In this article we'll discuss what a load average on your server is, and how you can monitor this number on your VPS (Virtual Private Server) or dedicated server hosting package.

If you are using shared-hosting this level of account usage detail isn't available to the end-user, and you'd want to contact our system administration department if you're curious about your account's individual resource usage.

Once you understand your server's load average a bit more you'll probably also be interested in advanced server load monitoring, for an even more in-depth look at your resource usage.

Monitoring load in WHM

Your VPS or dedicated server comes with something called WHM (Web Host Manager). This application is what runs on top of cPanel, and with it you can control more server-wide aspects of your server. While cPanel is mainly for controlling user-level or site specific settings for the accounts you are hosting.

Logging in

You can always access WHM with one of the following URL structures:

http://vpsXXXX.inmotionhosting.com/whm

http://dedXXXX.inmotionhosting.com/whm

http://yourdomain.com/whm

You might receive an SSL certificate warning trying to access WHM. This is typically just letting you know that the SSL certificate is self-signed, and you can decide to go ahead and proceed anyway, or add the SSL certificate to your exception list so that you aren't prompted in the future about it.

Looking at load averages

Once you've logged in, up at the top-right hand corner of the page you should see your load averages displayed as three numbers. These numbers are setup as follows:

Load Averages: 1.00 2.00 3.00

1.00 - 1 Minute average

2.00 - 5 Minute average

3.00 - 15 Minute average

In the example above, these load averages would indicate that 15 minutes ago the server was averaging a load of 3.00, while 5 minutes ago it was averaging a load of 2.00, and over the last minute it's been averaging a load of 1.00. This means that over the course of 15 minutes the server was doing a lot of work, 5 minutes ago it cut that workload in half, and then within the last minute it was cut in half again.

The Linux load average on a server is a rough estimate of the workload currently waiting to process. This can be thought of much in the same way of a highway dealing with the traffic from cars and other vehicles on the road. If you for instance had a 2-lane highway, then you could fill up both lanes with traffic and there would be no delays for any of the vehicles trying to get to their destination.

However if you had an entire extra lane of traffic waiting to get onto the highway, because currently both available lanes are already full. You'd want some sort of way to estimate just how backed up your highway is, so that you can either warn people of delays or think about expanding the highway.

In the case of our highway example seeing an average road load of 3.00, lets us easily see that on average there is a full extra lane of vehicles waiting to use the road and causing delays.

If we see this high average consistently, it might be time to start expanding our highway or letting commuters know that they can expect delays. The same scenario can play out on your server as well, so you can use your server's load average to determine when things are overloaded and upgrades might be necessary.

Acceptable load averages for VPS hosting

The load average on your VPS should only very seldom reach or go above a 1.00. This is because your server is virtualized and doesn't physically have multiple lanes or CPUs assigned for it to handle the additional demand for your server for prolonged periods.

On the VPS platform you can temporarily and periodically burst outside of your VPS's usage ceiling, but doing this on a continued basis would lead to either needing to optimize your usage or upgrading to a dedicated server so that your overusage isn't affecting other VPS customers.

Acceptable load averages for dedicated server hosting

Depending on the level of dedicated server you might have, you could have 2, 4, or even 8 CPUs or lanes to fill up with traffic. If you're consistently running a load average higher than the amount of CPUs that your server has you could be causing your site's visitors to experience delays.

You would want to look into optimizing your site's resource usage to bring it back to safe levels for your current tier of dedicated server, or start to think about possibly upgrading to a more powerful dedicated server to handle your demand.

Below you can see the number of CPU cores with our various dedicated server packages:

2 - Essential

4 - Advanced

8 - Elite

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