the sky floor

The Quest for Website Speed: Part 1

November 11, 2021

We recently went on a journey that felt like a sequel to “The NeverEnding Story,” except our quest was for the highest performance server set up for the best value we can find. The best part about being a website marketing company is using your website as a guinea pig. So I bundled up the files for the website you are on right now and started porting around to every server package we wanted to test. 

Our criteria were relatively simple, find software-managed virtual dedicated servers that ran on major providers. We didn’t want to have to install the server software, but we did want to have the flexibility and speed that comes with dedicated virtual solutions. 

We took the identical copy of our website and created servers/accounts at Digital Ocean and Vultr with the following provisioning services to handle the software installations.  


Before we dive into this fully, let’s define some words for the hosting uninitiated.

Virtual Dedicated: A server container or server is created for your use only instead of sharing similar processing with other accounts.

Object Cache: This saves standard database calls to serve them faster with less drain on resources.

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Database: The information for the website content is all pulled from a series of tables called a database.

Droplet: Think of this as a server instance. Specific to Digital Ocean.

Vertical Scaling: Changing the specs of the hosting on the fly.

SSH Private Key: A way to access hosting that is impossible to hack but requires the use of a command line. 


Cloudways was by far the easiest to transfer the website to. They have an excellent plugin via Blogvault for transfers, and it has always worked well. If you have migrated sites with services like WP Engine, chances are you have experienced this process.


Cloudways has a few excellent features worth mentioning: easy configuration of software packages like Redis Object cache, easy vertical scaling (you never sign in to DO or Vultr), easy domain management, and easy on and off email service for your server. Backups are easy to configure.


Since you never sign in to the host, your Cloudways account is the gateway to your hosting. In other words, your files on Digital Ocean or Vulr are not portable. This service is the closest to a managed shared host but provisioned on a dedicated virtual server. 


SpinUpWP is an excellent service. Once you get the lay of the land, the interface is super easy to use, and configuring backups couldn’t be easier. Digital Ocean is very native, and you can provision a Droplet right from SpinUp. Other services also work but require more steps to use. 


Easy to understand interface and beautiful design. There are fantastic help articles that go in-depth on multiple aspects of this style of hosting/provisioning. The object cache is on by default, with no extra configuration. Backups are easy to configure.


If you want it to be super secure, you need to know how to use SSH Keys. Vertical scaling requires going to the host and changing the server size/setup there.   


Forge is a tool we have used for years with Craft CMS installations, and we have found it to be super reliable and robust for a wide array of provisioning tasks. 


Easy enough to connect to multiple services. A simple way to edit server setting templates. Can change a few settings via field input.


Even nerdier than the others. If you don’t know anything about the technical aspects of hosting, you will be confused. The design feels outdated, which isn’t a big deal, but sometimes little details add up.

Now the foundation is set… who was the fastest?

Check out our next post to find out!