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13 Posts authored by: ckirlin

If you distribute content at significant scale, you probably count on a content delivery network (CDN) service provider to ensure that your content is always available.

 

But what happens when you need to do the reverse—to remove your content from a user's access path, just as fast as you delivered it? What happens when hundreds of copies of your file are cached across multiple geo locations, and you need to purge them all immediately?

 

Consider these scenarios:

 

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(1) An e-commerce company mistakenly posts the wrong image for a low-cost item in its online inventory, displaying the image of a $1,200 product with a $90 price tag.

 

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(2) A global software company discovers a glitch during beta testing, which could cause security issues and provoke customer anger and mistrust. The testing team must react quickly to prevent users from downloading the incorrect version.

 

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(3) The top article on a popular news site contains a reporting error, causing readers to act on false information about a major economic issue and potentially affecting the stock market.

 

 

These are extreme examples, but surprisingly common. Consider Amazon's mistaken $0.01 sale of the $599 LG G4 smartphone, the case of the missing Apple Music files, and the New York Times' premature publication of two conflicting articles about a U.S. Senate vote.

 

CDNs receive regular requests from customers that need to purge content from cache right now. Although their situations are urgent, customers are often left tapping their fingers while content is manually deleted from a centralized queue. Requests can become backlogged and purges can take hours to execute.

 

A less dramatic example is an organization that regularly replaces or deletes files like scripts and style sheets. In these cases, the consequences of serving stale content may not be as dire. However, purging can still cost your business in the form of process inefficiency.

 

Even with self-service options, submitting a single command can require a clunky, multi-step workflow that is not repeatable. And verifying that content was actually purged, especially from multiple servers, is a resource drain that consumes valuable cycles and leaves you guessing.

 

The Internet is a globally interconnected superhighway, where information moves fast and business have to move even faster. SmartPurge from Limelight allows you to shortcut the problems normally associated with purge, deleting content permanently from the network edge in a matter of seconds and removing guesswork from the process.

 

Check out this short video demo from CDN expert Steve Miller-Jones to see how it works.

 

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In this video demo, Limelight Product Manager Steve Miller-Jones demonstrates how to purge content from the Limelight content delivery network (CDN) in a matter of seconds. Orchestrate Delivery customers can access an intuitive interface via the Control management portal, and remove content from user access with a real-time effect using SmartPurge.

 

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ckirlin

Super Stream Sunday: Who's In?

Posted by ckirlin Jan 30, 2015

Super Bowl 2015.jpg

Who's planning to watch the Super Bowl online this Sunday?

 

2015 is the fourth consecutive year that fans can catch the live game online. Since NBC announced that game day activities will be streamed for 11 glorious hours—including, for the first time ever, the halftime show—to U.S. based desktop and tablet viewers, free of charge, anticipation has been building like never before. (The mobile live stream is available at no charge exclusively to U.S. based Verizon subscribers via the NFL mobile app.)

 

Oh, and bonus for pay TV subscribers: Your cord-cutting loved ones will stop asking to "borrow" your credentials! Terrific.

 

With media fragmentation growing and the sales impact of traditional Super Bowl advertising being called into question, NBC's Super Stream Sunday will prove to be an effective monetization strategy in the long run. Online streaming gives advertisers the ability to reach additional viewers, with the added potential of serving more targeted ads.

 

Still, at this point in history, why would any advertiser invest in a channel that is historically 200x smaller than the linear broadcast audience, as 18 of the 70 Super Bowl XLIX telecast advertisers did? A 30-second national television spot sold for $4.5 million this year, and while I have not seen verifiable reports of what it cost to run an online spot, NBC reports that it generated "eight figures" of revenue in online ad sales, or 3x what it did online in 2012. So while the cost of running online ads alongside televised ads was not monumental, the CPM is dramatically higher.

 

Which may explain why all but one of the Super Bowl advertisers are running the same creative on linear broadcast and online this year. Until the ROI of the model is proven, incurring additional production costs (which average $1 million per spot) may not be at the top of the list for brands that just paid the highest price for a Super Bowl spot in television history... though having an online presence certainly is.

 

Outlier T-Mobile does plan to run a spot titled The Vulture, which is the first-ever Super Bowl ad created specifically for digital broadcast. I believe we will see this trend continue. By broadcasting their ads live to an online-only audience, brands can reach a demographic that was previously out of reach on Super Bowl Sunday: cord cutters. It is a well documented reality that most millennials just don't watch live TV, and they aren't the only ones. When these consumers gather in the digital arena for game day, brands have a collective captive audience. Today's cord cutters are tomorrow's purchasing power after all, and advertisers have to start somewhere. TV 2.0 is here.

 

This year, total projected Super Bowl viewership is expected to increase by 150% over 2014; I expect the portion of online viewers to rise even more dramatically than that, beating last year's average of over 500,000 viewers per minute. As a point of comparison, online viewership in the U.S. exceeded 5 million for the U.S./Belgium match in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, shattering previous records. While I do not expect online Super Bowl viewership to be that high, I won't be surprised if it doubles from last year to hit the million mark.

 

Whether advertisers see returns from their online spots remains to be seen. But live sports are one of the last holdouts of linear broadcast, and the Super Bowl is arguably the paragon of live sports casting in the U.S. The erosion of linear TV advertising revenues has broadcasters pursuing other options. Free online streaming of the Super Bowl XLIX is one of them.

 

How do you think it will play out—for viewers, brands, and broadcasters? Bit of a nail biter if I do say so myself.

Originally published September 24, 2014

 

Mike Hendrickson, Vice President for Content Strategy at O’Reilly Media, interviewed Steve Miller-Jones, Director of Product Management at Limelight Networks, during the 2014 Velocity conference in New York.

 

Topics they covered:

 

  • Who is Limelight Networks?
  • Why real user measurement (RUM) helps content distributors
  • Delivering dynamic website content faster, globally
  • How to optimize content delivery from origin to ISP: first mile, middle mile, and last mile acceleration

 

Catch highlights from their interview below! (Total length: 00:05:36.)



Originally published July 27, 2014

 

If you use a website to grow your business, then you need to know how online performance impacts your bottom line.

But you might be surprised to find out just how drastic the impact can be.

 

This infographic gives you the inside story.

 

Twitter_logo_blue Tweet this infographic: Get the facts: Web speed and your bottom line – an infographic from @LLNW

 

 

Click the infographic to enlarge it.

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Twitter_logo_blue Tweet this infographic: Get the facts: Web speed and your bottom line – an infographic from @LLNW

Originally published September 3, 2014

 

Right now, media and broadcast outlets are confronted with a remarkable opportunity for growth. Consumer demand for online video content has been well documented; as Cisco has widely reported, it is set to double by 2018.

Limelight Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters

 

Content owners seeking to leverage this market opportunity will do anything to meet the overwhelming demand… even at the expense of operational efficiency. They understand that however costly disjointed workflows and disconnected third party technology solutions may be, the implications of content being unavailable to viewers—even for an instant—are even costlier. The broadcast generation, a consumer base that expects online media to perform at the same level as traditional linear broadcast, simply assumes that content will be delivered flawlessly to any device.

 

Broadcasters and content owners need a unified solution to distribute media easily, quickly, and securely to this worldwide audience on a multitude of platforms and devices.

 

Today, Limelight Networks announced the launch of the Limelight Orchestrate™ solution for Media and Broadcasters  (Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters): a powerful, integrated, cloud-based workflow that enables media delivery to the broadcast generation.

 

Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters integrates multiple pieces of a traditional workflow using cloud components connected across the private, global Limelight network. Content providers can reduce the complexity associated with traditional online media publishing, freeing management to focus on revenue-building activities and streamlining operations.

 

Combining the power of Limelight Orchestrate Content Delivery, Limelight Orchestrate Cloud Storage, and Limelight Orchestrate Video, the solution is divided into four key areas:

 

  • Ingest: Customers can upload content to the Orchestrate Cloud Storage platform from globally distributed ingest points. Through policy, files are automatically and instantaneously replicated to worldwide points of presence (POPs) strategically located at the edge of viewer access networks—effectively eliminating the manual steps associated with global distribution.
  • Convert: With just a single mezzanine file, Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters automatically transforms content into the formats required for optimal performance on mobile, desktop, set-top, and other devices. Thanks to the proprietary Zero Time to Publish (ZTP) feature, content can be made available on demand before transcoding has even finished. DRM support and authentication services add additional security for protected content, while seamless ad integration facilitates monetization.
  • Deliver: Once content has been ingested and converted to appropriate formats, the globally distributed Limelight content delivery network speeds time to market. Files are placed in cache, including tens of thousands of streaming servers, according to business logic determined by the customer. An intelligent software layer detects the viewer’s requesting device to optimize delivery in real time. And with over 9 Tbps of egress capacity, the network can scale rapidly for planned or unplanned traffic.
  • Playback: Media and broadcast outlets are judged by the quality of the playback experience they provide. Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters delivers a seamless multiscreen experience for live sport games, movies on demand, breaking news, and more. Built-in adaptive bitrate streaming adjusts playback for different bandwidth environments. Multi-device media delivery ensures that video is delivered flawlessly to mobile and ultra HD devices alike. Finally, built-in analytics give content owners the insight required to measure, and maximize, impact.

 

Limelight customers that take advantage of the solution enjoy a more efficient workflow, better performance, broader reach, greater security, and increased revenues. Stefano Flamia, CTO of Italian video service CHILI stated, “At CHILI, we need to be able to efficiently deliver content to our customers around Europe, to any device, while managing the rapid growth of our content. That’s why we chose Limelight. Our use of the Limelight Orchestrate solution enables us to manage large amounts of objects and to offer fast content availability, while managing spikes in demand and controlling our delivery costs.”Limelight Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters is the easiest, fastest, and most economical solution for content providers that need to deliver broadcast quality at global scale. Learn more here or explore related resources below.

 

Orchestrate for Media & Broadcaster Workflow

 

Related resources:

  • Press release: Limelight Announces New Digital Content Delivery Solution for Media and Broadcasters
  • Solution brief: Limelight Orchestrate for Media and Broadcasters
  • White paper: Delivering to the Broadcast Quality Generation
  • Case study: How StreamOn Revolutionized Media Delivery
  • Online community: Find your peers and broadcast experts at Limelight Connect

Originally published August 5, 2014

 

This is blog post #8, the final installment in our blog series #OptimizeDigital, where we explore themes based on our newly released book Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). You can catch up on the previous post here.

 

Have you followed along with our #OptimizeDigital blog series? Are you a master of general web performance principles? Have you been working hard to build a faster website?

 

Then you are ready to become the Performance Champion of your organization.

 

Performance Champions do more than talk about the benefits of great web performance; they know how to build a compelling case for it… one that will win buy-in from senior management and achieve tangible business benefits.

 

These four tips will help you do just that.

 

Tip 1: Benchmark Yourself

 

When trying to optimize a website, it is important to identify key performance indicators (KPIs). KPIs help you measure progress and remain aligned with the goals of your business. Once you know your KPIs (here’s a handy list), you can analyze your performance against them. There are plenty of free tools to help you do so.

 

  • HTTP Archive: Enter any URL to view data such as millisecond-level screen shots, or larger trends in transfer size and request.
  • Gomez: Test your page download time with details by object type from various global regions.
  • Keynote: Download free apps (including mobile and Internet testing environments) with a focus on real user monitoring.
  • Webpagetest: Test your speed by browser and mobile device type. Create a video file of the filmstrip to include in presentations.

 

And while you’re at it, don’t forget about the competition. Knowing how your web content performs against theirs is important in making the case for performance to your executive leadership. Some of the performance tests you run on your own websites can be run on the competition, too.There are even tools to help you benchmark your performance against the standards of your industry as a whole. You can get started with Compuware APM’s benchmark tool and Alexa Internet, Inc.’s Top Sites list.

 

Tip 2: Quantify ValueExecutive management may not be interested in knowing that you shaved milliseconds off load times or deferred scripts. You have to build the case for performance in terms that are important to them, and that is not likely to be technical speeds and feeds.No secret here: The key to securing investment in web optimization projects is to quantify the financial value. It may be a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) or higher return on investment (ROI). It may be increased revenues or decreased capital expenses. Whatever the metric, there is a financial impact attached to your web performance.Above all, management will want to know what that financial impact is.

 

Tip 3: Build Your Partner EcosystemWeb optimization requires an entire technology ecosystem. The ecosystem has to integrate seamlessly with your existing technology, and automate workflows at every opportunity for higher return on investment (ROI—a key theme for your executive leadership). Moreover, it has to scale to meet your unpredictable web traffic patterns; your executive team may not be inclined to build out to peak capacity.A content delivery network (CDN) like Limelight Networks is a critical element of this ecosystem and can significantly improve web performance. When choosing a CDN or any ecosystem partners, pay attention to these qualities:

 

  • Integration
  • Manageability
  • High performance
  • Resiliency
  • Elasticity
  • Future proofing

 

Though it seems self-evident, this bears repeating: The performance of your web content is only as good as the networks that you choose to deliver it. Choose wisely.

 

Tip 4: Schedule System Checks

 

Performance Champions know that improving performance is not a one-time engagement.

 

Sure, some aspects of performance optimization can be automated in time. But the results need to be continually assessed and re-evaluated.

Look to real user measurement (RUM) for a handle on how users are benefitting from your efforts. Also, live reporting and analytics should be made available to you by your CDN on a geographical basis in real time or near real time. Finally, it is best practice to conduct a high-level performance review against your KPIs and re-audit your content on a monthly basis, to monitor changes or trends worthy of your attention.

 

But the executive team will want to know how you are progressing against company objectives. You will want to show results that speak to revenue, savings, business value, customer satisfaction, and other matters uniquely important to senior management.

 

The Final Word

 

Your company has invested a tremendous amount of work in developing great digital content. But unless it is delivered successfully—unless it performs in a way that allows end users to locate and interact with it in the way they want—what’s the point?

 

Fortunately, there is a wealth of tools at your disposal to overcome performance challenges. An architected and managed approach yields real performance gains along the entire delivery path. It maximizes internal resources. It future proofs your business. And most importantly, it creates a great digital experience for your end users.

 

As the company’s Performance Champion, you are in a position to make it happen… provided you have the right tools in hand.

 

Ready to get started? I welcome you to consult with our experts, participate in our online community, and download our book, Optimizing the Digital Experience, to learn more.

 

Thanks for reading the #OptimizeDigital series, and happy web performance!

Originally published June 4, 2014

 

On June 4, Limelight Networks Solutions Engineer Adam Copeland presented the webinar 5 Things the Fastest Websites Did First (And You Can Do, Too)!

 

 

View it on demand to discover how leading organizations approach web performance.

 

Fair warning: This is not your usual web performance webinar. It’s all about the strategy you need to build before you start minifying, compressing, and prioritizing scripts.

 

Twitter_logo_blue Tweet this post: Webinar on demand: 5 Things the Fastest Websites Did First

 

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Click to view the webinar

 

Want to know more about web performance as a strategy? Download the book Delivering the Digital Experience: A Step by Step Guide to High Performing Websites and Web Applications and join the #OptimizeDigital conversation on Twitter.

 

Twitter_logo_blue Tweet this post: Webinar on demand: 5 Things the Fastest Websites Did First

Originally published May 20, 2014

 

This is blog post #5 in our blog series #OptimizeDigital, where we explore themes based on our newly released book Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). You can catch up on the previous post here.

Twitter_logo_blue Tweet this post: Currently reading: How to audit content for better web performance

 

Let’s say you are a web performance rock star. You “get” performance, you know why it can be less than stellar, you have defined KPIs, and you put a monitoring system in place to track progress. (Hint for those of you who are not yet web performance rock stars: click those links for a crash-course-by-blog or read chapters 1-3 of Optimizing the Digital Experience.)

 

Congratulations! It’s optimization time. Do you know what your optimization strategy will look like? What kind of technology ecosystem is required to support your goals?

 

This simple exercise can pave the way.

 

For the sake of example, imagine that your objective is to improve speed and end user experience to drive online sales of a new product. Your website visitors are complaining about a slow experience. Bounce rates are high. But your tests show that your product page is loading quickly.

 

If your site isn’t slow, why are users so quick to leave?

 

Digging a little deeper into the analytics, you see that your video is buffering. Low quality network connections in your key market are to blame. As a result of poor video performance, your website’s time to interact (TTI)—the milliseconds users must wait to access key content, like product videos—is high. The page loads completely but the player window is blank, so visitors perceive your entire site as slow. And they leave.

 

Here is where a content audit comes in handy. It isn’t complicated and it can be done fairly quickly. Simply correlating content type with performance issues takes the guesswork out of finding the most effective optimization for your use case.

 

First, round up the content you want to optimize. Then, use this framework to guide you.

 

web performance optimization audit

 

The output of your audit can be as simple as a spreadsheet or summary report. Remember, the objective is to understand how your content type impacts performance so you can identify the most effective solution.

 

If static content is being bottlenecked in the middle mile between your origin server and global audience, for example, then you may need to cache files closer to end users. Whereas browser diversity in the last mile may call for an acceleration solution to speed up small object loading on the front end. And your product video—the one that was buffering in the example above, even though the rest of your page was performing well—requires adaptive bitrate streaming.

Once you audit content, how do you optimize it?

 

Next week’s post presents a closer look at how to use the results of your content audit to your performance advantage. If you are an overachiever (or just really impatient) you can read ahead to chapters 5 and 6 of Optimizing the Digital Experience to find out how different performance solutions map to different content types.

And be sure to register for our June 4 webinar with Limelight performance expert and Solutions Engineer Adam Copeland. Rumor has it that he’s going to reveal what makes the fastest websites in the world so fast.

 

Meanwhile, tweet your questions and thoughts on how to [#optimizedigital].

 

Questions? Drop me a note or find Limelight on Twitter at @LLNW.

 

Want to learn more about web performance? Download the book Optimizing the Digital Experience for an in-depth look at the topics presented in this blog series.

optimizingthedigitalepxerience

Click to download

Originally published May 13, 2014

 

This is blog post #4 in our blog series #OptimizeDigital, where we explore themes based on our newly released book Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). You can catch up on the previous post here.

 

Tweet this post: Currently reading: Web performance blind spots and how to measure them

 

Whether you are fine-tuning your web optimization strategy or just curious about how fast your site loads, you need an accurate answer to the question, “How is my online performance?”

 

One common way to measure performance is to log on to the company website or portal and take note of the response time.

 

For many IT managers who do this, performance seems great. That’s why it is such a shock when you get the angry call from an executive on a business trip across the world demanding to know why the corporate website won’t load in Country X.

Gulp.

flickr/Marvin Lee
Flickr/Marvin Lee

In truth, you cannot really experience your website or app from corporate data centers the same way your audience experiences it. Of course delivery looks blazing fast when you are measuring performance on the server side, from the within the network where content is served!

 

But for your end users, it can be a different story. Objects may be loading slowly in the browser because they are not optimized. Or, the wrong things are loading in the wrong order. If nothing else, the latency resulting from real-world distance between your servers and your audience adds a few seconds, even just a few milliseconds, to load times; still, it is enough to push user wait times into the noticeably unacceptable range.

 

The user experience is a surprisingly common blind spot when it comes to web performance testing. That vast, un-optimized stretch of public Internet between you and your end users is full of bottlenecks that can sabotage performance, and should be taken into account when looking at how your website or app is really performing. The best option to measure performance is with real user monitoring (RUM). RUM monitors actual user interaction with your website or application.

 

RUM functions by injecting a small piece of code, typically JavaScript, into the digital content you want to analyze (your site, for example). The code captures statistics like available bandwidth, CPU usage, time to action, and similar trends. It records and relays download times and task completion times and flags certain events if they are not within the normal threshold. With RUM, any page or transaction can be analyzed by geographical location, IP blocks, and regions.

RUM tools are available for free, or on a paid basis. Popular RUM services are:

 

 

If you begin to monitor your performance with RUM, remember to combine metrics from every category of KPI: speed, availability, scalability, multi-device support, and end user experience. After all, improving performance is not just about making your website faster. It’s about enabling your end users to perform the tasks they need to perform to support your business objectives.

 

When you begin testing, you will probably uncover performance issues. Stick with us to find out how you can address them.

 

Meanwhile, the conversation goes on in Twitterland [#optimizedigital].

 

Questions? Drop me a note or find me on Twitter at @clarekirlin.

 

Want to learn more about web performance? Download the book Optimizing the Digital Experience for an in-depth look at the topics presented in this blog series.

optimizingthedigitalepxerience

Click to download

Originally published April 22, 2014

 

Welcome to the second post in our blog series #OptimizeDigital, where we explore themes based on our newly released ebook Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). Feel free to join the ongoing discussion on Twitter® by using the hashtag #OptimizeDigital. And for those of you who missed last week’s post, catch up here.

 

There is no sense in sugarcoating this: Creating a great digital experience for your audience is really hard!

 

But the rewards of getting it right are yours to reap, provided that you effectively locate and remove the web performance bottlenecks that stand in your way. In this post, I will introduce you to those bottlenecks so you know what you are up against in the battle for a better digital experience.

 

Network Segments

 

The network that delivers your digital content is often discussed in three segments: first mile, middle mile, and last mile. These segments connect audiences from their devices to your valuable content. The quality of their experience results from the performance along all three segments.

 

Network Segments

 

Each segment presents unique performance challenges. Let’s take a closer look.

 

Last mile: Beginning with your audience, the last mile is where content and requests travel between your user’s access network and their device. This is the zone most prone to performance issues that can go undetected; most content providers have very little insight into what happens in the last mile. Here is what to watch out for.

 

  1. Latency: This is the biggest performance killer in the last mile. Even if broadband penetration is increasing globally, end users increasingly access your content through multiple devices and over wireless connections. Wireless networks can introduce seconds of latency. In the face of high latency, Internet protocols reduce throughput—a vicious cycle.
  2. Congestion: Even with high bandwidth, traffic can exceed capacity in certain situations. Requests from hundreds of thousands or even millions of end users may all be converging on the same 1-gigabit-per-second link exiting a single region. Flash crowds converging on viral content constrain access to your files.
  3. Browser diversity: Trying to keep up with every type of browser is a losing proposition, even for the most talented developers. In fact, the mechanisms that your developers are putting in place to optimize performance for browsers today may actually hurt performance when the next version of the browser is released.
  4. Content complexity: Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 users guided their own digital experiences. Now content guides the user, creating personalized journeys based on individual profiles. This involves a huge amount of dynamic content, which in turn means more round trip requests traveling across the Internet, to more servers, from more users than ever before.
  5. Content structure: A simple webpage can contain tens of styling libraries, which introduce round trip time delays and have different execution times. They load up in the order they are downloaded, forcing end users to wait before interacting with your content. If a high resolution image loads first, for example, browser resources and bandwidth are consumed rapidly.

 

Middle mile: This is the distance between your end user’s access network and the server where your content is stored. Whereas ISPs and mobile networks have an incentive to improve performance across the last mile of the delivery path, the middle mile is a different story. It can be a vast, un-optimized, and ungovernable stretch of public Internet over which you have absolutely no control. (It is also where HTML chattiness and TCP latency pile up fast.) Every request that travels back to the origin must cross the middle mile. Look out!

 

  1. Latency: It’s not just a last mile problem. Requests and data moving from end user access networks to your origin and back can travel through dozens of networks in just one round trip. TCP only allows those requests to be transferred incrementally, and limits the amount of data transferred during each request or TCP window. Any amount of packet loss requires retransmission, which further decreases throughput.
  2. Lack of control over network types: The biggest portion of the Internet resides between your ISP and your end user’s access network. Many heterogeneous networks, Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) sessions, public routes, latency, packet loss and variance in quality of service (QoS) affect your content along the way.
  3. Content rules: Caching behavior can easily be manipulated by a malicious proxy sitting in the middle mile, causing performance issues on HTTP traffic. And poorly configured websites and applications may have many fragmented components including scripts, stylesheets, and images, mostly in an HTML container. The way that browsers request sequentially and in parallel adds many round trips to render a webpage. The simple formula for latency can thus be attributed to two main factors: latency between two nodes, and the number of round trips required.
  4. Network equipment configuration: Fewer hops do not necessarily mean that content is transferred more quickly. Two hops across a path that has high latency and packet loss are inferior to three hops across a faster route. Depending on how equipment is configured, content may not be moving efficiently across the delivery path.

 

First mile: It begins at your origin servers and extends to the point where you give up control to another party (such as a transit provider or CDN). Many organizations spend considerable capital on the development and maintenance of IT resources at the origin: custom developed applications, servers, data centers and networking equipment, to name a few. And every one of them is performance sensitive. Be on alert for these top performance killers.

 

  1. Complex technology ecosystem: Many IT resources are custom developed applications built on a mix of varied technologies. This not only adds complexity to your design and architecture, but protocol differences can also lead to performance degradation. Lack of software integration can mean that information is not shared among sales and marketing automation, CRM, content management, and other platforms—limiting insight into performance issues and creating a disjointed end user experience.
  2. Network device resource limitations: Servers, switches, and routing equipment have limited computing memory; if they are not optimally load balanced, they can become quickly overloaded with a simple web application. Reducing the payload size forces a tradeoff between server consumption and performance.
  3. Web server resource limitations: Most webpages and applications hosted on your equipment have transaction-completion-time boundaries. Assets like script, images, and stylesheets have to be fetched and served over the wire in milliseconds. The cycle repeats millions of times per day (billions for popular applications). But when RAM and CPU capacity are limited, a database query, disk read/write, or cached response could add up to several seconds’ difference in response times.
  4. Content rules: A server has to set content rules on caching and how much time an object can be retained in the browser before sending a request to refresh it. Each refresh request adds a read/write load to all of the components of your origin: router, storage disk, bandwidth and CPU.
  5. SSL processing: SSL transactions have more server consumption and utilization than normal transactions, and they are time sensitive. Using the same CPU for concurrent SSL transactions introduces latency in the overall system due to extra steps required in authentication, certificate handling and digital handshakes.

 

The next question is obvious: With so many factors impacting performance and so much of what happens to your content seemingly out of your control, how do you go about formulating a strategy that supports better performance?

 

Identify your KPIs.

 

By the way, if you guessed that our next blog post is all about identifying KPIs, then you were correct. And if you want to talk web performance between now and then, join the #OptimizeDigital discussion with @LLNW.

 

Questions? Drop me a note or find me on Twitter at @clarekirlin.

 

Want to learn more about web performance? Download the book Optimizing the Digital Experience for an in-depth look at the topics presented in this blog series.

optimizingthedigitalepxerience

Originally published April 28, 2014

 

Welcome to post #3 in our blog series #OptimizeDigital, where we explore themes based on our newly released book Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). The discussion is live on Twitter® (#OptimizeDigital) and you can catch the previous post in our series here.

 

Achieving great online performance is hard. If you’ve been following along with this blog series, you understand why.

 

If great performance would have a positive impact on your business (it would!), then you’ll need to define a starting point: your performance baseline. Your baseline allows you to monitor progress toward your goal of optimizing the digital experiences that your business delivers.

 

But ask ten people in your organization what “better web performance” means, and you’ll get at least ten different answers. Reduced site load times. Increased page speed. Improved conversion rates. Lower shopping cart abandonment rates. Faster rendering on mobile. And on and on.

 

All of these  answers illustrate one critical aspect: Performance is about more than speed alone. Choosing a broad set of performance KPIs to track against your baseline gives you more than just a faster website. It gives you a true digital experience optimization strategy.

 

Generally speaking, performance related KPIs can be grouped into five categories. (Chapter 3 of Optimizing the Digital Experience provides an in-depth list of specific KPIs that fall into each of these categories.)

 

  1. Speed: Yes, speed is the most commonly used indicator of performance. The primary ways to measure speed are a system’s responsiveness to a request, and the end user’s ability to interact with content once that response is completed.
  2. Availability: Availability is a given; your content must be consistently available and secure at all times. If visitors go to your website and cannot find the content they want, then they leave… possibly forever. There are too many alternatives out there. In this case, speed has little to do with it. You need to make certain that your website, content servers, and network links are always up and running.
  3. Scalability: Your ability to accommodate changing needs and traffic patterns is highly correlated to the quality of your users’ experiences over time. Distributing or removing content for audiences of highly variable behavior patterns, sizes, locations, and access devices demands scalability.
  4. Multi Device Support: It is not just the number of users accessing your content that creates performance challenges, but the proliferation of different types of devices, with different browsers and operating systems. If your audience is using multiple devices or platforms, remember to measure performance across each one. You will apply KPIs in the categories of speed, availability, and scalability to every device your audience uses.
  5. End User Experience: Ultimately, you work to improve performance in the interest of the end user. Machine metrics such as error rate or site load time are valuable, but they exist only as indicators of how easily your audience can locate and interact with your content. KPIs associated with the end user experience signal how usable, relevant, and valuable your content is.

 

Rather than just speed, performance is a combination of KPIs from all of these five categories: speed, availability, scalability, multi device support, and end user experience. The specific metrics you define in every category will be unique to your business, and they should reflect what you expect to achieve from web performance optimization efforts.

 

Once you establish baseline KPIs, you will continually monitor and evaluate progress, diagnosing and re-diagnosing performance issues. In the next two posts, we will reveal the most effective way to measure your progress across these five KPI categories and how to build an infrastructure that supports it.

Until then, find @LLNW on Twitter where the #OptimizeDigital conversation never stops.

 

Questions? Drop me a note or find me on Twitter at @clarekirlin.

 

Want to learn more about web performance? Download the book Optimizing the Digital Experience for an in-depth look at the topics presented in this blog series.

optimizingthedigitalepxerience

Originally posted on April 15, 2014

 

Welcome to our blog series #OptimizeDigital. In this series we will examine online performance from every angle: What does performance mean to your business? Why is delivering consistent performance so hard? What can you do to ensure the performance of your websites and web application meets your business needs?

The content in this series is based on our newly released book, Optimizing the Digital Experience (available for download here). You can also join the ongoing discussion on Twitter® by using the hashtag #OptimizeDigital.

 

All right. Let’s get started.

 

What Drives Your Online Performance?

 

When it comes to creating great digital experiences, there are two sides to the coin: creating/managing your content, and delivering/optimizing your content.

Many organizations focus their efforts on content creation and management. They strive to make website content more interactive, to integrate online video, and to optimize keywords. These initiatives do help improve search rankings. You know, because you are likely doing many of these things right now.

 

That’s great, but did you realize that delivering and optimizing the user experience with that content is just as important? In fact, web responsiveness could be the deciding factor in your organization’s ability to achieve business results. Performance can make or break your ability to hit revenue targets or increase conversion rates.

 

Delivery and optimization of the user experience can also be the most difficult factors to solve for in the digital equation.

Ensuring an awesome and effective digital experience starts with a thorough understanding of why delivering and optimizing digital content is so hard. There are several answers to that question.

 

1. Performance is complex.

 

Performance is often discussed in terms of speed: How quickly did the system respond? How fast did my image render? How long did it take to download that file? And speed is an important aspect of performance, perhaps the most important. But issues like availability, multi device delivery, and security come into play too.

2. Performance is notoriously difficult to measure.

 

So you want to improve performance? That means locating the points of failure in a complex digital landscape. Once you find out what’s wrong, how will you measure progress? Response time? Average revenue per user? Time onsite? Choosing metrics that matter to your business can be daunting.

 

3. Improving performance requires new technologies and partnerships.

 

Business owners and marketers need to improve user experience when engaging digital content. The fulfillment of that need often falls to the technical team, which must now think about servicing both external and internal audiences in an entirely new way.

 

4. The public Internet is slow and invisible.

 

There is a vast, un-optimized stretch of public Internet between your origin servers and the access networks that connect you to your end users. Other than compressing files and optimizing scripts, how much control do you really have? Can you see clear across the path that your content takes to reach end users? Can you protect your content from security vulnerabilities along the way?

 

5. BOOM! Dynamic content is exploding.

 

Four out of five CMOs think that custom content is the future of marketing. Websites and apps have evolved to the point that much of what a visitor experiences is dynamically created and presented on the fly—just for them. Multiple technologies are required to support all of these dynamic websites and apps. Can you possibly master them all?

 

Building, managing, delivering, and optimizing your content to create a great digital experience for your audience is hard for a lot of reasons. But it’s no less critical. No business can afford to overlook the fact that today’s online audience will abandon slow-loading content in the blink of an eye. Your job is to figure out what makes it slow… and fix it.

 

In my next post, I’ll try to help you do just that, with information about common performance killers that can sneak up on your content during its long, complex journey from your servers to your audience. Stay tuned!

 

Enjoyed this post? Share it on Twitter.

 

Questions? Drop me a note or find me on Twitter at @clarekirlin.

 

Want to learn more about web performance? Download the book Optimizing the Digital Experience for an in-depth look at the topics presented in this blog series.

 

optimizingthedigitalepxerience