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“Load times – 200 to 400ms”

This week has seen quite a few of you talking about load times of 200ms to 400ms citing Google in the process.

Initially, there was much scratching of heads, as any site of any modern site with any content what so ever is going to struggle to ‘start’ to load, let alone ‘load’ within 200ms.

One ms or millisecond is one-thousandths of a second. Which is pretty quick. These are the types of unit we would use to measure packets moving along the copper of a network. The gap between you and your ADSL provider is most likely to be 20 to 30ms, and the internet lays beyond that. For example – even with industrial networks it is 3.5ms from here in North Wales to Manchester. An entire website down said wire in 0.02 seconds is a bit of an ask if it is more than a short body of plain text, truth be told.

Then another ticket came in making sense of it all. A number of you who have Pay per Click / Ad Words with Google have been contacted by your account manager – and offered a talk with a Mobile Optimization Expert. What they are referring to is response times – or Time To First Byte. In other words – how quickly the server gets back to you.

Why this is more vital to mobile market as it was being sold in the calls is curious to us – however, everyone wants a fast site – and here is the opportunity to look at the specific TTFB figure.

Time To First Byte

So, how do you figure this out? Tools. Of which there are plenty. There is the Google Page Insights you will probably have been steered to – however, others such as tools.pingdom.com and gtmetrix.com are common tools we see used and use ourselves. I am a big fan of the latter, and with a free account, you can monitor speeds over time, and also see the timeline tab.

Here is an example site that has been tested with GTmetrix from:

Response times over 400ms?

There are plenty of reasons why this might be. Some of the reasons will be transient, and you will see the number go down as well as up – some will be longer lived. Factors that affect the speed of delivery are many – for example:

 – DNS lookups;

 – Actual website code;

 – Database load;

 – Server load and resources;

 – Network load with your provider;

 – Internet routes took between entry and exit point;

 – ISP/provider load;

 – Local exchange/cell load;

 – Your Network/wireless/cellular signal;

 – How busy your machine/phone is.

That is a fair amount to slip up with – so this is why the figure WILL go up and down – but should, in theory, remain within a given range.

MOST of the issues we see are with code. Dynamic sites are the ones that can usually benefit from tweaking. Caching responses server side, use of CDN’s for global sites, leveraging browser cache’s, enabling gzip compression, HTTP/2 where you can, and of course the overhead of HTTP which everyone wants these days for SEO reasons and privacy.

Okay? But it is still not fast enough?

But let’s say you are delivering weighty content, you have gone through the playbook for speeding things up. Shared hosting means your resources are contended with other people on the server. Shared hosting is fabulous – it shares the price of the resource and overheads between the occupants however your neighbours are slowing you down – so its time to spread your wings and move to a Virtual Machine / Virtual Private Server, or for those who need even more Dedicated Servers. Resources just for you is going to make a real difference… but sometimes when you are a 200mbit peak kind of site with links from social media, all the viral sites, and quite frankly – life is good… there are other options.

For quite some while now Plesk Linux users have been benefitting from a combination of Nginx and Apache. Nginx is a fast lightweight web server – which it uses to deliver static content directly, and pass on other requests to Apache2 behind it – in much the same way that CloudFlare does in all fairness. Well, we can replace this with LiteSpeed* from LiteSpeedTech. This service excels at TTFB speeds under load and efficient and timely use of resources. The tool for the job as it were.

Questions?

There are no silly questions. We are all learning all of the time – get involved, try, fail, ask, learn, fix – we are here to assist with the services we deliver, and we have a bunch of experience in it too. We may even be able to point you in the right direction with your code along the way.

Google – like it or not – is the self-appointed master of the internet, and what they think of you REALLY matters. So seeing the sites as they see them is important. Other things to consider are Google Analytics, Google WebmasterTools, Google Page Speed Insights… know your enemy … even if these are the very tip of a sizeable metaphorical iceberg.

And there’s more…

While we are on about speed – just our little secret to keep under your hat – we are rolling out LiteSpeed on our new LiteSpeed WordPress Hosting offerings – including the WordPress Caching option. When you include this in what our shared hosting already includes – this is a very very credible option. Announcement to follow.

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