Drupal 7 Front-End Performance - Shared Hosting Recommendations

Speedometer - BoostedI've spent a lot of time working on making sure my smaller Drupal sites (mostly run on shared hosts or very small VPSes) run lean and mean. This helps the pages load faster, users are happier, and my hosting providers don't have to shut down any of my sites, even when they're under pretty heavy load.

Here are my three recommendations for making your Drupal 7 website run great on a shared (or low-end VPS) host:

Drupal Performance Guide - Drupal and the LAMP/LEMP stack

LAMP Stack with Drupal - Druplicon, Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP

Drupal is a scalable, flexible, and open source content management system that is built to run on a variety of server architectures. The only real requirement is that PHP runs on your system. You can run Linux, Microsoft, Mac OS X, etc., along with Apache, IIS, nginx, MariaDB, MySQL, PostgreSQL, etc. if you're willing to do a few extra things.

However, the overwhelming majority of Drupal websites use the most popular LAMP stack on the backend: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP, or the 'LEMP' variation, with Nginx instead of Apache. This white paper (which is a living document – I'll be updating it as time progresses) provides my thoughts on performance considerations for Drupal on a LAMP stack, but this information can be used for pretty much any system on any server, if you look at the basic principles.


Sending Recurring Emails to Thousands, using Simplenews as a Backend

I recently had a rather unique project requirement on one of my sites: I needed to send out a weekly email to hundreds (soon to be thousands) of site users, with the same template each week, but with the latest data from the website.

Basically, what I wanted to do was create a View on my site of the latest 10-12 items, and have that view be sent out to everyone (along with the views header/footer) in HTML (with a plain text alternative, of course), but I didn't want to have to create a new newsletter by hand each week to do this (this is something at which the Simplenews module excels... minus the automation).

After debating over whether I should write my own module to do the dirty work of sending out batches of emails, using modules like Views Send along with Rules and Views Bulk Operations, and some other crazy ideas, I finally found a potent combination for sending out automated weekly newsletters in a highly performant and optimal way, using the following modules:

  • Simplenews (for queuing/sending emails, managing subscriptions)
  • Rules (for scheduling the newsletters)
  • Elysia Cron (for easy cron scheduling and performance)
  • Views (to build the body of the newsletter)
  • Mime Mail (to send HTML emails, and to be able to easily have a custom email-friendly stylesheet)

Gzip/mod_deflate not Working? Check your Proxy Server

Recently, I was troubleshooting performance issues on a few different websites, and was stymied by the fact that YSlow repeatedly reported an F for "Compress components with gzip," even though online sites like GIDNetwork's Gzip test were reporting successful Gzipping of text components on the site.

Gzip Failed
Yslow results - not very happy.

After scratching my head for a while, I finally figured out the problem, hinted at by a comment on a question on Stack Overflow. Our work's proxy server was blocking the 'Accept-Encoding' http header that is sent along with every file request; this prevented a gzipped transfer of any file, thus Yslow gave an F.

I set up a secure tunnel (using SSH) from my computer to the web server directly, and then reloaded the page in FireFox, and re-ran YSlow:

From OSC: Caching a Page; Saving a Server

I posted a story over on Open Source Catholic today concerning page caching and its importance for saving a server under a heavy load (read: the slashdot effect). You can save a lot of resources on your server by not only using built-in page caching on your favorite CMS, but also exploring further options (for Drupal, there's Boost (read our case study on Boost); for WordPress, there's WP Super Cache). From OSC:

A couple months ago, the Archdiocese of Saint Louis announced that a new Archbishop had been chosen (then-Archbishop-elect Robert J. Carlson). For the announcement, the Archdiocese streamed the press conference online, then posted pictures on the St. Louis Review website of the day's events (updated every hour or two).

Using Boost with Drupal - Making a McWebsite

Boost Module for Drupal - Make Your Site a McSiteTo the uninitiated, Boost is a module for Drupal which has the potential to make your Drupal-based website run many times faster than it's currently running. Boost basically converts pages on a Drupal site into static html files, and allows your website to direct anonymous (non-logged-in) users to the cached html pages.

Doing so speeds your site up quite a bit, because instead of your web server having to run some PHP scripts and connect to your website's database, the server can simply send the complete html file, which requires no extra processor cycles or memory to compile. If your website has a lot of anonymous traffic, the potential speedup is very large. Instead of serving hundreds of users per minute, you could serve thousands.


Subscribe to RSS - performance