What Is a Good Server Response Time for a Website?

Server response time is basically a metric that shows how quickly the web server responds to various actions or, technically put, requests. And while it’s less complex than overall website’s response time as a metric, it has a great influence on the site’s performance. So it is wrong to separate them wholly, and it’s better to check them as a single complex metric. Therefore, it’s a must for every website owner and every webmaster, even a novice one, to understand how it works, how to check it and how to maintain it in the best condition.

Factors Influencing Server Response Time
As it was mentioned, the response time of the server is a complex thing that depends on a variety of parameters and factors, and each one of them can affect it greatly. First of all, the most vital influencer is obviously hosting itself – the provider owns the server and configures it as needed. So it can be misconfigured, it can have outdated or unoptimized software, and it can simply have hardware problems. And all of it will affect the response timings and performance in general. As an addition to hosting-related issues for response time, misjudged choice of hosting service plan could be the cause for the problems. If you pick a plan that lacks the resources required for your site to work at peak performance, server response time will be lacking too. Basically, the virtually or physically designated part of the server that works with the website will be overloaded and will respond slowly.

Traffic influx, too, can cause the response time to become long, especially when paired with lacking designated resources. A lot of users visiting the website will increase the number of simultaneous requests to the server and it will put a lot of load on the software and hardware. Not to mention that it is a problem in itself when the network is overloaded. Another great influencer in this case is, surprisingly, the distance. The distance from the server’s location and the location of the user that is sending requests. On a worldwide scale, it is physically impossible to lower the distance – someone in the world will still be on the farthest end from the server. So virtual shortening via CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) is a vital point to consider.

Last, but not the least cause for server response time growth is the website itself. Basically, if the website has badly cleaned up code, loads of heavyweight content, messed up file and folder structure, misconfigured or overloaded databases and other issues like outdated CMS plugins – it will affect the server response time as well as its own. Because the server basically will have a load of problems when processing the user’s request through all this mess.

What is Considered a Good Server Response Time?
According to Google’s analytics and knowledge base, the perfect server response time is below 100 milliseconds. Close to perfect is around 200 ms, and both those timings are considered ‘almost instant’ by the Google guidelines for Core Web Vitals. It is actually great if you want to follow them and strive for excellence, but it’s nigh impossible for large websites with lots of content. Server’s response time will be lacking compared to those aforementioned values. So, to be more realistic, Google mentioned some notes that for SERP (search engine page results) queue ratings it is acceptable to have a response time below 1000 ms (1 second). Moreover, it is well-known that the majority of modern Internet users won’t even notice a mere second of delay between typing the website’s domain name and its actual loading. And the user’s browser will already load cached content to cover up for response time.

Tools for Measuring Response Time
To check response time for the website, it is wise to use Google PageSpeed Insights for the very first check – it will do the job and show you everything you need to know about it. Guidelines for improvement included. But if you need to check the server response time, you need something more useful than Google’s services that are good for SERP rating maintenance, but not too good for actual monitoring.

In other words, you need a well-made monitoring toolkit that will check the server response time and will be able to test everything related to it for you. For instance, you can use a powerful website monitoring service host tracker to check server overall performance, its stability, hardware status, response timings, database integrity and performance, and a lot more. Using proper tools at HostTracker, you will be able to keep the server and its metrics under constant monitoring, and to maintain its response time in its best condition. And thanks to the instant alerts, the system will notify you whenever the monitoring routine finds issues with monitored metrics. So when the response time will grow again after you’ve improved and lowered it, you will know instantly as soon as the check’s condition fails.

Analyzing the Data
Whenever you use a powerful response checker on hosttracker site, you get the result in the form of the response time in milliseconds. It is the overall result that will also be shown by Google Insights. But to get the gist of the actual situation with the response time, you need to thoroughly understand what’s included in the overall time and, simultaneously, where could be some of the sources of problems with it. First of all, the major part of the response time is taken by authentication. It can take up to 500 milliseconds or even higher to connect and establish client-server secure connection using TCP or TLS. Usually the length of authentication depends on network latency between the user’s device and the server.

The smaller part are DNS lookups. This includes the route between client, DNS server and destination server, and takes up to 120 ms. If the DNS server works well, of course. Also, this part includes the reverse DNS check from the server itself to request and renew the data from the domain name server. It can take up to 300 ms if the DNS server works normally. Another metric, Time to First Byte (TFB or TTFB) is the actual server response time and it shows the time from the initial request and the start of its processing. It can be up to 200 ms and it usually heavily depends on the server performance and stability. And the last metric that is included in server response time is the Time to Last Byte (TLB or TTLB) – the timing between the request processing and the response being sent to the user. It usually depends on the network condition.

How to Improve Server Response Time
Considering everything mentioned, with all timings included, the server response time must be below 200 ms. All and all, there is a huge room for improvement if the authentication procedure takes a whole 500 ms in a worst-case scenario. If you use website speed checker service from Host-tracker team, you will surely find what slows everything down. And there are a lot of ways to improve the situation, depending on the cause of the problem.

– Change hosting plan or provider. Literally, sometimes hosting is lacking resource-wise or stability-wise, therefore greatly affecting the server and website’s response timings. If there’s the source – try to fix it and then, if all fails, pick a more resourceful service plan from your hosting or switch to another provider.
– Clean up the website. Messed up web page code, oversized content, bad storage folder structure, unoptimized databases and so on – all this requires constant attention. And if those things are the case for the bad response time, then you were skipping important cleanups. That’s why the server has problems with processing requests.
– Set up a CDN. As it was already mentioned before, it will virtually shorten the distance between the server and users. And this, in turn, will improve the situation if there are network-related issues with response time.

If you take all the advice above into account and set up a powerful monitoring toolkit in addition, you will be able to improve the response time with ease. But more importantly, it is vital not to forget about the maintenance and cleanups or the situation will become bad again.

What is a fast website response time? Quickest possible response time for the website is somewhere between 100 and 200 milliseconds. It is considered as almost instant to users by modern standards and is very good for SERP ratings. Of course, it is realistically achievable, despite some possible issues, if you take it seriously and optimize everything thoroughly.
What is a good system response time? Google states that everything below 1 second is considered as good response time. It is almost unnoticeable by users, still acceptable by SERP ratings, but needs some minor improvements to become better. Basically, the majority of websites are below 1 second but above 200 milliseconds, but nothing should hold you from driving to improve your website’s metrics and rankings.
What is a reasonable API response time? Reasonable API response time is below 1 second. Server response time is included in this timing, of course. Moreover, APIs are not websites and they need some more time to process requests. So if it is below this number, then it’s actually a well-performing API that looks good for its users and provides the best user experience.

Taking into account everything that was mentioned above, server response time is the metric that needs constant maintenance and depends on a variety of factors, each of them having the possibility to ruin the response timing almost instantly. That almost surely will be followed by negative consequences. Users will become annoyed by slowly loading webpages, search engines will lower the website’s SERP rankings and so on. Therefore, you need constant monitoring to keep all metrics in check and maintain server response timings in line with Google guidelines for Core Web Vials.

Did this article help you? If so, please tell me in a comment what do you think about it.

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