26
May

Incapsula free plan performance review and test results

Hello, my name is Nilanko Halder – I am the owner of mySevenForums, which is a Windows 7 (and 8) help and support community. The forum is powered by phpBB forum software. It was recently launched with the aim to provide free assistance to its members. My hope is to create a great, supportive and friendly community - open to everyone around the globe and carrying as few restrictions as possible.

Initial Optimization

The website design I've used for my forum is based on Christian Bullock’s “Supernova” template, which I've extensively modified to meet my taste. Unfortunately, the result came out to be bulky. The forum has lots and lots of JavaScript, CSS and images. These all load in parallel, upon each page request, which puts a burden on the server.

As a result, the page load times were not up to the mark. To improve the situation, I used lots of testing tools like Gtmetrix, Google PageSpeed Insights, Yahoo! Slow, WebpageTest and Pingdom as guides for optimizing the forum’s design as much as possible. The tools poured in made their suggestions and I started following them. The results were pretty good, and ; my loading times decreased, - but they still weren't meeting my expectations.

My forum is hosted on a fast premium server, but the modified template still managed to clog the pipe. At this point I found myself considering further optimization. Specifically, I looked into combining my images into CSS sprites and combining all JS and CSS files. This turned out to be a heap of work and I really didn't want to waste my days on positioning sprite images, for a very slight speed gain. But on the other hand, I was not going to dump my design.

No More Manual Labor

Deciding not to invest any more time in manual optimization, what I started to look for was something called a “website performance accelerator,” having almost no idea where this search would lead. I started off by testing a CDN service with names I saw floating around for a while. The results were less than stellar. In the end, the service offered few benefits to my already optimized forum, at times actually making it go slower. Disappointed, I turned to Google and Google - being man’s best friend - helped me reach Incapsula. They had a free plan and an easy setup so I decided to give it a shot.

Adding my website to Incapsula was a breeze, it involved absolutely no name server changes, so the effects could be experienced instantaneously. While playing around with the dashboard settings, an option called “Acceleration mode” immediately grabbed my attention. There are three Acceleration modes – Off, Standard, Advanced (the third being unavailable in the free plan). So, for the purpose of these tests, my acceleration mode was set to the Standard.

What Incapsula (free) did for my Website

Below are the beautiful results that Incapsula helped me achieve:

Google Pagespeed

  • Before: Scores around 60/100 and complaints about “slow server response"
  • After: Scores shot up to 80+ and “slow server response” complaints are gone

Incapsula free plan performance review - Google Pagespeed

Yahoo! Slow

  • Before: Scores around 70/100
  • After: Scores shot up to 90+

Incapsula free plan performance review - Yahoo Yslow

Webpagetest.org

  • Before: First Byte Time grade stuck at F
  • After: First Byte Time graded as A

Incapsula free plan performance review - Webpagetest

Pingdom

  • Before: Higher page load times and long wait times (~2 sec)
  • After: Decreased page load times with decrease in waiting and connecting times (less than 0.6 sec)

Incapsula free plan performance review - Pingdom

Bottom Line

As you can see, Incapsula helped me shave 70% off of the page load times in under 5 minutes. Although the stats above are pretty convincing, what really did it for me was the visual testing. With Incapsula, pages were simply being "thrown" instantaneously at my face. If this is the free acceleration mode, I can't wait to see what the advanced one could do.

My initial optimization included:

  • Adding gzip compression code, expires headers and e-tags to . htaccess file
  • Using Yahoo! Smush.It to optimize images (mostly png)
  • Adding “defer” and “async” attributes to some of the Java scripts and their calls
  • Minifying CSS, JS and HTML as much as possible
  • Inlining small images

With the combination of the above optimizations and Incapsula’s web performance accelerator, I guarantee you that your website’s going to fly, with immediate effect.

Keep it up guys!

Nilanko Halder