Mass web hosting is a popular way to host web sites. Lower costs, easy site creation, and convenience lure site owners to host with the likes of HostGator, GoDaddy.com, and Yahoo.com. The problem with mass hosting is just that, a massive amounts of sites on overloaded servers. With sometimes hundreds of sites on a single web server, your site can suffer slowdowns when another site on the same server gets hammered. Often the best approach in this situation is to move to a new host with more lightly loaded servers. This article shows the effects of such a move for a client on a mass web host.
Our example site was hosted on a mass web host. Not surprisingly, the client reported slow and inconsistent response times. A brief performance analysis found a large (3.4MB) home page with 76 requests (see Figures 1 and 2).
First byte times ranging from 1.02 to over 60 seconds on a DSL connection. Digging into the slowest TTFB result showed that the DNS lookup, the initial connection, or content download times weren't the problem, it was the 61+ second TTFB (slow server response, see Figure 3).
Slow web sites can cause a host of other problems (no pun intended). Slower sites can spawn crawl errors with search engines as they struggle to index your site. Crawl errors can reduce the number of pages indexed in your site, reducing your potential traffic and keyword rankings. We found crawl errors with the original host. Conversion rates and attunability can also suffer with slower pages. In summary mass hosting can cause:
After moving the site to a more lightly loaded shared server environment, first byte times were reduced and more importantly made more consistent. Mean cable first byte time was reduced by 82.1% from 2.3S to 0.41S (see Figure 4). Figure 5 shows that the range of server response times was reduced from over 61 seconds to 0.15 seconds for DSL connections after the move, and 1.31S to 0.22S for cable. Figure 6 shows that first byte time variability (measured by standard deviation) dropped from 33.2S on DSL to 0.06S, and from 0.67S to 0.1S on cable. In other words variability dropped by 6.7 times (for Cable) to over 500X smaller for DSL (i.e., much more attunable). Mean Cable load times also improved by 34.3% (see Figure 7), although DSL load times remained the same.
Figure 4: Mean First Byte Times on Old and New Hosts - DSL and Cable
Figure 5: First Byte Time Range, Before and After Hosting Move - DSL and Cable
Figure 6: First Byte Time Standard Deviation, Before and After Hosting Move - DSL and Cable
Figure 7: Load Times Before and After Hosting Move - DSL and Cable
While first byte times improved significantly, and load times improved at least for cable there is still more work to do here. Load times of 20 seconds for DSL and 6.6 second for cable connections are well above HCI guidelines of 2-4 seconds (King 2008, Akamai 2009). In our next installment we'll address optimizing the content automatically to see what effect this will have on load times.
By website optimization on 22 Jan 2014 PM