For a place of business that has to rely on walk-in customers, a dining establishment for example, accessibility should always be an important factor when determining the location of your business. For example, a business located on a one-way street might attract less people than a similar business located on a busy intersection. Other factors, such as the availability of public transportation, disability access, parking space, etc all contribute to your business’ accessibility and naturally, you want your business to be as accessible as possible since accessibility has a direct impact on the number of customers you could attract.
The above used to be applicable in almost all businesses but since the advent of e-commerce started by Amazon around two decades ago, physical accessibility has been made less and less important as more and more of our purchases started being delivered right at our doorstep. In place of physical accessibility however, the concept of digital accessibility has grown more prominent and one important factor in that concept is that of load speed. A website or a web app’s load speed is affected by plenty of factors but none more important perhaps than the type and quality of the web hosting services you use for your website’s server.
The importance of your digital address
With the way the majority of our interactions have shifted into the digital space, it’s easy to make the assumption that where our physical self is located no longer holds much relevance but I’ve been in several situations where that assumption has been proven to be wrong. In 2017, I was really looking forward to a new record by the American dream pop act Jay Som, the stage name for Filipino-American Melina Duterte, only to find that the record in question isn’t available to stream on my region’s Apple Music. It was eventually made available later in the year but that incident, for a lack of a better word, proved that even in the age on internet the physical side of our existence is still a factor.
This issue is also exemplified in how the physical server where your website is hosted has a major impact in your website’s load speed the way the physical location of a business affects how quickly said business could be reached by customers. The speed at which your website is loaded on your customer’s devices is now considered so important in the field of SEO that Google has an entire section dedicated to website in speed in their PageSpeed Insights webpage. Look at it this way, when you’re sitting on a restaurant, the speed at which your order is served is just as important as the quality of the food and the same philosophy also applies to websites.
The discussion around website speed tends to focus on the actual website. Making sure that the website’s code is well optimized and that the contents aren’t taking that much of a space is all well and good but none of these optimization techniques is going to matter much if the physical foundation of your website is neglected. Men sana in corpore sano, a healthy mind resides in a healthy body. A well-optimized website (healthy mind) belongs in a well-hosted website (healthy body) and if you’re still unconvinced, here are just a number of ways in how your choice of web hosts can improve your website’s load speed.
The choice between older HDD and the newer, faster SSD
Just like your laptops and computers, website servers rely on storage devices to store data although the quality of enterprise storage devices is several degrees higher than what’s available commercially and with a price to match. As with commercial storage devices you are given the choice between hard disk drives (HDD), affectionately called spinners, and the newer solid-state drives (SSD) for your storage options. SSDs are still considerably more expensive than HDD although they’re much more affordable now compared to a couple years ago and for a good reason. The technology used in SSD is similar to the one in USB flash drives and SSD can read and write 10 times faster than HDD which can definitely help your website’s load speed.
The choice between dedicated hosting and shared hosting
When you want to go somewhere, traveling with your own car is almost always preferable than traveling by bus. It’s probably more comfortable and faster as well since buses follow a set route and it’s pretty rare that the route the bus is taking is the fastest way to reach your destination and buses are required to stop every once in a while. By contrast, when you’re traveling in your own car (or an Uber), you have the freedom to choose the route that you know is going to take you where you want to go in the least amount of time without ever stopping to drop or pickup another passenger. It’s not an apple to apple comparison but this is a bit like the difference between dedicated and shared hosting.
In a dedicated hosting plan, your server is completely and absolutely your own. You have the freedom to decide which operating system and software to use and the entire resource and computing power of that server is reserved for you only. A shared hosting plan is exactly the opposite as you have to share server space with other websites while being controlled by the hosting provider. The resource available to you is considerably smaller and if another website hosted in the same server is being beset by problems, you’re going to have to suffer the consequences as well which could very well slow down your website, not that it was that fast to begin with.
The choice of using a content delivery network (CDN)
If your users/customers are mostly located in one geographical region, the use of a CDN would only be superfluous but for customers with a worldwide customer base, a CDN can be necessary. In a single server distribution network, one physical server is used to host all of your website’s data. If the server is located in Melbourne while your customer is located in Lisbon, which are located on the opposite end of the world, your website is going to take more time to load compared to someone viewing your website on Sydney. A CDN solves this problem by using a cluster of servers acting as proxies to the main server and shortening the distance between your website and your users.