Warning: Your iPhone or Mac Mail May Be Killing Your Website

Warning: Your iPhone or Mac Mail May Be Killing Your Website

I recently discovered something very important for WordPress sites hosting with Hostgator’s shared option and I wanted to share it with our readers. However, this doesn’t apply only to WordPress sites and Hostgator – it’s a general warning for any site on shared hosting. Your site may be at risk if the email is hosted on the same server as the website.

Primary Symptom: Nasty 500 Errors

If you’re continually getting 500 errors when visiting your site, then one possible cause is that you’ve exceeded the number of concurrent processes allowed by your host. This is one that will continually slip past your error logs.

The Problem with Mac Mail and iPhone email

The iPhone and Mac Mail are notorious for keeping processes open when checking the server for mail. On the iPhone there is a function called “push” and when it is enabled, it keeps the connection to the server open and continually checks mail. Consequently, this creates many IMAP processes, even for the same email address.

The main problem with Mac Mail is when it’s on the IDLE setting. This basically leaves the connection to the server open to check for new messages as soon as they arrive rather than trying to connect every 5 minutes or so.

Please note that this may also apply to other hosts, but I know it’s Hostgator’s explicit policy to deny service when processes exceed 25 per account, which results in 500 errors. – this would include any kind of connection to the server, such as FTP and plugins on your site that start internal processes, plus email connections. The processes can really add up if you’re not careful, especially when email connections are left open.

The resulting 500 errors can literally cripple your website.

If you’re experiencing this, check to see how many processes your host allows to run simultaneously. It’s usually different for each host. For example, 1&1 shared hosting packages currently allow for 16 simultaneous processes. BlueHost limits IMAP connections to 20 at a time. Site5 only allows for 5 processes at one time.

3 Solutions to Help Reduce 500 Errors

Here’s what you can do. Selecting any one of these options should help to drastically cut down on your 500 errors and will in many cases fix your problem entirely:

1. Reconfigure your Mac Mail and iPhone email clients according to the instructions here:

If you have hosting with Hostgator, follow the instructions below for making sure your email is set up correctly.

http://support.hostgator.com/articles/specialized-help/email/mac-mail-setup
http://support.hostgator.com/articles/specialized-help/email/setting-up-email-for-the-apple-iphone

You can also try setting up Z-Push, an open source activesync protocol that allows users to sync contacts and calendars to multiple devices using PHP.

2. Forward all of your domain mail to Gmail or Thunderbird or another email provider.

If you’re using Gmail or the like to handle your email, then you’re not opening processes on the server at all. You free up your processes for your website to use.

3. Switch to VPS Hosting

Sure, shared hosting is okay for small, low traffic websites. However, the online face of your business depends on visitors being able to access your website at any time without issues. VPS hosting generally does not have a limit on the number of processes you can run at one time, so chances are that you’re less likely to overload.

The bottom line is, if you’re on shared hosting, make sure your mail client is configured correctly in order to ensure that your site has the most resources possible available. The last thing you want is for your website’s visitors to get 500 errors simply because you’ve been reading chain emails from your Aunt Hilda on your iPhone. If you have to stick with shared hosting for budget reasons, then apply one of these fixes to make sure your website has the resources it needs.