How long does it take your website to load? You may not know it, but the speed of your website can have a huge effect on how successful it is. Did you know that 40 percent of people will abandon your site if it takes more than three seconds to load? Or that page load time affects search engine rankings?
Image via Flickr by Sean MacEntee
There are lots of things you can do to reduce load time, like optimizing your images and minimizing HTTP requests. There’s also the option of upgrading your hosting to a dedicated server. Unfortunately, that can run you several hundred dollars a month. So what do you do when you’ve optimized your site and still can’t justify the hefty cost of dedicated hosting?
I did a little experiment lately. Below, I’ll show you how I sped up my site and what your options are.
First, let’s try to understand why your website is slow. If you went with the cheapest package your host offers, then your website is hosted on a shared server. A shared server is somewhat like an apartment complex. You get your own little corner of it (your “apartment”), but all the websites on that server are using the same resources, like how you might share a swimming pool or a parking lot at your apartment complex.
All your neighbors are using the same CPU time, memory, and disk space, and that can cause what some people refer to as a “bottleneck.” It’s like too many people are trying to use your community’s pool that there’s not enough room to swim in it. Depending on your host, you could be sharing those resources with several hundred (or in some cases, thousands) of other websites.
With dedicated hosting, on the other hand, you get the whole complex to yourself. Imagine how must faster and secure your site would be if you didn’t have to share those resources. That’s why this type of hosting demands such a high fee.
But is there an in-between? Yep! Moving up from the basic shared hosting package without going all the way to dedicated hosting is possible.
How Did I Speed Up My Site?
I’ll admit it. I’m addicted to QuickSprout. Neil Patel offers this super nifty tool where you can input your site’s domain, and then you get detailed speed and SEO reports. What I noticed when checking my reports was that my websites were super slow. Knowing that site speed affects search engine rankings, I could only assume it was hurting me.
I wanted something faster.
I don’t have a ton of money to throw into my web hosting, so I did a little bit of research. I found that upgrading from Bluehost.com Plus package (the most popular shared hosting package) to their Business Pro package could give me some of the speed I was looking for. In my research, I came across people who were saying this option is sometimes better than VPS hosting. I figured I would take a stab at it for a few extra dollars per month, especially when I knew I could switch back if I wanted to. The package also came with a free SSL certificate and a dedicated IP, all for $20 per month.
(Here’s a fun thing to take note of: When I upgraded, they took into account the hosting I’d already paid for and applied it as a “discount” to my purchase.)
Even though the Business Pro package is still on a shared server, it comes with its perks. According to Bluehost, the Pro package hosts 80 percent fewer users per server. That means there are a heck of a lot more resources available per user.
Knowing I was going to be taking on this challenge, I performed QuickSprout’s test on two of my websites and took a screen shot so that I could compare before and after. Here’s the before:
Without changing a single other thing about my sites, this is what the test looked like after my website transitioned to a new server.
Let’s be fair; I’m not a web designer. I have some other areas of my site I could clean up, but it’s clear that upgrading my hosting did something for the site’s speed. I started out with a 20 second response time on website #1 and went all the way down to a 3 second response time!
What Are Your Options?
So you want to upgrade your web hosting? If you’re okay with a shared server and simply want something a little better than the basic package, then feel free to take the plunge into a business package. I’m not sorry I did it. (I can’t say for certain if it’s because of the better hosting, but I have seen my search engine rankings move up since I upgraded, so that’s another perk.)
Maybe you don’t run with Bluehost. You’ll probably still find luck with a business plan over the basic plan no matter who hosts your website. But I’m just one girl with a few business websites and a blog of my own. You might feel you’ve outgrown shared hosting altogether.
If that’s the case, your other option is to go with VPS hosting. A Virtual Private Server is more like a condo than an apartment. While you share the building, there are fewer residents, and you don’t have to share the resources. Overall, your CPU time and resources are shared between everyone, but they’re distributed in a way where a portion of them are dedicated to each user. That means that your neighbors can’t hog all your resources.
VPS hosting also allows more flexibility and control over your website, such as being able to install any software you want. It will also maximize your resources so that you can handle more files and traffic to your site. Plus, there are lots of plans to choose from so that you can decide how much speed, storage, bandwidth, and RAM to dedicate to your account. VPS hosting might run you around $60 per month for a decent plan.
Whichever plan you choose to upgrade to, consider where you’re at and where you want to be. VPS hosting might be a little steep for you now (it is for me, and that’s why I went with the Business Pro plan from Bluehost.com), but you may feel you’ve already outgrown shared hosting. Aim for something that can manage your files and traffic efficiently.
Do you think your website needs a new hosting plan? Which option will you choose to upgrade your account?
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