In some ways, a website is like a car. There are many moving parts that make the entire thing work. Similarly to diagnosing car trouble, there are many different variables to investigate when trying to determine why your website may not be performing up to par. What’s with the slowdown? Why is the site taking so long to load? Questions like that cause site owners to drill down into their analytics and see what, exactly, are the implications of these noticeable issues. Typically, you’ll note things like higher bounce rates, drops in conversions, and a general tapering off of visitors as they make their way through the pipeline you’ve designed.
So, what gives? Which of the moving parts is keeping this car off the road? It’s hard to give broad answers because of the many different possible causes. But, because we talk about hosting here, we’re going to investigate how two critical choices you make when creating your site can interact in a way that gives your site less than optimal performance.
Two big contributors to overall site performance are your content management system and the hardware you choose for your hosting. Many factors go into the need for upgrading your hosting to a VPS or dedicated server. Things like traffic volume play a big part, but your content management system can dictate what kind of server you need as well. Let’s break it down.
Content Management System
Your content management system, or CMS as it’s more commonly written out as, is the “behind the scenes” portion of your site. It’s the place you login to to make changes to the content of your site. Copy, images, and even a lot of the functionality of a site will be controlled through here. This is not to be confused with cPanel, which is even further behind the scenes and where the user can do things like actually install the CMS onto the server.
CMS choices come in a variety of flavors. Many of the most popular ones are open source software which cost nothing and can be modified to the end user’s liking. Depending on your individual needs, some of the more popular content management systems include Drupal, Joomla, Magento (with Magento 2 now seeing wide release), and WordPress. WordPress is probably the CMS that you’re most used to, even if you don’t know it. That’s because about a quarter of all the websites on the internet are powered by WordPress. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. There’s a good chance the website you’re looking to launch will be powered by WordPress due to its popularity and relative ease of use.
WordPress is formidable in nearly any use case. While it may be generally looked upon as a blogging platform, its capabilities go far beyond that. With popular plugins like WooCommerce, you can operate an ecommerce site. If you’ve got some fairly decent PHP chops, you can even hack WordPress to operate as a simple social networking site or company intranet.
But these tasks (and the WordPress installation itself) can be “heavy.” That is, WordPress can be burdensome when it comes to resource requirements. Which is where your server comes in.
Everyone knows the allure of shared hosting plans. They’re nearly free, easy enough to get started, and they get your site online. But there are quire a few reasons why shared hosting isn’t a viable option for a professional site with a CMS. For one thing, shared hosting isn’t as secure as options like a VPS or dedicated server due to the fact you’re sharing not only a machine but resources with other sites. If one site gets compromised, there is a route that can be exploited into yours. Any sensitive information you have may be exposed. But beyond the security aspect of it, there is the performance aspect.
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WordPress, to say nothing of a really resource hungry CMS like Magento, doesn’t perform at its best on shared hosting because it requires a bit more horsepower to load quickly. If you’re a web developer, you probably use a lot of different browsers for testing. WordPress is a lot like Google Chrome. It’s the most popular and it has awesome features, but it’ll eat up RAM and battery at a faster pace than the competition.
You’ll need to decide if a VPS or dedicated server is right for you. In most cases, a VPS will do the trick. It has the CPU speed and RAM required to power most sites and handle a reasonable amount of traffic. The only sites that would really benefit from going all in on a dedicated server is a site that’s getting significant traffic at all hours of the day. Think huge ecommerce stores or content delivery sites like the Huffington Post.
Why Your Server Matters
Pairing the right CMS for the job with the right server will be what helps make sure your site performs properly. Site speeds and load time are very important to conversion rates. There are many different metrics you can look at that prove the point. Essentially, what you need to know is that the major ecommerce sites have an average loading time of ten seconds, when the ideal is actually three. Every second counts. A one second improvement can improve conversions by up to 7%. Compound that annually based on your sales and you can see that it’s a sizable sum.
The reason why your CMS can add to your load times is that the functionality all has to process in the browser when a visitor calls up your site. The complexity of the PHP scripting can add on to the load time. Themes have to populate. With WordPress in particular, the number of plugins you’re running can slow down your load time. While each plugin maybe adds a fraction of a second to the total load time, if you’re relying on a wide variety of plugins for functionality, those fractions quickly add up. And if a single second does indeed impact sales to such an extent, you see why offsetting all the backend processes of your site with a powerful server is the way to go.
No matter what CMS you ultimately land on, most of the major players aren’t what one would consider lightweight. And since many rely on the plugin/addon model for functionality, you want a hosting solution that’ll be able to process everything quickly enough so that all of your visitors can have a fast experience whether they’re coming to your site during peak traffic time or not.
Your website needs the right hosting solution to ensure its performing at its best. Are you currently with another host and you’re contemplating shopping around because you’re tired of losing out on money due to a poor performing site? Whether you’re looking for a new host or you’re looking to get a brand new online business off the ground, the team at KnownHost is here to help. We have the hosting solutions you need so you can set yourself up for success. Contact us today and we’ll walk you through your options and get you set up with the VPS or dedicated server you need for your site.