Speed Up Your Shared Hosting With Caching And CDN For Free

Shared web hosting is great when you first start your website. It is cheap and there are many options for hosting companies. The only issue is that shared hosting can cause your website to be slow. There are two quick and free services you can use to increase your website performance.
The first thing to do is to use caching. Caching reduces the time your web server takes to deliver your web page to the viewer. If you are using WordPress for your website, there are many options choose from. For people using shared hosting and those who are not technical we recommend WP Super Cache.

Implementing Caching On Your Website

WP Super Cache stores static versions of your web pages. This reduces the load on the web server. Instead of WordPress serving a page from its database. These static pages get served in a fraction of the time it would take without caching. WP Super Cache is one of the most popular WordPress plugins as it is so easy to configure.
Installing WP Super Cache is simple. In your WordPress dashboard go to “Plugins->Add New” and search for WP Super Cache. Install the plugin and activate.
Once activated go to “Settings->WP Super Cache” to configure. Configuration is simple and takes just a few mouse clicks.
In the Easy tab turn Caching to On (and update status).
Caching - Caching On
In the Advanced tab turn “Compress pages” On (and update status).
Compress Pages
Go back to the Easy tab and click “Test Cache”. If you see the message like in the screen shot you are all done.

Test Results Caching

 
To test the effectiveness of caching we set up a real world experiment. We used a shared hosting account from Dreamhost and a standard WordPress install. We used a theme from SomoThemes as they come loaded with sample data. To measure the load times of site we used GTMetrix and Pingdom Tools.
GTMetrix Result Before CachingPingdom Result Before Caching
 
Before implementing caching, our website had a load time of 2.7 seconds (GTMetrix) and 3.58 seconds (Pingdom).
GTMetrix Result After CachingPingdom Result After Caching
After configuring caching the load times were 1 second (GTMetrix) and 0.278 seconds (Pingdom). As you can see these are amazing results for 5 minutes work.
So why is there such a huge difference in load times? If you look at the GTMetrix before screen shot you will see the comment “Server Is Slow”. This comment is gone after implementing caching. This is because page gets served by a static HTML file instead of a dynamic PHP file. This reduces the server load and speeds up delivery to the reader.

Implementing A Free CDN On Your Website

A CDN is a Content Delivery Network. Without a CDN, your website gets stored on a server in a single location. A CDN stores the static components of your site (images etc) on many servers around the world. When a viewer comes to your site these components get served from the closest server. This speeds up your web pages for viewers all over the world.
The CDN provider we will use for this example is CloudFlare. CloudFlare has data centers in 64 locations around the world. So when a visitor comes to your site your web page will get served from the nearest data center. CloudFlare also has a free plan that you can set up in minutes.
Many hosting providers have a one-click setup for CloudFlare. You can use this or setup a CloudFlare account using your email address. If the hosting provider has a one-click setup they may have some special features you can use. If they do not you will need to sign up and add the domain to the CloudFlare system. This requires adding the domain name and then setting your DNS to the CloudFlare DNS.

Test Results CDN

GTMetrix After CloudFlare
Pingdom After CloudFlare
 
Implementing CloudFlare CDN improved page load times again. GTMetrix gave a result of 0.7 seconds (down from 1 second). Pingdom gave a result of 0.227 seconds (down from 0.278 seconds).
Speedtest Amsterdam Before CloudFlare
Pingdom Amsterdam After Cloudflare
The greatest results from a CDN is when you measure from places far from your server. For this we used Pingdom and measured page load from Amsterdam. Before CloudFlare, we had a page load time of 4.34 seconds. After CloudFlare, we had a page load time of 0.781 seconds. This is due to the page getting loaded from one of the CloudFlare servers in Europe. Once again this is a stunning result for a few minutes work and for free.
These simple and free services make a huge difference to your website speed. Using these services will make your pages load faster and this means happier visitors. Page load speed is a major factor used by Google to rank pages so any improvement is good. Using these services can save you the time and money of having to upgrade your hosting. Try these services to get the most out of your shared web-hosting account.

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