Why your business needs load testing

by Klaus on June 1, 2012

in Articles

Let me tell you a story from real life – my life, actually. In 2011, I was part of a team working on a new website – well, I was a very small part of the team, I had very little to do with the actual development of the site in question and I think what I did most of the little time I was working on that project, was being the middleman between the guys with the ideas/decisions and the developers.

The site was based on WordPress, heavily customized. WordPress ain’t bad, but knowing what we know today, we would probably have went with a custom site from scratch if we had to do it all over again  (projects have a tendency to get bigger and bigger) – but there was one good thing about WordPress which we would soon learn what was…

As the site was launched and press releases published and local media started picking it up, writing about it in newspapers and featuring it on local TV news, more and more people obviously came to the site to see what it was all about. Visitors on your site is good for business, many visitors is very good – but so many visitors that each pageload takes minutes, is very bad.

We quickly decided to move the site from VPS hosting to a dedicated server elsewhere – that helped a lot. But still, during peak, it could take up to 30 seconds for a page to load, which was of course unacceptable for visitors.

Short of having to re-code a lot of stuff, the main developer on the project decided to go with a WordPress cache plugin. Research revealed that we would probably be best of going with “WP Super Cache” as the best cache plugin for WordPress, unfortunately that plugin caused some problems with out site, so we went with “W3 Total Cache” which worked well (and is actually also being used here on TechPatio.com now!).

Wow, what a difference! Being able to cache the pages made the site work as if it wasn’t under peak load at all – that’s how big a difference caching did. The downside is, the visitors we had already lost due to the site being slow, or not working at all, were probably lost once and for all, probably never going to return. None of us had thought that the site would get so much traffic like it did, during peak, but of course we knew that it would get some but we figured it wouldn’t be a problem.

Big mistake. You should always prepare by doing load testing, if there’s any chance that media or something else “big” can take up your site and drive a lot of traffic to you – there’s nothing worse than wasting your 15 minutes of fame on downtime and not being able to convert new visitors into users or customers.

We did, in fact, perform load testing after installing the cache plugin and it was a huge difference. Unfortunately I do not remember the before/after numbers as this all happened last year. But it was definitely worth it!

Now, of course you can’t install a cache plugin on all websites, luckily WordPress have a few plugins that does a good job at it and I’m sure other CMS systems etc. probably also have something like it, otherwise you might want to look into a service like CloudFlare or some kind of load balancing software, depending on what server and web-software you’re running.

Bottom line – and moral of the story is: Do your load testing before it’s too late!

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Charmagne June 1, 2012 at 17:13

Good to know bout this load testing thingy.. This would be a very help for the site that I am bulding… I want it all in good state before launching.. Thanks for this! 🙂

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Dave Cousin June 2, 2012 at 18:44

If your planning a big PR push or advertising push especially then load testing is vital, seen it too many times sites or businesses appear on local news or on a major site and the site falls over and the opportunity is lost.

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Jack Sander June 3, 2012 at 10:44

W3 Total Cache is a great tool. I also use to have issues with the loading time, but now it all works smoothly.
Jack Sander recently posted… DIY Pergola Plans – How To Make A Pergola

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john June 4, 2012 at 14:51

Everything is a test and nothing is what it seems. Nice Article and I do follow. Thanks a lot,., Have a nice day ahead.

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SNPlanet June 6, 2012 at 02:06

I’m using W3 Total Cache and be able to reach an A ranking both on Page Speed (Google) and Yslow (Yahoo).
However even the theme that you use play a big role into page load challenge.

Thank you for your article, I never think about testing my site with overload simulation. I’m still able to manage all my visitors with a shared hosting so I don’t think that I could overload my site sooner.

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Fedai June 24, 2012 at 21:07

I am also running W3 Total Cache and its doing its job quite good. My site hasn’t been stress tested with a crowd of visitors coming in, but at least I have some preparation ready.

Thanks for the notice in case my site will hit maximum strain at some point.
Fedai recently posted… How to Speed Up Your Computer

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