WordPress News Site Case Study – Fix Crashing Website with Constant Cloudflare 524 Errors

A political news site that gets attacked regularly found us in February 2021.

Their team of 20+ writers produces numerous articles every day.

After a round of WordPress maintenance like updating themes, plugins and WordPress core, all of a sudden no writers could log in!.

They could no longer update WordPress core, plugins or themes.

Clicking the WordPress Publish button for posts and pages would cause the news site to crash or time out showing Cloudflare errors.

No news stories could be published – the lifeblood of the site had been cut off.

Anybody logging in to the dashboard’s backoffice area in wp-admin would get a timeout error.

WordPress News Site Crashing Diagnosis

Our good old friend New Relic was critical to helping identify the errors.

Here we can see when publishing posts, it took over 500,000 ms which is over 8 minutes!

New Relic even gave up tracking the request because it took so long – see the “This is a partial trace. For performance reasons, the agent limited the size of the the trace that it reported.”

We could see these publishing requests were consistently taking almost 10 minutes bogging down the whole site.

We also identified the wp-admin/update-core.php page was taking forever too, some requests taking over 15 minutes to complete.

Even just visiting the wp-admin area when users were logging in cause the site to timeout and crash, showing the dreaded Cloudflare 524 timeout message

After digging around, we found that a botched plugin update was causing all of this havoc.

WordPress News Site Crashing Fix

The problematic plugin was critical so we could not just disable it, we had to debug the problem and provide a solution to keep it running without crashing the news site.

We reported the plugin bug to the necessary support staff with sufficient detail. This enabled a collaboration where we came up with an action plan to resolve the website crashing.

We tested the fixes on the staging site safely. Once we confirmed with the site staff everything was OK, we implemented the solution on the live site.

Then we verified everything was stable using New Relic APM.

The writers could go back to publishing posts without crashing the site!

No more Cloudflare 524 errors on the WordPress news site 🙂

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