It’s the end of the week, and just like almost every Friday at The Solopreneur Life, I have a menu of information for you. This week’s “Bits” is being delivered late, because I had major Web site problems early in the week that brought down TheSolopreneurLife.com for about 72 hours. As you can imagine, it threw me off my schedule just a tad.
So, this week’s Bits is short, and it’s mostly vegetables that are very good for you. The main Bit deals with the one line of code crippled my Web site, the villain who caused the problem, and the obscure WordPress plugin that rescued my site.
How a Cron Job Brought My WordPress Site to Its Knees
WARNING: This Bit is VERY technical, but someday it could save you a lot of time, money, and stress. If you have a WordPress blog, file this column in Evernote in a folder named “Web Site Disasters and How to Fix” and give it a tag named “cron.” Refer to it if you’re ever told that a “cron job” is causing your Web site to hog server resources.
I ran into the cron problem about 9 days ago. The symptom? My Web site was running very slowly–taking several minutes to bring up one page. I called Bluehost tech support, and they told me a “cron job” was the culprit. “What? What’s a cron job? How do you spell cron?”
The tech told me that a cron job is any recurring action that is performed within your WordPress site. Three common ones are: backing up of data, checking for WordPress updates, and deletion of spam from your Akismet trash. When a cron job occurs, an instruction is sent to the WordPress site’s wp-cron.php file, and the cron file executes the instruction.
In the process of sleuthing to figure out what was causing the cron problem, I found and intalled a plugin called Cron View, which gave me the piece of information I needed to bring my site back to health. (Bravo to Simon Wheatley, the man who developed Cron View.) Cron View told me the name of the action that was hitting/calling the cron file at a rate of once every 90 seconds.
Once I knew the name of the action, I did a Google search and was able to find that a WordPress plugin was the culprit. At that point, the fix consisted of finding the problematic file and deleting it–a process that was a lot more difficult than it sounds because I didn’t know the name of the bad file. It was like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. I won’t go into every step required to find the file, I am happy to say that Naomi Niles of Intuitive Designs is the person who located the bad file and destroyed it.
So what caused my cron problem?
It was an instruction from a WordPress plugin that I had uninstalled from my site. Unfortunately, the instruction wasn’t deleted during the uninstall, and the instruction eventually began to issue its call to the cron file every 90 seconds. The looping call is what brought down my site. At one point in the process of fixing the problem, I contacted the plugin’s developer to ask him the name of the bad file and where it was located. He never responded. (Not good dude, not good. You’re lucky I’m not revealing your name.)
My thanks to the Bluehost techs
Besides Simon Wheatley and Naomi Niles, the other heroes in this tale were the technical crew at Bluehost, which went way, way, way above the call of duty (they’re not obligated to help with WordPress-related problems, but they did). I’ve given Bluehost a lot of grief over the past year. Provo, Utah-based Bluehost can be an easy target (and often it’s misplaced criticism), but their 24-hour phone support from Utah and their techs’ knowledge and patience were invaluable. And kudos to the leaders at Bluehost who have decided to offer 24-hour phone support.
Also helpful in solving the cron riddle was Bluehost’s CPU Throttling log, which site admins can access in the Bluehost user-control panel (cPanel). The log gave me up-to-the-minute information regarding the performance (or nonperformance) of my site.
A final lesson
Surprisingly, I stayed pretty calm throughout this ordeal. Why? I think it was because of my social-media outposts at Facebook and Twitter. With those presences, I knew that I could communicate with The Solopreneur Life community and let them know what was happening.
And one more thing
There are thousands of WordPress plugins, and it’s very tempting to install a lot of them because their functions are really cool. I have learned that:
• I should only install plugins that help me achieve my site’s business objectives, and
• I should only install plugins that are well-regarded and are being maintained by the developer.
Pamela Wilson on “How to Make Your Brand Big”
1) Why we as solopreneurs would want to to our own marketing and branding.
2) The advantages and disadvantages of doing it ourselves.
3) How we can do marketing, even if we don’t think of ourselves as being creative.
4) How to perform marketing functions without having it consume all of our time.
5) Steps we can take right now to improve our marketing materials.
Pamela is an award-winning graphic designer and marketing consultant. She believes that although your company may be small, your brand can be BIG, and her blog and products show people how to accomplish that.
In case you missed any of this week’s columns, here they are:
• A Mini-Review: Cinch Is A Cinch
• My Opinion of Amy Harrison’s “How to Get Your Sales Page DONE!”
• How The Solopreneur Life Community Can Help You
• Featured Soloist Dr. Shannon Reece: “You Never Stop Learning”
• HubSpot: Rank Officially Has Died As a Metric for Businesses to Obsess Over