How a WordPress Plugin Brought Down My Entire Hosting Account

After a five day break enjoying the blues at the Winthrop Rhythm and Blues Festival I was back in my office on Tuesday morning, ready for a blog post.  Logging into WordPress revealed 9 plugins that needed updating so, as I’ve done countless times before, I chose all of them and hit “update”.

Everything went smoothly enough, except for one plugin that had some problems, Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin.  I disabled it and then re-enabled it and, to my surprise, got a “Could not connect to database” error message.  Logging into my hosting cPanel everything looked fine there, but soon I received an email from my hosting company, HostGator, that said my account was shut down because of excessive mySQL useage.  I have a shared hosting account, which is what most people use, and the database associated with my business website was exceeding 65% of the database processing power for my server.

My account hosts 9 other websites, so this was a huge problem – everything was down, not just my own business site.

I won’t relate the headaches I had dealing with HostGator other than to relate that although my problem was finally escalated after my account was down for almost 24 hours, I was never actually allowed to talk to anyone on the phone.  I was advised that my case was escalated, they would priorize email replies and that was that.  I combed through all of the links HostGator sent me to “optimize my database useage”, most of which I was already doing.

After disabling all of the plugins I updated and much headache in trial and errors the problem was finally tracked down to Yoast’s plugin.  This is extremely strange, because Yoast is used widely, I’ve used it for years without issues, and all of my clients use his plugins and aren’t experiencing problems.  However, at this time my site is working fine and it is the only plugin I’ve left disabled.

Query Monitor

The HostGator tech suggested I install Query Monitor, which has a ton of features, but allows admins to see which plugins are making queries to the databases.  For example, as I’m writing this post the report shows 20 queries for iThemes Security, 16 for Easy Digital Downloads and 10 for Buddy Press.  Just this page alone generates 88 queries to the database!

I am very wary of re-activating the SEO plugin because I can’t afford for my sites to go down again.

Going Forward

I was really unhappy with HostGator’s response of just shutting down my account and sending an email (which I received 20 minutes after my sites were offline). I’ve done some research and found this is a typical HostGator response.  None of my sites get much traffic.  My business blog receives the most hits and I see less than 1,000 hits a day.  Dedicated hosting is far beyond my budget.  I’m looking at switching hosting providers and had a great conversation with someone at WestHost.  Unfortunately I just paid for 3 years of hosting last January, so I’m going to hold on and see what progresses before I eat that cost and just switch.


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