Hosting 23 March 2024

Comparing the Performance of WordPress Hosting Providers

Tassos Antoniou

13 min read

Assessing the Performance of a WordPress Hosting service is a practice that may save you a lot of struggle, time, and money. Understanding which are the essential metrics and factors you need to consider helps you choose the right hosting provider for the requirements of your WordPress website. In this article, we are going to discuss how you can evaluate those services, focused on performance, before or after purchasing a plan.

More specifically, what we want to do here is help you estimate how well the server will respond to the spikes of requests or other extreme requirements that may occur while hosting your website.

Considering the appropriate performance-related factors, you evaluate the quality of different hosting services which help you make informed decisions for the service you will choose to host your website.

So, before we start, let’s discuss the most important hosting performance metrics so that you know what is worth paying attention to.

Key Metrics of a Host’s Performance

In a nutshell, what you want to check a provider on is uptime, server response time, page load speed, and scalability. Let’s see why.

Uptime

Uptime is how long your website stays consistently online, operational, and accessible to users. Theoretically, this is outside the scope of this article, as it is not part of the site’s speed. However, it is undeniably an essential indicator of your website’s health. If your site experiences downtime often, what is the point of measuring its performance in the first place?

Keep in mind though, that 100% uptime is a myth! The nature of hosting does not allow this perfection. The only realistic goal here is to ensure maximum uptime.

The reason measuring Uptime is so important is that it directly affects user experience. Bad user experience will eventually affect your online business reputation and even your finances.

Page Load Speed

This is the time it takes for your WordPress site to load fully and display its content in a user’s browser. It is a metric that directly affects user experience and also has implications for SEO ranking, conversion rates, and competition.

Testing page load speed helps identify performance bottlenecks and informs optimization efforts to provide a smoother and more efficient browsing experience.

Server Response Time

The time it takes for the server to respond to a request from a user’s browser is called server response time and is also known as Time to First Byte (TTFB). It is a latency measurement that says how much time it takes for a web server to respond to a request and send the first byte of data back to the client’s browser.

TTFB is a crucial metric as it provides insights into the server’s responsiveness and efficiency. TTFB can be influenced by the server infrastructure, including the server’s processing power, network latency, and the efficiency of the hosting provider’s configuration.

A lower response time shows that there is efficient communication between the server and the user’s browser. A good TTFB value is less than 800 milliseconds.

Define Your Requirements

First, you should understand the needs of your website/application for it to run smoothly. More specifically, it would be wise to determine the following:

Service consistency: Consider how big the impact would be to your business if your website experiences interruptions regularly.

Storage needs: The amount of data, files, and media your website/application stores and serves. 

Traffic volume: Your website’s current and expected traffic. This will help you understand your peak traffic times and the potential for sudden spikes.

Bandwidth: Your bandwidth requirements are essential for handling data transfer and user interactions.

Growth: Potential needs in storage and/or traffic in case of future growth. The provider should be able to provide flexible scaling options.  

Special Software or Scripting Languages: Determine if your website relies on specific software applications, plugins, or scripting languages.

Research for Candidates

At this point, you may do your research and create a list of hosting providers that meet your requirements. Look for features related to performance.

Service Level Agreement (SLA) for Downtime

SLA serves as an indicator, informing you of the percentage of excused downtime.

However, interpreting this percentage can sometimes be challenging, as it may not accurately reflect the true uptime. For example, the downtime caused by scheduled maintenance and other similar activities may not be accounted for.

Moreover, SLAs in the hosting industry are a guarantee of little actual value because it is not backed up by significant penalties for the provider. This means that if the provider fails to deliver, you won’t be able to mitigate the risk.

In conclusion, we recommend dedicating time to researching the provider’s infrastructure design, and uptime track record, and do not believe anyone who is selling you 100% uptime.

To further assess reliability, consider utilizing tools like UptimeRobot or similar platforms to review uptime history.

Features of Interest

On each provider’s website, you should see a list of features on a dedicated page or the plans’ pages. Regarding performance, these are the most important features you should look for:

Content Delivery Network (CDN) Integration: A CDN distributes your website’s content (such as images, videos, and static files) to a network of servers strategically located around the world.

HTTP/2 and HTTP/3 Support: HTTP/2 reduces latency by enabling multiple requests and responses on a single connection. HTTP/3 takes a step forward, by further improving performance with lower network latency, higher throughput, and reliability.

Storage (type and size): Ensure that your hosting plan provides sufficient storage capacity to accommodate your content. Also, the use of SSD/NVMe is important as it improves performance in multiple ways. Among their multiple advantages, SSD/NVMe offers faster read and write speeds, consistent performance, and a lower TTFB.

Bandwidth: Some hosting providers offer unmetered or generous bandwidth options, ideal for websites with high data transfer needs.

Content Caching: Storing copies of frequently accessed web pages, images, and files closer to the user. Caching mechanisms reduce server load and minimize page loading times, enhancing the overall user experience. A technology that has proven to significantly improve WordPress websites’ speed.

Custom scripts integration: Check if the hosting provider supports the required technologies for any custom code functionality you may need. For example, if you need PHP or Node.js support, ensure it’s available.

High Availability

More sophisticated and advanced hosting providers offer High Availability (HA) architecture. It is a combination of top-notch technologies that reduce downtime to its minimum.

WordPress Hosting Performance: High Availability

Especially if you own a high-traffic website, you definitely should look for these features to avoid failures due to increased traffic:

Load Balancing: Incoming website traffic is distributed evenly across multiple backend servers, also known as a server farm or server pool. Load balancing can optimize the response time and avoid unevenly overloading servers while others are left idle, preventing server overload during traffic spikes. This is often referred to as ‘horizontal scalability’.

Scalability: When experiencing traffic spikes, additional resources are allocated to handle the requests without any loss of service quality.

For the whole structure to work as it should, it needs redundancy of hardware and failover mechanisms to detect and respond to component failures. Also, real-time data replication is performed across multiple servers so that if one database server fails, another can take over with up-to-date data.

Other points of interest you should consider are disaster recovery plans, maintenance schedules, and monitoring systems. Though these are not directly associated with performance, they’re vital for site stability.

Load Testing

Load testing is a great way to proactively ensure that your web application can handle peak usage without any performance-related issues.

WordPress Hosting Performance: Load Testing

What it does is simulate a range of user traffic and workload scenarios to understand the system’s capacity and identify bottlenecks, focusing on the server-side components.

During load testing, there are ways to get more specific results. 

  • With stress testing you can identify the maximum capacity the system can handle before breaking down. 
  • With spike testing, you check how the system responds to sudden, short bursts of traffic or workload, and 
  • with endurance testing, how it responds to continuous, sustained load over an extended period

Review your hosting provider’s terms of service or acceptable use policy. They may have restrictions to prevent overloading their servers and impact to other users.

Try our Award-Winning WordPress Hosting today!

Test Your Website on a Hosting Provider

Now that you have done your research and gathered the list of candidates, all that remains is to confirm your expectations in action. The truth is that the most reliable way to do this is by actually conducting the necessary tests of your website on each of those providers.

Luckily many providers offer a free trial that you can benefit from and save some time and money. Beware though of any possible limitations. If, for example, the resources are limited on the free trial account, you will likely get skewed results.

So, let’s see what is your next steps:

1. Migrate Your Website

On each service you choose to try, you first need to migrate your website to their servers. Ensure the migration process (copying files, databases, and server configuration) is smooth and well-documented.

It is important that the testing is performed on your site only. Set up an identical copy of your WordPress website on each hosting platform you want to test. Use the same theme, plugins, and content to ensure consistent results.

Since you are already informed about all the important specs from your research, your next step is to do your measurements.

2. Monitor Server Response Times Under Normal Conditions

Now it is the right time to proceed with the Time To First Byte (TTFB) and overall page load measurements.

Measure TTFB

There are lots of ways to check TTFB value on a WordPress website. Some reliable online tools and services allow you to measure TTFB among other performance metrics. Chrome dev tools can help you with this metric by providing the “Waiting for server response” value under the “Timing tab”.

Do not pay attention to the other metrics (content download or request sent) at this point. They may be important metrics as well, but they will not help you estimate hosting performance specifically as they are more related to the client side and the website itself.

Measure Page Load

Choose reputable tools that specialize in evaluating web hosting performance. Tools like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, Pingdom, and WebPageTest are widely recognized for their reliability and neutrality. They will give you results about the page load times of your website.

When using an online tool to test your site’s performance, others may simultaneously be running tests from the very same server, leading you to skewed results. The best practice here is to run multiple tests from different locations, test from multiple different services, and then correlate the results.

At this point, you will also get insights into any improvement you need to make on your website as well to improve performance.

Now that you covered the basics, you need to test the flexibility of the server during heavy traffic.

3. Perform Load Testing

Here are some useful tips you should consider during your tests.

Communicate with the hosting provider to inform them about conducting load testing. Any guidance or server adjustments they may provide are useful.

There are great tools to help you, like Apache JMeter or LoadRunner but it would be wise to listen to any recommendations from the provider. They may already use a tool that works best with their infrastructure.

Before testing sudden spikes and extreme scenarios, start by measuring a small load and gradually increase it. Constantly monitor the server metrics (CPU usage, memory utilization, and response times).

To be as safe as possible, perform the testing during off-peak hours so that you minimize the chance of affecting other users who share the same server.

Evaluate Hosting Providers Using 3rd-Party Services

If you want to avoid digging into the rabbit hole by trying all these, you can always use online services that specialize in evaluating hosting providers based on users’ feedback.

However, do not forget that these results depend on feedback from all kinds of users. So, if you go down that path, the best practice would be to consult as many testimonial websites as possible to get more objective results.

It is needless to point out that performance results can vary depending on your website’s specific requirements, traffic volume, and geographic location of your audience. Therefore, it’s always better to conduct your own tests on your own site, using tools relevant to your specific use case.

Is Pressidium Your Best Choice?

That is up to you to decide of course. It is actually a major reason we decided to offer a 14-day free trial with a fully functional environment and no automatic charge when the trial is over.

However, inside the scope of this article, we would like to point out the reasons our customers trust our services regarding performance.

At Pressidium, uptime is a top priority. We acknowledge the possibility of occasional disruptions and we work tirelessly to minimize such occurrences. We accomplish that with the help of monitoring tools such as New Relic, Icigna, Nagios, Pingdom, and many more.

Furthermore, we conduct detailed performance measurements for each component and the end result – your website. This helps establish a performance baseline. 

On top of that, our architecture provides server redundancy so that a failure on one server won’t impact your site. In an N-tier Enterprise HA Architecture, like Pressidium’s, multiple servers and components work together. If one fails, others take over seamlessly, minimizing downtime.

At Pressidium, the process of load testing is followed with care and in coordination with our support team, respecting both customer’s demands and server hardware stability.

Takeaways

In this article, we discussed the ways you can compare hosting providers based on their speed, reliability, and overall performance. 

If you choose to try to test providers for yourself, make sure that you have defined your requirements and thoroughly studied what each provider offers.

Hopefully, you are now more informed to make the most suitable choice for your needs.

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