Testing Your Website’s Speed: Why and How

Running a website isn’t always the easiest thing to do, and there are a lot of things that a webmaster need to think about these days. From combating spam, to making sure that visitors have a good experience on your site, one could argue that it’s never been more difficult that it is today to keep track of all the things that go into make a good website. From content to engaging pictures, there are so many things that need to be thought about. One thing that people don’t seem to realize is that the speed at which your website loads is also quite important. This is crucial because it’s a ranking factor with Google, but a fast loading website also goes a long way to keep users happy.

Now more than ever, people have shorter attention spans and expect websites to load instantly. Gone are the days of dial up internet where people were accustomed to slow loading websites. Most people have broadband in their houses now, and they truly expect a website to load in a way that keeps up with that. Keep in mind, that a lot of cell phones these days have connections that are faster than some people’s home internet, so being on the go doesn’t stop people from really wanting things to load fast.

If you website loads slowly, you could be missing out on a ton of different opportunities, including visitor retention, and a number of other things. There are a lot of different companies that offer free website speed tests, and allow people to pinpoint problems with their site so that they can improve some of the slower loading page elements, and one of the best things that you can do is try one company, and then try another to see which tool helps identify the problems on your site. Dotcom Monitor – www.dotcom-monitor.com/WebTools/website-speed-test.aspx and UpTrendshttp://www.uptrends.com/aspx/free-html-site-page-load-check-tool.aspx are just a couple of the many companies that offer speed testing tools. Keep in mind that not everyone is going to care about this, so if you actually do make sure that you have a fast loading website, you’ll be one step ahead of many of your competitors, and you might have one of the best websites around. Admittedly, this isn’t the most interesting topic, but it is something that users really care about, and because of that it should be important to any webmaster who cares about their website. So one of the best things you can do is take some time to think about website speed, and check out your site to see how well it loads, and identify any problem elements that might be dragging your entire website down.

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Troubleshooting Web Applications: Steps to Take

Developing for the web can be one of the trickiest ways to create an application. The upside of web applications is that they can be used by any device. Rather than having to rewrite your app for each operating system, you can be sure that the web browser will make you app available across the board. However, universal accessibility is also the down side of developing for the web. Users can access your application from thousands of different devices, each with different screen sizes, processor power, browsers, and browser extensions and plugins. Trying to make one application that works for everything can be tricky. When users access your web application and it doesn’t work, they tend to blame you, regardless of how bad or unusual the settings on their device may be.

However, thorough testing and good development practices make an effective application and ensure that users have a positive experience with your site. In particular, virtual machines are your friend when testing and debugging. Buying one of every mobile device and computer could be costly, but you can run several virtual machines on one computer, and test you application in myriad computing environments. Even mobile operating systems can be virtualized on a computer.

Responsive design is also your friend. Responsive design is a fairly new technique where components of a website scale to fit screen size, and compact down into concise menus for smaller devices. Incorporating this scaling design into a web application can take extra effort, but it’s still better than having to write a mobile app in addition to your web application.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to troubleshooting and developing an effective web application. Once you’re done testing and troubleshooting, it may be a good idea to roll out your application in phases or have a beta test period where you get feedback from a small number of users. Some bugs don’t show up until an application has been tested thoroughly or deployed on a mass scale. Even if these bugs get out to users, it’s better to have them seen by a small group than be your entire user base. When you follow safe, established development practices like this, you’ll be sure your web application is as accessible as possible.

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What is an SLA and Why is it Important?

In the context of web hosting, a Service Level Agreement (SLA) is the contract that defines the specifics of the services that a hosting company provides to its users. An SLA can cover a number of areas, such server availability, server administration, and data storage. Reading an SLA will help users understand their rights and limitations under the agreement.

What an SLA Does

An SLA defines the expected uptime of servers, which is often 99% or more. Though 100% is the ideal, it is unrealistic, given the necessity for maintenance or unforeseen natural events. The web hosting company’s server administration duties refer to the general management responsibilities of the company, such as the expected response time in the case of downtime, metrics for data backup performance, and so forth. The data storage section of the SLA can detail the frequency and of data backups, as well as disaster recovery plans.

Additional sections to the SLA may explain the clients’ and the hosting company’s goals, prices, contract length, liabilities for both parties, and other legalities. Billing specifications, technical support, and content issues may also be covered. Awareness of all this information helps customers know what rights they do and do not have under the agreement, as well as what service they are contractually agreeing to when signing up to receive hosting.

What to Look For

Since an SLA can be an extensive legal document, it is understandable that most customers do not want to read one right away, but there are a few things to look for. Guarantees that a company offers may be limited, such as “Unlimited Bandwidth” or “Unlimited Storage.” Typically, the SLA gives the hosting company the right to limit account usage that exceeds certain limitations.

Other things to look for include minimum uptime guarantees, what files or types of content are permitted, rights to domain names that are registered through your company, and how the server resources are allocated. Though an SLA may not be a very exciting read, it provides legally binding information that customers may wish to know before signing up with a web hosting provider.

Other Considerations

If you ever get into a position where you need to make a claim against the terms of your SLA, you may want some external data in order to help substantiate your claim that your service level has been below amount specified in the SLA. This may mean employing a paid third party solution from a company that offers uptime and downtime monitoring. Some of the bigger companies in the space are Pingdom, New Relic and Dotcom-Monitor. All of these companies have solutions that can help create a report you can take to your web host. There are also a number of other companies not named here that may be helpful to you if you need to make a claim against your SLA.

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