7 Best Practices for Improving Your Drupal Performance

 

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First released in 2001, Drupal is a free and open-source content-management framework written in PHP and distributed under the GNU General Public License. Drupal is used as a back-end framework for at least 5.1% of all Web sites worldwide, putting it in 3rd place behind WordPress and Joomla. The various uses for Drupal range from personal blogs to corporate, political, and government sites including WhiteHouse.gov and data.gov.uk, to enterprise applications.

 

According to Wiki, the Drupal community is very well supported and is comprised of more than 1 million members and 30,000 developers, who have collectively contributed over 33,000 extensions and add-ons. What this all means is that as far as CMS’s go, Drupal is one of the most robust and customizable ones that you’ll find out there. Of the top 3 CMS platforms, Drupal is known to be the most technically advanced insofar that a basic knowledge of HTML and PHP comes highly recommended. In fact, Drupal pitches itself as an enterprise web application framework, and offers a sophisticated API for developers. As of March 2016 Drupal 8 is available with 200 features and improvements, pitching itself as “the new standard for creating incredible digital experiences—for small businesses, global enterprises, and everything in between.”

 

 

As with any CMS, such as WordPress or Joomla, Drupal has its own strengths and weakness, and there are things you can do to maximize and optimize the overall performance. One writer states it this way: “Drupal is not known as the most performant application, neither is the PHP language it is written on, but there are lots of things you can do to increase the performance of your Drupal site.”

 

At the end of the day, you want to do everything possible to ensure that your Drupal application is running as smoothly as possible. In what follows we outline 7 best practices for fine-tuning your Drupal setup to make sure performance is optimal.

 

 

Cache Whenever Possible

 

Caching is a mechanism for the temporary storage of web pages in order to reduce bandwidth and improve performance. When a visitor arrives at your site the cached version will be served up unless it has changed since the last cache. Drupal has a quite a number of different caching features that are worth using, such as Page Caching, Views Caching, and Block Caching. A helpful overview of the various types of caching and the methods for configuring them are provided in this helpful checklist of Drupal performance recommendations.

 

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Image Optimization

 

Statistics show that customers tend to abandon a website that hasn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Images often account for most of the downloadable byte space on a webpage. Therefore, any steps that can be taken to optimize your images will result in the biggest gains in terms of performance and speed. One of the best ways to ensure proper image optimization is to adopt correct sizing and formatting (JPEG, GIF, or PNG). The goal is ultimately to reduce the file size as much as possible without sacrificing quality and there are a number of tools on the web that can help with this. Another useful technique is to combine images into a single image file, thus reducing the number of HTTP request that are required to download the webpage. This feature is implemented by using CSS image sprites. For a useful overview of image optimization techniques, see this article.

 

 

Try a CDN

 

A frequent recommendation for enhancing website performance, whether that be Drupal or any other CMS, is to use a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN is described as “an interconnected system of cache servers that use geographical proximity as a criteria for delivering Web content.” In other words, a CDN offers a way of taking the static files of a website, like CSS, images, and JavaScript, and delivering them through web servers that are closer to the user’s physical location. Shorter proximity amounts to faster load time. Some examples of CDNs are AWS Cloudfront, Fastly, or Cloudflare.

 

 

Cleanup Unused Modules

 

A best practice is to check which modules you really need and to disable unused ones, as these add to the total overhead for additional PHP code to execute on each page load and requires extra CSS and JavaScript files included with each page load, even if you are not using the module for anything. When dealing with modules, the best approach is to plan ahead and see what a module really does and if it really adds value to your site. If you find you have modules that are seldom used then it’s a good idea to disable them and try to find an alternate method to achieve the same result.

 

 

Combine CSS & JavaScript Files

 

Drupal has an Aggregate and compress CSS files feature that will take separate CSS files and concatenate and separate them into just a few files. This also comes with a compression part that will remove the whitespaces in the files that serve no overall purpose. By reducing the number and total size of CSS files, the overall speed of loading these files is improved.

 

JavaScript files can also become very large. Drupal has a module that allows you to minify these files. By doing so, you save bandwidth, reduce time lag and latency, and improve the overall performance of your website.

 

 

Regularly check Updates

 

It’s always a best practice to keep an eye on updates to the Drupal core and contributed modules. These updates are released frequently and will often include performance improvements, so keeping them up to date is vital. At the same time, it is best to be aware of what each update offers and test things out. As one site offers, “Clearly updates need to carry some level of caution, testing these updates before pushing them live is always a must as you never know what features could have changed, been removed or broken.”

 

 

Adopt Cloud-Based Website Monitoring

 

There are significant advantages to offloading your website monitoring to a cloud based host – cost, scalability, efficiency, to name a few. Not to mention, this frees you up to focus on growing your business, which matters the most anyway.

 

If you’d like to get onboard with the latest in cloud based monitoring then you should try a 24/7 monitoring service like Monitis. With its first-class global service, Monitis allows organizations to monitor their network anytime and from anywhere. For instant, with Monitis you can tell when your hosting service goes down, accompanied by timely notifications (via everything from live phone messages, to texts, to email and Twitter). Or you can load test your website to determine at what point it starts creating traffic issues.

 

By keeping your CMS running smoothly and more effectively, Monitis alleviates the stress and helps you focus on running your business. If you’re serious about website monitoring for your Drupal environment, then go on over to Monitis today and start a free trial. There’s also a simple plug-in for Drupal to make it easier to get set up. Once you see the benefits of the Monitis monitoring platform, you’ll be glad you did!

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