Don't you hate it when you're surfing the net, and the website you're trying to access takes forever to load? There's a common misconception out there that slow loading websites are the result of a poor internet connection. Although this can be the case, there is another common culprit – the server the website is hosted on.
The internet is essentially a collection of servers, all connected to each other. Every website on the internet lives, or is hosted on a server – it's like the house a website lives in. Servers can be small office based systems, or located in gigantic data centres that host literally millions of websites.
So how does a server affect the loading speed of your website?
Distance Where is your target market located? If you're market is local, it's important to have your website hosted on a local server. Why? If you're targeting New Zealanders, but your website is hosted on a server in the States, this causes loading speed problems. This is because when your internet connection calls on the server to access the website, the signal has to travel through pipes from New Zealand to the USA, and then back again to your connection in New Zealand. That's a pretty long way! Having your website hosted on a server in New Zealand makes for a much quicker load time.
Server Load Imagine a server is like a house. If there are only a few people living in a house, everyone can live in harmony a lot easier than if you've got people sleeping on the floors and cuing up for the bathroom in the morning, right? A server is the same. If the server your website lives on is managed well, and has the right number of websites hosted on it, then they can work in harmony together. But if the server is overloaded with too many websites living on it, with too many internet surfers trying to access them at the same time, this clogs up the server and effects loading speed. It's like having 20 people living in a three bedroom house, all trying to cook dinner at the same time.
So why does this whole server thing matter?
Studies show that if your website takes more than 8 seconds to load on a 56k modem, you risk losing the visitor, it's that simple. It's like going to a retail shop, and seeing a 'back in 10mins' sign on the door. Will you hang around, or just go somewhere else? If a visitor gets impatient, and clicks away before even getting to your website, how can they buy your products or enquire about your services?
So what can you do?
Ask where the servers are located? Are they local or overseas?
Ask for an uptime (% of time the server is functional and working as expected) guarantee – this should be at 99.5% or better.
Ask if you're on a shared server. These servers are typically more overcrowded than Virtual Private Servers which are the recommended option.