You probably hear it constantly that web page speeds are important. They are important for SEO, for being NON wasteful, and for overall user experience. Plus, like most things, humans have a “need for speed.”
Well, if you have ever looked at the web site speed testing tools, and the recommendations provided make your head spin, let me suggest a “set it and forget it” method that is not only simple, but affordable. Most of the components are free.
Switch To An Improved Shared Web Host With Support For CloudFlare’s Railgun
I would personally look around for a shared web host that has support for CloudFlare’s Railgun. This is a high speed content delivery service that is offered for free from select hosts. Well, the truth is that one of the account levels at CloudFlare is free anyways but it requires a high priced premium account to take advantage of Railgun. I won’t get into what Railgun is, but it’s a significant improvement on the standard CloudFlare CDN service.
Some hosts have partnered with CloudFlare allowing the Railgun option to be made available to customers at no extra cost.
With the free version of CloudFlare you are also getting a basic version of a web based firewall system. It isn’t perfect but it can help keep your site much more secure than not having it in place.
Also, if you find a hosting provider that has built in caching available for their hosted web sites than that is an added bonus that will certainly make things faster for you.
Look for a “premium” shared server, one that limits the number of sites hosted on one system. And if they offer a “cloud” or “grid” style hosting environment, that could be of distinct advantage. See if they offer free help for moving sites and getting all the features setup as well. Always call the tech support before committing to see if they are worthy of your business.
I’ve never used them but SiteGround might be worth looking into. With their GoGeek plan they offer:
>> a free “lifetime” domain
>> less accounts on your server (this is key)
>> SuperCacher software to improve web site speed
>> 1 year of SSL for free
>> Auto backups (30 versions are stored so you can restore from a previous day)
>> Free website transfer
>> Free CloudFlare CDN with Railgun
SiteGround is worth trying for the $15 per month price tag and all of the speed advantageous features provided. But don’t hate me if they suck. They look good on paper is all I am saying.
Let’s Take Speed a Little Bit Further By Optimizing Images
Since images often bog a site down, it’s best to keep them lean and fit for use on the Web. Fortunately there are free tools that will allow you to do that in bulk. One such tool is a web based application by Yahoo! called Smush.it. You can upload a folder of images and you will shortly get back a .zip file with all your images optimized. You can see the list of images uploaded and the percentage that they were reduced in size. This can do wonders for your web site or blog in terms of speed.
Now, if you are using WordPress as your content management system, there is also a Smush.it WordPress plugin available. It will optimize images as they are uploaded using the WordPress Media Uploader.
Since we are addressing the web host here I might as well address the domain registrar, DNS host, and email host as well. To keep things simple, cheap, and efficient I would suggest to host your domain through a separate company like Name Cheap. Name Cheap can perform as the DNS host at no charge or else you can use your web host for managing DNS for free. For email I would strongly suggest paying for a Google Account (or find out if you can still get one account for free) and mapping your domain there for email using the Gmail interface.
I know that to simplify things we are looking for a host with CDN and caching “built-in” but it’s easier to get the other aspects working elsewhere.
In short, try not to marry yourself to your web host for anything. They are just a service like any other and if they don’t live up to their end of the bargain you can quickly take your business elsewhere with very little grief (and downtime). Just move your site, databases (unless you have a separate DB host) and modify some DNS and/or name servers and you can be hosting somewhere else lickety split.
With the above you will have addressed hosting, speed, security, caching, and image optimization. Do that and you are doing much more (and better) than the average bear.