Need for Speed – Fast Web Hosting


Have you ever tried to access a web page that took forever to load? And not because you’re on dial-up and using a lousy 28.8K modem too. Chances are, you’ve told yourself “Forget it!” and continued on your not-so-merry way to another site. After all, isn’t there an adage about time being golden?

If you’re a webmaster, you certainly wouldn’t want that to happen to your site, particularly if you’re doing ecommerce. It would therefore be in your best interest to make sure that your pages load in the shortest possible time. In this case, there is definitely a need for speed.

There are three factors to consider:

Size (of your web page) – Think of it this way. If you were carrying a very large and heavy package, wouldn’t you walk slower than if you were carrying something lighter and smaller? You should therefore keep your page sizes small if you can. If it takes more than 20 seconds to download, it’s too big!

To calculate how fast a page will load for a given modem speed, divide the modem speed by 10 and the result is the approximate number of characters per second that the modem will handle.1 So a 56K modem can handle 5,600 characters per second and will load a 15K page (15, 360 bytes) in 2.74 seconds.

Some things to keep in mind:

Graphics – don’t use them if you don’t need to, or if you do, keep them small

Flash pages take a longer time to load

Codes – edit and keep them simple, don’t use WYSIWYG if possible

Connectivity (quality of your host’s network connections and bandwidth) – Just as a highway with a higher speed limit and more lanes can accommodate a greater number of cars, so too would a network with more bandwidth allotment able to carry a greater amount of data.2

Although there is a growing number of hosting services using OC (Optical Carrier) lines, many hosting providers still use T1 or T3 connections to the Internet.3 You need to ask what kind(s) of connection(s) your (potential) host is using.

Below is a guide to connectivity bandwidths available:

Circuit Name Capacity Comment
DS0 – 64kbps – Building Block for Fractional T1
T1, – DS-1 1.544Mbps – North America
E1, – DS-1 2.048Mbps – Europe, Asia
T2, – DS-2 6.312Mbps – North America
E2 – 8.448Mbps – Europe
E3 – 34.368Mbps – Europe and Japan
T3 or DS3 – 44.736Mbps – 672 DS0s
OC-1, STS1 – 51.840Mbps – Optical Carrier
Fast Ethernet – 100.00 Mbps – Wireless Broadband
OC-3, STS3 – 155.520Mbps – Optical Carrier; 3 x 51.840Mbps
OC-3c – 155.520Mbps – Optical Carrier; “c”= concatenated
OC-12, STS12 – 622.080Mbps – Optical Carrier
C-48 – 2.488Gbps – Optical Carrier
OC-96 – 4.976Gbps
OC-192 – 10Gbps
OC-255 – 13.21Gbps

In general, T1 lines aren’t sufficient for a Web host’s traffic volume, so the best hosting companies use redundant T3 lines to ensure that customers’ sites remain responsive.

However, besides speed, your host should be using less than 50 per cent of its available bandwidth since overburdened network connections result in slower performance. Ask about capacity and usage,4 as well as backup connections.

Ask if the host uses ‘multi-homing’ (have more than one connection to the Internet). This allows people to access your site even if one connection fails.1

You can also do a speed test to determine the average response time from a hosting provider’s site to your computer by pinging. Take note, however, that one’s experience of response time is not limited to server connection, but the throughput of the web server, the Internet itself, and the user’s connection.3

Number (of sites sharing the server you’re on) – The more sites that share a server, the slower the performance. Also, if you’re sharing a server with a site loaded with graphics or that are high-traffic, expect some slowdown on yours too.