Attempting to reduce my website’s bandwidth usage

This website is in a spot of trouble. Over the last few months, I’ve seen the bandwidth usage grow dramatically although it seems to have grown faster than the number of subscribers/readers. We’re not talking vast volumes here and my hosting provider has been very understanding, but even so it’s time to do something about it.

So I had a think, and came up with three options:

  1. Don’t write anything. Tried that for half of June (when I was on holiday). No noticeable change in the webstats!
  2. Write rubbish. It’s debatable as to whether that’s a continuation of the status quo.
  3. Drp ll th vwls s f wrtng txt mssgs.
  4. Optimise the site to reduce bandwidth usage, without a major rewrite. Yeah! That sounds like a challenge.

So, option four sounded like the best course of action. There are two main elements to consider in this:

  1. Site performance (i.e. how fast pages load).
  2. Bandwidth usage.

As far as I can tell, my site performance is not blindingly fast but it’s OK. I could use something like the WP-Cache plugin to cache content but, although that should reduce the load on the server, it won’t actually decrease my bandwidth usage. In fact it might increase it as I’d need to turn off HTTP compression.

That led me to concentrate on the bandwidth issues. This is what I tried (based mostly on Jeff Atwood’s experience of reducing his site’s bandwidth usage):

  • Shut out the spammers. Akismet had blocked over 7000 spam messages in 15 days and each of these would have loaded pages and leeched some bandwidth in the process. Using the Bad Behaviour plugin started to reduce that, blocking IP known spammers based on their IP address. Hopefully it hasn’t blocked legitimate users too. Please let me know if it has blocked you (assuming you can read this!).
  • Compress the content. Check that HTTP compression is enabled for the site (it was). According to Port 80 Software’s real-time compression check, this both reduces my file size by about 77% and decreases download times by 410%. It’s also possible to compress (i.e. remove whitespace and comments) in CSS and JavaScript (as well as tools for HTML compression) but in my opinion, the benefits are slim (as these files are already compressed with HTTP compression) and code readability is more important to me (although at 12.7KB, my main stylesheet is a little on the bloated side of things – and it is one file that gets loaded frequently by clients).
  • Optimise the graphics. I already use Adobe Photoshop/ImageReady to save web optimised graphics but I used a Macintosh utility that Alex pointed me to called Ping to optimise the .PNG files that make up about half the graphics on this site (I still need to do something with the .JPGs and .GIFs) and that shaved just over 10% off their file size – not a huge reduction but it should help.
  • Outsource. Switching the main RSS feed to FeedBurner made me nervous. I’d rather have all my readers come to my domain than to one over which I have no control but then again FeedBurner gives me some great analysis tools. Then I found out about Feedburner’s MyBrand feature (previously a chargable option but free since Feedburner was acquired by Google) which lets me use feeds.markwilson.co.uk (i.e. a domain under my control) instead of feeds.feedburner.com. Combined with the FeedSmith plugin, this has let me keep control over all of my feeds. One more option is to use an external image provider (Jeff Atwood recommends Amazon S3 but I haven’t tried that yet).

At the moment it’s still early days but I do have a feeling that I’m not eating up my bandwidth quite as quickly as I was. I’ll watch the webstats over the coming days and weeks and hope to see a downward trend.

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