Speed of Lite: How LiteSpeed web servers power enterprises
Software performance is always important. It’s even more important, however, when it directly impacts your customers. That’s a reality faced by hosting providers, where decisions about web server software can affect millions of websites.
Making the jump to LiteSpeed
There’s no disputing that Apache dominates the hosting software space. Of the top million websites online, a plurality of 38.7% rely on Apache software. But just because you’re the biggest doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best.
More attention is getting paid to the Apache drop-in replacement, LiteSpeed Web Server. With 6.5% of top websites already under its belt, LiteSpeed isn’t exactly new to the market, but its reputation and influence are growing.
Promising increased speed, security, and performance, switching to LiteSpeed makes sense for web hosts and can offer hugely beneficial outcomes for its users. However, one of the most appealing aspects is the ease with which LiteSpeed can be deployed on existing servers.
LiteSpeed was intentionally designed to work anywhere Apache was already running. Because of this, web hosts are able to roll LiteSpeed out without impacting their clients.
Faster websites guaranteed
When assessing server performance, a useful standard metric to look at is Time To First Byte (TTFB). This is a measure of the time between a resource being requested from a server and the first byte of data being received in response.
A typical web host using Apache could expect to see a TTFB a little shy of 500 milliseconds. This is fast and perfectly acceptable for some hosting companies. End users would perceive very little wait time between entering a URL and landing on a web page. However, more hosts understand the value of going faster.
After making the switch to LiteSpeed, the average TTFB across servers will typically drop below 300 milliseconds – a huge improvement in speed.
A lighter load and safer websites
Speed is just one performance factor improved by LiteSpeed. One of the reasons it’s so useful for high-traffic websites is how it lightens the burden on memory and CPU simply by optimizing and reducing the load. LiteSpeed manages this by virtually improving the PHP performance with its custom PHP API.
One of the most helpful features of LiteSpeed is the LiteSpeed Cache plugin available for most popular CMSs. Aside from the automatic page caching to greatly improve site loading times, the plugin comes with a suite of tools designed to boost performance.
Beyond ease, though, LiteSpeed offers added security to guard against some of the biggest CMS vulnerabilities. LiteSpeed protects often exploited PHP files, moves the Security Captcha from the application level to the server level, and stops malicious login attempts by blocking IP addresses automatically.
Better outcomes for customers
Speed and performance are all good when you’re running millions of websites on your servers, but ultimately, what’s the benefit of this switch for customers hosting their websites on LiteSpeed servers?
Simply put, website performance is a key factor in most companies’ online success.
Firstly, there’s the user experience angle. We all know by now that the longer a website takes to load, the higher the bounce rate will be. In fact, a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load will typically experience a 40% bounce rate. For businesses, that relates to a loss of 40% of potential customers and revenue simply because their servers are sluggish.
Then there’s the SEO angle. Since 2010, page speed has been a ranking factor for desktop search results, and since 2018 it’s also been a ranking factor for mobile searches. This means that website performance should be a top priority for any website owner hoping to rank at the top on SERPs.
It’s also worth noting that bounce rate is also taken into account by search engines, meaning that the overall user experience is reflected in rankings.
LiteSpeed’s servers' promises of increased security, page speed, mobile friendliness, and optimized content are all ranking factors that help websites rank well. This means more traffic to hosted websites and potentially higher conversions.
SEO traffic is the backbone of many brands’ online operations. Websites that load faster and are less resource-intensive translate directly to online success for millions of companies.
Hostinger: now traveling at LiteSpeed
For a case study in switching to LiteSpeed, we can turn to web hosting giant Hostinger.
Until 2019, Hostinger’s entire hosting architecture used Apache software. Apache was reliable, but the team behind Hostinger believed their servers’ performance could be boosted without a hardware switch.
That’s when they decided to move to LiteSpeed servers.
Despite the relative ease and simplicity of implementing LiteSpeed, through 2019, Hostinger still spent months slowly rolling out LiteSpeed to more and more of its servers. It worked closely with the LiteSpeed engineering team during this time to identify and address bugs quickly until both teams were confident that they’d found their stable version of the software.
As expected, Hostinger immediately saw their average TTFB drop by around 200 milliseconds, and with the LiteSpeed Cache plugin achieved a less than 100 millisecond average response time. After seeing these changes, they decided to make the LiteSpeed Cache plugin a default option for most hosting users.
These results scaled up to the millions of websites hosted by Hostinger represent a huge performance improvement. All this from a simple change of software.