Loading Speed: How To Optimize Your Website, Server, CDN, And DNS For Exceptionally Fast Performance

By   |  July 8, 2014

So you decided to launch a website for your business, and things are going… okay. But after some time, the lurking question pops up that EVERY webmaster eventually asks:

How exactly can I speed up this super awesome website of mine?

EVERYONE is looking to improve the loading speed of their website these days – not only to better support mobile devices, but also in the hope their Google rankings will improve. The truth is that “loading speed” is a rather “loaded” issue (pun intended). There are hundreds of factors involved when adjusting the loading speed of a website or application, and many of them can only be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

However, the core principles listed below are relevant to ANY web project.

Optimizing Your Domain Registrar

Ever since ICANN was established by the United States government in 1999 – stripping Network Solutions of its monopoly on domain name registration – the world has been flooded by domain name registrars and resellers. In fact, at last count, more than 900+ ICANN-approved registrars currently exist in the world.

Now, skipping over an in-depth explanation of DNS, the important thing to know about registrars is that location matters. More specifically, the location of your domain registrar’s DNS servers, and how many other DNS servers are nearby. What many people don’t realize is that even when a domain registry, e.g. .FM, is technically from a Pacific Island community called Micronesia, it is actually completely managed by an American-based company BRS Media Inc. with California-based name servers (DNS).

Most domain registries (.COM, .ORG, .ME, etc) opt for American name servers simply because it is the most well-connected country in the world when it comes to internet infrastructure (although Europe is rapidly gaining). Plus, the US also tends to have well-established IT companies ready and willing to manage domain registries on behalf of foreign governments and entities – after all, there is a LOT of money involved. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when choosing a domain registrar:

Optimizing Your Domain Name Itself

If you are using a reputable domain registrar, there is not a lot of extra work you need to do in regard to optimizing your domain “resolution” speed. However, there are still some rather important things that you should setup for overall performance:

Optimizing Your Content Delivery Network

There’s really no getting around it – if you want a truly fast and reliable website that loads smoothly from anywhere in the world, you’re going to need a CDN at some point. With web technology advancing so quickly, its easy to get all these acronyms and services confused. For example, while CloudFlare is known mostly for its DNS services, it also technically provides CDN capabilities as well. Competitors such as Incapsula, EdgeCast, and Amazon’s CloudFront also provide integrated services that combine many aspects of DNS, content delivery, DDOS protection, firewalls, and beyond.

For small to medium sized businesses (who are probably reading this) I recommend using CloudFlare for DNS services along with MaxCDN. The pricing and customer service at both these companies is outstanding, and they are well accustomed to working together.

Optimizing Your Web Server (Host)

Phew! Are you still with me? Now we are getting to the juicy part – server configuration. This section is definitely the most debatable among web developers, if for no other reason than because there are so many options out there. So, I will try to keep it short and sweet; ultimately, professional server administrators all have their own preferences.

If you made it this far, hopefully you’ve seen the bigger picture: website performance is becoming much more DNS and CDN based – therefore, servers themselves should be slimmed down as much as possible.

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5 Comments on “Loading Speed: How To Optimize Your Website, Server, CDN, And DNS For Exceptionally Fast Performance”  (RSS)

  1. Good Write up…
    where do most of your website’s visitors come from? Which geographical location? Which country?
    Always choose a web hosting provider whose servers are located at a place where most of your website’s visitors come from. For example, if your website is intended for Indian users, make sure to get web hosting in India.

  2. What do you mean by avoid Godaddy

  3. I want to get free domain

  4. Hi Matt, I honestly don’t use SPDY and don’t think it is necessary for most SMBs. Similarly, I don’t think Varnish is necessary for SMBs especially if they are using WordPress, because the combination of PHP-FPM (FastCGI caching) with NGINX and an additional cache plugin like Quick Cache is extremely powerful.

    Plugins like Quick Cache effectively turn dynamic websites (WordPress) into temporary static files, which is what NGINX is optimized for serving. Adding Varnish to that mix is overkill and not really necessary. Plus, its simply difficult to setup and manage for most SMBs.

  5. Re: Enabling SPDY means only SSL/https. Then Varnish won’t work (which I’m using with Cloudflare). I also see you don’t recommend Varnish. How come?

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