Incredibly slow load time -- hosting issue?

Awhile back I migrated from GoDaddy webhosting (weathertiger.org, still up) to DreamPress managed wordpress webhosting with DreamHost (weathertiger.com), where I at first enjoyed the increased speed, but then ran into several issues with their caching (Varnish) and its lack of compatibility with the WPMUdev plugins I needed to use (specifically, Membership 2 Pro, Appointments+, Ultimate Branding). After consulting with WPMUdev support and DreamHost support, I decided to "downgrade" from DreamPress to managed VPS hosting with DreamHost, which seemed like a pretty painless process initially.

My website has been running incredibly slow ever since, and I've been trying to troubleshoot, using a combination of caching and optimization plug-ins (Hummingbird, WP Super Cache) and even setting up CDN through a DreamHost/CloudFlare partnership. I made some headway with this, getting down from 18 sec to 12 sec average load time, but it's been steadily climbing back up again.

Maybe DreamHost's automatic "downgrade" feature did something screwy--should I try to figure out how to wipe my VPS and get a fresh wordpress install? or should I just find a new host? I've read good things about DreamHost VPS elsewhere, but I have had nothing but trouble. I am also engaging with DreamHost's support, but it tends to be quite slow and unhelpful compared to WPMUdev, so I thought I'd try here in parallel.

I just tried switching to the default 2016 theme and disabling all of the plugins, and my load time is still 7-8 seconds. I've enabled support access in case it helps. Please advise me on what I might do next.

Thanks!!
Erica

  • zulu11

    Hey Erica, I have visited weathertiger.org and it loads nice and fast (I'm in Australia)

    weathertiger.com is slower to load and appears to have no content? Maybe this is a DNS problem, I had a similar problem with a clients website and after transferring their domain to a new registrant the site speed was increased.

    I don't know much about this (I'm a noob) but perhaps different DNS servers could cause an issue? Are you domains registered through the same provider?

    Regards

    Gary

  • Zyniker

    zulu11 is certainly right that DNS can impact site performance (particularly load time). The Web Page Test site I linked in my previous reply will show how much of your site's load time is due to DNS. You mentioned you're using CloudFlare, so I doubt you'll be having any significant DNS issues (unless you have some strange configuration where you aren't hosting your DNS with CloudFlare).

  • Erica

    Zyniker: I ran the P3 Profiler and there was nothing out of the ordinary. I then disabled all of the plugins anyway, and it's still slow, so I don't think it's a plugin issue. I have run several page speed tests. They confirm that the server response is slow! Is there something else specific you're looking for...?

    zulu11: Thanks, weathertiger.org loads much faster than weathertiger.com, but we were initially seeing load times of even half that on DreamPress, and we didn't consider the GoDaddy hosting acceptably fast initially (thus the switch). weathertiger.com has no content because I reverted to the 2016 theme and turned off all of the plugins in the process of troubleshooting. I don't think it's a DNS problem -- the transition from GoDaddy to DreamPress for web hosting and GoDaddy to Hover for domain hosting was 6 weeks ago, and initially there was no problem with speed. The domain is still registered through Hover, and initially we were using Hover's DNS servers to be able to use them for mail, but since CloudFlare does not work unless the DNS hosting is with DreamHost, I did just switch the DNS to be pointed at DreamHost from Hover to try CloudFlare. This helped, not hurt, the load time. It is too early to transfer the domain registration (hasn't been 60 days since we moved it from GoDaddy to Hover).

  • Zyniker

    Which registrar you are using shouldn't matter at all. Try swapping the DNS over to CloudFlare (instead of running it through DreamHost). Also, notably, you can host your email with any provider regardless of where your DNS is being hosted (you just have to point the MX records to the right place(s)). Switching the DNS may shave a bit off your load times, but, as you said, it looks like almost the entirety of the load time is due to server response. Server response is a problem on DreamHost's end and they're the only ones who are going to be able to fix it.

  • Erica

    I'm aware that there are lots of ways I can juggle pointing my DNS and MX records, but I just don't see the point in playing around with it any further when it's simply not the issue. The only reason I've recently changed it at all was because of a requirement of using CloudFlare through the DreamHost panel.

    Right now I'm not using CloudFlare at all -- basically everything is deactivated. I would like to get the server cleanly functioning at a reasonable baseline before bending over backwards to shave load time down through caching and CDN. If I can't get load time below 6 seconds on a completely stripped down site, it doesn't seem worth fighting further and I'll probably be changing web hosts anyway.

  • Zyniker

    Once you have a proper CDN deployed, the load time of your site will be almost entirely dependent on the performance of the CDN, so the server time will become a much lower priority. Of course, it makes perfect sense to want your hosting provider to have reasonable server performance (which you are clearly not getting from DreamHost in this case). Have you tried stripping the site down to just a bare HTML file (and nothing else)? It would be interesting to see where the bottleneck is for the site. If it's a server response issue (which it very well might be), then there's literally nothing you can do about it except complain to DreamHost (or switch hosting providers).

  • Jaxom

    Hi Erica
    There are some odd comments in this post like DNS being the Issue.
    I have run speed checks on your .com site and your DNS responds to my request in 275 ms.
    Now the only time DNS would be an Issue is if I am in the UK and am looking at a site hosted in Australia without a CDN. There are also some comments on CDN's, yes they will speed up your load speed as the images and any videos will be uploaded by the CDN which is the node closest to the viewers physical location but the main site information still comes from your hosting provider.

    The results of the speed test is your site is configured correctly and scores 94/100 and loads in approx 2 seconds.

    The problem you are having is waiting 7 seconds for the server to deliver the content, this is a server side issue and the fact you are paying for a dedicated server is really bad, I would jump up and down on Dream Host.

    I hope this helps.

    Regards
    Jaxom

  • Erica

    In the 18 hours since I've posted and put in an urgent ticket with DreamHost, I've received many helpful responses here through the WPMUdev community and absolutely zero response from DreamHost, save for when I tried restarting my server, it hung, and I got an automated email chastising me for my memory use and encouraging me to spend more money with them. No thanks.

    I've had enough, I'm changing hosts. I've been very unimpressed with their support, having been outright lied to in their live chats and having to wait far too long for unhelpful responses from support tickets (e.g., being told by two different live chat employees that the admins would turn Varnish off for my managed DreamPress site and I just needed to wait patiently for them to get to my ticket, only to find out after an additional 12 hours that this is not even possible). It might be an academically interesting exercise to upload a bare html file and/or try to get DreamHost to identify and solve the problem with the server, but I don't think it would affect my decision about whether to switch at this point and I've wasted far too much time with them already, so I'm just going to cut my losses and move on.

    Thanks for the input, everyone.

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