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Benchmarking Your Web Server Performance

I received several email responses to the previous post on Google Apps – Free Business Email Hosting. Some readers were wondering how to know if their e-commerce site is fast enough. Here, I will outline a simple method to benchmark the performance of your web server.

Site owners are concerned if their web servers are fast enough for their customers. To those who run e-commerce sites with shopping cart, how quickly a web page loads up is very important to your visitors.

So How Do You Know If Your e-Commerce Site Is Fast Enough?

You can do this simple benchmark test.

1. Clear or delete all your browser cache.
If you do not know how to clear your browser cache, view these video tutorials:

2. Load up your e-commerce website.
(Time it with a stopwatch if you have to.)

3. Load up Amazon.com.

If you feel your website loads up as fast as Amazon.com then you are ok.

You can also compare the loading time of your site vs your competitors’.

If your web server is slow to response, then you may want to see if your mail server(and anti-virus software) is taking up valuable CPU/RAM resources and consider migrating your email to Google Apps to improve the performance of your web server without upgrading any existing hardware.

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • LT 24 Sep 2008, 5:52 pm

    hi, are you kidding? use a stopwatch?

    Firstly, the likelihood that an smtp mail service will generate so much load that it affects the performance of other services in the server is partically nil with today’s hardware capability.

    Even so, you have to be running a mass emailing service of some kind or have so many emails passing thru it to achieve that kind of traffic load to your server to see that performance hit.

    In any case, i think the scenario is very unlikely, and should not a key reason for switching out of your own mail system into something like gmail. switching to something like gmail is beneficially to SMEs who do not want to be labored with managing an email server which can be a real headache if you don’t have IT expertise.

    Secondly, really? use a stopwatch? There are tools like Firebug/YSlow which you can install into Firefox to give you a nice analysis of your site’s performance. In addition, you might want to use tools like http://www.websiteoptimization.com/services/analyze/ which will give you an idea of your page loading time from a more neutral location. I’m sure we all know that things like network connectivity, bandwidth, geo-location etc all factor into a site’s “percieved” speed.

    Just google for website performance and keywords to that effect, and you’ll have a host of options, free, trial or otherwise which i’m sure can help you to look at your site’s performance.

    In any case, don’t use a stopwatch. Please, that’s just crazy!

  • Shi Hengcheong 25 Sep 2008, 12:15 am

    Thank you for listing the URL to Website Optimization’s tools. Have you read the Website Optimization book by Andrew King?

    No, I am not kidding. Using a stopwatch may sound crazy to you, I know people who used a stop-watch to time the loading of a web page as many web pages take seconds to complete loading and rendering the images.

    A person who uses a high-end gaming machine with a 25Mbps broadband connection will have a web page loaded up very much faster than someone who uses a $500 UMPC trying to access the same page with Wireless@SG at a crowded Mac restaurant.

    Are you managing a mail/web server? Yes? Please tell me the number of separate software and processes required to receive a message and route it to the right mailbox.

    Beside SMTP, there are POP, IMAP, MySQL and secure mail services? Then there are also the anti-SPAM software and virus scanner.

  • LT 25 Sep 2008, 11:58 am

    Hi

    No I haven’t read the book by Andrew King. Any thing to share from there?

    1. The first discussion here is whether a stop-watch is a good means to measure your web page loading. I really think it is not given that there are excellent free tools available.

    If you are able to perceive the time difference with your naked eye, you can safely draw a conclusion that your website is slow without the need for a stopwatch. If you are not able to perceive the time difference with your naked eye, using a stopwatch is not going to help much there either.

    Get Firebug/Yslow, it’s a great Firefox plugin for anyone. It gives a great analysis of time take for all components to render, including time taken to call external services like Google Analytics (if you tag your pages with it). I’m pretty sure it will give a much better and more useful analysis than a simple stopwatch.

    Given that Firebug/Yslow is not prone to human error like a stopwatch, it would be a fairer comparison when you do your benchmark over different internet connection, like wireless@sg etc.

    2. Regarding running mail from the same box as a web service. Yes, I used to manage mail and web servers for my previous company, and I do agree, we generally separate out the 2 services so that they don’t interfere with each other. It’s generally a good practice because we never know when our website or mail will get spammed etc. Of couse if one box goes down, only 1 service is affected, and not both.

    But is load to your server the compelling reason to switch out of your own email and move to Google Mail (or any other outsource email service)? I don’t think so. If I went to my manager with that reasoning for outsourcing our company email service, I’ll be out of a job!

    I’m pretty sure organisations, big or small, are not going to switch to Gmail because they can’t afford to buy another hardware to run their email server on. Buying the hardware is cheap, managing the service is expensive. That is the value proposition for outsourcing your email service, not the load to your server.

    I get what you were trying to say in your post, but I’m just saying there’s more to it than that.

    thanks!

  • Shi Hengcheong 25 Sep 2008, 6:16 pm

    Thank you for expounding on the email outsourcing service. Email has become so critically important in our business that we cannot afford any downtime. So I believe having a dedicate box/rack or outsourcing to a professionally managed service is the way to go. I really appreciate your discussion and the useful tips you provided here.

    Yes, I am still reading the Website Optimization book – definitely worth reading.

  • Marshall 20 May 2009, 8:24 pm

    I agree that seperating your services is ideal for both security and performance but can see both sides of the argument.

    To be honest, if you are running a site where you are needing to worry about the load on your web server then you probably already have the skills and knowledge to deal with your IT infrastructure. That said, email processing is probably one of the most intensive tasks for a server in a smb. Between hundreds of spam emails using cpu and consuming your bandwidth mail would be one of the first things i’d recommend a person to oursource or move to a dedicated box.

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