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I have a server that runs a Magento site. After being alerted that the available inodes were almost completely used up I found that the site had been storing session files and was not removing them.

After removing these session files (~2 million files) the server appears to be running a lot faster.

So is it possible that this could have a large impact on server performance?

That depends on the actual file system being used but generally file systems perform worse when running out of either free inodes or free space (free space <10-15%) or both.

Many file systems will also slow down when a single directory contains many (100'000s or millions of) files or subdirectories, but again if and by how much depends on both the file system and which IO operations.

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What HBruijn says, plus also what kind of disk it is. So yes, as you pretty much discovered yourself, a disk that isn't filled up to the brim, either in total size or in number of files, will generally run more efficiently in terms of finds, reads and writes.

You didn't specify exactly how you removed them, but you should look in to PHP garbage collection, that's the term used to describe deletion of old sessions.

Another thing to consider is to install monit, and configure alerts for both the disk usage as well as inodes. That way you can be warned well in advance next time.

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