The Need for Speed

November 17th, 2006 by Chris

Never doubt the power of a quickly loading site.

My literature site is the 800 pound gorilla of my web empire. It is database heavy and very popular. I’ve gone through a myriad of ways to optimize the main part of the site, first I used phpCache for a number of years, but it wasn’t a perfect solution as it still relied on a good deal of php code for every page view. Later I developed a custom system to literally write static html files for a few thousand of the most heavily hit pages on my site, you can read about it here.

You may think asking the web server to write so many files at once would bring it to its knees, but actually it isn’t a big deal. I write the files once every couple of days and that is that. This is an extremely easy caching system to install and I highly recommend it.

However, while the main part of the site was loading fast, the forums were really really slow. There was just too much going on with 400-600 total people online at one time.

I did a variety of server tweaks at the advice of the people at the support forums (excellent place to find MySQL or Apache tweaks for making your vbulletin run faster) and it helped but not enough.

So finally I bought a new server, I went from a p4 3.2 with HT to a dual dual-core Opteron 64. Finally, it loads fast.

The moral of this story is this. My forum was averaging around 800-1000 new registrations monthly. In October, the first full month with the new server, I passed 2500. I should do so again this month, unless the Thanksgiving holiday puts too large of a dent in my traffic. The typical number of guests online hasn’t changed, but obviously before people didn’t have the patience to always complete the registration process with the slow page loads that were going on. Getting all those people to post and confirm their emails is another problem I have yet to tackle, but they are definitely registering in greater numbers.

2 Responses to “The Need for Speed”

  1. Randy Tayler  Says:

    Wow, Chris — that’s impressive to hear. I also read HOW you implemented your caching system, and I think you just saved me a dozen headaches and countless hours. Thanks!

  2. Ken Barbalace  Says:

    Very insightful. Thanks Chris. Looks like I’ll continue my efforts to tune my sites for speed.

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