Web Server Performance Optimization: Tips and Techniques

Web Server Performance Optimization: Tips and Techniques. With the increasingly competitive digital ecosystem, businesses must ensure their web applications provide an excellent user experience. Web server performance optimization focuses on improving speed and reducing server response times. 

Basically, web performance optimization is a set of techniques from caching mechanisms to file compression. By leveraging these practices, you deliver web content quickly. Web server performance optimization is a continuous process to ensure websites and web applications maintain responsiveness and agility.

This article discusses some of the most effective methods that you use to optimize your web server performance. Read on!

Web Server Optimize Performance

1. Reduce HTTP Requests

Reducing HTTP requests is an excellent way to minimize web server load times. Normally, an HTTP request is a message sent from a user’s browser to the web server. This message usually requests resources such as CSS, HTML, images, and Javascript alongside other file formats.

HTTP requests consume frontend and backend CPU resources (memory, bandwidth, etc), and eventually result in congestion and latency. Some of the techniques you use to minimize HTTP requests include:

  • Combining multiple java script and CSS files into one.
  • Using CSS sprites to combine and deliver numerous images in one request.
  • Using caching to store static or frequently accessed content on a proxy server or web browser.
  • Applying lazy loading to defer non critical elements, such as images, until they are required.
  • Embedding small images directly into HTML through data URIs or inline images.

2. Enable Caching

Caching is an effective web server optimization strategy that helps improve both speed and performance. Whenever a new client refreshes a webpage, the server responds by running app codes, and fetching the relevant files from storage. It also retrieves the database and compiles results into the HTML page. However, if you have enabled caching, the server just obtains previously processed results and send them to the new user.

Below are the best locations to enable caching for web server optimization:

  • OpCode cache – Comprises results from previously processed page requests.
  • Memory cache – Stores elements of data generated by applications within the system memory. Once a user requests these parts, the web server forwards the data without processing it.
  • HTTP cache – Does not store elements of data. Instead, it stores the entire HTML page. When users repeatedly request a page, the server serves quickly and simply.
  • Application cache –Web applications store prepared template files in the form of HTML pages. Combine app caching with the aforementioned caching techniques to greatly reduce server processing times.

3. Use a Reverse Proxy

A reverse proxy plays an important role in improving performance. The proxy server sits between clients and the web server, managing requests and sending them to the appropriate backend server.

An HTTP reverse proxy functions as a link between the web server and clients. When another visitor requests the same HTML file, the server simply gets the file from the memory.

4. Reduce URL Redirects

Redirects are a way to automatically take your website users from your old file location to your current location. There are different types of redirects with slightly different functionality. However, each redirect generates more HTTP requests which negatively affects server speed. The good news is that there are several techniques to use to reduce redirects.

Firstly, there are multiple scanning tools to check and rectify redirects. These tools include the screaming frog bulk redirect checker, redirect detective, and redirect mapper tool.

Here are some effective methods to minimize URL redirects:

  • Don’t link to a web page with a redirect on it.
  • Using multiple plugins causes unnecessary redirects.
  • Ensure you periodically check for old redirects that may take your visitors to pages you have already deleted.

5. Enable File Compression

The bigger your files are, the slower your page downloads. Bulky pages with more than 100kb of data take a long to load. Enabling compression is an effective way to reduce the site bandwidth and increase load speeds.

Compression tools like GZIP provide a very effective technique for compressing files. Use these tools to compress multiple file formats on the server side before forwarding them to the web browser. On the client side, the web browser unzips the files and displays the original content. Avoid compressing PDFs or images as binary data is already compressed. Actually,  compressing it again would waste server resources.

6. Use a Content Delivery Network

A content delivery network is a globally distributed network of proxy servers and their data centers. Traditionally one central web server is used to store all the files. However, the CDN approach allows you to copy, store, and distribute resources relative to the end users’ geographical location.

This method is more effective as it allows the browser to get content from a server that is spatially closer to the user. CDNs prevent bottlenecks from occurring near the central web server by providing visitors with data from servers close to them. In the long run, CDNs relieve the load on your website and increase the speed of your web applications.

7. Optimize Your Database

The performance of your web server relies heavily on the efficiency and quality of your database queries and application code. Your database and web application code should be properly optimized, as they are the data and logic that power your web pages and features. When writing your code, follow coding best practices and standards like the DRY principle, avoid unnecessary calculations and loops, and use the proper data frameworks and algorithms.

Additionally, there are several database and indexing optimization solutions like SQL Server Management Studio and MySQL Workbench to increase the accuracy and speed of database queries.

8. Defragment Database Tables

Most websites store product data and resources such as images, texts, and media files in a database. However, developers have to routinely edit or delete pages, add new pages, and modify listed products. These routine procedures leave ‘gaps’ in the database tables.

These holes occupy the space that the deleted data previously occupied. This is usually referred to as ‘fragmentation’, and it increases the load time of your web applications and degrades server performance. For optimal performance, ensure that the fragmentation does not exceed 5% of the total database.

9. Analyze Server Performance

Since the database is responsible for hosting all processes and powering application performance. They must have enough server resources at all times. If you experience longer than usual response times, check, your CPU, server disk space, and memory for issues.

10. Reduce DNS Query Response Time

Domain Name System (DNS) is a server or collection of servers that keep a record of domain names and their IP addresses. The domain is essentially the website’s name. Whenever a user enters a domain name in their browser, the browser sends a DNS query to the server. The time taken to resolve the query affects the site’s load time.

Here are some of the best ways to improve your DNS query response times:

  • Cache Files Locally – reduce the number of instances you request content from a third-party domain. This is possible when you get rid of all unnecessary resources that load. In some cases, you encounter resources that you can’t remove.
  • When this happens, try to cache the resources locally to prevent a repeat of the DNS query process. This technique works great for CSS files, icons, fonts, and media files.
  • Switch to a Faster DNS Provider – Similar to web hosting, there are fast and slow DNS providers available. They work similarly to CDNs, they have multiple data centers around the world. By default, visitors’ devices may search for your domain name on a server that is far from the physical servers. The user’s request travels around the world on fibre optic cables.
  • Defer JavaScript Files – JavaScript files often load 3 party resources, resulting in high DNS  response time and slow page load times. One way to improve your DNS response time is to delay parsing your JavaScript until clients need it. Delaying the parsing of JavaScript won’t not reduce the amount of DNS responses needed, but deferring the loading of non-critical assets improves your overall performance.

Web Server Performance Optimization: Tips and Techniques Conclusion

Optimizing web server performance is imperative to providing a seamless user experience. By Implementing the above strategies, you can effectively make the web server more responsive and fast loading. It’s crucial also to implement continuous monitoring to stay up to date with all events happening on your web server.

Avatar for Dennis Muvaa
Dennis Muvaa

Dennis is an expert content writer and SEO strategist in cloud technologies such as AWS, Azure, and GCP. He's also experienced in cybersecurity, big data, and AI.

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