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Why is Load Testing Useful for Nonprofits

Needing to know and understand the capabilities of a software or server is a portion in testing the limits of said programming. A commonly used practice of performance testing is a process called load testing which can be done with tools like LoadView and LoadRunner. This involves putting a certain amount of stress on a computer, software application, or IT system, to measure what it is able to withstand. Putting a load on a system that is well above its normal capacity is a separate process named stress testing, and for good reason.

There is no clear distinction as to when a test transitions from an average load to a stress test. Load testing can be done in a few ways. One would be to test the longevity of the software, or also called endurance. Another would be to test volume or in other words, the amount of workload that it is able to handle. However, is the developed software is not equipped to handle the load test due to its flaws, then what is intended to be a load test at first can quickly become a stress test without that intention? So ensure that before a load test is conducted, that the software or program is up to certain standards, in order to avoid a stress test that was not meant to occur. Some examples of load testing may include the following.

● Running a series of multiple applications on a server/software
● Downloading large files onto the computer
● Having the server cope with lots of traffic

Where is load testing conducted?

Load testing can be conducted in a few different settings. One could be in a well monitored lab area in which the server is under constant surveillance. As well as in the field where genuine real life data can be collected.

Why is load testing useful for nonprofits?

When it comes to testing the longevity of the system, this is to see whether the server has a high endurance. Essentially it is supposed to tell how long the system is able to run over a period of a constant moderate work load. As for volume testing, it involves evaluating if the system is able to handle a large amount of work or activity over a short time period. Both load testing and stress testing can play a crucial role in determining how well the computer, software, application etc, handles. The point of stress testing is to purposefully overload the system in order to see how far it can manage outside the boundaries of its expected performance.

Even if you’re running a nonprofit website, it’s important to understand that the faster it loads and the more reliable it is, the easier it is to get your message out to people, and this can be hard to do if you’re using low quality web hosting or you aren’t testing your servers properly. The first step is really to try and find the best web hosting for nonprofits, and then once you know you’re on a good server, you can go ahead and optimize your website to handle the load and performance. You’d be surprised at how many nonprofits forget about things like this when trying to build their websites.

While the goal of a load test is to see the maximum amount of stress a system is able to handle without having a significant downfall in performance. Load testing is a great measurement of your servers performance under realistic situations. It analyzes specific software for the intent of a multi user experience. The server is put through actual and virtual users that vary in number. Overall performance is then measured over these various numbers of users. This helps to pinpoint the areas of improvement for the software as a whole.

Service Level Agreements: Considerations and Concerns

Service level agreements provide an effective way to manage customer expectations and create common-ground to help understand services, priorities and responsibilities on the part of the Web hosting company. However, it’s not the panacea that will solve all of your communication problems or create the perfect working relationship. An effective SLA opens up the line of communication and helps customers and service providers understand expectations on both ends.

Establishing an SLA

Before you create an SLA, the customer and Web host should gather the required information needed to negotiate. Customers need to know their needs and priorities, while service providers need to have an understand of the level of service that can be provided to the customer. This can be accomplished by reviewing past service history and making an agreement based on past trends.

Agreeing to an SLA

Once a basic agreement has been formed, it’s important that both parties agree that a formation of a service agreement will be beneficial. Slapping an SLA on an unsuspecting customer typically backfires. It’s better to go into an SLA openly and with full cooperation of the customer. For a Web host, this part can be skipped for new customers. The Web host can simply post the SLA as a contract between the host and any new customers. Current customers may need to have the option to leave or take part in the creation of the agreement to avoid backlash.

Criteria to Include

One of the key elements of any Web hosting SLA is the degree of uptime. The SLA must clearly state what a customer can expect at any given time within the month, with the exception of scheduled maintenance. Next, the Web host must outline the type of equipment guaranteed to the customer. This gives the customer a clear indication of the speed and reliability of the servers they are signing up to use. Finally, the agreement should indicate that the power and infrastructure will be running unless there is notification ahead of time of any anticipated problems or service. If any of the elements in an SLA are not fulfilled, then the agreement must provide a remedy to give the customer a refund or some form of compensation of the failure.

Enforcing an SLA

If you find yourself in a situation where you need to lodge a complaint with your web host against your SLA because they aren’t delivering their end of the bargain, there are a number of things that you can do. First of all, you’ll need to have some outside data that’s unbiased in order to present the best case. If you aren’t already employing some type of SLA management solution right now, you may be putting yourself at a serious disadvantage when it comes to proving that your web host has violated the SLA. If you don’t have any outside information, you may be forced to rely on whatever data they have.

Keep in mind that even with some outside data, you’re still at the mercy of the terms of your SLA, and if you didn’t read it over carefully, you may find yourself disappointed in your options. Regardless, if your service is substandard, you should at least try to contact them and see what can be improved.

Slow Loading Websites and Their Impact on Visitors

Your website serves as a gateway for potential clients and customers to discover your services and products. It is essential to have a website that functions properly and is able to handle all of the content you wish to display and the amount of traffic you might receive. There is so much at stake that if your website does not perform as desired, and the clients might just leave your website and head towards the competition. This not only is money out of your pocket but it makes your competition stronger. That is exactly why you need to have a website that loads quickly. If you don’t have such a site, you are sure to see a rather drastic loss of visitors.

Ever since the creation of the Internet and mobile technology, the average attention span has continued to shrink. In fact, the average attention span currently sits at six seconds. This is a only second longer than the average attention span of a goldfish…think about that for a moment. This just paints a rather stark picture as to how quickly individuals want their information presented to them. In the Internet world, there are always other options available, so if your website does not load quickly, a visitor is just going to back out and look for another option. This can cause a drastically negative impact on your website. Slow loading websites send the visitors away, even if the content that eventually loads is worthwhile and quality. If you have a slow-loading website, you need to determine what is causing the slow load time and what you can do to go about correcting it.

For starters, you need to look at the page elements on your site. If the website you are using has an assortment of graphics, GIFs, videos and other content loading right on the front page, that may be the reason your website is not loading quickly. All of the information must be sent to the visitor’s browser, and unless they have both a quick connection and fast computer, it might result in a significant slow down in loading time. Should this prove to be the case, you need to streamline your website and correct the problem as quickly as possible.

However, if your website does not have the overabundance of content and graphics on the front page, the problem could be with your hosting. A host’s server should never be the reason your website is not loading quickly. If it is, it is time to move your website over to a different service provider. A company that is able to ensure your website always loads quickly and smoothly is going to ensure that you have a website that visitors are always able to reach, day or night.

Increasing Website Speed and Performance

Statistics show that even just a 1 second delay in how fast your website loads is enough to decrease the number of page views by 11% while also decreasing the amount of customer satisfaction by 16%. The same 1 second delay is also responsible for decreasing conversion by 7%. The faster your webpages load, the higher your customer satisfaction will be and the better chance you have of increasing your revenue; this was proved to be true when Amazon reported an increase of 1% in revenue for every 100 milliseconds of speed improvement they made to their website. Walmart also saw an increase in revenue, of 2%, for every second they improved their speed by. An Akamai study shows that if your website takes more than three seconds to load, you’re potentially losing 40% of viewers because they will abandon the site while 47% of people expect webpages to load within two seconds. Even if your website doesn’t sale a product or service, having a slow-loading page can cause you to lose readers.

Speeding up your website is critical for several reasons; keeping profits high, and enhancing customer satisfaction. If you run your own website or blog and struggle with it’s loading speed or performance, there are several solutions to increasing your server speed and enhancing your website’s performance.

Before you do anything to improve the speed of your site, it’s a good idea to run a website speed test first in order to get some preliminary data so you know where you’re starting from. That way, with any changes that you make you’ll know if you are actually making an improvement or not. One of the quickest ways of improving site speed is simplifying the website’s design; this can be done by streamlining the number of elements that are featured on your page, as well as using CSS in place of images whenever possible. When it comes to websites, leaner is always better. Another great way that works at improving site speed is to reduce server response time, which can be done by using a web monitoring solution which checks performance.

Another major factor that plays into how long it takes a website to load is its images. Oversized images takes a longer time to load so all images should be kept as small as possible and should never extend past the width of the website’s width; for example, if the website is 570px in width, the image should not be longer than that. Do not just set the image parameter to be width=570 if the image is larger because that will slow load times. You should crop and scale the image down to the actual size it needs to be.

In order to improve performance and speed times, you can also optimize CSS delivery, reduce the number of plug-ins that are used, prioritize abode-the-fold content, minimize HTTP requests, enable compression, enable browser caching, minimize resources, and reduce the amount of redirects which only increase the amount of loading time.

Building a User Friendly Website

There’s probably nothing more frustrating to someone searching the web then coming across a website that’s difficult to navigate and isn’t very user friendly. If you’re an owner of a website, you should want your site to be intuitive and not overly-complicated to navigate. If visitors become frustrated with your website and it’s cluttered, they’re not likely to return and so you’ve lost yourself a reader or customer. This is where being knowledgeable in how to build a user friendly website can come in handy.

One of the most important factors that can play into ensuring your website is user friendly is making sure that you have a simple navigation that’s easy to find and easy to follow. You should name each of your webpages appropriately and make sure that your sub navigation (if applicable) relates to the main navigation. If you’re a larger site that has more webpages to put into navigation, be careful to avoid cluttering the main navigation by creating a smaller navigation.

Aside from having an easy navigation, the website layout also plays an important role on determining how user friendly a website is. Your website’s layout should be clean and simple. Your visitors should be able to easily find information and navigate their way throughout your site. Confusing and complicated layouts are one of the top reasons websites lose traffic and potential customers.

Not only should your layout be clean and simple, it should also be visually appealing to visitors. While you don’t want to clutter your site with too many graphics, a few well-placed images can make a site more attractive.

Adding search functionality is another great way to ensuring your visitors will be satisfied as they navigate through your website. Adding a search bar allows visitors to easily find specific information they may be looking for and can save time from having to search all over your site for it when you’ve made it easy for them to find. Of course, the search bar itself should be easy to access and should appear on the home page of your website.

It’s also a good idea to make it easy for visitors to contact you. Placing your email, phone number, any information of contact that you would like your visitors to have, should be in the footer so it appears on every page of your website; making it easy to find by any visitor who wishes to obtain that information.

A user friendly website may also load faster, helping to prevent visitors from becoming impatient and leaving your site. Other things you can do may include ensuring that you have a good host, adequate bandwidth, and avoiding excessive page elements that can slow your site down.

Getting the Most Out of Your Web Server

We live in a fast-paced economy. Everyone wants stuff done
now. This includes our website visitors who will not become website customers if they feel our website load too slowly. Fortunately, you can do something about it. It all comes down to implementing a three-fold strategy of code optimization, cache control, and compression. With a few tweaks you can get the most of your web server.

Understand Your Web Server

Your first step is to understand your web server software.
While there are a few things that will apply to all servers, each web server has its own quirks and requirements. Now that you know your server, we can begin to improve its performance. These optimization tips work with any web server provided you use tools designed for your server.

Optimize Your Source Code

Most web server bottlenecks have nothing to do with your
server software, but with your web application itself. You will need an
awareness of web standards and best practices, but optimizing your application will take care of most of your problems. If you need help, you can seek the aid of a source code optimizer.

Implement Cache Control

Cache control policies inform client browsers how they
should cache and download your pages. With a proper cache policy in place, your visitors will only have to download common pieces of your website when necessary.

Pay Attention to Your Web Applications

Something to keep in mind with regard to web servers is that if you’re running a number of web applications and not monitoring them for performance, they could be substantially slowing down your website. In this situation, it would be wise to employ a web application monitoring solution that can help you ensure that your apps are performing properly. There are a number of companies like Pingdom, Site24x7, and Nagios that offer these types of solutions.

Implement HTTP Compression

Most webmasters overlook HTTP compression. Compression reduces the effective sizes of your files giving you faster download speeds. Every web server comes with a compression tool built in though you can always use a third-party solution if you want better control of it.

Optimize Your Development Process

You must optimize your entire development and deployment chain
as a single entity. Performance pitfalls can appear anywhere along the chain from source code development, server side processes, the connection between your server and visitors, and your visitors’ web browsers. You need to examine each link in the chain for improvement opportunities. For the most part, you will
just need to follow the tips I presented here modified for your own particular web server. Optimizing your source code, cache controls, and compression all reduces how much data you need to transmit ensuring that you get the most out of your web server. These strategies, along with leveraging your existing web infrastructure resources, will give you a more efficient web server, lower your bandwidth expense, and provide your users a much faster experience.