Targeted Performance Testing Tools (Plus the Big Daddies)
January 27, 2015 | Robert Gibb
When it comes to delivering content, we take website performance seriously. Which is why we created a list of free testing tools that give you targeted insights and full-fledged performance overviews.
This list includes a few of the more comprehensive tools (the big daddies), but focuses on the tools that do one thing and do it well. With the help of these tools and your CDN, you can optimize your website and make your content soar.
Big Daddy Testing Tools
Our list starts with the big daddies, the biggest names in the world of website performance testing. These tools perform a comprehensive performance analysis, measuring everything from time to first byte (TTFB) to mobile device optimization. WebPageTest and Pingdom Website Speed Test even provide waterfall charts (HAR files).
PageSpeed Insights (Google)[Access]
Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool tests websites against a set of rules designed to make the web more accessible. PageSpeed Insights sorts these rules into two categories: speed and usability. Speed rules test how the website performs, while usability rules test how users experience the website. If any of these rules receives an imperfect score, PageSpeed Insights provides tips on how to resolve the issue.
WebPageTest provides a comprehensive overview of a domain by grading it against key web performance standards. For areas that score below perfect, the test provides explanations and suggestions for resolving issues and bolstering your website’s performance grade. WebPageTest can compare the performance of several websites simultaneously or against industry leaders including Google, Facebook, and Amazon.
Website Speed Test (Pingdom)[Access]
Similar to WebPageTest, Pingdom’s Website Speed Test uses a waterfall view to break down a connection to a website. The test also assigns a performance grade based on a set of best practice rules for optimization. One of the test’s unique features is its analysis of server response codes, which lists HTTP status codes and their frequency.
Targeted Testing Tools
When testing a specific metric, the big daddies can be overkill. The following tools are useful for isolating and troubleshooting particular components of content delivery.
Load Testing (Load Impact)[Access]
Load testing pushes a website to its limits by simulating a large number of users. Load Impact’s free tool simulates 250 concurrent users under real-world conditions, providing statistics on active connections, total bandwidth, and the total number of requests. Tiered payment levels add support for additional virtual users, increased test runtime, and server software agents that collect data on resource usage. If you’re curious about how your website would handle the Slashdot effect, this tool is right for you.
Media Streaming (Dotcom Monitor)[Access]
For websites that host media, streaming tests can validate the speed and consistency of your streaming service. Dotcom Monitor’s media streaming tool tests the connectivity and download time for a given media file. Tests are performed from locations around the world with results from each server displaying as they’re completed. Any errors are displayed with a brief description, allowing you to find and troubleshoot problems with the delivery of your content.
Traceroute (Dotcom Monitor)[Access]
Sometimes connection issues are due to the network rather than the server itself. A traceroute identifies the nodes - or hops - between the host running the trace and the destination. In addition to displaying the IP address of each node, traceroutes display the time taken to contact each node. Dotcom Monitor’s tool runs traceroute tests from servers around the world, helping you pinpoint routes on the network that are overloaded or unavailable.
When Google introduced the SPDY protocol, it promised to deliver a faster web experience. Zoompf’s SPDYCheck service tests a website for SPDY support and provides a detailed overview of the tests performed. Any issues related to SPDY or SSL are highlighted and accompanied with plain English instructions on how to beef up the speed and security of your website.
Load Time (MaxCDN)[Access]
Time to first byte (TTFB) and time to last byte (TTLB) measure the speed of delivering a webpage to a user. TTFB is the time it takes to create a connection to the server, while TTLB is the total time needed to download the contents of a webpage. MaxCDN’s HTTP test compares TTFB and TTLB for two separate domains using multiple locations around the world. The differences are then displayed next to each location, helping you isolate areas where your website’s performance might be lacking.
Ping is one of the easiest and fastest tools for checking the status of a host. Like sonar, ping sends a pulse (or packet) and listens for an echo (or response). The time between the request and the response is known as the latency, with higher latencies resulting in slower service. MaxCDN’s ping tool performs ping tests for two websites simultaneously and displays the difference as a percentage, allowing you to compare both availability and latency.
Website security doesn’t stop once the certificate is installed. MaxCDN’s SSL tool performs a gauntlet of tests measuring the validity, strength, and support of your domain’s SSL certificate. Not only are common checks performed on missing fields, expiration dates, and mismatched domains, but the test performs additional checks for SPDY support and protection against the Heartbleed vulnerability.
TCP Slow Start (CDN Planet)[Access]
CDN Planet’s Initcwnd Checker analyzes the time it takes to get a connection to your web server up and running. The initial congestion window (initcwnd) determines the initial size of the connection between the web server and the user. The initcwnd starts small and gradually increases until a limit is reached, optimizing bandwidth at the cost of a slow initial connection.
The Initcwnd Checker finds the actual initcwnd by creating a fresh connection to the server, then counting the number of packets sent in response.
CDN Finder (CDN Planet)[Access]
CDNs provide robustness, redundancy, and speed for countless websites. However, evaluating a CDN could mean signing up for dozens of trials and spending hours on configuration and testing.
CDN Planet’s CDN finder tool lets you find out which CDN a website is using simply by entering the domain. CDN Finder will list all the CDNs used by a given domain, as well as the CDNs used by a specific webpage. This makes it easy to evaluate a CDN based on live, real-world examples. The tool also includes links to detailed information pages for many of the most popular CDNs.
While only 3% of Americans still use dial-up, having a fast, responsive website can make or break a user’s experience. WebSiteOptimization’s Web Page Analyzer breaks down the contents of a webpage to provide statistics on the number of objects, the size of the page, and the download time over connections ranging from baud to broadband.
While the tool is slightly dated, it still provides relevant suggestions on how to optimize websites for browser multithreading, minification, and compression. At the very least, it will help your website reach those 10 million or so Americans who just can’t let go of their 56K modems.
More MaxCDN Tools Coming Soon...
Currently we have the load time, ping and SSL performance testing tools available on MaxCDN One, our new learning and resource center. And because testing tools continue to serve as easy and accurate indicators of performance levels, we plan on adding more to our collection very soon.
If you have any suggestions for tools you'd like created, or for current tools you think are good for this list, please leave a comment below.