Fast web hosting with VPS: Client case study

By June 13, 2017 Hosting, Optimization, Plugins

When it comes to web hosting, it’s hard to beat VPS servers for the money. Although they’re more expensive than shared hosting, the performance more than justifies the increased cost. Here we look at a Capital Web Design case study for our client: Next Level Tree Services.

Dan Goyette is the proud owner of this Ottawa tree, branch and stump removal company. Operating bucket trucks, stump grinders and other specialized equipment, Dan and his team are able to tackle any job in the National Capital Region. Capital Web Design built him a website from scratch and are providing an ongoing hosting package on one of our VPS servers. Here are the results of a GTmetrix scan of https://www.nextleveltreeservices.ca/

The PageSpeed Score on the left is from the Google PageSpeed Insights tool, and the YSlow Score “analyzes web pages and why they’re slow based on Yahoo!’s rules for high performance web sites”. Both of these tools are some of the most popular benchmarks for website performance.

So how did we achieve such high performance?

It starts with a good server:

  • The server is located in a Toronto Datacenter, which means data has a shorter distance to travel to reach our target demographic: Ottawa
  • 1 CPU & 1 GB RAM, more than enough to run a couple of WordPress installations in parallel
  • 30 GB Storage & 2 TB Bandwidth, plenty of resources to serve multiple low-medium traffic sites
  • Weekly automated backups with 1-click restore capability

From there, the optimization shifts to the WordPress installation itself. We ensured all of the following steps were performed on the Next Level Tree Services website:

Caching plugin

Caching refers to the practice of serving static or pre-rendered content to your visitors instead of generating it fresh every time. Not having to dynamically generate your content every time saves your server’s CPU cycles so it can do other things instead.

  • W3 Total Cache plugin
    • We will be writing a short blog on the best way to configure this popular performance plugin, but the main functionality you want to enable are as follows:
      • Page Caching
      • Browser Caching
      • CSS & JS Minification/Combining

Image optimization plugin

Images on your website are essential: they help convey your message and provide an emotional and visual connection to your content. High resolution images tend to come with larger file sizes, meaning they take longer to appear to your visitors. Compressing these images means shrinking their filesize while still trying to maintain the image quality.

  • EWWW Image Optimization plugin
    • Serve compressed versions of your images for faster loading times, as well as ensure all future images that you or your users use are compressed as well
    • Supports lossless compression for JPG, PNG, etc.

A well coded theme

Use only premium themes that have full demos available for you to review, and run the same performance tests against these demos that you use to benchmark your own site(s). This will give you an idea as to how the themes perform in the real world.

Theme developers sometimes don’t take the time to install and configure optimization and caching plugins on their demos, so it gives you great insight into just how well the theme you’re considering will perform for you. If the developer can’t get the theme to perform at peak performance, what’s to say you want to kill yourself trying to fix the problems?

We recommend themes such as Kriesi’s Enfold or ThemeNectar’s Salient. Both of these themes are well optimized for performance and SEO, and are incredibly versatile at building all sorts of websites. They sell for USD$60 on ThemeForest.

Run your benchmarks

Website performance and SEO benchmarking tools are available from various sources online. We mentioned GTmetrix above (which also includes Google PageSpeed Insights and YSlow), but also look into SEOSiteCheckup and Nibbler. Google is your friend!

 

Website performance is incredibly important – but don’t take our word for it. In Google’s Site Performance for Webmasters video, Maile Ohye, states that “2 seconds is the threshold for e-commerce website acceptability. At Google, we aim for under a half second.”

In summary, building a good website isn’t just about how it looks, how it works, but also how fast it is. Go through this quick and easy checklist to make sure you’re staying on top of your game:

  • Is my server fast enough?
  • Am I serving cached content?
  • Am I optimizing my media?
  • Is my theme slowing me down?
  • Am I running benchmarks to make sure I’m not missing anything?

Happy web dev!

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