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Like I mentioned earlier this month I moved my site to the Amazon cloud also known as AWS EC2. Now it is time to show some results in terms of download speed.
First let me say that you have to take this information with a grain of salt. This first section will explain a few things to put this into perspective.
My websites are now hosted on a dedicated server but have been hosted in a shared environment before, i.e. shared web hosting which is usually a little bit hard to judge; especially the first request.
Let me explain why.
As a former systems engineer who worked in a data center I know a thing or two about operating systems and servers.
There is a lot of caching going on in a server and a web server in particular usually uses and provides a lot of the same requests over and over again. On a shared web server all the hosted websites compete for this cache.
When your website is not active, i.e. nobody is browsing your site, for maybe just a few minutes all the other websites hosted on the same server will take over the cache. The moment your website gets a new hit your data has to be loaded fresh while at the same time a lot of other requests are served for other websites.
This usually has an effect on the first request to a website.
If you ever wondered why it takes a considerable time for a certain website to load the very first page but load and work quite snappy after that this is most likely the reason. Of course, there are factors as well with your browser and caching but one is certainly the hosted web server environment.
Download speed graph
What you see next is the download graph from Google's Webmaster Tools. It clearly shows when I moved this website. Somewhere in the first quarter of February.
The download times reported by Google have been somewhere around two (2) seconds in average but with spikes up to four (4) seconds.
Now, like I explained above this was not exactly my experience. When I clicked through the pages they loaded fairly quickly below one second but again usually the first request took more than two seconds.
Google saw I different: all the time! Their spider bot crawling a website certainly falls into the category of a user requesting only a single page.
Effects on page ranking
Now with a dedicated server the situation has changed for this single requests and Webmaster Tools reports a more desirable result for the website.
This is where it gets interesting I think in terms of download speed and page ranking commonly referred to as SEO.
While I was never really concerned about the overall speed for my website with the old hosted web server I was with the graph. It is a well known rumor that Google also values download speed for page ranking.
In fact I have seen some improvements in terms of SEO and page ranking with this website but since I made also other changes it is hard to pin all this improvement in ranking to the download speed.
Just in case ...
Just in case you like to know where the website was hosted before: it was GoDaddy.
As I explained above it is difficult to really judge this because I also moved from shared web hosting to a dedicated server. This might be the bigger issue and therefore I cannot really put the blame here on GoDaddy.
For a fair judgement I should have moved to a dedicated server on GoDaddy first. But that was not my objective here. My objective was to move the site into a cloud environment.