Using New Relic to Monitor WordPress Performance

Final product image
What You’ll Be Creating

If you arrived here from the Optimizing WordPress with Varnish and W3 Total Cache tutorial, you already have a pretty well optimized WordPress installation. If not, you may want to go back and review our guide to Varnish and W3TC. 

We’re going to show you how to use New Relic’s free server monitoring to see within your WordPress and PHP stack.

What’s New Relic?

New Relic is a performance monitoring service which runs with a variety of server and language technologies, including PHP, which makes it great for optimizing WordPress.

W3TC provides built-in integration with New Relic’s PHP monitoring daemon – so you can track performance on your WordPress stack at a deeper level. This can help monitor and diagnose unexpected slowdowns that might be related to your server performance, a slow theme, plugin, database query, third-party API or more.

If you’re curious about what goes into a high performing WordPress site, read this guide to WordPress optimization written by the creator of W3TC, Frederick Townes.  

When you run New Relic on your server, you can get detailed performance monitoring graphs and statistics about your server and PHP including: response time, Apdex score (the ratio of satisfactory response times to unsatisfactory response times), throughput (requests per minute), web transactions e.g. third-party API requests, error rate, recent events and server information.

How to Install New Relic

For WordPress, I recommend signing up for a free trial account at the New Relic W3TC partnership page. However, you can also sign up at NewRelic.com:

Sign up for New Relic

Depending on where you sign up and what you install, you will have different features exposed by default in New Relic.

Once you’ve completed registration, follow the installation instructions on the Debian Ubuntu-based systems page appropriate for your registration (by the way, I’m running WordPress at DigitalOcean on Ubuntu 14.04).

Follow the instructions for your particular platform

1. Add the New Relic apt repository:

echo deb http://ift.tt/1ah4eGp
newrelic non-free >> /etc/apt/sources.list.d/newrelic.list

Trust the New Relic GPG key:

wget -O - http://ift.tt/1rCsDlA | sudo apt-key add -

Update and local package list and install New Relic:

sudo apt-get update

2. Install the New Relic System Monitor:

If you’re using the W3TC New Relic setup, it will be:

apt-get install newrelic-php5
newrelic-install install

If you’re using the standard New Relic setup, it will be:

apt-get install newrelic-sysmond

3. Configure and Launch the New Relic System Monitor:

If you’re using the W3TC setup, it will have asked you for your license key. If you’re using the generic New Relic setup, do this:

nrsysmond-config --set license_key=your-license-key-goes-here

Start the New Relic daemon:

/etc/init.d/newrelic-sysmond start

Whichever approach you use, restart your web server:

service apache2 reload

After a few minutes, you should see the red message on the setup page indicating that data is flowing into New Relic from your server. Cool, huh?

Data is arriving WooT

If you run into any problems, review the detailed PHP installation instructions or visit the New Relic troubleshooting page.

You’ll see something likes this once data starts coming in:

Initial New Relic Server insights

Activate New Relic within W3 Total Cache

If you’re using the W3TC integration, you’ll need to visit your New Relic Account Settings to get your license key again and also create an API key. Click the Integrations -> Data Sharing tabs to enable the API and get your key.

Activate the API key and get your key

Then, from your WordPress Administration Console, click Performance -> Monitoring. Click sign up for a free account. Copy the details for your API and license key.

Enter your New Relic API and license key in W3TC settings

Enabling New Relic on your server provides for monitoring from the W3TC dashboard, such as shown below:

The W3TC New Relic Dashboard

Monitoring Your WordPress Performance

New Relic is useful for evaluating WordPress performance in three key ways:

  1. Monitoring MySQL performance. Poorly written themes or plugins can definitely harm performance. Or, as your site grows, native WordPress queries may slow it down. 
  2. Apdex gives you a quantitative measurement of the usability experiences of your site based on response time.
  3. Monitoring the performance of third party plugins and APIs. WordPress offers a powerful array of plugins and services to add to your blog, but some can kill performance. New Relic can help you identify problem areas.

Again, depending on your configuration in New Relic, you’ll see the W3TC partnership dashboard for monitoring a PHP application:

NewRelic W3TC Dashboard Panel

Or, you’ll see the four tabs that summarize your server’s performance:

First, the Overview tab offers insights into CPU, memory usage, disk and network I/O, and load as well as information about your hardware and most active processes: 

Overview

Next, the Process tab shows you the memory and CPU utilization of each process:

Look at Memory and CPU utilization by process

Thirdly, the Network tab

Then there is the Disk tab

With the W3TC installation, you can monitor transactions showing the most requested PHP scripts:

Top transactions

You’ll also be able to monitor your MySQL database:

Monitor performance of database queries

You can also install plugins for any service you want to monitor:

Add plugins for the services you wish to monitor

Diving deeper into New Relic requires an investment of time, but the results are well worth it. With this tool, can you see inside your WordPress stack to quickly pick out problem areas that need addressing.

Looking Ahead

While you can use New Relic Lite forever, once your two week trial expires, you might want to upgrade to the Pro plan ($149/month) to keep the same levels of service.

It’s also important to occasionally update New Relic and check on its log files. Review the New Relic maintenance guide.

If you have any questions or corrections, please post them in the comments. If you’d like to keep up on my future Tuts+ tutorials and other series, please visit my author page or follow @reifman.

Related Links

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Configuring W3 Total Cache: General Settings II

We covered half of the General Settings in last article. Let’s move forward to configure the remaining ones. 

In this article, you will get to know about the following:

  • Database Cache
  • Object Cache
  • Browser Cache
  • CDN
  • & other settings of minor importance

Since we left off with the third step in the last article, we’ll be continuing with our fourth step this article.

4. Database Cache

The Database Cache basically caches SQL queries. This reduces the processing time of database queries. It is a resource intensive option and is recommended to be used with the Disk method that we discussed in the previous article.

If your server is a shared server, it may slow your site down. You need to enable it and analyse the site’s speed. If it has improved then keep using it, otherwise disable it. Normally I recommend using this option on a VPS or a Dedicated server.

Database Cache Methods

You can find the details about these terms in the previous article about W3TC Configuration. Though my recommendation for beginners is to use the Disk option.

5. Object Cache

Are you using a shared hosting server? If so, then don’t enable this option. It is only preferable for a dedicated server or a virtual server. Enabling this over shared servers won’t help you improve your site speed. It is used to reduce the execution time of some common operations.

Object Cache Methods

Again, Disk is the recommended option to select in this step.

6. Browser Cache

In whatever configuration you’re working with, enable this option in any case. One of the most important configurations is Browser Cache. It reduces server load and decreases response time by using the cache available in visitor’s web browser. Not only this but it enables HTTP compression and adds headers to reduce server load & decrease file load time.

What’s the Pro Stuff?

Basically W3TC defines certain set of rules in your site’s .htaccess file which are responsible for caching different elements in the end user’s browser. For example, the logo of any site changes rarely – perhaps once a year. 

Caching it inside the end user browser helps decrease the page size and in turns increases the page speed. Same page when browsed second time opens up 10 times fast as compared to the first time.

7. CDN (Content Delivery Network)

A content delivery network or content distribution network (CDN) is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the Internet. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. CDNs serve a large fraction of the Internet content today, including web objects (text, graphics and scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media, and social networks.

- Wikipedia

In short, this serves resources to the nearest geological server close to the visitor. There is a drop down list of CDN providers. You can use any of them you like. MaxCDN is one of the most known paid CDN whereas CloudFlare has both Free & Premium packages.

8. Reverse Proxy

In a similar fashion to a CDN, Reverse Proxies help caching your static files to different servers and then allowing your site’s visitors to access those files through cloud. I would recommend that you not enable it as in WordPress sites are more compatible with CDNs.

Less Important Settingx for Beginners

9. Monitoring

This section will help you configure your New Relic account to find out extensive performance statistics of your site and server. 

Unless you’re familiar with and are running with New Relic, this is not recommend to be enabled in most cases so we can leave it as it is.

10. Miscellaneous

You can put your Google Page Speed API key in that form, from the link given below the API field. Leave the other options as they are. No need to modify them unless until you know what you are doing.

11. Debug

It is recommended not to enable this option. It basically provides detailed information about each cache which gets appended in publicly available HTML comments in the page’s source code. 

Performance in this mode will not be optimal so use this sparingly and disable when not in use.

12. Import/Export Settings

W3TC has extensive functionality, configuring it takes at least an hour. So, to provide end users with good experience, this plugin provides us with the ability to backup our settings by exporting them and importing them either in the same site or another site you own.

Wrapping It Up

That’s about it. By now you are done configuring the basic General Settings of W3 Total Cache plugin. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask. 

Starting in the next article, we’ll be setting up the advance configurations.

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