Never knowingly undersolved.

Slow loading times and outages

Posted by Admin on November 13th, 2012


You will have noticed recently that the site has become slow to load or is unavailable (FTTP500). When this occurred back in January the problem was due to a couple of other websites, hosted on the same server, which caused the server to slow down or stop. The hosting company has informed me that this time it is down to 15² using too much cpu time  (something which I would question) so it is being throttled.

I am in the process of investigating ways of reducing cpu usage to see if this will improve the situation, such as limiting RSS feeds to summaries rather than full posts and reducing the number of posts shown on the home page. I still think that the problem is external to 15² but I cannot pursue this further until I have made some internal changes.

Please let me know if you have problems accessing the site or if the changes I make are a retrograde step.


33 Responses to “Slow loading times and outages”

  1. rowland says:

    You have made the pages smaller – will that help? Coming in today has been fine though I have had difficulties on several occasions.

    Many thanks and good luck with it, Gaufrid.


  2. Gaufrid says:

    Hi rowland
    Thanks for the feedback. The home page receives the most hits each day and I have reduced the number of post summaries it displays in the hope that this will lower cpu usage. I have also made several other changes but so far they do not seem to have had much effect.

    As I indicated in my original post, I think the problem is more down to the hosting company’s server than to 15². However, I am looking into other changes to the site (don’t get worried, it won’t change that much if I can help it) further alleviate the problem.

  3. Robi says:

    Gaufrid; yes, I’ve had problems accessing the site. It seems to be very variable.

  4. Robi says:

    P.S. Sounds like lame excuses from the hosting company – they should fix it!

  5. Alberich says:

    Can you get the hosting company to provide you with a log of recent CPU usage? If so, you’ll be able to identify the times/dates when the CPU usage was at its highest. Maybe there’s a significant increase on days when the crosswords are particularly difficult and/or generate a lot of comments, though on that basis you’d expect Boatman’s puzzle yesterday would have brought the site to a halt and yet it worked perfectly (for me).

    My own guess is that the host server is too small to accommodate all its client sites. I had a few problems with my own site over the weekend when there was maintenance going on, and it was incredibly slow to load until all the servers came back online.

    Good luck getting it sorted – I know that some hosting companies are incredibly reluctant to admit any failings on their part.

  6. RCWhiting says:

    I have had a lot of problems recently although up to that point I would have said that 15sq was one of the most reliable sites which I use regularly.
    Of course, the most annoying is when you have completed a posting only to find that it disappears when you try to submit.
    I have even gone to the trouble of copying it so that I can paste it back again.

  7. anax says:

    Robi @4 is bang on. The webhost needs a kick up the backside. Traffic on a crossword blog is nothing compared to mainstream interest sites and it sounds like the host is trying to avoid admission of their own inadequacy.

  8. chas says:

    I find the same situation as RCW @6. I now always copy my submission before hitting the submit button because in my experience I usually get a failure at the submit stage.

  9. scchua says:

    Hi Gaufrid, in the past hour or so, I’ve experienced extremely slow loading (up and down) times, and often, followed by the error message that the connection has dropped. This is the worst it’s been. This is the 3rd attempt to send this comment.

  10. Median says:

    I agree with others that the hosting company is giving you the runaround, Gaufrid. I’m sure anax is right when he says the traffic on a crossword blog is much less than on many other types of site. I run two sites – one of which costs about £6.50 a month, all in – and I wouldn’t tolerate the level of service your host is providing at present.

    Here’s another bit of information which you may wish to feed back to the hosting company. About 45 minutes ago I got the following message when trying to access the site:

    “Error establishing a database connection”

    It’s not good enough and I bet it’s not because fifteensquared is making unreasonable demands.

  11. Paul B says:

    Hear hear. It’s a royal p-i-t-a at the moment, lowering pleasure thresholds all across Crosswordsville. Can we not pretend to invite these fellows for a drink and a chat – and instead give them a good clubbing round by the bins?

  12. Liz Geear says:

    Yes still horribly slow – commiserations Gaufrid – this site is part of my daily fix – I don’t often do postings but they have got there eventually. Maybe we should regard it as a ‘highlight in the grid’ situation. Staring blankly until it all sorts itself out. But I agree with Anax and Robi – hope you can get someone to listen.

  13. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks everyone for your feedback and suggestions. I am currently in conversation with (read arguing with) the hosting company regarding the current problems. So far to no avail, but I won’t rest until the problem is resolved.

  14. Gaufrid says:

    Please bear with me. I agree with Paul B that it is a PITA, particularly as the problem was worse this afternoon when I was trying to configure a new WordPress theme in the sandbox (in case the current one was causing the problem) and needed to save and then view changes individually. What should have taken only a few minutes was taking over an hour so I am still nowhere near finished despite spending all day on it.

  15. Kathryn's Dad says:

    Thanks, Gaufrid. I don’t speak the language that you and others are using on this thread, but hope that you manage to get us a fix soon. Appreciate your efforts.

  16. muck says:

    Thanks Guafrid for a great site and for trying to get it back to it’s previous speed

  17. Raich says:

    Really grateful for your efforts on this, Gaufrid, while recognising it’s very much out of your control.

  18. jetdoc says:

    I agree with Robi and Anax — it’s a pathetic excuse from the hosting company, and the current state of the site is appalling. I really do appreciate your efforts on this, Gaufrid — you shouldn’t have to waste energy on this; the company should admit their inadequacy and just fix it. There is no way this site makes unreasonable demands on resources.

  19. rowland says:

    Awful today – tried MANY times to get in and failed!


  20. Gaufrid says:

    Thanks for all your feedback and advice. I have been in touch with the hosting company a number of times this week, via both their live chat facility and email, and it’s been a case of the proverbial head and brick wall.

    I don’t expect to get a reply to my latest emails until late afternoon or early evening, UK time, as the company is 7 hours behind GMT. Rest assured I am doing all I can to try and get this unacceptable situation rectified.

  21. muck says:

    I heard via the Guardian site that you were entirely down, and so it seemed
    Then I heard you were back, and so you are
    Keep up the good work

  22. Paul B says:

    I couldn’t get on site today at all.

    I don’t know how tied 15^2 is to whoever these charlatans are, but what about something like the host for TFTT? That seems to chug around okay.

  23. Median says:

    It doesn’t seem to be taking the long comment I want to make here. This a short one, by way of a test.

  24. Median says:

    Gaufrid, please email me. I want to say something which I hope will help.

  25. FlutterBy says:

    Like several others, I find it very hard to believe that this website would impose a heavy processing load on the host.

    In your position I’d be asking for some hard stats from the hosting company as evidence of their statements. I’d also be looking at other possible hosting companies!!!

    I’m glad you’ve posted an explanation of what’s going on, because I’ve had quite a few very slow initial loads of the homepage recently, and also the “Error establishing a database connection” message several times. I was worried this might foreshadow the site closing down… *shudders* … UNTHINKABLE.

    Thanks for all the hard work you do keeping 15^2 running. Good luck with solving this. Good to know it’s temporary!

  26. Gaufrid says:

    Hi FlutterBy
    “In your position I’d be asking for some hard stats from the hosting company as evidence of their statements. I’d also be looking at other possible hosting companies!!!”

    I have done that and am doing so. The site is not closing down, at least if I have anything to do with it. I started trying to resolve the problem at just after 4:30am this morning and am still trying to do so at past 11pm tonight.

  27. Gaufrid says:

    Hi again FlutterBy
    “Like several others, I find it very hard to believe that this website would impose a heavy processing load on the host.”

    An average of around 5000 page views per day, according to the site stats, may have someting to do with it.

  28. Paul B says:

    Right now, site’s bloody fast. Best in ages.

  29. stiofain says:

    Looks like it is sorted

  30. Huw Powell says:

    5000 page views per day is nothing. That’s about what, 5 per minute on average? Glad things seem to be fixed now though! (I missed the opportunity to be frustrated, as my viewing is sporadic) I am assuming the host finally removed the dead mouse from their CPU heatsink.

  31. The Trafites says:

    It appears this is a major issue with bluehost – see the link:


  32. sam says:

    Gaufrid, does this site use any caching? If the front page is built on the fly for every refresh, that will be doing a lot more work than necessary (even though this still shouldn’t be much overall).

    I don’t have much experience of actually setting this sort of thing up, but putting something like memcached ( in front of the backend is supposedly very straightforward and should mean you only need to use CPU when page content changes (which I imagine is much less often that page views). To be clear this would work for all pages, not just the front page.

    Of course, you may have something like this in place already, so sorry if I’m preaching to the choir! If not, feel free to email me if you want more info, though as I said I’m not really expert in this – you may do better just reading around online.

  33. Gaufrid says:

    Hi sam
    Thanks for your input. No, we don’t use caching at the moment. I have looked at the plugin WP Super Cache on several occasions but each time felt concerned that unregistered users, the vast majority of visitors to the site, would be presented with a cached page that did not contain the latest comment. I may have misinterpreted the explanation of how the plugin works but that is the way it seemed to me.

    It is unfortunately one of those things that I am not able to try out in the sandbox and I am wary of doing so on a live site.

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