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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n/a Points
2014-12-10 12:22 pm

We're on a VPS1000S.  Are you saying that the server load should average not really exceed 1.00, or is this a scaled number? I've been monitoring ours and haven't seen it drop below 1.95.  I've seen it spike into double digits over the last 15 minutes.  I'm trying to gain an understanding of how this all works and make sure our site falls withing acceptable parameters, but based on what I'm seeing, I'm not sure it is even possible to get the site down to that level.  What am I missing here?

Staff
18,399 Points
2014-12-10 1:10 pm
Hello Carl,

Thanks for the question. All of this can be verify confusing, but the server averages are definitely a good guideline (as per the above article). If you're seeing the averages regularly above 1.00 (on all three numbers in the load average line in WHM), then you are probably pushing the limits of the system. For comparison, I looked at another VPS (my own) which has a few active websites and I see the Load averages will look like this: 0.01, 0.04, 0.01.

Please look into upgrading your hosting account if you continually see averages above 3.00 on your account. If you have any further questions on the issue, then you are welcome to send a reply, or contact our live technical support team in regards to your server loads.

Sincerely,
Arnel C.



n/a Points
2014-12-10 12:27 pm

Addendum to my last comment: I'm now looking at the Service Status in WHM. It is showing

Server load 4.61 (40 CPUs)

The green checkmark leads me to believe that all is ok with this level.  So again, I'm uncertain about the numbers used in this article and how they relate to real-world numbers. Please clarify what I should be seeing to be compliant.

Staff
18,399 Points
2014-12-10 1:25 pm
Hello Carl,

The VPS servers are a virtualized server (not physical), so processes are running across multiple processors and server resources (such as memory). The VPS has greater access to resources than a shared server, but it is still a form of shared resource management. In comparison, a dedicated server would have ALL of its resources dedicated to your website processes. The service status (under System Information) shows the current services running on your server across the CPU's on that server (in this case 40). The resources being used by these services are indicated in the system information summary. The table also indicates when a service is up or down. The green check simply indicates that numbers were able to be determined for your VPS and that it's current and up and running.

The service status is simply a quick way to get a look at the main services (e.g. email, database, web and ftp) that are running on your server.

Regards,
Arnel C.

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