted to make sure we had more than just fantastic content. We needed an amazing user experience to support and enhance our new conversations. My teammates and I at Ford are very eager to share the enthusiasm we have for the Ford brand, and let me tell you, it’s been a real treat working with several talented teams to bring this blog from an idea to fruition.

From my past experience at a file sharing startup, I’ve acquired a particular taste for having a web property that looks and functions great. A dream for anyone running a blog is to have content trend on aggregators like Digg or Reddit, but what happens to that dream when the infrastructure supporting the website can’t keep up with the sudden increase in traffic? It helps to work with people who have done it before and have worked in real life scenarios with a big brand, lots of content, and tons of traffic. We hired RD2, Inc., who have developed some amazing properties such as the award winning Nuts About Southwest blog.

So, what have we done in the back end to optimize our web server for a user experience that can be enjoyed by all … and be prepared for massive traffic if we can make it up on Reddit?  We took some decent hardware then tuned the heck out of it to maximize bang for our buck.

  • Software:
    • WordPress running in a LAMP environment
  • Hardware:
    • Webserver
      • 6 Xeon E5620 cores in a virtualized environment
      • 16 Gigs of Ram
    • Database Server
      • 4 Xeon E5620 cores in a virtualized environment
      • 8 Gig of Ram
  • Data Pipe
    • We’ve pulled up to 200 Mbits from the server

Web Server Performance : Our team tweaked the webserver to squeeze every ounce of performance out of the hardware and the WordPress platform we are using. With the tweaks below our blog can handle 6.5x the traffic of a standard WordPress blog on the same hardware.

Web Server Tuning:

  • Apache – configured with gzip compression enabled: Compresses everything going out the door by 70-80% including web fonts, style sheets, images, CSS and HTML content. Compressed content served up to 3X faster than uncompressed content.
  • PHP eAccelerator – This pre-compiles all PHP scripts so they can be run again immediately upon request.
  • Memcached – An object caching service used by PHP and MySQL. This works in tandem with W3 Total Cache plugin to provide all around caching.
  • W3 Total Cache – A WordPress persistent caching plugin that can use Memcached to cache all pages, objects, and database queries. Our server almost rarely has to access the hard drive or database server since everything is cached in memory as static HTML, providing a massive improvement in performance.
  • SmushIt Plugin – Automatically reduces image size as the content entry team uploads them. This ensures that the website remains fast and lean.

Load Testing – We tested like crazy to find the ceiling where service degrades for the website. With our tweaks, our blog installation can handle 6.5 times the capacity of users of the original blog setup on the same servers.

I’ll wrap this post up by inviting you to come into the Ford Canada Blog and kick the tires. We’ve made this blog for you!

-Ammar