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  1. #1

    Troubleshooting "Connection timed out" on my server

    I hope someone can help me troubleshoot this. I've been trying for weeks.

    I have a managed VPS with WiredTree. At the end of December, I stated getting slow responses and "connection timed out" errors every time I accessed any of my sites. I would sit for literally a minute or more and the page would either load minimally or the connection would time out.

    The only thing WT noticed was the amount of memory each apache thread was using on the server. (I'm no expert...don't know exactly what this means.)

    They restarted, and said they noticed in the logs that there were a few users, mainly "nobody" which is the webserver, using quite a bit of the server's memory.

    They tried to get me to upgrade to something called LiteSpeed which I declined at the moment.

    I've tried to troubleshoot on my end, to see if it might be something to do with my connection, computer, etc but not seeing anything there.

    I don't have any problems with ANY other site...just those on my server.

    In looking at the server stats today (again, I'm no expert when it comes to all this) I notice that the CPS utilization I/O spikes every few hours -- 75% up to 94%.

    I just don't know what to do to remedy the situation. I have a SMF forum on one of the sites with over 98,000 posts on it and almost 1500 registered users, although only a handful of users active at a time.

    I was having memory issues about a 1 1/2 years and upgraded my plan to their vps768 with 768 RAM.

    I'm just not sure what to do. I'm considering switching hosts. I can't seem to get any real answers from WT on how to resolve this but I know it can't keep happening as I can't work on my sites in this condition. WT just keeps telling me it isn't a problem with the server. Well, that makes no sense...because I only have problems with the sites on that server.

    Can anyone help me troubleshoot this so I can get my sites back to the way they should be? I'm out of ideas and can't find anyone to help me.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    Hi Limegreen,

    This sounds like you have a site peaking pretty often. A forum with that many posts can be the likely cause. Even without a ton of users on line in it, it can still spike the cpu load, on a vps or dedicated.

    What happens (I have seen this several times) is that when search engines crawl the site, they often hit pages with links back to the home page. Sometimes, instead of a relative link, there is a full URL back to the home page, or other page on the site.
    For some reason that I can't understand, this causes a loop back issue.

    When it is running slow, watch the apache processes. See if you get a ton of page loads. If that happens, then it is the issue.
    Restart apache, and you will drop the looping pages and it will go back to normal.
    If not, there is another issue. It is a simple fix though if this is it.
    If it is the problem, you can tail the apache logs when it is happening, and it will show you exactly what the issue is.
    If that is not something you can do, hire a admin to trouble shoot the issue for you. It shouldn't take them long to find the issue.

    Tim L
    Superior Host LLC - Quality Web Hosting since 1998
    We really do support you like no other
    Secure, ultra reliable hosting
    Website Maintenace Plans and a Personal Level of Support

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Vancouver, Canada
    Try this, it might help you narrow down the problem:

    1) Connect via SSH to your server (assuming you have it)

    2) "top" command, this will pull up a list of all running processes and some misc information on them. Look for processes that are consuming a large amount of CPU or memory and make a note of their process ID (the first column in the top output).

    3) ps ax | grep {process number}

    i.e. "ps ax | grep 999459"

    This will show you exactly where that process is originating from.

    That might at least tell you what is causing the huge spikes in server load. Maybe you've got a zombie process running somewhere, or maybe somebody hacked your server and installed some kind of malware that you haven't noticed.

    This won't solve the problem, but it should at least point you in the right direction.
    Last edited by Christian Little; 02-07-2011 at 12:27 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    WT has a good rep here, so let's assume they don't see anything wrong with the server or OS.

    Forums can have a lot of MySQL transactions that can cause CPU loading and memory issues. Check your stats to see if you are getting hammered by search engines; they can move through your forums much faster than a human user and cause trouble. If you see a lot of search engine transactions, try denying them access to the forums for a few days and see if that improves things (search for info on ROBOTS.TXT if you don't already know how to do this).

    You can also try optimizing SMF. These might or might not make any difference, and the folks at SMF will have more information on them. For my SMF forums, I do the following:

    In SMF, make sure you don't have "Persistent connections" checked in Admin > Server Settings > Core Configuration. Under Server Settings > Feature Configuration, make sure you have something like "7" in "Optimize Tables" (if its zero, you may have never optimized your tables). You can also try toggling compressing output if its checked.

    Read the information on caching on the next tab under Server Settings > Caching. Disabling caching will save CPU cycles and may help.

    In Admin > Maintenance > Forum Error Log, scan through and see if anything stands out ... missing files, etc.

    In Admin > Maintenance >Forum Maintenance try "Optimize all tables" and then "Empty Out Unimportant Logs".

    I think the server specs are OK for SMF, at 768MB. It could be some other script causing the trouble. If you have a CMS, or something like Wordpress, plugins and addons can sometimes use up a lot of memory. If you have shell access, you can log in and use the "top" command to see a real-time report of what process is using the resources. That may help you identify something that is consuming the resources.

  5. #5
    Thanks for all of your detailed info everyone. I appreciate it!

    I haven't ever done SSH but I'm looking at the daily process log in WHM and that's helpful.

    If I look at my server performance in my account on WiredTree, is there info there that might be indicative?

    All the sites are WordPress so I'm aware of the memory issues there. I should have caching plugins on them but I'll double check, and check any plugins, etc.

    fshagan, thank you for those settings on SMF. I was aware of them and I don't have caching or persistent connections active.

    It's just so frustrating. I'm sitting here and even getting to the Admin panel in my SMF takes 2 to 4 tries before connection works. I go to login to a cPanel for one of the sites and experience the same thing. I just feel like I'm never going to get this resolved.

    And again, just to emphasize, while I'm fine checking all of this, WiredTree is telling me that there AREN'T any issues with the server, that it's just me!
    Last edited by limegreen; 02-07-2011 at 01:52 PM.

  6. #6
    I found this post on interesting:

  7. #7
    And one more thing...I just want to emphasize that WiredTree has said that there aren't any resource issues with the server. So while I'm happy to look at these other areas, I'm not sure it's going to help because their claim is there isn't an issue.

    Yet here I sit, connections timing out on only my server's site.....

    One thing I noticed is that sometimes if I switch browsers (from FF to Chrome) I will have little to no problems. But I still have problems in Chrome. Don't know if there's something I can check with the browser.
    Last edited by limegreen; 02-07-2011 at 02:34 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2000
    I see you mentioned you have WHM in your server. No ssh expirience.. do the following from within WHM. It should help.

    Ok, log into WHM. If you are having connection issues at that time, go to just above the account information section, and find apache status in the server status section. Click it.....
    It may take quite a while to load if it is the issue I mentioned.

    If you see a ton of connections to the same site/page you will have found the issue.

    You can then go down to the System Health section and click on the process manager link.

    This will show you what items are consuming memory the most, as it will show you cpu load of the processes that are running.

    From there, you can trace the process, and if it is looping, it will not finish, but should show you exactly what is causing it, and then you can correct the problem from there.

    if you do not see a ton of issues with apache, check the process manager anyway, and see if it shows what is happening.

    If it is an MYSQL issue, then you can look at the MySQL section of WHM, and list running processes and see exactly what user, and database is getting hit so hard.

    You need to do these when you have problems getting to the site, to trace the issue without ssh experience.

    Good luck with it.
    Tim L
    Superior Host LLC - Quality Web Hosting since 1998
    We really do support you like no other
    Secure, ultra reliable hosting
    Website Maintenace Plans and a Personal Level of Support

  9. #9
    The thing I see the most in the apache status is this: OPTIONS * HTTP/1.0

    (I've replaced the actual server name above)

    The other processes I recognize because of the URLs as just calls/access to pages on one of the sites. There aren't any unusual things about those.

    I have problems with the connection timing out when I'm in WHM, cPanel and when using Filezilla to FTP.

    Hopefully I can narrow this down Thanks!

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