I'm addicted to speed. No, not amphetamines. That would be inappropriate. I switched over to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) on Digital Ocean. I've got two cores, 2 GB RAM, and an SSD at my disposal. This is going to be fun.
Around the end of November 2013, I switched from Bluehost's shared hosting to DreamHost's DreamPress service. DreamPress is basically DreamHost's managed WordPress solution, with each WordPress site running on a VPS. It's supposed to have enhanced performance, but I didn't notice much of a speed increase. Page load times were around 2-3 seconds while running on DreamPress, which isn't bad, but it wasn't noticeably faster than Bluehost's shared hosting.
DreamPress had Varnish and
mod_pagespeed (sort of). I'm sure that DreamPress would have outperformed shared hosting if this website actually had visitors, but that's not the reason that I switched. I'm not totally delusional -- I didn't think that I needed to upgrade to deal with all the traffic this website isn't getting. Truthfully, I just wanted to have WordPress's administrative interface load faster. It's painful to write when it takes upwards of 5 seconds to save a draft, especially if you're just as paranoid as me and you hit the "Save Draft" button every sentence.
Unfortunately, I had some trouble working with DreamHost's support team. They're very friendly, but it could take almost a week for them to respond to a support ticket, and there's no phone number to call if things go very wrong. You can request a callback, but they charge for those.
Two weeks ago, I was trying to get
mod_pagespeed working and I got stuck in one of those "I tried to do X, but it didn't work" "Did you try X?" "Yes, I tried X" "Can you try X again? I tried X and your website seems to be working fine" loops. That wasn't the most fun I've ever had.
I remembered that Digital Ocean offered inexpensive (but unmanaged) VPS servers. I used to play with that kind of stuff back when I was 11 or 12, so I figured that I might as well give it a go. I installed Apache, PHP, and MySQL, stuck Varnish in front of Apache, and uploaded all of my old data. After test driving the website for a few days, I closed my DreamPress account and made the switch.
That's the end of the story. You know, except for the whole downtime thing. It turns out that it's been about a decade since I was 12, so I was a bit rusty... and I broke the VPS. Oh no! That's the downside to unmanaged hosting -- when you mess something up, good luck figuring it out. You're on your own. Of course, I'd rather spend a few hours tinkering with the VPS than a few days waiting for support to get back to me, so I'm fine with the tradeoff.
On average, Pingdom says that Pers J RP now takes less than 2 seconds to load. A more substantial improvement is that the live search feature pulls up results in less than 2 seconds, whereas on DreamPress you'd be better off just hitting the enter button and loading up the results page.
Okay, the story actually ends here. I'm pretty happy with the results. If you're interested in getting a VPS for some reason, Digital Ocean has some very inexpensive-but-generous plans. If you sign up with Digital Ocean after clicking this link, they'll reduce my bill a bit (no pressure).