Update on website performance and security

Long time no hear! My last blog post has been a while ago, I’m sorry for that. I may have mentioned possible reasons for that (or maybe excuses) in some other posts already. I’m busy in the office, and when you’re working as a customer, there is not the same level of troubleshooting (and thus the source for blog posts) as when you would work as a partner (vendor => partner => customer, from an IT tech perspective). I know, that might be only an excuse. We’ve got plenty of servers, stuff in the cloud, and therefore one may say there are plenty of problems. But no, there’s not much. Honestly. But anyway, I’m still keeping the troubleshooting stuff on my radar, and if there will be some good and beefy issues, I’ll document that and blog about it. Because in IT, you’ll be probably not alone with that problem. And any blog post can help.

What’s up then?

Today’s topic is not about virtualization, networking, storage, or anything else in that sphere. It’s about an update on my website’s performance and security.

Recently we had a discussion in our team on how to improve website performance in general, how complex it could be, what solutions could be applied, and who should be on board with such a project. After the “official” part we had a chat in our core team about our personal websites, website monitoring, performance, etc. and we stumbled across some speed test websites. I mean, we’re all somehow nerds, isn’t it? No offense!

I tested my website for performance (and I’m testing it on a regular basis with GTmetrix) to see if there is potential for optimization, or if I just screwed up somewhere. I also use several different tools to test the website performance, especially when I changed something big (like the theme, or did some upgrades). My main tools are GTmetrix, Pingdom Web Speed Test, and Google PageSpeed Insights. The general performance of my website is pretty good. The website itself is hosted in Switzerland, and the GTmetrix test is performed in Vancouver, Canada. The result is nice:

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New Year – New Hosting?

To make the long story short: this week I moved my blog to a new web host. And I was surprised and pleased with how well and smooth everything went. But I’ll don’t just let you alone here. I’d like to explain the how and why I moved.

When I started with WordPress as my blogging platform, it was all just fun and games. Nothing technical, no helpful blog posts, just tinkering around, having fun writing. But with my engagement in the IT community, with my career in IT, I have rethought. I stopped playing around, and I started writing actual helpful blog posts. I started to write in German because this is my native language. At some time I switched to English, not without a reason (or more actually more than one). I have often dealt with English-speaking customers, with hotlines from international companies. And today at my current employer, English is the de-facto standard when opening tickets internally, or talking to other people in different time zones. I switched to English because most of the IT people I know, personally and on various social media, are native English speaking or understand English. Maybe I also switched because of reaching more people with helpful blog posts. And when I check the blog statistics, most visitors are from the United States. So, not a wrong decision at all, switching to English.

But enough of the forewords.

The why

When I moved my blog from one host to the other back in the days, I was looking for more speed. If you know WordPress, then you know it’s all PHP and MySQL, which can be highly dynamic content. And from a webserver perspective, dynamic content can’t be delivered as fast as static content. But, in my humble opinion, that was back in the days when there wasn’t much SSD storage in the webservers, or it was expensive, or with old PHP versions, etc.

My previous web host had also WordPress, but not the traditional way. He offered static WordPress hosting, which made me curious, and I wanted to give it a try. You’ll get a WordPress instance which you can start whenever you want, write your blog posts, do the other stuff, and shut it down. After that, you’ll create a so-called artifact, which renders all the dynamic content from your blog into static files. All your text, CSS, and JS files, images, etc. will then be put onto Amazon CloudFront automatically. And that’s the static content you’ll get presented when visiting the website. The performance was good, good enough for me.

But it has also some downsides. Some native WordPress features, like comments, search, or some plugins, just don’t work like this. They can’t be static because they relate to the dynamic WordPress in the backend. I had to find solutions for many problems. And I’m still not sure, even if I was able to test it successfully if it really worked.

I decided to move back to my original web host, where I have my domain running since 2008. Not only because of that but also because of the aforementioned circumstances. I’m also born in Switzerland, and my blog has a Swiss TLD (.ch), but with that TLD it’s still (highly) visible also international. My new web host caught me with a good hosting package, which has 250GB of website storage and is backed by 100% NVMe SSD, with Nginx and Apache running in parallel, 50MB of Nginx cache, and many other things. And that for a reasonable price, at least by Swiss standards. Yes, it may be true that many things are more expensive in Switzerland than abroad. But not everything.

That’s the why.

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driftar.ch is now serverless

wordpress serverless

Some of you, my fellow readers, have probably noticed some downtime on my website yesterday. I migrated my blog to another hosting provider. That’s the only reason. You’re asking why? Well, I like a certain level of consistency in some areas of my interests. But in technology, especially in IT, the only consistency is constant change. So i decided to move my website (again).

How it all started…

It all began on Twitter when I joined a discussion about where to place the search bar or search field on a website:

That led us to the conclusion that a website should have no clutter and no word / tag clouds. I agree with that, since it’s not up to date anymore. But hey, that’s just my personal opinion.

And the discussion finally ended at the performance of a website.

I did some testings on my “old” website / provider and i wasn’t very sad about the results, but also not very happy. There is always room for improvements. So i did some research on the topic of using WordPress as content management system but providing static websites. Delivering static content like HTML files and images is way faster then delivering dynamic content. Even if you’re working with caching plugins and all that stuff. At least some of the content is still dynamic, thus generated when you’re accessing the website. Please don’t blame me if i’m not 100% correct, i’m not a professional web developer, but at least i know some basics here.

When you look at these tweets, you will find at least two solution which generate static content out of dynamic content, gohugo.io and jekyll. I think both solutions are great, if you know basic stuff about frameworks, programming languages and some more stuff. I tried it, i really tried it. But i failed. In my eyes both solutions are complex to setup and maintain. As i said, i’m not a pro web dev. And if you’re used to certain content management systems like WordPress, then it’s hard to switch.

I moved on with my research. As my employer is using various cloud solutions, like Amazon, i thought why not going (back) to Amazon?

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Blog infos – More hosting performance for the new year

In the history books of my website there are many written pages. Since the beginning of “blogging” (well, more technology testing and tasting at the past) my website moved around the globe. I started with a small hosting at Amazon AWS, with an EC2 compute instance, some storage and Cloudfrount CDN. That worked very well for me, but only for about a year or two. I then moved to another provider, one that is specialized in WordPress hosting. That pleased me very much because i like WordPress as a blogging software since i started with my website.

The guys at this new hoster moved all my content from Amazon to their hosting. And because they are Cloudflare partner, i came the first time in touch with greater scale website security, performance and content distribution networks, and that free of charge. Also this hosting went very well, but also just for about two years. It didn’t help the performance when the hoster is located in Canada and myself, and also most of my visitors, are located in Europe.

So there was another change in planning phase. I wanted to bring my content closer to my location and my readers. I decided to move my website back to a Swiss hoster. All the security and performance things i learned with Cloudflare i took with me, and my website was still under protection even at this new hoster. That worked well for me. But there were unfortunately some outtages i cannot explain. Sometimes my website was offline just some minutes, sometimes longer. I can’t explain why, we didn’t find out.

So again, i planned another move of my website, and again to a hoster which is specialized on WordPress hosting. I moved my website to Siteground.com. The guys there also moved all of my content to their servers, and helped my a lot with setting things up properly. And there were a lot of things i wanted, like SSL, redirects and many other things. We had a lot of support chat sessions, did a lot of testing and checks until my website was up and running. But the effort was worth it. My site now runs fine and stable. And if there is any issue, i just open a support ticket, and few minutes later my problem is even solved or they ask for more information via live chat.

Now my website runs at Siteground.com with a GoGeek plan which is crafted for WordPress geeks like me 😉

If you’d like to start also a new website hosting, or if you’re thinking about to move your existing website to another hoster, why not have a look here?

Web Hosting

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