The Search For The Best Load Time (79ms)!
I’m sure you must have read a lot of articles with several tips to speed up a WordPress site but with little to no success. This is mainly because many WordPress users rely on frontend speedup hacks and ignore the WordPress hosting environment. Therefore, for many users, the fastest WordPress hosting is the first step to a faster-loading website.
Today, I will discuss the different types of WordPress hosting and conduct a few tests to determine how well a WordPress website performs on the fastest managed WordPress hosting like Cloudways.
Why You Need a Faster WordPress Hosting?
Many researchers have demonstrated that you have only 7 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention. Once this window is lost, the visitor might not visit your website again. It all comes down to choosing a faster WordPress hosting to optimize the page load time of a website so that the visitors can stay and see what your site is all about.
Not only this, but Google considers page load speed (common threshold is under 2 seconds) as an important SERP ranking signal.
Types of Web Hosting
The web hosting options are typically available in four flavors:
In the web hosting industry, the term “Shared” refers to the sharing of server resources (RAM, processing capacity, storage, and bandwidth). Due to this shared environment, it is the most economical solution for users with a limited budget and little knowledge of website hosting.
In a shared hosting environment, a single server with high specifications hosts multiple user accounts with a number of websites sharing the server resources. In such a setting, if a website consumes a lot of resources, other users will encounter a slow website loading experience regardless of the optimizations you have done.
In the dedicated hosting environment, you own (or rent) an entire server. Unlike shared hosting, the server resources aren’t shared with anyone, allowing you to set up your own preferred and faster WordPress hosting environment.
The flip side of dedicated hosting is that you would require deep knowledge of server management. Since not every dedicated hosting user possesses these skills, you would need to hire a SysAdmin (an expensive resource) to set up and manage the server. Although no hosting solution can guarantee 100% uptime, a dedicated server is always a great choice if you have a team to set up and manage the server.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server(s). This solution is a hybrid of both shared hosting and dedicated hosting. A VPS solution offers a virtual server (hosted on a single large physical server) that is not shared with other users. An advantage of VPS hosting is that you are allocated precisely with the resources you paid for!
In the VPS hosting environment, you are the real owner of your VPS (similar to dedicated hosting) and are responsible to set up the server and make the fast WordPress hosting environment. However, the price is slightly lower compared to dedicated servers because you own just a portion of a dedicated server!
Cloud hosting solutions are similar to VPS hosting but are more reliable. When hosting on a cloud server, the user does not know which physical machine hosts their website. Considering its distributed architecture, cloud hosting is a more reliable solution when compared to any other hosting solution.
The pricing model on cloud hosting is often pay-as-you-go which requires you to pay only for the resources consumed during the invoice cycle. However, in case you think you are running low on resources, you can always scale up the server resources instantly. Just like dedicated and VPS hosting, you still need to set up the server to make a faster WordPress hosting environment.
According to the Google Trends data, Cloud hosting has seen a drastic upward trend in the last couple of years.
Managed Cloud Hosting (Cloudways)
While cloud hosting is great, it requires you to set up, manage, and secure your cloud server. For this, either you have to do all the hard work yourself or hire someone to do the job.
With managed cloud hosting solutions, the provider takes care of the server management aspects and allows you to leverage the full power of cloud hosting without worrying about the hassles of server configuration and security.
Cloudways offers a fully managed cloud hosting experience that ensures your WordPress site is hosted on one of the fastest WordPress hosting stacks providing you simple management for your server. This allows you to focus on your business processes and have the peace of mind that Cloudways has your back.
To highlight the performance and capabilities of a managed cloud hosting combined with a faster WordPress hosting stack, I will use Cloudways as an example throughout this article or you can also use Cloudways Request A Demo feature to discuss your hosting challenges and in 30 minutes, we would show you why Cloudways is the right solution.
Initiating Performance Testing
To begin with, I’ll show you how easy it is to use the Cloudways platform. For this, I launched a WordPress website on a Cloudways managed Linode server.
Note: If you wish to replicate the results, get a free trial account (no need to provide credit card info).
For the purpose of this article, I have launched a 1GB Linode server located in Fremont, CA. The 1-click server launch process creates a server that comes pre-configured with:
- PHP 7+
- MySQL (You can choose MariaDB later on)
- Free SSL certificates by Let’s Encrypt
The list doesn’t end here, so you can check out this list of all the great Cloudways features.
Delving Deeper into the Installed WordPress Application
After logging in to the Cloudways Platform, navigate to the Applications tab from the top menu bar. You will see a list of installed applications (in this case, you will only see a single application), and when you’re in it, you will see the following screen:
Visit the WordPress staging URL under the Admin Panel, use the login credentials, and go to the WordPress Dashboard. Navigate to the Plugins → Installed Plugins tab, and you will see Breeze, a pre-installed cache plugin.
Note: I’ve removed Cloudways promotional images from the default WordPress post to reduce the external requests.
You might be wondering what Breeze is for. Well, Breeze is a free WordPress cache plugin by Cloudways. All WordPress-based applications (except default WordPress) launched on Cloudways come pre-installed with Breeze.
Speed Test Without Any Optimization
Now it’s time to put things into action.
Let’s test the WordPress site without any effort on optimization. The test environment comprises of:
- Cloud Infrastructure: Linode
- Server Size (RAM): 1 GB
- Location of Data Center: Fremont, CA
- WordPress Version: 1 (with Twenty Nineteen Theme)
- Pre-configured with: 2, Varnish, NGINX, and Breeze installed
For testing purposes, I used Pingdom Tools, with the testing location set to San Francisco.
And here are the performance results:
Speed Test After Optimization
The default settings of Cloudways hosting environment and Breeze are satisfactory, but there is always room for improvement, of course. Let’s configure and optimize Breeze settings to see how well it performs for a WordPress website.
Breeze is easy to configure. You can see that I have enabled Gzip compression, minification, grouping, and browser caching with a few clicks. The following result shows the power of the fastest hosting for WordPress fully supported by an efficient cache plugin.
Adding a Lightweight Theme to the Mix
In addition to the fastest hosting for WordPress, a lightweight theme can also contribute to the page load speed of your WordPress website. For instance, Astra, a lightweight multipurpose theme claims to load in a few milliseconds (tests conducted using the default WordPress installation).
Let’s see what improvements Astra can bring to your WordPress site.
As evident in the WordPress dashboard, Astra is among the most downloaded themes.
The following result shows the speed improvements when the Astra activated site was tested using Pingdom Tools:
There isn’t much difference when compared to the Twenty Nineteen theme, but that’s mainly because the existing environment is pretty much bare-bones. The real impact of any lightweight theme is more prominent when the WordPress website has a lot of data. Let’s put this claim to the test as well!
Import Astra Template
Astra allows you to import templates. Hence, I’ve imported the Agency template along with the following essential plugins:
- Astra Widgets
- Contact Form 7
- Ultimate Addons for Gutenberg
If you need help importing the template, just follow this process.
Speed Test With Astra Template
Let’s test the website!
Even though I have a ready-made website with content and essential plugins, the website still loaded up in nearly half a second.
Isn’t that impressive? It sure is.
Import Dummy Data Using FakerPress
Let’s conduct another test with one of the most popular Dummy data plugins.
In order to add dummy content, I chose the FakerPress plugin.
Go to the WordPress dashboard and download the plugin. After the plugin is activated, go to the plugin’s settings and add 10 dummy posts, complete with images and written content with six paragraphs each.
Speed Test With Dummy Data
And here is the result:
With the dummy data, the website loaded in just 298 ms, a very impressive number indeed!
Note that WordPress websites tend to get slower as the number of installed plugins and themes pile up and the resultant number of requests increases.
Why Cloudways is One of the Fastest WordPress Hosting?
There are various reasons why Cloudways is considered as one of the fastest hosting for WordPress. Here are a few:
Server Setup (Hardware, OS, & Packages, etc.)
Cloudways’ core is composed of services and software like Apache, NGINX, MySQL/MariaDB, etc., which contributes to a faster WordPress hosting environment.
WordPress recommends hosting setup with Apache and/or Nginx support for the latest PHP versions and are protected by SSL certificates. This all comes together to get the most out of WordPress in terms of performance and security.
HTTP/2 is an advanced and better-optimized version of HTTP1.1, the most widely used protocol on the World Wide Web. It helps in better loading times by reducing server response time, with the side benefit of improved SERP rankings.
HTTP/2 works on multiplexing terminology (multiple requests in a single TCP connection) that helps in serving multiple requests through a single TCP connection. In contrast, HTTP1.1 was only able to serve one request through a single TCP connection.
As a rule of thumb, if you are interested in WordPress performance, always go with a hosting provider that supports the HTTP/2 protocol.
Server Response Time
The server response time is the time taken by the web hosting server to respond to the visitor’s request. Sometimes, it is also referred to as the Time To First Byte (TTFB). Thus, if you are looking for a faster WordPress hosting environment, server response time is an important statistic that you must always keep in mind. The lower the server response time, the less time it would take to load a webpage.
While testing your website through Webpagetest or any other tool, you will see TTFB (server response time) as an important metric. According to Google guidelines, a website should not have a TTFB of more than 200ms.
Distance Between Server & Visitors
Before choosing a WordPress hosting provider, make sure it provides a data center that is nearest to your target audience. This will help in reducing the latency and improving the server response time (TTFB). As a result, your visitors will experience a faster website page load.
Most shared web hosting providers have data centers in the United States and Europe only. However, dedicated, VPS, and Cloud hosting providers offer you the choice of data centers distributed across the world.
Cloudharmony – a cloud comparison analysis tool lists several top hosting providers and monitors their uptime with respect to the regions of each cloud provider. You can get an idea of which cloud provider has the maximum uptime in the region you are interested in.
Tip: Cloudways is partnered with Google, Amazon, DigitalOcean, Vultr, & Linode and provides managed cloud hosting solutions.
With the continuous growth of your business, an increase in traffic is an expected (and welcome) outcome.
Here’s an example: if you own an online store and launch a special offer, the number of visitors can go up dramatically. As a result, the server will have to respond to an increased number of visitors’ requests, but if the web hosting server fails to cater to all these requests, your visitors may see a “500 Internal server error”. As a result, both the expected revenue and the store’s reputation will suffer.
Listing down all the requirements is one of the most essential steps in establishing any business. However, in the case of an online business, you need to be aware of the “normal” and “special” requirements that could result in downtime for the business.
If you are not sure whether your current WordPress hosting provider can cater to all your expectations, contact them ASAP and explain your expectations so they can guide you accordingly. You may also try out their services before investing in their full service.
As of this moment, PHP 8.0 is the latest version, and with Cloudways, you can launch your WordPress site on this version in just a few clicks. While there are several reasons why you should update your PHP version, you should know that it has a direct impact on plugin and theme compatibility, security, and PERFORMANCE. WordPress is built on PHP which means that everything that runs on the platform is directly related to this programming language.
Other Things to Consider for the Fastest WordPress Hosting
In addition to fast WordPress hosting, there are other aspects that go into the making of a faster WordPress website, including:
The WordPress Version
Every new WordPress version comes with a lot of updates related to performance and security. For instance, the new editor Gutenberg was commonly reported as a performance killer on Github. However, in the following update (5.0.2), the problems were fixed and Gutenberg started receiving raving reviews.
The cumulated performance gains are around 330% faster for a post with 200 blocks. This might be even bigger for certain setups and plugin configurations — seeing the same test post be 540% faster with Yoast, for example. – Matias Ventura reported
These performance updates are the primary reason behind every expert recommendation of upgrading to the latest WordPress version.
A number of WordPress operations are based on interaction with the database. Since every interaction requires time, the cumulative impact of database interaction could be very serious for the website speed. In attempts to speed up the website performance, database queries must be written in an optimized way so that they can be easily accessed, updated, and managed.
Database maintenance is an essential requirement for website performance. It is important that the administrators should periodically clean up the database to ensure sustained high performance. This also includes query optimization to reduce the execution time and thus speed up the website response.
Less Dynamic Content
Dynamic content is generated in response to the requests generated by a visitor, and thus the volume of dynamic content varies from visitor to visitor. Even simple requests such as generating shipping estimation could result in a significant volume of dynamic data. Now imagine the volume of dynamic content generated by several concurrent users. Factor in the time required to execute database queries and it is easy to see the impact of dynamic content generation.
In contrast, if the website has static content comprising of hardcoded HTML, JS, CSS, and images, the server will serve the same content to every visitor. As a result, the server has to consume a low volume of resources, resulting in a faster page load.
If you can convert some of the dynamic content to static, you will see a significant increase in the performance and speed of the WordPress website. To further speed up things, offload the static resources to a content delivery network (CDN).
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) plays an important part in the delivery of both the static and dynamic content of your WordPress site to a global audience. CDN caches static files and/or a copy of your site and stores it in their servers (nodes) deployed all over the globe, even places far away from your actual web server, to ensure fast content delivery.
Cloudways users can take advantage of CloudwaysCDN and integrate it directly from the platform in a few clicks. Adding CDN to WordPress can also improve the speed of your site.
Speed Optimization Plugins
The WordPress community has made significant headway with speed optimization plugins. Flying Pages by WP Speed Matters is one of the most popular speed plugins around, and the way it works is pretty impressive – it preloads the page before the user even requests it. The plugin injects a JS script until the browser becomes idle and preloads the page as soon as the user hovers the mouse on it. It also preloads the page upon viewport, which means if the link to a page exists in the current viewing area, it will preload (also known as prefetching the content).
Another great tool for better site speed is the WP Cloudflare Super Page Cache. For all of you using the free Cloudflare CDN, this is a must-have plugin for many reasons. The plugin cache not only the static content but also the HTML web pages. It is also super easy to use – all you have to do is provide your Cloudflare CDN API key and let the plugin take control of caching.
Flying Images is another plugin by WP Speed Matters that helps image optimization by compressing images on the fly through a CDN. Yes, the plugin comes with a free CDN called Statistically, which is powered by Cloudflare. It also converts images to WebP at the CDN.
The plugin also purges cache automatically, which means that you won’t have to worry about the changes you make to your website because the plugin ensures that the latest static content is always available to your users.
Avoid Using Google Fonts (Or optimize them)
One of the first things that site owners do after creating their website is to add Google Fonts to make their website look good. While it does jazz up your WordPress site, it also slows it down significantly because Google Fonts require your browser to make additional requests to the server. One solution is to stop using Google Fonts, but it is also very likely that you might not find a font of your liking elsewhere, so what then? Another solution is to optimize your Google Fonts to make them load faster.
You can optimize Google Fonts by limiting their variants, which simply means you either use the thin font or the heavy ones. Also, try to use not more than two fonts for the entire website.
Another way of optimizing Google fonts is to host them locally. This means that you download all the fonts on your local system, upload them on your server and then paste a CSS snippet on your website.
As I’ve demonstrated, a site hosted on a faster WordPress host optimized with just a WordPress cache plugin can dramatically increase the speed of a WordPress site. However, do not forget to implement the tips I’ve mentioned throughout the article!
Don’t the results look impressive? Give Cloudways a try and then migrate your existing WordPress website to Cloudways, configure the Breeze plugin, and witness the improved results of your WordPress website yourself!
And of course, don’t forget to share your testing results in the comment section below.