26 July 2006

Well it’s been some time since I last posted. I have had my hands full, with the birth of my second daughter Poppy. I timed it to perfection as we moved house and picked up a couple of puppies all on the same day. So after 2 weeks paternity leave I have returned to work for some peace and quiet!

I noticed that Graeme Hastings from Harper James suggested I elaborate more on the hosting issues and the connections between fast well written sites and successful ones.

There is no doubt that speed is now a major issue on the internet, you only have to look at how our obsession with bigger and faster broadband connections is evolving to see how high up the list speed is on our agenda . Customers are becoming more demanding when using the internet. We have all done it, gone on to a search engine like Google and clicked on a link and straight away clicked back because it took too long. It is very rare to have a product that is so unique that prospective customers will actually wait whilst a site slowly chugs along. There is so much competition on the internet that you are only another click away from finding a faster more effective site.

I do it myself. I’d rather use a company that had a mediocre looking site that is fast, providing it has all the information I need, rather than a very flashy one that takes forever to download.

So what makes a site slow down? Firstly if you are checking your own site you have to remember that your site will always run faster when you look at it rather than if a fresh customer viewed it for the first time. Why? Because your computer is caching or storing a great deal of the site on your local hard drive. Secondly the speed of the site will vary throughout the day. Through the night or early in the morning you may find it is acceptable however at peak times when the server gets busy you will experience a bottleneck. This happens because historically clients host web sites on “shared servers”. This means that you may have between 500 and 1000 other websites all on the server at the same time. This is fine if the server can handle this, however as sites get busier and often one or two sites take up all the resources of the machine at peak time, resulting in a slow down and sometimes even a complete standstill. The same happens if there is insufficient bandwidth to support all the clients wanting to service their customer’s requirements at the same time too.

The antidote to this problem is what is known as a “dedicated server”. This is one server just for one website. This gives your visitors the ultimate experience. All the RAM and CPU just for you without anyone else hogging it. The result is no slow downs and seriously improved customer experience, which is quickly rewarded by happy clients who recommend and trust in your brand.

As your site gets even more successful it may be necessary to loadbalance your site. This is when your one site may have more visitors than the server can handle. Businesses who realise the importance of their sites uptime may even put a loadbalancer in place not just to improve the speed but it also to ensure that if one server fails, the other server automatically takes over meaning you have no loss of connection. It is this sort of commitment that wins business. It is also proven that Google and some of the other search engines will reward you for your efforts. Google is now taking into consideration the speed of the site when determining where on its directory you should be placed, so there has never been a more important time to take hosting seriously.

So in short, customers don’t like waiting. We use the internet to save time and therefore demand information at the touch of a button. It therefore makes perfect sense to give clients instant gratification and provide them with what they want; when they want it.

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