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I feel the need. The need for speed.

Top Gun

As some of you know I recently changed my hosting providers for my 3 sites (my main business site, Medspace, and this blog) from WordPress.com to self-hosted wordpress.org.

If you haven’t read that post, please check it out here.

In that post I spoke about the crazy cost savings I was making from switching to Siteground Grow Big plan from fully managed WordPress.com.

I like siteground. Their service was quite good, support was reasonable, and cheap. But it just wasn’t quite there.

Why?

SPEED

Yeah speed was an issue. I was getting site loading times of around 4 seconds according to GTmetrix and Pingdom tests. Now with caching it didn’t really feel like 4 seconds, but I didn’t like the numbers. What really bothered me though was when my main site went through some changes to the front page using Elementor page builder and the page load times went from around 3s there, to well over 12-13 seconds!

Now something happened with Elementor, I really don’t understand what. The site looked great, but load times were slow. Again with caching it actually wasn’t as bad as it sounds, but it felt slow. That is BAD. Evidence shows one of the biggest reasons for website users closing and going somewhere else is speed. It’s why Google reported factors it in to their algorithms for SEO (search engine optimisation).

Now I’ve actually changed to Divi and it’s much improved. I’ll be making an article on that as well. Something just went wrong with Elementor and I still don’t know what, but Divi is working out great.

Is 4 seconds load time bad? Well not really. It’s actually quite good. The average website takes around 4 seconds to load, and caching makes it quicker (if you don’t know what caching is then go read up on it, but there’s 3 main types of caching – page, browser and server). My issue was the load time didn’t need to be 4 seconds, and I was doing absolutely everything I could to reduce that time down. After all, I didn’t want to losing business because of a slow site.

I tried everything. I tried almost every caching plugin known to man, including paid versions like WP Rocket (FYI it didn’t work at all and actually slowed my site down even further and resulted in worse page scores). I tried every other plugin I could find to minify my CSS/JS, defer the JS, host my google fonts locally. Everything the guides on the internet tell you to do. Nothing was working though.

That’s when I realised I was fighting something I had no control over. The server.

The ‘wait’ time and server response time of my page was a problem. Everything was being processed very quickly, but the server response was poor. This is a rough approximation of how it happens.

Type in web address > Sends to server > Server processes request > Server send to browser > Browser displays the code as the webpage.

Simple, but when you multiply this potentially hundreds of times (my page actually only had around 30 requests) small differences add up.

The issue I had was the time spent processing the request and then the time spent sending it back was very long. At best it was around 400ms each. That’s 0.4 seconds to process the request and a further 0.4 seconds to send it back. Almost 1 second alone to send and receive the request just for the main web code (HTML). Add on then all the other things it wants like images and fonts and you can see there’s an issue.

My Siteground server was actually around the industry standard I believe, so it’s unfair to call it ‘slow’, but it was causing unnecessary delay. I checked my other sites as they were on different servers with Siteground but they were similar around 400ms delay in both ‘wait’ and ‘receiving’.

I was actually fine with this delay. It wasn’t ideal, but I wasn’t prepared to pay for a quicker host based on that alone. However at times (since I actually then started checking it more regularly) I noticed delays of almost 1.5 seconds, each way. The load times went up to 5-6 seconds sometimes higher. Unacceptable for a small uncomplicated site.

I tried their support, no help. They just said it was working fine. None of the plugins helped much, including their own SG Optimizer plugin.

I got fed up and I reached out to my fellow bloggers on my FB groups. One suggested a group called Nitropack. They said their site had good load times (on Siteground) and excellent page scores. I tried it out on this site. My page scores hit almost 100% for both PageInsights and Yslow, and my load times did improve (decreased, got quicker), but still around the 3 second mark. That delay was still there because it was a server issue.

Nitropack is also very expensive in my opinion. It’s around $30 a month for what is essentially a cache plugin and a CDN (content delivery network).

You may read about CDNs and wonder if they are expensive. They can be. But they don’t need to be. Cloudflare has a free option, although personally that didn’t improve my load times at all, and they have an annoying requirement to switch the site to www which adds more delay due to the redirect. It also caused my site to go down and I had no idea until WPX hosting told me when they were migrating the site – more on that later.

I used BunnyCDN on their free 14 day trial (no cc needed by the way). It did actually speed up my load times (around half a second), and my page scores improved, but still that server delay was there. For reference though, BunnyCDN is cheap. I used it for around 2 weeks and was constantly testing and scraping my site so requests were reasonably high, along with the other traffic. It cost me nothing due to the free trial, but would’ve cost me 1 dollar per month if I continued. That’s really not a lot. Other CDNs exist, but Bunny gets great reviews and is cheap. Google also has their own CDN which can work out even cheaper as I believe it has no minimum charge whereas Bunny charge a minimum 1 dollar per month.

Exasperated I turned to the internet again. Nothing I was doing was working.

I stumbled across WPX hosting. A major player, but all the guides I read said Siteground was the best so I went with them initially, and the low fee introductory offer attracted me.

Unsure about their claims, I was relieved they had a 30 day money back guarantee, and I got the first month half price too which was nice.

Wow. The results blew me away. See the images below. You can see those load scores are insane. Almost zero ‘wait’ and ‘response’ times and the site is blisteringly fast. Load times of 0.6 seconds is crazy fast.

I was also seriously impressed with their support. I thought Siteground support was good (until I actually really needed them when my site went down and by the time they’d even responded I’d fixed the problems myself) but WPX was amazing. Their response time was seconds and their chat guys knew their stuff. I was asking them really obscure things and they got me the answers immediately.

Their migration service worked very well. A few teething problems as they couldn’t access my server using SSH for some reason but they got in with the FTP details I provided and within 24 hours my site was changed over. Their support along the way was excellent and super quick to respond to emails, and even their online chat team could access it all as well and find the status instantly. Seriously impressive.

For my Medspace site they actually found some potential malware. This worried me because I had no idea and I thought I’d made my readers vulnerable. Turns out it wasn’t, but I’d made some modifications to some theme files which flagged it as potential malware. However the fact they even picked it up was great.

It turns out they offer free malware and other security service that Siteground make you pay over $20 a month for, so that feature was really nice too.

Their hosting panel isn’t as nice as Siteground’s, but their service is miles ahead. For customer service, features and speed, WPX is better in almost every way.

When it’s all said and done, like for like, it’s actually cheaper too.

I’ll be writing a more in depth review later, but for now I’ll just leave this picture here as proof.

If you want to check out WPX Hosting please click this link.

Working Dad on Siteground hosting
Working Dad on WPX Hosting

For reference, I only have 2 plugins that speed up my site or improve my page scores. W3 Total Cache (which by the way WPX will setup for you if you want it), and Fast Velocity Minify.

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