To start off the first of our three Speed Week posts, we will begin with the first link in the chain for obtaining maximum website performance. In this post we will break down the main points to consider when choosing your hosting service and provider.
Location, location, location!
Just as the saying goes in real estate, the same applies to where you host your website. Depending on the location of your target market, especially if running an online business or ecommerce website, the location of your website hosting will determine the initial response time of your website.
A websites response time is the amount if time it takes for the hosting server to receive a request from a web browser and return a reply such as loading a web page. If for example your website targets Australian users, but it is hosted in North America, the response time will be higher than if it was hosted within Australia. In some cases the the response time can be as much as 5 times higher than hosting in the same country as your target audience or customers.
Speed or storage?
While server operating systems and website applications vary greatly, there are two main types of hosting server when it comes to the physical method used to store your data. Both have their own pros and cons, below we will break down the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
HDD (Hard Disk Drive)
Still the most common form of hosting available, HDD based hosting utilises a similar form of storage to that found in most home computers and external hard drives. This option is generally cheaper and offers far more storage capacity than SSD servers, but at the cost of being slower due to having to spin up a physical mechanical drive to read data.
Pros: Cheapest storage option available and with greater storage capacity that can go up to multiple Terabytes.
Cons: Slower data read and write times increase website loading times.
SSD (Solid State Drive)
The emerging storage option employed by newer data centers and hosting providers. SSD storage provides a much faster disk access speed due to the data being stored in flash memory similar to a USB drive. The lack of any physical parts to spin up means a faster disk wake time and being fully electronic also increases the read and write speeds over conventional HDD storage. However SSD storage has only been around for a few years and storage capacities are still limited in size and costs are generally greater than HDD storage for cost per GB.
Pros: Faster than HDD storage due to no moving parts and higher transfer speeds.
Cons: Currently more expensive option due to limited storage capacities and production costs.
Just like the processor and memory of your own computer effects its performance, so does those of the hosting server where your website is located. The most common type of hosting on web servers is know as shared hosting, shared hosting means you quite literally share all of the available CPU and memory with every other user on the server. In these cases a server with low resources or a resource hungry website owned by another user can greatly impact the performance of your own website.
Another type of hosting is known as a VPS, or Virtual Private Server. This option means that you receive your very on virtualised server with resources dedicated to you and you alone. While this option is often more expensive, it offers performance and security advantages over shared hosting.
The final type of hosting is known as a dedicated server. This option has all the advantages of a VPS but is the most expensive of the 3 options as you have a physical machine to yourself as opposed to a virtualised server or shared hosting.
Most users will only require the shared hosting option, but some larger users or businesses are best to consider a VPS. A dedicated server should only be considered if you are a large corporation with high performance or server configuration needs that can not be met by a standard VPS.
Performance questions to ask your hosting provider,
- What is the processor and memory available on the server.
- How many users will I be sharing the server with.
- If a VPS, can I upgrade the processor and memory resources.
Hosting server software
The software the server uses to host your website is an important consideration, especially if you are planning on configuring most of your website and email settings yourself. The most commonly used hosting platform is cPanel, although other options are available and will vary from host to host. Due to the maturity and support available for cPanel, it should be your preferred choice when it comes to hosting platforms unless you have previous experience with other platforms or feel more comfortable with another option.
Later in our Speed Week series, we will be covering website performance tweaks that also include server side settings to help improve load times. These settings and tweaks will relate directly to cPanel as it is the hosting platform used and recommended by Tweak Geek IT.