Idea Marketing Group hosts several hundred company websites on our server. Each of those companies depends on us to provide their users with a reliable and secure connection. We recently made five upgrades that make the websites we host load faster, help them rank higher in search engine results, and protect them from outside attacks.
Apache to LiteSpeed: Making our clients’ websites load faster
Since our company was founded in 2009, we’ve used a popular software called Apache to manage all the connections to our server. As we’ve built and hosted more and more custom websites and grown as a company, the load on our server has also grown.
On average, most companies push their server limits to 80%-90% of their capacity, which slows down each site’s performance.
The more work a server has to perform to push data back and forth, the slower a website will run.
Switching from Apache to LiteSpeed earlier this year allowed us to reduce the load on our server by nearly half. In fact, we configure our server for speed and optimize it to make sure our server load is never at more than 25% capacity. As a result, we’re able to focus our resources on site performance improvements.
Why load speed time matters for your website
Search engines like Google calculate the time it takes sites for websites to load and use those scores when determining how high or low a site should rank for relevant searches.
LiteSpeed compresses images, website code, and java scripts much better than Apache. This means a 1 MB image file will be reduced in size to about 500 kb on mobile devices as well, which helps sites load faster, keep users engaged, and consume less of their mobile plan’s data.
“Speed is critical for search rankings, so we are constantly looking for ways to give clients that extra edge,” Idea Marketing Group president Darren Fox said. “Constantly improving our hosting environment also helps strengthen the overall security for our clients.”
Hosting the websites we’ve built for clients allows us to make regular tweaks throughout the year to make each one run more efficiently.
When hackers want to attack a website, they will send up to several thousand connections at the same time in an attempt to crash the server. LiteSpeed can manage hundreds of thousands of connections at once without crashing the server. It also features better security and built-in checks that protect websites from DDOS attacks.
How our server impacts your business’s website
A lot of servers are configured for websites that were built 10 or more years ago. So, when a company wants users to fill out a complex form with many fields, for example, the server can’t handle the request and begins ignoring inputs (name field, info field, checkbox, etc.).
However, because we have full control over how each website is configured, as well as control over our own server, we can make those changes ourselves so clients never experience problems.
Each server is basically a computer. When your computer becomes full of files, applications and programs, it runs short on available resources (memory, processor, hard drive, etc.), so it slows down.
What else we did: Caching, HTTP2 & PHP
When you visit a website, you’re connecting to whichever server that the company uses. The server processes everything on the page and sends that data back to you as the images, text, and videos you see on the page. Caching basically creates and stores a “snapshot photo” of the web page so it doesn’t have to render all the data from scratch each time you visit.
We’ve begun using LiteSpeed’s own WordPress caching plugin, which is faster than most other options available. We also switched to HTTP2, a protocol web browsers (like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari) use to display content on the page. The previous version of HTTP served up files (style sheets, images, java scripts) sequentially, which meant each file had to load before the next could load as you scrolled down the page. Pages with 20-30 files would obviously take much longer to load.
A connection is basically a person trying to access a page on your website.
However, HTTP2 loads everything on a web page synchronously by downloading the entire packet of files at once and rendering them at once, which can result in a 200%-300% speed increase.
Beyond LiteSpeed, we’ve also kept our PHP software up-to-date. While shared hosting companies often run outdated versions from as far back as 2012, we’ve updated our software to be nearly 100% faster than previous versions. During that process, we’ve proactively updated our existing websites so they wouldn’t notice any depreciation.
Our clients may not notice the changes we’ve made, and that’s okay. They might only load a half-second faster, which doesn’t sound like a drastic change. But, to Google, it’s actually a huge difference. It’s a minor cost for us, but a major long-term investment in the reliability and security of our hosted websites.
Faster load speeds produce better performing websites, which result in higher Google rankings. Lower server loads equal more security and fewer outages. And when problems do arise, 24/7 support from Steadfast will mean faster recovery and fewer disruptions in your website and your customer’s experience. That, we hope you’ll notice.