Is your website slow? Want to know how to speed it up?
We live in a world where access to information at your fingertips and impatience is rife. You are able to order something online and have it delivered to your door the same day, or stream the latest TV shows directly to your mobile phone – why would you want to sit around waiting for a website to load?
The fact is that we are spoilt by the increased connectivity around us and the lightning-fast connections are only getting stronger. To meet the expectations of your audience, it is essential that your website is keeping up.
The average time to grab somebody’s attention online is 3 seconds. If you haven’t grabbed their attention by then, chances are, they are already back on Google looking elsewhere. Now imagine if it was taking 5-10 seconds for your website to even load – you are already out of the race.
Luckily there are some very simple (or not so simple) solutions that you can do to help increase the load speed on your website.
What is Hosting?
Web hosting is the bricks and mortar to your online presence. If you imagine that you are opening an online shop and building a website, the hosting is where the files are physically stored to allow other web users to access them.
If you were to host everything on your own computer and then shut it down at the end of the day, this would cut connection to the files, stopping the world from gaining access to them.
A web server gives you access to a place to store and view these files online 24/7. Web servers are still physical computers, they are just a part of huge data farms that you pay a fee to keep up and running.
Servers are usually located in data centres that have extremely fast network connection allowing people to connect to your website and transfer information extremely quickly.
Most hosting platforms offer a 99.99% uptime of your site, because these are still physical servers there is always a chance that they will crash or need re-booting, but this is extremely rare and usually resolved within an hour. For any catastrophic downtime your data will simply be moved onto another server instead, again another reason why there is a fee involved…
To understand how hosting works and why is affects the speed that your website loads we need to break down a few common hosting types.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared web hosting is where your website shares space with other websites on the same server. Shared hosting tends to be cheap, however, it is not without fault.
The issue with shared hosting is that there is a limited amount of resources that are shared by all the websites hosted on that server. This means that if one of your neighbour websites has a busy spell, they are going to sap all the resources from the shared server slowing down your load speeds.
There is nothing fun about spending hours increasing your load speeds and working on your content for nobody to be able to see your website because another company that has no connection to yours has an offer on.
Shared hosting is totally dependent on the actual specification of the server and how populated it is. Shared hosting is also very hit or miss.
Shared hosting is best used for low traffic websites and hobby sites. For business solutions you should explore other options.
Cloud hosting is still a fairly new concept but is ideal for small business sites and growing web developments. Cloud hosting effectively links together hundreds of shared hosting servers. This means that if you encounter a huge surge in traffic then it can pull resources from other servers to help manage the load.
Unlike shared hosting platforms you are not limited to a single servers’ resources so you will not have the same effect as sharing resources with another website.
Cloud hosting is usually priced based on your usage, so it is designed to deal with growth and demand.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
Virtual Private Servers still share a physical server with other clients; however, they have dedicated resources allocated to them meaning that other websites can not hijack your resources and you will not feel any impact from their resource use.
VPS Solutions are the middle ground between Shared Server Hosting and Dedicated Web Servers. Due to the limited space on each physical server and reservation of resources VPS solutions tend to be where the price jumps for hosting solutions. Depending on the specification of the server (RAM/CPU/Hard drive) you can expect to pay upward of £150 per month for a VPS.
Dedicated Web Server
A Dedicated Web Server is your own personal rented (or owned) server blade inside a rack in a data centre. This server belongs to you and will not share anything with other users. Dedicated Web Servers are the pinnacle of web hosting and really are the limit to where any large-scale website or online business needs to be.
Dedicated servers will vary in price based on the hardware specification, but you could be looking at between £150-£200 per month as a starting figure and the sky is the limit as to how many servers you need to band together to run an enormous web project.
Caching will not help new visitors to your website, however, for returning visitors it will make a huge difference.
With caching enabled it will store some of these files in a tiny folder called your “cache”. When you next visit that site instead of having to re-download these elements, your computer will be able to extract them directly from your cache.
Enabling caching on your site can improve load speeds by up to 2-4 seconds. This is a huge difference when your total load time is around 5-6 seconds and online every second counts.
One of most common reasons for a slow loading website is the images on the page. If you upload a photo from your phone or digital camera to your website, then it will be full size and, with the level of detail cameras take these days, the file size is massive. Every time somebody visits your website, they will need to download these images. Even though the image is far smaller on the screen the full image size is still downloading to the browser.
Going through and scaling all of your images and formatting them ready for use online will dramatically increase the load speed of your website.
Content Delivery Networks
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) are designed to host the content and images on your site to allow your server to point to them quickly.
This delivery method will ease strain on your web server allowing you to host any files or images offsite and have your web server pull the data directly from the web rather than its own hard drive.
Call in the Experts
Many of these solutions can be carried out yourself without too much trouble – although, seek advice and backup any data before attempting anything.
There are many other solutions to help speed up your website such as:
- Minimize HTTP Requests on your site
- Minify and Combine Files
- Reduce TTFB (Time to first byte)
These are just a few of the more advanced techniques that can be used to help the load speed on your website.
For more information on Squarebird’s web and hosting solutions get in touch with our team today.
The Squarebird team possess a rare combination of skills in marketing, strategy development, creative writing, photography, graphic design and website development.
It is this, along with our Great Website Philosophy and much-loved proactive approach, which enables us to build affordable and engaging websites that give businesses the edge in a competitive digital world!