Everyone has some level of impatience. We are so used to instant loading when you visit a page in today’s world. If that page loads slowly, you leave. That’s what we are here to fix. 

Let’s have a look at how most sites load. GTmetrix tested 14 Million unique pages in their 2021 report released this January. Of that 14 Million, 80.6% did not pass every crucial report. This is where you can take advantage. If you make an effort to work on your website’s speed, you gain a competitive edge against your competitors’ websites. 

Let’s take an introductory look at a few essential aspects you should consider for your website. Because there are so many (hey, we’re really passionate about this stuff!), we’re going to break this post into two parts. Stay tuned for the second half soon!  

What role does my WebHost play?  

If you only take one thing away from this article, it’s that your hosting environment is THE most important factor in your website’s performance. If your host is running on decades-old technology, you’re at a major disadvantage, and no amount of optimization will save you. Here’s what to look for and where to steer clear.  

What to look for: 

  • You should be hosting on solid-state hardware.
    •  Your host will most likely have their server specifications on their website. If not, contact them and ask. Solid-state drives, also referred to as SSD’s, NVMe, are around 5 to 10 times faster than the mechanical hard drives used in previous generations of server hardware. 
  • Make sure you have enough bandwidth. 
    • The best way to compare this is your phone’s data plan. If you use all your data, you get cut off or throttled. It’s a similar situation with bandwidth. You should compare your web hosts with others and see how they calculate bandwidth and how much you actually get. It’s increasingly common for web hosts to offer unlimited bandwidth. A word of caution, though: don’t always take that at face value; you need to watch for different “gotchas” as some hosts have a “soft limit” where “slowing down” can occur.  
  • Make sure you are working with modern server software. 
    • Nowadays, it seems like every web host has proprietary software. While some of these can be excellent, such as WP Engine, others… not so much. Our personal favorite is cPanel. It is incredibly powerful, well-supported, well-optimized, and included with many hosting platforms. An excellent alternative is Plesk, though it is a little more difficult to find than cPanel. 
  • What support does your host offer? 
    • You need to know how your host will help if things go wrong. Most hosts will gladly help you for free to a point. Other hosts offer paid management where they work to keep your site updated, secure, and fast for you. Make sure to inform yourself when looking for hosts. 

What to stay away from 

  • BUDGET HOSTS! 
    • This is the factor that influences you the most. The old phrase “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” is true in this regard. A lot of big names are budget hosts. Often, hosting services are propped up by their advertising budgets. Do not fall for the enticing price tag. 
  • Understand the limitations of your host. 
    • Using WordPress as an example, but applicable to all content management systems: Some hosts will limit what plugins you are allowed to install. A great example is caching plugins. Some hosts will prevent you from installing any caching plugin that isn’t their own. Read reviews that aren’t posted on the company’s website. 
  • Be wary of upsells 
    • Also, consider how many resources your site will use. For most websites, simple shared hosting is the right answer. Comparatively, few websites branch into virtual private servers or dedicated hosting. You don’t need an overpriced racecar to pick up groceries. 

So, who do we recommend? 

At the end of the day, the decision is up to you. Here are our three recommendations. Note: these ARE NOT affiliate links, and we have no connection to these companies. We just like their service. 

  • WP Engine 
    • WP Engine has an excellent reputation in the industry, and for a good reason. They use a proprietary control panel, but their performance is top-notch. They offer excellent scalability and amazing support. The only downside is they only support WordPress. 
  • Flywheel 
    • Flywheel is usually marketed to agencies like Audacity. However, they’re still an excellent choice for individuals. Similar to WP Engine, they use their own control panel. They, too, offer excellent scaling options and amazing support, and even full management. They share a downside with WP Engine in that they only support WordPress. 
  • Cloudways 
    • Cloudways supports all PHP applications such as WordPress, Magento, Drupal, etc. They offer the best scalability of the bunch with plans for tiny sites, scaling up to powering the backbone of other hosting companies. 

What server software should my site run on? 

There is a multitude of different software options available. Let’s look at the top three options and why you’d choose that option. According to W3Techs, 33.2% of websites run on Nginx, 31.5% on Apache, 21.6% on Cloudflare Server, and our personal favorite, LiteSpeed, with 12.2%.  

  • Nginx 
    • Nginx is one of the fastest server software available. This is mainly because of the incredible load balancing and optimized file operations. However, you are unlikely to encounter it for mainstream deployment. Nginx is best served for large-scale systems and multi-server networks where balancing load across multiple machines is paramount. 
  • Apache 
    • Apache is what you will encounter with every major WordPress host. It is easy to use and set up, easier to secure, and supported by all major content management systems. 
  • Cloudflare Server 
    • Like Nginx, this is reserved for larger deployments and load balancing situations. A bit beyond the scope of this article. 
  • LiteSpeed WebServer 
    • This one is our favorite. LiteSpeed WebServer is a mix of the best of Nginx, and the best of Apache. LiteSpeed is not based on Apache, and is more similar to Nginx. We recommend seeking out hosts that utilize LiteSpeed WebServer if you want an easy way to squeeze out as much performance from your WordPress site as possible. 
    • LiteSpeed WebServer also includes LiteSpeed WebCache. We will be writing an entire article on the setup of LiteSpeed WebCache in the near future, so make sure to follow us to be updated when it is released. 

This covers just the hosting part of your website. Next time, we’ll look at what you can do once your site is on good hosting.

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