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What Are PHP Workers?

Everyone seems to be talking about the importance of PHP workers, but what are they exactly? Throughout this post, we will explain what PHP workers are, how they influence your site’s performance, and how to determine how many your site needs.

A Very Basic Technical Definition 

A very basic technical definition of a PHP worker is – the process that runs when a visitor to your website requests some sort of information. If a visitor on your site clicks a product link then a PHP worker takes that request and processes the information needed to render a web page. A  similar process happens when visitors to your site need to check out, search for a certain type of product, or check your inventory. Any action that the visitor takes on your site requires a PHP worker. Once the page has been created and delivered to the browser the PHP worker is free to process a new request. 

A Real World Analogy 

To move into a real world analogy, think of PHP workers like the shop owner in your local shoe shop. 

I’ll walk in and ask the store owner if she has a certain pair of shoes and in a certain size. She goes back, checks the inventory, and lets me try on the shoes. Then I make a purchase and leave. 

In that analogy the store owner is acting as the PHP worker on your web server. We can expand that analogy too. So, again think of the local shoe store. 

It’s just the store owner. She can handle a very small amount of traffic. Maybe help myself and four of my friends. But if I walk in with 40 of my friends then one store owner in a small store wouldn’t be able to accommodate us quickly enough. Most of us wouldn’t stay, shop, or actually purchase any shoes. The store owner would need to hire additional sales people on the floor. 

In this analogy, you see that a website is similar to an actual store. The PHP workers manage the actions your website visitors make. Like the store owner, if all of the PHP workers are busy then the next action taken will have a delayed response. That delay can lead to visitors leaving your site. It is always safer to have a few extra PHP workers available so in higher traffic times you don’t see a decrease in site speed and poor visitor interaction (especially if it is during the checkout process). To expand the analogy further, again think of the shoe store. 

At some point there’s going to be too many people to fit in her small store. So she needs to find a new, larger space to accommodate all her clients. The larger space means she can accommodate more people inside the store, hire more salespeople to assist clients, and get them through the checkout process faster.  

As the resources of your web server grow you would get more CPUs and RAM. More resources mean you can accommodate a larger number of PHP workers. More PHP workers means your website can handle more simultaneous requests and maintain fast load times for your visitors.

How to Determine How Many PHP Workers Your Site Needs

Since every site is built a little differently the number of PHP workers you need can vary. The best way to find this number is to look at how many PHP workers you’re currently using. Hopefully your current web host provides this information for you. Here’s an example graph from an Alpha Hosting server:

Once you get a baseline for how many PHP workers you may be using, and what your traffic volumes are, then you can plan for future increases. If your current web host doesn’t provide you with handy graphs like this not to worry! Just call or chat with one of our awesome team members. We’re glad to help get you sized correctly and rest easy knowing you can upgrade or downgrade with the click of a button.