Understanding PHP Workers: How They Impact Your WordPress Site’s Performance

PHP Workers featured image

Ah, PHP workers – an unseen force acting as diligent ‘foot soldiers’ responsible for managing your backend code. They are crucial for your website’s operations, and just like any other resource, you need to distribute them thoughtfully. Basically, you can’t put too many metaphorical eggs in your metaphorical basket. 

Somewhat recently, hosting providers have begun placing hard restrictions on  the number of eggs, a.k.a. PHP workers, available to you, leaving your basket empty when it shouldn’t be. 

They might call this a thoughtful allocation of resources. We think it’s a bit of a money grab. 

The logic driving these limits can seem, at best, arbitrary and, at worst, exploitative. When you understand how this resource functions, it becomes clear that these hard-and-fast limits often don’t really suit a website’s needs. Simply put, a one-size-fits-all approach to this kind of resource allocation doesn’t benefit the end user.

In this post, we’ll dive deep into the world of PHP workers. We’ll explain how they keep your site running, explore the logic (or lack thereof) behind the industry’s typical worker limits, and explain why we think there’s a better approach. 

Decoding PHP Workers: An Essential Guide

PHP workers are the unsung heroes of your site’s backend processes. They are your unseen operators, handling PHP requests to deliver a seamless user experience. These reliable troopers tirelessly perform their duties and ensure your site runs smoothly and efficiently.

PHP, or Hypertext Preprocessor, is a sophisticated server-side web development programming language that sets the foundation for your site’s dynamic content and interactive features. A PHP worker is a background process, responsible for managing executing code on your website. 

They handle many tasks involving PHP-related operations, database interactions, and file operations. To give you a detailed understanding, let’s visualize this with an example of generating a webpage:

Infographic demonstrating how PHP workers receive and return requests.
  1. Your web server receives a request for a webpage from a visitor’s browser.
  2. The server forwards this request to a PHP worker who’s up for the task.
  3. The worker takes the baton, parses the request, and analyzes crucial factors such as the URL of the requested page and the HTTP request method, among others.
  4. Based on this analysis, the worker decides which piece of code or file to use to fulfill the user’s request as specified by the web page’s interactive feature.
  5. The worker jumps into action, executing the chosen PHP file. The tasks could vary from generating web content dynamically to querying a database, all done to provide data that the visitor requested.
  6. Once the tasks are successfully executed, the worker churns out an HTML page – this is the response to the visitor’s request.
  7. The worker sends the generated HTML data back to the web server.
  8. Eventually, the server returns the HTML data back to the visitor’s browser, concluding the relay. The result: you get the web page you wanted and can finally order that silly pineapple cushion your mom said was stupid. 

PHP workers operate better and faster if the venture follows two main precepts: efficient coding and good caching. Well-coded sites are easier for workers to navigate, and caching ensures that repeated requests are fulfilled faster.

The less complex and leaner your processes are, the quicker PHP workers can execute their tasks. Simplifying processes might involve optimizing the code for better efficiency, eliminating unnecessary tasks, or streamlining the workflow to improve performance.

Understanding the Role of PHP Workers in Website Performance

Behind the scenes, PHP workers address various critical tasks such as: 

  • Generating web pages.
  • Managing database queries.
  • Handling email transmissions.
  • Creating reports. 

Since your site will have to handle several of these requests simultaneously, having just enough workers is vital for a smooth user experience. 

Reliability is another feather in their cap, as this resource is designed to be “fault-tolerant”. To return to our egg metaphor, if one egg falls out of the basket, the others will take over its egg duties. 

Not this guy, probably, but one of them.

Earlier, we said just enough because it’s essential to find that balance. You can’t have too little or too many of them – both can cause unwanted scenarios. 

Let’s start with what happens if you don’t have enough. 

Too little PHP Workers

One of these background processes’ significant roles is to ensure your website keeps working, even amidst a sudden surge in website traffic. Thanks to social media, a surge like this can happen overnight. One day, your little WooCommerce store that has about 20–30 requests per day could have one TikTok video go viral, and all of a sudden, you’re getting thousands of visitors every hour. God bless the Internet. 

However, it’s important to remember that your workers have a finite capacity to handle tasks. Some requests need little time and effort, but others are more demanding. As visitors pour in, your server receives more and more requests. If one comes through while all your worker threads are occupied, it sits in line until one becomes available. 

With multiple requests in the queue, your website could slow down, potentially leading to the dreaded 504 gateway timeout error messages – bad news for any website owner. Without enough PHP workers, your viral success can quickly become a gear-grinding nightmare. 

Having too few can harm site performance, so many hosting providers try to upsell you to a higher worker limit. However, this means you can have a bunch of unused workers during normal site traffic, and overstocking them also comes with complications. Great. 

Too many PHP workers

Managing these workers requires server resources. Process managers, such as PHP-FPM, dictate when PHP workers stop and start. An excess number of idle background processes can start to compete for resources, inadvertently hampering each other’s performance. 

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Excuse me.


From our viewpoint, imposing rigid, inflexible quantities of PHP workers for a website just doesn’t align with the variable and unpredictable nature of website traffic. When the limits are too stringent and your website experiences a surge in traffic – whether due to going viral on social media or a successful sales event – your site might come to a standstill. Why should a site be punished just when it is starting to enjoy success? 

This raises an important question: If hard limits can cause significant issues, why do hosting service providers continue to use them?

A Look at the Industry: How Some Hosts Approach PHP Workers 

In the world of managed WordPress  hosting, PHP workers routinely have specified limits. The price for a hosting service often depends – in part – on how many workers your site can use. 

A couple of acceptable (yet not fully compelling) reasons behind these limits include:

Resource Management

Establishing an even distribution of server resources is critical for web hosting. Without some level of management, some websites might monopolize resources and slow down others. Predetermined resource limits can prevent this, providing an equal playing field with minimal intervention required from the hosting company.

Performance Optimization

As highlighted previously, a surplus of PHP workers can cause inefficiencies and result in slower performance. If the CPU is preoccupied with managing background processes, it has less time to execute tasks. Again, if a hosting provider isn’t proactive in reallocating workers, setting a limit becomes a hands-off solution.

These reasons suggest that PHP worker allocation is a massive task that takes up enormous manpower or worker capacity. And hey – maybe it’s harder for them than for us. However, it is our belief that hosting providers have a far bigger incentive for implementing these limits.

Sales Generation

Putting a cap on the number of PHP workers according to price tiers is a subtle (ish) strategy for upselling customers. Is your website struggling with just two? Your host might suggest upgrading your plan to accommodate four. If performance issues persist, they might propose an increase to six for a slightly higher monthly fee. And it goes on and on and on. 

In an ideal situation where website traffic and PHP needs remain static, the practice of limiting PHP workers may not appear egregious. However, real-world scenarios demand flexibility, not rigidity.

Pressable’s Managed WordPress Hosting: A Solution for PHP Worker Optimization

If you take a quick look at our hosting plans at Pressable, one thing stands out: There’s no mention of PHP worker allocation. We don’t believe in PHP limits based on arbitrary pricing tiers. Rather, we determine your PHP worker availability based on – get this – how many your site needs at any given time.

Our customer resource systems are designed to process and evaluate site traffic patterns, showcasing their real strength when your site experiences a surge in traffic. While other hosts might throttle websites when they pass visitor or bandwidth limits, we view these traffic surges as chances for your site to shine. During these high-traffic moments, we have the capacity to assign more than 100 PHP workers to your site, helping it handle the traffic and maintain steady performance.

We also let websites exceed their visitor and bandwidth limits during high-traffic situations. Instead of enforcing restrictions on your site, we opt to charge a minor fee for the overage so we don’t undermine your success. 

Pressable promises 24/7 support, 100% uptime, and a 30-day money-back guarantee.

At Pressable, our core mission is to guarantee the flawless operation of your site, regardless of the circumstances, and we’ve designed our hosting plans to reflect that mission.

Experience Top-Tier Performance With Pressable

Our flexible resource allocation is just the tip of the iceberg. With Pressable, we combine a host of superior features and proactive services to keep your site running efficiently.

  • A sturdy and scalable WordPress infrastructure: It’s designed by the innovative minds behind Automattic (the same company that owns little ol’ sites like WordPress.com and WooCommerce), which helps us guarantee smooth web operations even under the strain of heavy traffic. Whether your site is taking baby steps or sprinting in the digital marathon, we’ve got you covered.
  • Strategically positioned data centers: They stretch over every continent (except Antarctica) and ensure your user’s requests are quickly answered, no matter where they are. We apologize to our South Pole penguin scientist friends; the rest of the world, however, will receive a streamlined web experience.
  • On-the-fly thumbnail creation and image compression: This perk doesn’t just save you storage space, it guarantees your website loads faster and performs better – an enormous benefit from a user-experience perspective.
  • 100% service uptime guarantee: If your site experiences downtime, it’s on us. You’ll receive a refund for the period affected. This is how strongly we believe in keeping your digital operations flawless round the clock.
  • Automatic failover capability: With Pressable, there’s no need to shrivel with fear about server failures. Our automatic failover capability ensures that your operations are never disrupted. 
  • Dedicated customer service: Our real human support team (the only robot there is the much-needed coffee machine) is just a call or email away, working round the clock to ensure a swift resolution to all your queries and concerns. Our goal is simple: get your site back to optimal performance as quickly as possible.

Pressable Wants to Make Your Life Easier 

At Pressable, we believe web hosting is more than providing digital real estate for your website. As a managed WordPress host, we take our commitment up a notch, offloading your web hosting responsibilities and streamlining your web development needs.

This frees up your valuable time and resources and empowers you to focus on what truly matters – enhancing your digital presence and growing your online business.

  • Thinking of making a move from your current hosting provider to Pressable? There’s no need to worry, we have you covered. We spearhead the transition with our free managed site migration service, handling the heavy lifting so you can stay focused on your core business activities.
  • We also provide daily site backups to serve as your digital safety net. Plus, our simple one-click site restoration offers peace of mind even in the face of data loss.
  • Understanding the supreme importance of security in the fast-evolving world of technology, we offer a resilient security protocol. This includes continuous malware scanning, SSL certificates to ensure secure and encrypted connections and access to Jetpack Security Daily for fortified protection. We also kick hackers’ butts
  • We streamline the process of managing plugin updates – actively working to ensure your site maintains its security, speed, and efficiency. 

At the core of all our services is a laser-focused commitment to one primary objective – providing a seamless and straightforward web hosting experience. 

Get the Performance Your Site Deserves with Pressable Today

Strategic allocation of PHP workers is a critical aspect of efficient web hosting. A hosting provider’s approach to managing these PHP resources says a lot about their priorities and commitment to their customers.

At Pressable, we actively manage your PHP resources. This sets every site on our platform up for success. We conscientiously steer clear of arbitrary resource limits – a practice we think leads to inflated service costs.

Our ethos at Pressable is all about putting you, the client, first. Whether you’re initiating a fresh web project or contemplating a migration, our dedicated team is on hand to assist and guide you at every step. Now quick, check out Pressable’s hosting plans before all the vegetables disappear from your refrigerator.

Nox Dineen-Porter

Nox has been using WordPress on and off since it was originally released in 2003, first as a blogger and later as a software developer. Her work on the Pressable support team blends her interest in technology, culture, and communications with her love of solving puzzles. When she's not at her computer she enjoys hiking, running, yoga, and street photography.

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