When launching your first website, one aspect you need to take seriously is the server speed. In today's digital world, every second counts.
The speed performance of your website, which is greatly affected by server speed, is critical for retaining visitors and ranking better on search engines.
But what exactly is server speed? How do you measure server speed? We'll break this down in a way that's easy to understand, even if you're new, in this article. Let's dive in.
Understanding Server Speed
What is Server Speed?
Server speed, also known as server response time, refers to how quickly a web server responds to a request made from a browser. When a user types your website address into their browser, a request is sent to your server to load the web page. The speed at which this page loads depends on your server speed.
Several factors affect server speed.
- Bandwidth: Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred from the server to a browser in a given time frame. More bandwidth generally means faster server speeds.
- Location: The physical distance between the server and the user can significantly impact server speed. The farther the server is from the user, the slower the speed. This delay is known as latency.
- Hardware: The server's capabilities, such as processing power and storage, can directly impact the speed. Better hardware often equals faster speed.
- Software: The efficiency of the software, including the operating system and other running applications, can affect the server speed.
The Connection Between Server Speed and Web Hosting
Web hosting plays a critical role in determining your website's server speed. Essentially, web hosting is the service that stores and provides access to your website data online. The type of web hosting you choose can significantly impact how fast your server responds to user requests.
Shared hosting, the most economical choice, is ideal for smaller websites or blogs with low traffic volumes. However, as you share server resources with other websites in a shared hosting environment, your server speed can sometimes suffer, particularly during high-traffic periods.
VPS hosting and dedicated hosting, on the other hand, are the next level up, and often lead to better speed and performance than shared hosting. But with great server power comes a great price tag. VPS and dedicated hosting are usually more expensive and typically most beneficial for larger businesses with substantial traffic volume. To learn more about web hosting types and their usage, read my other guide here.
How to Measure Your Server Speed Performance?
You cannot improve anything that you cannot measure. Hence, it is vital to know how to measure your server speed. Fortunately, numerous tools can help you do this quickly and efficiently. Here are three popular ones.
- GTmetrix: GTmetrix provides a comprehensive analysis of your website's speed. Apart from the server speed, it considers all the aspects influencing your website performance, including website design, DNS lookup time, as well as media files usages.
- Google PageSpeed Insights: Google PageSpeed Insights not only gives you a score for your website's speed but also offers suggestions on how you can improve it. The results are broken down for both mobile and desktop devices, giving you an insight into the user's experience on different platforms.
- BitCatcha: Bitcatcha lets you test your web server response from 10 locations strategically located around the globe – all at once.
Once you've run these tests, it's crucial to interpret the results correctly. The key metric to look out for is the Time to First Byte (TTFB), which indicates how long the browser waits to receive the first byte of data from the server. A lower TTFB means a faster server response time.
How Server Speed Affects Your Choice in Web Hosting
Server speed plays a crucial role in choosing a web hosting service for several reasons:
1. User Experience
Your website speed greatly impacts user experience. Slow server speed can lead to high bounce rates as users typically have little patience for slow-loading sites. If a website doesn't load within 3 seconds, many visitors are likely to leave. Google / SOASTA Research shows that users are 32% more likely to leave your site when your webpage loads from 1 second to 3 seconds.
2. Search Rankings
Search engines like Google prioritize websites that load quickly – and this has a direct impact on your search ranking. A faster server speed can help improve your site's visibility in search results, driving more organic traffic to your website. Therefore, a web host known for fast server speeds can be a strategic choice for your website's SEO performance.
If you anticipate your website growing in the future, you'll want a web host that can handle increased traffic without slowing down.
As your site grows, more server resources will be required to maintain fast load times. Not all web hosting services are equipped to handle this scaling efficiently. Therefore, assessing the server speed during peak loads is important while selecting a web hosting service.
A good server speed is also a sign of server reliability. If a server is consistently slow, it might indicate potential stability issues, which could lead to higher downtime. Reliable web hosts will provide consistently fast server speeds, ensuring your website remains accessible to users at all times.
Choosing a Web Host with Optimal Server Speed
It's crucial to choose a web host that can offer optimal server speeds. Here are some tips to guide you in your selection process:
- Consider the server location: The server's physical location can affect its speed. If your primary audience is in the United States, it would be beneficial to choose a web host with servers located in the U.S. Some web hosts have servers in multiple locations, which can be advantageous if you have a global audience.
- Determine the type of hosting you need: As discussed earlier, the type of hosting you choose (shared, VPS, dedicated, cloud) can impact your server speed. Consider your traffic volume (bandwidth needs), website complexity, and budget when making this decision.
- Look for scalable solutions: As your website grows, your web hosting needs may change to maintain your website at a good speed. Look for a web host that offers scalable solutions so you can easily upgrade your plan as your site expands.
For more tips on choosing the right web host and our best hosting recommendations, read this guide.
Keeping your website loads fast on your users' screens is not a one-time task. After choosing a web host, remember to regularly test your server speed and optimize your website accordingly. Many factors can impact server speed – so stay proactive in maintaining your site's performance.