Nov 18, 2011

How much of an effect on website response times if I deploy the content across multiple servers?

I've had a few people complaining about my website taking a long time to load, but the design is solid and follows most if not all design best practices. I've asked a couple of my acquaintances to test it out and see if they had problems, and the results surprised me. Most of them reported that they found everything acceptable, but the two that did say they thought it took a little too long to load were located in the same state across the country from where I and the other guinea pigs are. This indicates to me that there is enough impact from the location of the server to be noticeable to those located a few thousand miles away. Have you noticed much of a difference from utilizing multiple, geographically diverse servers?


Indeed different geo-locations provide much of a difference with my website respose times.

You can use this free service to add page response times monitoring from around the world, over time.

I notice that for my AWS N. Virginia web servers the response times in East US is about 200ms (that's the best my website home page can response in), while in West US response times are about 350ms (increase of 150ms with every response time), 400ms from Europe, 500ms from the Middle East and about 800ms from South East Asia. That's a gold data, because you can assume that's (more or less) the latency all over the other websites. So if your servers are on East US and your friends are in europe, you can assume they gonna get a latency which is slower in about 250ms with every request.


You can try out this free service for yourself on: www.beatsoo.org


As already noted, there are other things that have more of an impact than physical distance from servers, but geographical distance does have some effect.  Probably not much more than 10% of the end-user response time is dependant on distance. Most of the the time is used to download all the items in the page, i.e. Flash, .jpegs, scripts, stylesheets, etc.  It would most likely mean quicker response times if you disperse this type if static content instead of altering your web application architecture.  If you change your site to work in a distributed architecture, you might well have to replicate database transactions and sychronize the session state across server locations.  Properly changing application architecture can be a significant challenge.  

What is your site running on? WordPress? Some other platform? More details would help a bit. If it's WordPress you can speed up load times by using W3 Total Cache. It can be a HUGE help at managing loads on your WP blog.

If you are on a different platform, you may want to check out site optimization tools for that platform. And you can also check out these useful load time testing tools:

4 Useful Website Load Time Testing Tools

"Optimizing website load time improves user experience and in-turn conversion rate. Minimizing the number of HTTP requests, image compression, using CSS sprites etc., are some of the recommended ways to reduce the load time of a site.

Here are a helpful set of tools which allow webmasters to effectively measure the load time of the site. And, reduce the load time by analyzing the various factors impeding it."
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