First Time Byte - "F" - even after CDN, Compression etc

Hi Everyone,
Thanks in advance for any help or suggestions

My site - I have done everything I can think of to speed it up. I have

  • been using a CDN for several weeks (Torbit), have compressed images and files…etc.

My site, however, always grades an “F” for first time byte.

At this point, would it probably be due to slow server, or server performance? I can’t think of anything else. I get high marks for everything else (caching is improving since Torbit)

Google Webmaster Tools shows my site getting progressively slower too…even though my traffic and site size have been stable…

Thanks everyone - great forum here, and great resource (webpagetest)!

What publishing platform are you on (wordpress, Joomla, Drupal, something else, custom app)? Also, do you have a link to a test (the URLs are permanent and sharable).

Yes, the first byte time is usually a function of the back-end server performance (can be the actual server or the application code). On shared hosting, more often than not it is because of really slow database performance. Usually the easiest bandaid is to enable disk caching of the generated HTML pages for guest visitors. Most of the common CMS systems have plugins that will do the work for caching the pages and take care of invalidating them when necessary.

If it’s a custom app then you’ll need to use something like New Relic to get visibility into where the performance issues are.



Patrick - thank you for your great feedback I do have a link to a test. My site runs a few different things - wordpress, static pages, and some coldfusion - hosted on a shared server. Database is MySQL. According to G’s webmaster tools, my site was running fairly well a month or so ago, and then has had wild swings an a general trend towards slower and slower…no real changes on my end in terms of traffic or site size, so I am leaning toward a slow server.

I signed up for a CDN a few weeks ago, and I think it has improved caching and a few other things - I just can’t get past the first time byte F score…

Link to the test is

Thank you!

PS - I run w3 total cache on the wordpress section too…

Which part of webmaster tools?

The crawler stats gives you the base page times (a good indicator of first byte times). The site speed is full page load times and can vary quite a bit depending on what you are pulling into the page.

Looking at your result, once you get past the first byte you are bandwidth-limited. Not sure what the content is that you are serving from but it’s a huge chunk of javascript and flash (over half of the bytes for your page - ). Possibly the video player but that seems awfully big.

What technology backs the main page?

For the wordpress section, W3TC has some debug settings that will give you timings for things like database queries, etc (as comments at the end of the HTML) that can also help debug.

Hi Patrick,
I look at the site performance tab, which keeps going in the wrong direction -
The homepage that I have been testing does have a lot of content on it, and those videos may be part of the problem. The homepage is a static page, and nothing is pulled in from a database.

An interesting test I did - I did a webpagetest on one of my lightest pages on my site, a page with almost nothing on it (basically a simple ‘thank you’ page) and got an F - so still a very poor score for a tiny page with almost nothing on it - so again, I am wondering how much of this is in my control as far as my pages are concerned:

Here is the test result for that page

I would have imagined I would have gotten a high score on such a small page, with nothing being pulled in from a database - just a static thank you page.

With that in mind, I am thinking that it is not entirely my site that is causing the poor grades.

I did ask my hosting company, and apparently I am on some older hardware (circa 2003), so maybe that is it.

Thank you so much for helping me and for your insight - it’s been invaluable!
If you have any insight on the test on the smaller page that would be great!
I have done a few more tests - a few on text-only pages - nothing but text, no CSS, etc. F every time. So, at this point - server slowness or lameness?
Thanks Patrick!

Wow - 2003. That’s early in the Pentium 4 days and memory limits were tiny. I can’t imagine running a server that old, particularly if it is running shared hosting. Yeah, migrating to a newer system is highly recommended.