Gate Customer Newsletter Gate.com
Issue: April 2014

10 Ways to Make Your Website Load Faster

Online shoppers are impatient; an Aberdeen Group study from 2008 still holds true in saying that a web page must load in less than three seconds or it risks losing customers and revenue. So that means web pages are shrinking to meet this mandate, right? Not so, according to performance indices from HTTP Archive, which show that the  average size of websites grew 32 percent in 2013.

So if websites are getting bigger, and new research suggests that the magic number for load times might be inching closer to two seconds, what can companies do to shave precious milliseconds off page loading times?

Here are some tips for cutting your load times:

1) Consider implementing a content delivery network (CDN). A CDN takes a website’s static files – such as CSS, images and JavaScript – and delivers them on servers that are close to the user’s physical location. Because servers are closer to the user, they load more quickly. Larger websites implement CDNs to make sure their visitors from around the world have as fast an experience as possible.

2) Implement new image formats to reduce the size of your images. According to the HTTP Archive, 61 percent of a website’s page weight on a desktop computer is images. Switching between different-sized and different-quality images to save bandwidth using tools like Picturefill and Adaptive Images can help. Adopting new image formats, such as WebP and JPeg XR, can also help reduce image weight by 20 to 50 percent without sacrificing quality.

3) Cache, cache, cache. Browser caching stores cached versions of static resources, a process that quickens page speed tremendously and reduces server lag. When a user visits a page on your website, the cached version will usually be served unless it has changed since it was last cached; this saves a lot of requests to your server and as a result makes it faster.

4) Evaluate your plugins. Plugins can bring new functionality and features to your website, but the more plugins your website has, the more work it has to do to load. Poor or outdated plugins can slow down website performance dramatically as well. This can be easily fixed by evaluating your current plugins and removing those that duplicate functionality, are out of date or are no longer used.

5) Combine images into CSS sprites. If you have many images on your page, you are forcing multiple roundtrips of the server to get all the resources secured, which slows down page speed. Sprites combine all background images on a page into one single image. The proper image segment will be displayed because of the CSS background-image and background-position properties.

6) Enable HTTP keep-alive response headers. HTTP requests are simple: they grab and send a single file and then close. That may be simple, but it isn’t very fast. Keep-alive allows the web browser and server to agree to use the same connection to grab and send multiple files. In other words, the server holds the connection open while a user is on the site instead of opening a new connection with every request, easing the load for the processor, network and memory.

7) Enable compression. You can compress resources to lower the number of bytes a page is sending over a network. Using the GZIP compression algorithm, popular web servers like Apache and IIS do this automatically on HTML, CSS and Javascript. You will need to optimize your content for compression by creating consistency across your HTML and CSS code.

8) Use expires headers. When a user visits your website, your website files will be stored on their computer so that your website loads faster for them the next time the visit; there’s an expiration date in the file header that determines how long these files will be stored on their computer, however. This expires header is usually set to 24 hours by default. You can configure the expires header so that the files never time out, or you can increase the expiration date significantly so that it doesn’t impact your server and page load time.

9) Minify JavaScript and CSS. By removing unnecessary line breaks, extra space, and so on, you will speed up parsing, downloading and executing. This simple task can cut bytes of data from your page, and every little bit counts.

10) Review your hosting provider and package. If you’ve taken the steps above and your pages are still loading too slowly, it might be time to consider a new hosting package. On a typical shared hosting account, you might be sharing server space with dozens of other companies, and the speed of your website is affected by the number of people using that server. If shared hosting no longer meets your needs, it might be time to consider dedicated hosting, where you alone have access to the server, or a VPS (Virtual Private Server), a physical computer partitioned into multiple servers each running its own operating system.

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In This Issue
10 Ways to Make Your Website Load Faster
New Domain Names Available, but Will SMBs Bite?
Exchange 2003 Support Has Ended
Connect with Us on Social Media
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5 Big Brand Facebook Tactics You Should be Using

New Domain Names Available, but Will SMBs Bite?

Own a jewelry store and looking for a way to stand out among the thousands of websites that also sell jewelry? Move over .com, as .diamonds is in town.

Last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees Internet domains, went live with a long-drawn-out plan to massively expand the number of Internet generic top-level domains (gTLDs) available to businesses.

This is big news in the Internet world; over the past 30 years, only 14 new generic top-level domains had been created. This new plan will introduce hundreds and perhaps thousands of domains per year, and the first few – including .singles, .camera, .clothing and .bike – are already being rolled out by a company called Donuts, which has submitted more than 300 potential names to ICANN for approval. Google has also submitted for more than 100, including gTLDs to protect trademarks such as .google and those that have “interesting and creative potential,” such as .lol.

Businesses owning a trademark were allowed to submit a claim during a sunrise period before the names became available to the general public. More than 20 new gTLDs are now generally available from Donuts, with a handful of new ones coming out each week. Other domains will become available soon from other companies approved by ICANN.

Although a new name may be approved, it doesn't mean anyone can register a new domain in it. There are three phases of approval for each domain:

  • Sunrise, a 60-day period during which legal trademark owners worldwide can stake a claim.
  • Pre-registration, determined by the owner of the gTLD, where applicants can pre-register names for a price to be negotiated.
  • Open registration, where anyone can register a new domain.

So what does this mean for SMBs, and why might they be interested in these new domains? First and foremost, it gives small businesses the ability to get in on interesting and simplistic domain names because of the sheer number of possibilities becoming available and the specificity of many, such as .plumber and .limo.

It also helps visitors understand what your company does just by looking at your URL – if you’re not a limousine company, you probably haven't grabbed a .limo domain. However, a company stuck with www.jonesandsonsjewelryco.com can add in www.jones.diamonds as its URL with prices starting at $40 per year.

Still, a number of questions still need to be answered before this becomes a no-brainer for SMBs. Because they are so new, there is not yet enough information on these gTLDs to understand how search engines will view and rank them. Unless it can be proven that they are given as much SEO weight as .com addresses, small businesses will likely take a look at what's available and may invest in one or two if the price is right, but steer clear of using them until the situation crystallizes. Until then, much of the land grab of new domains might be restricted to bigger companies looking to protect their brand.

It also might require a bigger marketing spend to get customers who are set in their ways to visit the new URLs, and SMBs with minimal marketing budgets may find this an insurmountable hurdle. Until mindshare is established for the new domain, SMBs will likely have to bear the cost of maintaining two domains and employing redirects to the new domain from the old site.

Consult your web hosting provider to learn more about the pros and cons of pursuing a new gTLD for your SMB.

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Exchange 2003 Support Has Ended

On April 8, Microsoft stopped supporting Exchange 2003. The trusty decade-old email software is still used by more than 66 million people worldwide. Many users, no doubt, are asking, “Where do we go from here?”

Exchange 2003 is from the pre-cloud era, and business technology has changed dramatically since Exchange Server 2003 came out. Since then, businesses have also experienced a culture shift regarding mobile device integration. Users have new expectations from their email, calendar and messaging environments that Exchange 2003 simply can’t fulfill.

If you are among the remaining users of Exchange 2003, you have several options available to you to adjust to the impending abandonment of Exchange 2003 by Microsoft support.

1. Remain on Exchange 2003: This is by far the most risky option, with the software’s End of Life imminent. Microsoft will no longer issue security patches, which leaves you open to security and privacy threats. In addition, you’ll be missing out on innovations offered by the newer versions.

2. Upgrade to on-premise Exchange 2010 or 2013: Unfortunately, an on-premise upgrade of Exchange 2003 involves more than upgrading licenses and installing servers. A successful Exchange upgrade typically requires the services of specialized Exchange migration consultants, as well as significant IT time and budget. You’ll need to invest time and money in network topology upgrades, and potentially address the following as well:

  • Network and datacenter security investments
  • Uptime planning and failover systems design
  • Equipment upgrades (server, data storage, etc.),
  • New software and support licenses
  • Increased management costs of a more complex technology environment

3. Migrate to cloud-based Exchange 2010 or 2013: Companies can avoid the labor costs and capital investments of an on-premise upgrade by migrating to cloud-based Exchange. Choosing the right cloud provider will eliminate downtime risk, keep costs low and deliver a reliable, secure and integrated cloud environment.

For customers who have an existing on-premise Exchange 2003 platform, Hostway offers a free migration to a Cloud Exchange platform.

Don’t fall behind – make the transition!

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