Tools That Optimize Drupal Site Performance

July 17, 2015
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You don't need to rely only on performance-related modules within Drupal. Third-party products can also optimize the performance of Drupal applications. These offerings find performance issues that start outside of Drupal. As part of a series that reviews ways to improve Drupal website performance, here’s a closer look at some third-party optimization tools you might want to consider.

Analysis Tools: Webpagetest, New Relic, TraceView, PageSpeed, YSlow, WebInspector, Yottaa

If the Devel module doesn't provide enough information to isolate performance issues, there are third party website testing tools that have even more analytical data. Some are services available on the Web and some are browser plug-ins. Type a URL into Webpagetest and it returns a breakdown of each request, including how long it took to resolve the DNS lookup, establish the connection, receive the first byte, and complete the download of the Web page and all of its resources. This is important information, and the way it's broken down makes it easy to see where performance is lagging. The site also lets you see results across different test locations and browsers. Because developer shops can only test from a few locations and front ends, this is information that wouldn't otherwise be easy to come by. One of the challenges of Web applications is there are so many places where performance problems can happen. To analyze problems within the actual page request, application-monitoring tools like New Relic can help figure out whether there are problems with database queries, services outside your application, or specific modules within the application. Another monitoring tool to consider is TraceView. Google's PageSpeed examines a URL and identifies opportunities for improvement, such as optimizing images, leveraging browser caching, or minifying CSS. It even provides instructions for how to make the changes. YSlow is a similar tool offered by Yahoo. Firebug is a Web developer's browser plug-in that helps analyze network activity and profile JavaScript performance. WebInspector offers similar functionality. Sometimes finding out where the problem is means literally finding out where the problem is. Yottaa lets you know how users in different places will experience the site, rather than displaying the experience of developers who are sitting next to the server.

Image Optimizers: Kranken.io, Spriteme

The Web is driven by images, so it's important to handle them effectively for a site to work well. High-quality images are often large files; optimizing them can speed downloads regardless of size. There are lots of ways to downsize images, including using applications like PhotoShop or similar free software. Smush It was a great service for that, but Yahoo unfortunately took it down recently. Kraken.io is another image optimization service. The other way to improve image handling is to create sprites that pack multiple images into a single file, reducing the number of requests needed to access images. Spriteme is a bookmarklet that creates image sprites.

A Load Tester: BlazeMeter

It's a good idea to test the application's performance under load before users get to it. Load testing tools like BlazeMeter let you simulate application performance with as many as a million customers – a pretty handy function considering the small size of most tech organizations.

An Optimized Architecture: Acquia

At Acquia, the architecture of our cloud platform is designed to deliver information quickly. There are two parts to that. First, our reverse proxy caching layer is designed to get a fast response to each page request. This is intended to provide "quick" results regardless of geography. Secondly, underneath that is the caching infrastructure, which is intended to provide fast results regardless of what's being requested. The result: an application that's super responsive to user requests.

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