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I'm trying to find a host that can handle traffic spikes for wordpress sites. I can't decide between cloud hosting or a VPS. I know with the cloud I believe the CPU power is elastic and can expand if you need it, but then what about RAM? What type of server 'power' is being used on a basic wordpress install?

I know it depends on the plugins, but let's assume they're minimal beyond what's included with the basic wordpress install.

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How much traffic are we talking about during spikes? We've had some fairly large spikes hosted on the (soon to be replaced) single vm with 1 vCPU and 2GB of RAM on blog.sf and blog.su. The big thing you need to do is use some sort of caching plugin and you can handle a large amount of traffic on a pretty small box.

Since these plugins convert your dynamic pages to static content and serve that instead, it's a much smaller hit on cpu.

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a spike around 3-4k more hits in a day, which i know isn't much compared to many. I'm looking into a 768MB Cloud Hosting package, but wasn't sure if Wordpress takes more CPU - which can expand - or RAM, which is set on my account. Or if i need to bump up my RAM allotment. –  zm15 Nov 16 '11 at 20:52
    
I'd say you'll be fine with a properly configured caching plugin. The one gotcha would be if you have a large mySQL database backing that as that'll eat through your RAM quickly –  Zypher Nov 16 '11 at 20:55
    
My current database is less than 10MB, how big is big when it come to WP? –  zm15 Nov 16 '11 at 21:07
    
Pretty small - the concern is that DB servers load as much into memory as they can. 10MB + indexes + overhead is probably 50-100MB on your server –  Zypher Nov 16 '11 at 21:19
    
4k per day is 3 hits per minute. Unless it takes 20 seconds to serve a single request, you have nothing to worry about CPU. –  Sandman4 Nov 16 '11 at 21:40
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In hosting terminology, cloud is little more than a fancy name for the very same VPS.

It could mean that you can add/remove servers on demand, but have nothing to do with the CPU scaling. On some hostings (advertised as cloud or VPS) CPU will be fixed and on some it can float between different VMs. But if other VPSes that happen to sit on the same physical machine with your one also need CPU, you will not get more CPU power regardless of your need to handle traffic spike.

As an example - amazon calls itself "cloud". Most amazon instances provide exact amount of CPU (AFAIK) while for micro instances CPU is shared in "elastic" way (also AFAIK).

Since you don't really know your particular requirements (and it's surely hard to predict), I'd suggest to start with any VPS that looks good for you and then monitor in real life what resources you need.

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