This guide provides an overview of the factors impacting your storage usage and provides some suggestions regarding efficient storage management.
“Storage” refers specifically to the SSD storage capacity provided with each of our hosting plans. Features like dedicated RAM, CPUs and bandwidth are essential performance factors but have no impact on storage capacity or usage.
It’s also important to understand that the speed, security and stability of WPMU DEV hosting relies heavily on a highly-structured server environment in which each member’s files exist in a dedicated virtual private server. When we refer to “your files” we’re not talking simply about your content, but also your WordPress core files, backups, staging sites, plugins, integrations and themes—all of which are protected in their own virtual world with zero shared resources.
Our managed hosting plans provide robust storage support at each plan level but are not intended to saddle members with storage space they don’t need or force them to pay for excess performance capacity just to increase their storage. Instead, we recommend taking advantage of the free storage that comes with some of our premium plugins or subscribing to third-party storage services likes Amazon’s S3, both of which we discuss in more detail below in Before You Upgrade.
Let’s begin with an overview of how your files are categorized and stored.
10.1 Storage OverviewLink to chapter 1
You can monitor your storage usage in the Storage tab of your Hosting Hub, located here: Hub > Hosting > Analytics > Storage.
From the Hub, click the Hosting tab.
Click any row to open the Hosting Overview for that site.
Click the Analytics tab.
Click the Storage tab to reveal a detailed breakdown of the storage usage for the selected site.
The chart at the top shows how much of your Total Plan Storage is in use, with the colored segments indicating the relative size of the various data types. The chart is refreshed every six hours, but you can manually refresh the data anytime by clicking the refresh icon next to Storage Used.
Your stored data can be broken into three categories: production, staging and backups. Your data exists within these categories either as an actual file or as data added to your WordPress database.
These are the types of files stored in each category:
Production Files – Your site’s framework without the content, including your WordPress installation files, themes and plugins.
Production Database – The content and settings you add or apply to the framework stored in your Production Files.
Staging Files – Files added to a staging site that has not been pushed to production and files deleted directly from your production site which are still in use by the staging site.
Staging Database – Database changes made in the staging environment that have not been pushed to production.
Backups Overhead – The most recent full backup of your site or network is stored here, plus all incremental backups, plus any files that have been deleted from a production site but which are still associated with a backup.
SSH/SFTP Home Dirs – Very small, temporary files created when you create SFTP/SSH users.
10.2 Backups and StagingLink to chapter 2
Our daily hosted backups provide more than adequate protection for most sites. While it is not unreasonable for a user to occasionally trigger a manual backup just before they initiate changes to a site, hosted users who regularly create additional backups using the manual backup feature in the Hosting Hub, and do so for no significant reason, are consuming storage space unnecessarily.
To be clear, our incremental backups use very little storage space; however, if you’re pushing the limits of your current storage capacity we recommend not making matters worse by creating needless backups.
See our Backups documentation for a thorough explanation of how our hosting backups work
When available storage gets low, it’s not unusual for web admins to look for unnecessary files, plugins or themes to delete. There are a couple of problems with that approach, however.
First, if your site has enough unnecessary files to make a significant impact on storage usage, then you’re not keeping up with your day-to-day housekeeping chores. Unused files should be deleted, archived or moved to offsite storage as soon as you know they’re no longer needed, and should never accumulate to the point that they consume a significant amount of production storage.
Second, just because a file is no longer needed for your site, doesn’t mean it isn’t needed elsewhere, most commonly as part of a previous backup. Deleting files from production might make your site smaller, but will have little or no impact on your total storage usage; at least, not until the next full backup.
Take a look at the screenshots below. In this case, a user deleted more than 4GB of files and other data from the production side in an attempt to free up some storage space. Notice that while production storage shrank, Backups Overhead increased by almost the same amount, and the impact on total storage usage was negligible. This is because the deleted files were still associated with the site’s last full backup and cannot be removed until that backup has been replaced by a full backup in which those files are no longer present.
Remember, a backup is a complete copy of a site at a given point in time that can be restored if something unforeseen renders your production site unusable. In order for that to work, all files associated with your site when it was last backed up must be preserved until another full backup is made. When the user in the example above deleted those 4GB of data, the only thing that changed was how those files were categorized for storage purposes.
We automatically create full backups of your site every 15 days, and files deleted between full backups will remain in Backups Overhead until the next full backup. If you’ve removed files in order to free up storage space, that space will not actually become available until after the next full backup.
We do not allow members to delete our hosting backups, in short, because those backups are a part of our commitment to protecting your site. Besides, there are much better ways to reduce your storage usage than deleting backups, as discussed below in Before You Upgrade.
If you’re not using a staging site, we strongly recommend that you do. The benefits of a staging site far outweigh the storage usage, which is typically only a fraction of that used by the production site.
The image below shows a fresh staging site created from a site almost 1GB in size. As you can see, the staging site before any new content is added is a little more than one-tenth of the size of the production site.
A staging site will grow in size, of course, as you add files to it, but as soon as it’s pushed to production, its share of storage usage will drop back to its original state. Additionally, we do not backup staging sites, so they do not contribute to your Backups Overhead storage.
10.3 Before You UpgradeLink to chapter 3
We’re thrilled when members need to upgrade their hosting plans because their sites are successful and growing. We are less enthused when they’re upgrading because their sites are bloated, and they aren’t taking advantage of the space-saving features our premium plugins offer.
There is, at a minimum, 20GB of free storage available to every member via our Smush and Snapshot plugins. Add to that the savings most sites can achieve by compressing images with Smush and, if all you need is a few more gigs of storage, upgrading your hosting plan may not be necessary just yet.
As explained above, WPMU DEV hosted sites have little need for backups beyond the hosted backups we provide. Our daily, incremental backups and regular full backups are more than adequate for most sites. That said, if you’re going to create additional backups, we recommend you do so using Snapshot, our premium backup plugin.
With Snapshot, you can create custom backups that will not impact your hosting storage and, if configured properly (meaning you only backup your content and not your themes, plugins, etc.) you can squeeze a lot of backups into the 10GB of free storage we offer, and more backup storage is available for about 10 cents a gig. See the Snapshot plugin page for a detailed explanation of its features.
Smush Pro is our highly-rated premium image compression and image-serving plugin. With it, not only will you save space by compressing your site’s images, but you can also offload up to 10 GB of images to our CDN, which will serve your images from a 65 Tbps server network from 45 locations around the globe. See the Smush plugin page for a detailed explanation of its features.
Cloud storage has come a long way in the past decade, and today there are many cloud storage providers. We encourage users to consider their options before choosing, but for our money, Amazon’s Simple Storage Services, or S3, sets the standard for cost, scalability and reliability. This is why we’re integrating it with as many of our plugins as possible, including Smush and Snapshot.
S3 is billed as a developer’s tool, but in reality, it now serves millions of non-development customers looking for simple, inexpensive cloud storage. Aside from its affordability—less than a penny per gigabyte—S3 is built on the same network that serves Amazon’s own sites. According to Amazon, the company loses $20,000 for every second one of it’s sites is down, so users can be sure that doesn’t happen very often.