The holiday season is almost upon us, and eCommerce merchants across the country are hustling to ready their stores for the busiest shopping period of the year. Holiday season revenues are vital for many eCommerce businesses, so marketing plans are made, promotions devised, content written, stock-levels calculated, and, of critical importance, store performance assessed.
A slow store can scupper the best laid plans. Customers demand a smooth shopping experience, and delivering that means getting the underlying technology right. Much of the focus will be on optimizing the front-end so that it delivers the optimal experience, but the server that supports the whole operation is just as important.
Every Magento store depends ultimately on the capabilities of its hosting: the fastest Magento theme won’t make up for a slow or overloaded server. Server-side optimizations aren’t something you want to be doing on the fly in the middle of the holiday season, so let’s take a look a some of the factors that are likely to need attention in advance.
Although upgrading to more powerful hosting is the single best way to improve performance, there’s plenty you could do to get more out of your existing hardware and software stack.
Software upgrades — PHP 7 introduced a huge number of performance optimizations that Magento users can take advantage of. Simply upgrading to PHP 7 is likely to improve performance and reduce server load.
Improved Caching — Magento itself includes some caching functionality, but there’s more that can be done to reduce latency and server load. Consider integrating a Varnish or Memcached instance with your Magento store.
Content distribution networks — A content distribution network will distribute your store’s static assets to edge-nodes around the globe. Because the assets are then served from those nodes, they get to customers quickly and the load on your server is reduced.
Web Server and Database Tuning — We discuss a whole range of web server, operating system, and database optimizations on our Magento Hosting Optimization page, but here are a couple of ideas: make sure gzip compression is enabled, and use Alternative PHP Cache (APC) and PHP-FPM to improve PHP performance.
Upgrade Your Hosting
While the optimizations we’ve discussed will improve your Magento eCommerce store’s performance, they aren’t magic. If your store consistently performs poorly under peak loads, it’s time to think about moving to a more powerful hosting platform.
Smaller stores currently hosted on a shared hosting account could opt to move to a more generous shared hosting account or migrate to a dedicated server. For larger stores, the options are somewhat more complex. A cluster of dedicated servers is the most powerful and flexible hosting option.
If you decide to upgrade your store’s hosting, choose a provider that implements a full range of Magento performance optimizations as standard — it’ll save you time and ensure that your store makes the most of the available resources.
Preparation is the key to a successful holiday period. The earlier you start to prepare, the more likely you’ll be ready in time. Don’t leave holiday season planning to the last minute: take stock of your store’s performance and make the necessary changes as soon as possible.
Graeme Caldwell works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, https://blog.nexcess.net/.
Interested in how Nexcess can help Magento merchants exceed their holiday goals? Send us a note, we’d love to chat!