Hosting Scalable WordPress on AWS

Do you Own or manage a WordPress site? Does it get complex with a lot of traffic spikes? Well, You are at the right place. This time I’m going to show you the ideal architecture to create a scalable hosting for WordPress in AWS.
It gets better:

This blog is intended to show a distributed architecture in AWS for WordPress CMS Websites. You will be able to identify the different layers of services needed to run a High Traffic WordPress.

Table of contents

Let’s start with the Concepts of a High Scalable and Available Environment:

High Availability: on IT it means that a system can operate without any service disruption or interruption for a long time as well as for a system that has redundant components. (In our case the redundant Infrastructure will be our High Availability — Thanks AWS for making this easier!).

Distributed Services — Loose Coupling: The art of distributing different components of a system in the same network. We will be doing this to leverage the load of any resource and have dedicated hosts for a service.

Scalability: A system’s ability to monitor the user demand and automatically increase or decrease resources. This scalability will be provided by the following AWS Resources: AWS ELB, AWS EC2, AWS S3, AWS RDS.
One essential part of innovation is always to stay up-to-date and implement the best technology available.

“Technology is like a fish. The longer it stays on the shelf, the less desirable it becomes.” 
 Andrew Heller

First Things First

If you are planning to follow this blog, it is because you are looking to migrate to Amazon Web Services or you already have an environment or some resources allocated there.

If you are already on AWS, we have also compiled a very concise checklist which you can obtain here.

1. Architecture Diagram

Wordpress High Performance

“Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”
Albert Einstein

AWS Services Explained

1. Set up Route53 DNS Service
This service will help us to manage all the upcoming requests (traffic) that our domain will be having. AWS Route53 will also be the DNS Manager, so here we will point our domain registrar to be the manager, and once it has been migrated here, we can add the A records, Cnames, or TXT records and many other more.

2. Create all your AWS Resources in a VPC
The AWS VPC is a service that allows us to have a private network in which we will allocate our cloud computing resources, meaning nobody has access to it, only ourselves.

3. Secure your most valuable resources in a Private Subnet
The private subnet is the subnet in which we are going to deploy the resources we don’t want outsiders to have access to. In this case, our database will be only accessible by the application.

4. Leave your public resources in the AWS Public Subnet
The public subnet is the subnet in which we are going to deploy the resources we want to make public — like the server for our Website.

5. Store your WordPress content on AWS S3
Amazon Simple Storage Service will be our content storage solution. Here our WordPress installation(s) will have the content available whenever it scales up or off.

6. Enhance your WordPres Speed with AWS CloudFront CDN
CloudFront combined with S3 will help us to spread the content faster to the end users. This way our WordPress multimedia content will be spread all over AWS CDN Network (Edge Locations) which will be used from our application to reduce the latency. Users will be served by the closest edge location available. So faster content = Faster Site.

7. Distribute your WordPress Visitors on your environment with AWS Load Balancer
Here is the tricky part. The AWS ELB will allow us to distribute the traffic load between our instances available or in use depending on how the auto scaling is set.

8. Setup your WordPress instance in AWS EC2
Instances or also called “VM’s” this is the service on AWS for acquiring computing power. AWS EC2 will allow us to host our WordPress site and files we need.

9. Scale your WordPress with AWS Autoscaling
The Magic — here is it! This will be the solution for our highly available and scalable WordPress site. AWS Autoscaling will take care of always having a minimum quantity of instances available for the public and in case something goes wrong, it will replace the instance with a healthy one, this way our site will always be available.
Autoscaling will also benefit our WordPress by creating instances based on the traffic demand and will help us to save costs while the traffic is low.

10. AWS RDS & Multi A-Z
RDS will be the service in which we will host our WordPress Database. The service is completely free and fully managed by AWS. So that gives AWS plus since we won’t need to worry about the database management anymore. Also, a useful feature is that RDS instances can have replication between them, that adds even more scalability. Another feature which will provide us high availability is enabling the Multi-Availability Zone (Multi A-Z) feature. Keep an eye on this since the price will is double for the RDS.

11. Monitor your WordPress Environment with AWS Cloudwatch
AWS Cloudwatch will be our trusted supervisor. Cloudwatch will be in charge of monitoring all the resources in our AWS account. It will keep an eye on the metrics that are predefined or as default by AWS resources, such as CPU usage, Memory usage, Disk IO and Networking.

ALSO READ: Top 10 AWS services you should know about

Did I forget About EFS?
Nope, In my experience, EFS has not been a huge help when it comes to sharing the WordPress files only. However, you can try using EFS, that way the content will be replicated in a much faster and easy way.

If you want to learn more about the technologies and the approach that should be taken to create this kind of environments, take a look at this post.

WordPress high performance

Let me explain you how this environment will be able to serve millions of page views!

Traffic Flow:
Here is how your visitors get to your site — once they hit your domain on their browser their request will pass to the internet, route it to your DNS manager and the DNS manager(Route53) will solve the request to the specified server, the web server then, will serve the application.


What will happen when your traffic increases? Well here is the example:

Example of benefits of auto scaling -

Lets say that you have set the autoscaling, you have set a Minimum number of instances which is 1 and a Maximum number of instances which in this case is 3. Based on different metrics, your environment will be able to scale out depending on the load it receives.

In the image above, we can see that depending on the Aggregate Load, the environment continues to satisfy the demand by creating more instances as it grows and the same happens the other way.

What does this mean? It means a lot when you are calculating the TCO of your cloud environment. Also means that you won’t run out of memory or other resources, instead you will have a more available system.

And you might be wondering, What is going to happen to my AWS Resources, well this is it:


Simple, more demand/traffic more servers to meet it.“Everything must be made as simple as possible. But not simpler.”
Albert Einstein

Server Caching / WordPress Caching

Server-side caching or WordPress-side caching with a plugin or embedded in ah host. Whenever someone visits the website he or she requests the homepage for example; the request is passed to the database to retrieve the homepage information. What caching does, it that it creates a temporary file (I say temporary because you can specify the expiration) so when your request comes, it will check for the files it generates instead of processing the request to the database.
This way we can serve faster pages/content to our end users and reduce the database consumption.
If you yet don’t have a caching system implemented, make sure you do from now on as it speeds up your website dramatically.

CDN: Content Delivery Network

In a few words — the network of servers or services in which your content will be hosted and this network will be used to transfer the content to all the visitors. Using a CDN will help you to spread your content around the world faster than having it hosted on your server.

CPU/Memory Performance

Based on the CPU and Memory Metrics, our stack will be able to scale up or scale in as desired. This way our response time will always be the same between all the servers and what matters is that our traffic doesn’t get to any instance having an overload due to CPU or memory (these are the annoying 500’s errors).

Instance Types:

On AWS we have different instance types that we can use depending on the workload we have. We always recommend to choose the right instance type.

Elastic GPUs on EC2

If you yet do not know which to use, read this blog.

Definitely using the correct instance type for our WordPress will help. As well by selecting the number of resources for it to run.
And there you have — Your now know how your site could support millions of pageviews with a distributed system.


Backup and Disaster Recovery
It is essential to have a backup strategy as well as a disaster recovery solution in case something happens to our WordPress installation or our environment. Luckily, AWS offers a lot of redundancy between all its services that’s a plus for AWS!
There are different ways in which we can protect our application and user’s data:

  1. WordPress Plugins to Backup the Site (S3).
  2. Disaster Recovery for Infrastructure (Physical).
  3. Backup for Users Data (DB — RDS).
  4. Backup for Application Code.

Listen: Amazon Web Services already provides different backup solutions for all its services, so thanks again Amazon, we will be able to create backups for the RDS with one click and perform the configurations for backups with EC2.

Pro Tips

  1. To increase the performance use a Database, query and page caching plugin.
  2. Increase the RDS performance with a dedicated Aurora RDS.
  3. Use S3 and CloudFront to deliver the content faster.
  4. Enable Alarms on AWS Cloudwatch.
  5. Enable the Billing Alarm to avoid unwanted charges for usage.
  6. Use Reserved Instances! If you are going to stay in AWS for a long time reserve, it will save you up to 30%.
  7. Use a Version control system to track your changes and deploy to the instances.


In this article, I described what I consider an ideal architecture for a high performance / high traffic WordPress site. As you can see, Amazon provides us with all the tools and technologies to do it, but sometimes it results to be challenging.
As always if you think I missed anything, please post it in the comments!
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