Reduce initial server response - šŸ† Managed Server

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June 23 2024

Reduce initial server response

Fix Google PageSpeed ā€‹ā€‹Insight ā€œReduce initial server responseā€ issue

Fix the problem Reduce the initial server response

The loading speed of a web page is a crucial factor for both user experience and search engine positioning. One of the fundamental parameters to determine this speed is the TTFB (Time to First Byte), which measures the time required for the browser to receive the first byte of data from the server. Very often, when we run a Google Pagespeed Insight, it is highlighted among Google's recommendations ā€œReduce initial server responseā€. Reducing TTFB can lead to significant improvements in overall site performance.

If you are wondering what the optimal server initial response time might be, the most correct answer is "as short as possible". In fact, we must always remember that online presence is actually not just presence but competition. On the Web, especially at a professional level, "the important thing is to participate" makes no sense, what matters is to win. With this awareness you will therefore always have to deal with the competition which can be truly ruthless, and think that what you don't do someone else will surely do (stealing important positions on the SERP or Google ranking).

Having said all this, to be pragmatic and not theoretical, let's say that an optimal real TTFB could correspond to a value between 20 milliseconds and 50 milliseconds, a very good TTFB, between 50 and 100 milliseconds, and a decent TTFB, between 100 and 200 milliseconds.

Anything over 200 milliseconds is by definition insufficient exceeding the maximum threshold recommended by Google which triggers the warning ā€œReduce initial server response.ā€

Google says it and it also says it explicitly in the official documentation of which we report the following screenshot.

Improve-Server-Response-Time---Google-PSI

What is TTFB

The TTFB represents the time between the browser's initial request to the server and the receipt of the first response byte. This time is affected by various factors, including DNS resolution, network latency, server performance, and code optimization.

The DNS resolution process involves translating the domain name into an IP address. A high-performance DNS service reduces resolution times. Network latency, the time it takes to transfer data between the client and the server, depends on the physical distance and quality of the connection. Using servers close to end users and optimizing network paths helps reduce latency. Server performance is influenced by various hardware and software aspects: powerful hardware (fast processors, RAM and SSD disks) and an optimal server configuration (Nginx, efficient Apache configurations) improve response times. Backend software, such as configured and optimized databases, also impacts performance. Finally, code optimization includes techniques such as minification of HTML, CSS and JavaScript files, file concatenation to reduce HTTP requests, the use of caching to store static versions of pages and the optimization of SQL queries to improve database performance.

We talked about TTFB (Time To First Byte) in depth in this link.

Importance of TTFB

TTFB is an important indicator of server health and site performance. While it is not the only determining factor for search engine rankings, it significantly affects user experience and, therefore, abandonment and conversion rates.

How to measure TTFB

There are various tools for measuring TTFB, including:

    • Google Chrome Developer Tools: In the ā€œNetworkā€ section you can view the TTFB.
    • Pingdom: Offers a detailed analysis of site performance.
    • GTMetrix: Provides a comprehensive report on loading speeds and suggestions for improving them.
    • WebPageTest: Allows you to run tests from different geographic locations for a more complete view of performance.
    • Speed ā€‹ā€‹Vitals: Tool that measures TTFB and other page speed metrics.
    • UpTrends CDN Performance Check: Analyze your CDN performance, including initial server response times.

Factors influencing TTFB

The TTFB is influenced by three main components:

  1. Connection time: Includes DNS resolution time and network latency.
  2. Server response time: Depends on code optimization, the presence of caching mechanisms and the hardware performance of the server.
  3. Transmission time: Affects the speed of the network connection between the server and the client.

Strategies to reduce TTFB

1. Improved hardware performance

Server hardware components, such as disks and memory, play a crucial role in response speed. For example, SSD drives offer much faster data access times than traditional hard drives, significantly reducing loading times. Increasing the amount of available RAM can help you better handle concurrent requests, avoiding slowdowns caused by memory swaps. Upgrading your processor to newer, faster models can also dramatically improve performance, allowing your server to process requests faster and more efficiently. In summary, a well-planned hardware upgrade can lead to significant improvements in overall server performance.

2. Optimize server configurations

Making sure your server is configured to respond to requests quickly is critical. This includes the use of optimized web servers such as Nginx or Apache with appropriate modules and well-set configurations. For example, Nginx is known for its ability to handle many simultaneous connections with relatively low resource usage, while Apache, if configured correctly, can be equally effective. Furthermore, it is important to enable and configure compression modules such as gzip, brotli or zstd (zstandard) to reduce the size of HTTP responses, and use the HTTP/2 protocol to improve data transfer speed. Server configuration should also include optimizing timeout and connection management settings to ensure that resources are used efficiently.

3. Database optimization

A well-configured and optimized database can significantly reduce response times. This includes using indexes to speed up queries, normalizing data to reduce redundancy, and regular database maintenance to remove stale data and reorganize tables. Queries must be written efficiently to avoid complex and costly operations, and using caches for the most frequent queries can further reduce the load on the database. Additionally, it is important to monitor database performance and continuously optimize configurations based on real-world usage data, ensuring that the database can scale effectively as traffic increases.

4. Implement server-side caching

Caching can reduce server load and improve response times by storing the results of previous requests. Common techniques include HTTP caching, where responses are stored temporarily to respond more quickly to subsequent requests, and database query caching, which avoids rerunning complex queries for data that doesn't change frequently. Using caching systems like Varnish for dynamic web pages or Redis/Memcached for application data can lead to significant performance improvements. Additionally, correctly configuring cache expiration times and invalidation policies is essential to ensuring your data remains fresh and relevant.

5. Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A CDN can improve response times by distributing site content to various servers around the world, thereby reducing latency and improving the delivery speed of static content. CDNs work by storing copies of static content (such as images, CSS, and JavaScript) on geographically distributed servers. When a user requests content, the CDN serves the content from the nearest server, reducing loading time. CDNs can also manage load balancing, protect against DDoS attacks and offer advanced caching capabilities to further optimize performance. Using a CDN like Cloudflare, Akamai, or Amazon CloudFront can offer significant benefits in terms of website speed and reliability.

Conclusion

Reducing TTFB is a critical component to improving overall website performance. A TTFB of less than 200 milliseconds is often recommended by Google, as a fast response time is an important ranking factor in search engines. Through a combination of hardware optimizations, server configurations, caching and the use of a CDN, significant improvements can be achieved. Ongoing maintenance and code optimization are also crucial to maintaining high performance over time.

For a company that aspires to have a profitable online presence, ensuring that your website has an optimal TTFB and still less than 200ms not only helps improve user experience, but also increases your chances of getting a better ranking in Google search results. This is especially important in an age where site speed and efficiency can mean the difference between retaining a visitor and losing them to the competition. By following these best practices, businesses can ensure a smoother user experience, improve search engine rankings, and increase conversion rates and customer satisfaction. Regularly monitoring TTFB and adopting best optimization practices is essential to maintaining site performance at the highest levels.

Additional Resources

To learn more about TTFB optimization techniques and improve the performance of your website, you can consult the following tools and resources:

  • Google Insights PageSpeed: Analyzes your website's performance and makes suggestions for specific improvements.
  • Pingdom Tools: Offers detailed site performance analysis and TTFB measurements.
  • GTMetrix: Provides a comprehensive report on loading speeds and suggestions for optimizations.
  • WebPageTest: Run tests from multiple geographic locations for a comprehensive view of performance.
  • Speed ā€‹ā€‹Vitals: Measures TTFB and other page speed metrics.
  • UpTrends CDN Performance Check: Analyze your CDN performance, including initial server response times.

These tools provide detailed analysis and suggestions on how to further improve your website's performance.

If you need a hosting and systems supplier who can solve the problem ā€œReduce initial server responseā€, we can offer system consultancy and optimized hosting plans to maximize server response speed and significantly lower the Time To First Byte. Contact us today to find out how we can help you improve the performance of your website and ensure an optimal user experience. Don't wait to be overtaken by your competitors, improve your site speed now!

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