host locally or in the USA?

My site (www.southafrica.to) has about 60% of its visitors coming from South Africa.

The site’s currently hosted in the USA, but I’m thinking of moving the hosting to South Africa to improve the user experience.

Will this improve rendering speed from a Google perspective? What I’m wondering is whether Google measures page load speed from the USA, or does it measure speed locally (in my case in South Africa).

Google measures from users with the toolbar installed (at least for what is displayed in webmaster tools). Basically, make it fast for your users and Google will see the improvement.

If you have a broad spread of user locations you might want to consider using a CDN that has POP’s where your users are.

-Pat

Thanks, Pat. I spent the evening trying to get an understanding of CDNs - it appears Akamai is the only one with edge servers in South Africa.

This question will expose my ignorance - how does one go about using a CDN like Akamai? What are the practical steps to take?

Generally the steps are:

1 - Configure your site to serve static content from a different domain (if your site is www.mysite.com you could use static.mysite.com or www.mysitestatic.com)

2 - Configure the CDN to pull files from www.mysite.com (origin pull is usually what they call it)

3 - Change the DNS entry for static.mysite.com to CNAME to the CDN provider’s name they give you

Some will let you run the dynamic content throught their CDN as well which would be even easier to implement (just a DNS change) but it is usually exponentially more expensive than the static file services and doesn’t provide as much benefit.

Akamai is pretty much the most expensive out their (justified by their footprint). Not sure what hosting costs are in South Africa but ti may end up being more affordable to host in SA.

For page load issues, Google uses data from users that visit your site and have google toolbar installed. So google measures speed from where your users are :slight_smile: (you can see this data by logging into Google Webmaster tools click on the site in question, on the left side choose labs > site performance)

However another issue is with crawl speed. If your response to Googlebot is fast, Googlebot will crawl more pages at a faster rate… which improves indexability. Unless your site is making 1000s of new pages daily, i wouldnt worry about it and host locally.

But as Patrick said best option is to use CDN…

Hi, I’m in Australia and host my sites in the USA and I’ve always been concerned about page speed for my local visitors.

I’v always hosted my images on an Australian Server with the thought that most of my customers are Australian and the shorter distance would speed things up.

After reading this thread, I thought I’d do a quick test

The page I tested was www.jadremtoys.com.au/mobilo/

I set up a test page using

  1. local images (sydney)
  2. images using cname
  3. images using the direct link to Amazon cloud

I only tested twice so its not very definitive but here are the results for the first pass

  1. 5.099 then 5.301
  2. 5.632 then 5.1
  3. 5.67 then 5.8

So on look, you would have to say use local images or cname

I’ll do a few more tests over the coming days and see what happens

cheers

I assume you tested from the Australia location, right? It might be worth doing a test using cloudfront as well since that’s Amazon’s CDN - though make sure to run enough tests for the images to get cached at the edge nodes.

Thanks, and yes, I was using the Sydney server for testing. I used Amazons cloud for the third test, and I’ll have a look again in a week to see how its all going.

The best results I’ve ever had using your site was when I hosted the test page and all resources from our media server at home!(windows 7)

If you have a link to test results I can provide some suggestions why that would be the case but I’m not all that surprised. If your base page is hosted in the US then that’s going to be at least half of a second just in round trips to get the base page.

I’d also bet that the local server you were serving static files from is a shared server and probably horribly over-provisioned. It should be blazing fast to serve static files but if the server is overloaded it is probably taking longer than it should to respond (first byte times for static files should be pretty close to the socket connect time).

-Pat

Hi Patrick,

Here’s one for you, all this optimizing is new to me, but I’ve found this site invaluable!

I’m working on two pages, Mobilo Live, being a site for kids educational toys I don’t wont to degrade the images too much, so I’ve been concentrating on speeding up other aspects.

We use video, so I thought I’d combine the 3 video JS on our test page http://www.jadremtoys.com.au/mobilo/speedtestcloud.php into one.

I was quite surprised to find that combining the 3 scripts into one actually increased the overall load time.

Best regards
Norman

For being new to it the site is actually looking really good. There are a couple of background images that could be combined into sprites but that’s pretty much it for the basics.

It looks like you are serving some images from cloudfront and some still aren’t - probably a good idea to get all of the images on a CDN (though looking at the performance, if AU is your primary customer base, it may make sense to use something other than cloudfront since they don’t have anything on the continent itself).

It’s about a year old, but there is a good thread on AU CDN presence and pricing here: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/archive/1132514

It is probably worth looking at your actual app server and back-end logic. It looks like there’s about 0.5 seconds of processing time to generate the page and anything you do there will go directly to the experience.

Beyond that you’ll probably be getting into some pretty advanced territory to try and deliver the images in fewer requests. You could sprite them (not traditional css sprites: http://www.artzstudio.com/2010/04/img-sprites-high-contrast/) but you’d probably need to have some code that generates them dynamically since it’s a products listing. You could also go the route of Data URI’s or MHTML to embed the images directly. It might not hurt to try one of the accelerator products that will do it for you on the fly - Strangeloop, Aptimize and Acceloweb all have solutions that will do some of the browser-specific optimizations without having to write a bunch of custom code.

Hi Norman,
I’m Leonid - the CTO of AcceloWeb, which was mentioned by Pat.
If you’d like to apply many powerful optimization techniques to your website automatically, without any changes in its code (which will allow you to keep maintaining it easily), AcceloWeb can help you. Feel free to contact us on sales [at] acceloweb.com for further details and for a demonstration how your website can be accelerated.

Leonid Fainberg
Co-founder & CTO
AcceloWeb