One of the goals of website development is to ensure that a website loads as quickly as possible. The speed is dependent on many variables, some of which have to do with the website itself, and some of which have to do with the server that the website lives on. This article addresses two of the most important server-related issues: server speed and server software. Updating server speed is relatively expensive. However, updating server software is often the most cost-effective way to increase a website’s speed.
Your website lives on a server somewhere, most likely at one of the popular webhosts such as Media Temple, Hostgator, GoDaddy, or Network Solutions. You’re also likely to be sharing that server with other websites. Shared servers are great because they don’t cost a lot to use. The downside is that you have no control over how many other websites are on the same server, or what those websites are doing at any particular moment.
For example, if someone else’s website on your shared server sends out hundreds of emails at 10am, you may find your website running more slowly at 10am. Or there are times when other websites on the server are busy being backed up. Or another website on the server is offering a promotion and is getting a lot of visitors. Anything that consumes a lot of server resources can slow down your website. That is one reason you may see the speed of your website fluctuate throughout the day.
Unfortunately, the only way to increase server speed is to buy a more expensive hosting package. They can range up to $100/month and beyond, which is out of the reach of most small businesses. However, there is a less expensive option for increasing your website’s speed.
If your website is created in WordPress, then it is based on a programming language called PHP. As with all software and programming languages, there are different versions of PHP. If you have an older website, it is most likely running on PHP version 5.6 or lower. Upgrading PHP to version 7.0 or higher will increase your website’s security and will also greatly increase your website’s speed.
Here’s the caveat: the newer versions of PHP have eliminated some of the older and slower programming code. If your WordPress theme or plugins rely on the older code, parts of your website may no longer work properly after upgrading PHP.
The first step is to find out which version your website is currently using. You can use a WordPress plugin such as Display PHP Version. Or your web host or web developer can help you with that.
The second step is to see if your theme and plugins are compatible with PHP version 7.0 or higher. Another WordPress plugin, PHP Compatibility Checker, can help with this.
The final step is to upgrade PHP at your web hosting account, and then test your website to make sure all is working as expected. Enjoy your faster speed!