There’s an old saying we all deal with every day: time is money. On the Internet, money can be measured pretty well by one important metric: page load time. Research has shown consistently that user experience is important and functionality is useful, but nothing will cause a customer to jump ship quicker than a slow website.
In fact, Microsoft claims that 250 milliseconds can be the difference between a return customer and an abandoned checkout cart.
According to surveys from Akamai and Gomez, nearly half of website visitors expect a page to load in less than two seconds, and every one second increase in load time can result in up to a 7% reduction in conversions. In 2009, an internal study by an ecommerce website showed that every 100 milliseconds of latency resulted in a 1% loss of sales. Think about that. In less than the blink of an eye, you can lose hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Luckily, there is plenty you can do to fix it – both on your own site and in choosing the right hosting partner.
Your host server obviously plays a critical role in site speed, but it’s important to consider the other half of the equation: your user’s computer. At any given time, all web browsers will allow only 6 open connections to a host server, so minimizing server requests is key.
Cleaning Your Code
Server-Side Caching for Images
Images will almost always be the most resource-intensive area of your website. With the plethora of mobile devices and screen sizes we have today, your site must resize images to display properly on any given screen. By enabling server-side caching of images, your server can send the same resized image to any visitor with an iPad without waiting for an image resizer to render each request from an iPad user. Images are commonly cached, but it’s a good rule of thumb to say that if it can be kept in cache, it should be.
Host Site and Database Separately
It can seem odd to have two servers for the same site, but it can result in significant speed improvements. Each server has both RAM cache and disk cache, with RAM cache being the quicker of the two. No matter how much RAM you have, SQL server will always take as much of it as it can access.
If you have your SQL server on your web server, the database hogs all the RAM it can, and it will constantly be clearing the RAM cache, which makes it more difficult to optimize performance. In SQL server, RAM cache is considered expendable, so the RAM cache is purged when SQL server needs resources.
Utilize CDN Where Possible
Running a profile on your site database using SQL server’s SQL Server Profiler can also help your site be rearranging database schema to give precedence to your site’s most commonly used functionality. The profile will identify the most common tasks on the server (pages visited, actions performed, etc.) and create a profile. You can then load that profile into the Database Engine Tuning Advisor which will analyze captured data and suggest changes that can speed up the most used queries, keeping your most important tasks running smoothly.
Choosing the Right Host
The speed and location of your host can also play a role in minimizing load times. Just like using a regional CDN can help reduce the load time of image assets, so can using a centrally located host. Layered Tech has data centers around the world, which helps reduce latency and serves your customers across the globe. Of course, speed is just as important as location – and Layered Tech excels in delivering speedy performance. Last year, three of our U.S. data centers placed in the top five of fastest cloud data centers rankings, outperforming some of the largest data centers in the country.
Time Is Money
Ensuring smooth site operation can be a time-consuming task, but just remember how quickly a prospective customer can abandon your site and seek out a competitor. Milliseconds matter. It’s never too late to start improving your site performance.
About the Author: Nate Brancato is Layered Tech’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Since joining the company in 2008, Nate has overseen the development of strategic client and partner relationships, helping grow Layered Tech into a leader in secure cloud and managed hosting. Connect with Nate on Twitter at @LayeredTechSVP.