I recently changed my web site hosting provider and my lighthouse speed score improved x4. Let me tell you what I did.
I have been with the same hosting provider for many years. I chose that provider (SmarterASP.net) because I was doing a lot of ASP.Net work. SmarterASP offered a very affordable platform and gave me all the things I needed at that time.
My design client work has expanded now so I have greater needs than I did originally. And I am doing less ASP.Net work so I no longer need to have Windows based hosting servers.
Furthermore, SmarterASP.Net was attacked around 10 November 2019 and the implications on all customers was severe. This attack caused all systems to be offline and meant our web sites (including customer sites) were unreachable. The extent of the attack was never fully realised but all databases and web site files were in jeopardy.
I like to consider myself a loyal customer so I gave them an opportunity to redeem themselves. But that did not eventuate. There was some communication about systems work being done but it didn't seem like anything changed. Also, my agency growth means I now have needs that SmarterASP were not prepared to offer me. These things were SSH access, static IP addressing, real-time customer service and increasing levels of email spam.
I like to consider myself a loyal customer so I gave them an opportunity to redeem themselves. But that did not eventuate
I decided to look around at other options. My requirements were simple:
- Be based in Australia
- Offer a monthly payment option
- Have a real-time support offering
Pretty simple, right?
I looked around and decided to move to VentraIP. This company ticked all my boxes and I jumped on board.
Firstly, the setup process was so simple and I was able to migrate all of my sites across in about 8 hours. It only took this long because there were some different domain hosts involved and DNS propagation took longer with some than others. I use Local by Flywheel as my local development environment and all source is in GitHub.
How I Migrated
So this is what I did to migrate my sites. This was my own sites as well as customer sites.
- Created sites and domains for all my customers and me at VentraIP and added a default maintenance page (this will take effect once DNS propagates)
- Did a Google Lighthouse report on this site (more on this later)
- Copied the production WP databases and media down to my local environment
- Changed DNS records to point to VentraIP
- Once DNS propagated, I synced WP databases, media, plugins and theme to the VentraIP sites
- Removed the default maintenance document to make the new site visible
This whole process took about an hour to do. And I could start one site off, then do another so they ran in parallel.
The largest hurdle I experienced (not really a hurdle - just time consuming) was handling my IMAP email migration. This is what I did:
- 2 weeks ago I created PSTs in my Outlook so that all emails were downloaded and new emails as they arrived. They used POP to get emails because that means the emails are downloaded to the PST. IMAP does not do that
- On the day of migration once DNS records where changed, I deleted the existing IMAP mailboxes in my local Outlook and created new IMAP mailboxes pointing to the new mail server
- Once new IMAP mailboxes were created and I tested that emails were flowing correctly, I copy/pasted the emails from my POP PST files into the respective IMAP mailbox and now and I completely up to date
I Am So Happy With The Results
But the thing I am most happy about is the speed improvement. I could tell that the speed was going to be good whilst using my FTP client. Moving files etc through my FTP client to the VentraIP file system was so fast. I would estimate at least 5x times faster than moving files via FTP to the SmarterASP file system. Which is great because it means less time sitting around waiting for files to finish copying.
Lighthouse performance scores jumped from 56 to 83. Time to interactive dropped from 4.4 seconds to 3.8 seconds
I mentioned earlier that I did a Google Lighthouse report before de-commissioning the old web site. I did this because I wanted to check the results before and after using a standard tool. And the results were astounding.
Firstly, the performance score increased from a barely passing 56 all the way up to 83. That is a 48% increase. Let's look at some of the other improvements:
- First contentful paint - 3.9 seconds -> 2.8 seconds
- Speed Index - 10.2 seconds -> 4.3 seconds
- Time to interactive - 4.4 seconds -> 3.8 seconds
The Time to interactive metric is so important because it determines the amount of time a viewer has to wait before they can do anything on your site. So the reduction was very welcomed.
I have listened to many podcasters and other experts saying "you should carefully select your hosting provider because it makes a world of difference". I now wholeheartedly agree!
I had made changes on my old site to get as much speed as possible. I used Cloudflare as my CDN and I even converted to a static site in order to speed up page loads (FYI the lighthouse report was run against the WordPress instance of the site - not the static site. I wanted comparable engines for the report to be as fair as possible).
But the most important factor is your hosting provider. If you feel as though your current hosting provider is not adequate, look at your options. There are so many different options available. Here are some of the things that contributed to improving the speed of my sites with my new hosting provider:
- moving away from Windows hosting platform
- caching and indexing engine bundled into the hosting platform - not using a third party
- moving my host closer to the target viewers. Most of my traffic will originate from here in Australia so it doesn't make sense to have my web site hosted in USA
I hope this has been helpful and I am happy to discuss any of these details more if you have questions. Use the Disqus panel below to open a discussion and send me an email for more information.
Til next time