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RAM and CPU: What is it, and why should I care?

Web Hosting Blog

Choosing the right hosting plan for your business can be a daunting task. Not every type of hosting will be suitable for your business, and narrowing it down to find the perfect plan depends on many factors. One of these factors is the RAM and CPU. 

But what are they, and how do they impact which hosting plan you choose? 

What is RAM (Random Access Memory)? 

RAM (Random Access Memory) acts as the short term memory of your server, and the hard drive serves as the long term memory.

It holds temporary data when your site is running multiple processes simultaneously, for example, when your site’s scripts have to execute. The more processes that run at once, the more RAM is used.

If your site doesn’t have enough RAM to handle the load, this will lead to a ‘500 internal server error’ on the side of your visitor.

Another way to think of RAM is like the size of your home. In this example, the size of the house would be determined by how much RAM it had. You would only be able to fit a certain amount of people in, and if you wanted anyone else to come in, you would have to kick people out to leave to make room for new people. 

That’s what RAM does. It holds on to data for quick access, so it will “kick out” or forget the older information when it needs to access more recent data. The RAM needs the CPU to access the hard drive every time, which uses computing power, and if you repeat that action frequently, it causes a lag in the server. The more RAM a server has, the less the CPU needs to access the hard drive and the faster the server will run. 

What is CPU (central processing unit)? 

CPU is a central process unit, and your server has multiple CPUs – just like your home computer. The larger the CPU’s capacity, the more information it can store and process. 

CPUs can get overloaded. If there is a significant surge in traffic or a massive amount of scripting requests, it will impact your site’s performance. So you need to ensure that you choose the right CPU for your website. 

How much RAM do I need?

What you use your server for directly impacts the amount of RAM you need. 

Here are some server specifications that’ll help you determine whether you need more or less RAM:

  • If your site receives a high traffic volume, you’ll need more RAM.
  • Some server operating systems require more or less RAM.
  • Dynamic sites require more RAM than static sites.
  • CMS like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla need more RAM.
  • If your site uses caching, you can get away with lower RAM requirements.

RAM shines when your server is at its busiest. So you need to consider how much traffic your site receives during its peak times, not just the average throughout the year.  

For example, an e-commerce website will typically have higher traffic during sales and the festive period. 

The more RAM you have on your server, the more processes it can process without causing a lag on your server. On high traffic days, the last thing you want is customers leaving and abandoning their cart due to delays and/or trouble accessing your site. 

So you need to choose your RAM based on the amount of traffic you have during these peak periods. 

How much CPU do I need? 

CPU resources are split. on a shared hosting package. Requests are processed in the order that they are received. The CPU processes multiple requests at once, and they also use time slings to handle requests quickly. 

But it’s important to remember that CPUs get overloaded. If there’s a significant surge in traffic or a considerable amount of scripting requests, it impacts your site’s performance. Like with RAM, you need to consider the amount of traffic you have during peak times to keep your site running smoothly during these periods. 

If you have a high traffic site, we recommend choosing a hosting plan with a higher CPU, such as a virtual private server or dedicated server plan.

If you want to know more about RAM and CPU, talk to one of our specialists today.