GNAX Hosting – Early Results


GNAX Hosting – So Far So Good

Last week I moved my domain graphicline.co.za to GNAX VPS hosting. I’ve watched Google page load times get shockingly poor the past four months. Nothing I’ve done on-site to improve performance has made any difference. I’d already tried several caching systems and offloaded some files to a CDN and other fast servers – with no improvement.

Eventually, after trying everything else, the only conclusion I could draw was the long path bottleneck between Google’s Mountain View servers and the data centre servers hosting my domain was the main culprit in the time it took for Big G to load pages.

Average page loads for 2 of the sites (WordPress) on the domain had gone from under 2.5 seconds in May to over 4 seconds in August and over 5 by September, while the main site (Drupal) was approaching 4 seconds from under 2 in May. Minimum page load speed had got to nearly 4 seconds for one site by September.

Drastic Improvement Already

The only way I can describe the improvement is “drastic” the site with the worse Google page load time went from a worse ever 3.8 seconds lowest to 890 ms. The biggest improvement however came with the online shop (shop.graphicline.co.za); The best (lowest) page load logged by Google in 3 months went from 2.8 seconds to, wait for it, 175 milliseconds.

page load speed graphWell, it’s still early days since the switchover, and Google shows an average over the last 3 months – but it’s already dropping; The graphs shown here show the average page load trend – 7 days is not enough time to get a good idea of the performance improvement, but already the change is noticeable.

The graph on the right is for the shop site – the site with the biggest gain. The average for the last 7 days looks around 450 ms – the image from Google Webmaster Tools is too small – with that massive 15000 vertical scale – to be more accurate. 450 ms I can live with. 1000 ms I can live with. 450 ms average even beats wordpress.com!

So Why GNAX Hosting

Deciding on GNAX was not an easy decision. The recommended hosting options (Drupal and WordPress recommendations) indicated a shortlist of Hostgator, Bluehost and Greenhost. I found very few user reviews of GNAX online. The options available from GNAX did get my attention. GNAX is a first tier hosting service, geared towards providing service to second tier hosting companies, instead of end-users. Their packages are structured to these providers.

The GNAX Cloud is an enterprise-grade multi-tenant cloud computing solution, powered by VMware vCloud® Director™. Customers can manage an entire virtual infrastructure through a simple web interface, maximizing resource utilisation while enhancing the security, reliability and flexibility of enterprise IT infrastructure.

One of my medium term business goals  is providing high performance shared hosting for WordPress and Drupal, so the GNAX model fits into this plan with their virtual servers in a cloud network. The other option is a dedicated server; my first choice, but impractical in some ways.

The deal clincher was my existing hosting service, Afrihost.com, uses GNAX for offshore hosting. I’ve been really impressed with Afrihost’s customer service level during the last 2 years – for a smaller company operating here in the sticks (South Africa) client service is right up there with the best the first-world companies offer. Moving to GNAX would be fast, and without charge. If I switched to one of the other providers mentioned, there would be inevitable delays while I uploaded the sites, and the DNS records were changed to point to the new IP address. So there was nothing to lose by giving it  try.

Where to From Here

The next few months will be a time of rationalisation and patience. I don’t plan any configuration changes during this period, instead I will wait for the stats to stabilise and show the trend. Once I have a good idea what is happening performance wise, I will start experimenting again with caching systems and on-site optimisation.

The only big thing left will be offloading all images, CSS and Java files to a high performance CDN. Not in my budget range at the moment however…

Note about Page Load Speed

Page load speed for website visitors depends on a lot of facters. How the web server responds and the site configuration are only two of  these. Internet connection quality from the user to the website plays a very large role. Page load speed seen by Google bot will nearly always be faster than page loads to visitors – it’s a direct server to server pipeline.

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About Mike

Web Developer and Techno-geek Saltwater fishing nut Blogger

Posted on October 15, 2012, in General News, Websites and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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