Drupal is a popular open source content management system (CMS) used by over 1 million websites worldwide. However, the performance and security of your Drupal site largely depends on choosing the right Drupal hosting provider. Selecting an optimized, secure, and scalable Drupal hosting environment is crucial for delivering a high-quality experience to your site visitors.
In this comprehensive guide, we will cover the best practices for Drupal hosting with a focus on site speed and security. We will discuss how to choose the right hosting infrastructure, optimize your Drupal configuration, leverage caching and CDNs, implement security measures, monitor site performance, and scale your hosting as your site grows. Follow these Drupal hosting tips and recommendations to ensure your Drupal site runs fast, stays secure, and can handle increasing traffic over time.
Choose Optimized Drupal Hosting Infrastructure
The foundation of a high-performing and secure Drupal site is choosing a hosting provider optimized specifically for Drupal. Generic shared hosting is often inadequate for running Drupal sites. Here are the key factors to consider for optimal Drupal hosting infrastructure:
- Dedicated Drupal Stack – Look for providers offering dedicated Drupal-optimized servers, LAMP or LEMP stacks, PHP versions, Apache/Nginx configurations, MySQL optimizations, opcode caching, and more specifically tailored for Drupal.
- Specialized Drupal Expertise – The hosting provider should have deep expertise in Drupal performance, caching, scaling, security, and site management best practices. Their technical support team should be knowledgeable in Drupal troubleshooting.
- High-Performance Hardware – Ensure the hosting infrastructure utilizes fast processors, high memory, solid state drives (SSDs), and fast networking for optimal Drupal performance.
- Managed Drupal Hosting – Consider managed Drupal hosting where the provider fully manages and maintains the Drupal environment including the stack, security, backups, and more.
- Cloud Hosting – Forscalability, utilizing a cloud hosting provider like AWS, Azure, or GCP allows seamlessly adding more resources.
Selecting infrastructure built specifically to optimize Drupal will provide a significant performance and security advantage vs shared generic hosting.
Tune Your Drupal Configuration
While optimized infrastructure provides the foundation, you still need to configure Drupal itself for maximum speed and security. Here are key Drupal settings to optimize:
- Enable Caching – Drupal caching stores rendered pages, blocks, views, and other data in memory or files to serve requests faster. Utilize database caching, page/block caching, and views caching.
- Optimize Database – Tune your MySQL configuration in phpMyAdmin for high performance including sufficient max connections, table caches, query caching, and restricting database access.
- Aggregate and Compress CSS/JS – Reduce requests by aggregating CSS and JS files. Enable gzip compression for smaller file sizes. Leverage browser caching by adding cache expiration headers.
- Use a PHP Cache – Installing an opcode cache like APCu or Redis speeds up PHP execution time.
- Minify HTML Output – Remove unnecessary whitespace and comments with modules like HTMLMinifier to optimize HTML payload size.
- Tune Performance Modules – Install modules like Speedy and CKFinder to analyze and optimize Drupal performance. Check other bottlenecks with XHProf.
Fine-tuning your Drupal 7/8/9 configuration this way optimizes how well your site utilizes your hosting resources.
Implement an Effective Caching Strategy
Caching is one of the most impactful optimizations you can apply to speed up a Drupal site by serving pages and assets faster. An effective caching strategy involves utilizing various forms of caching:
- Reverse Proxy Caching – A content delivery network (CDN) or reverse proxy cache like Varnish serves cached pages at the web server level, providing huge performance gains. Ensure your CDN and cache TTLs are appropriately configured.
- Drupal Internal Page/Block Caching – As mentioned above, configuring Drupal page, block, and views caching avoids needing to regenerate these dynamic elements on each request.
- External Page Caching – A page cache module like Boost or Pressflow stores fully rendered pages as static HTML for fast retrieval. Integrate with Varnish for maximum effect.
- Memcached – Use Memcached to significantly improve Drupal caching and database query performance. This open source memory object caching system speeds up frequent site requests.
- Redis – For more advanced caching needs, Redis provides an in-memory data store supporting data structures like hashes and lists for fast object caching.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN) – Distribute static assets across global edge servers using a CDN like CloudFront. This reduces latency and improves performance for geographically distributed visitors.
A layered caching strategy combining Varnish, Redis, Memcached, and a CDN will maximize the caching benefits and performance for a production Drupal site.
Secure Your Drupal Site
While a fast Drupal site is great, security is even more critical. Use these best practices to properly secure your Drupal site:
- Utilize HTTPS – Serve all pages over HTTPS with a valid SSL certificate to encrypt traffic, prevent snooping of sensitive data, and activate browser security protections.
- Strong Passwords – Enforce strong admin passwords following security best practices for length, complexity, rotation, and proper storage/hashing. Never use simple or default passwords.
- Limit User Permissions – Only grant users the minimum permissions they require. Avoid giving all users admin access.
- Disable Unneeded Modules/Features – Reduce your site’s attack surface by disabling any unnecessary modules, themes, and functionality not required.
- Keep Drupal Core Updated – Always apply the latest Drupal security patches and check known vulnerabilities for any modules you use. Subscribe to security alert lists.
- Backup Regularly – Maintain recent backups of your entire Drupal site and database so you can restore in the event of any incidents. Test restoration process.
- Additional Hardening – Consider IP address blacklisting, security modules like Secuirty Kit, limiting login attempts, SELinux policies, and other hardening techniques.
Proactively securing your Drupal site from vulnerabilities, attacks, and unauthorized access is required to protect your content and users. Monitor emerging threats and apply security best practices.
Optimize Image Handling
Given that images often make up the majority of page size on Drupal sites, properly optimizing how you handle images can significantly boost performance:
- Lazy Load Images – As described previously, only load images visible above the fold and lazy load the rest on scroll to speed initial page load.
- Responsive Images – Use responsive image styles and the Picture module to serve optimized image files by width/resolution to avoid oversized downloads.
- Image Compression – Resize and compress images to the appropriate size/quality needed. Lossless compression like Googles Guetzli can achieve 30%+ size reductions with no quality loss.
- CDN Image Delivery – Serving images from a CDN reduces latency and speeds up image loading worldwide.
- WebP Image Format – WebP images are typically 25-35% smaller than JPEG/PNG so supporting WebP where possible improves performance.
- Proper Image Caching – Set long cache expiry headers on images so browsers reuse them and avoid unnecessary re-downloads.
By tweaking how you handle images throughout your Drupal site, you can achieve significant byte savings and performance gains on image-heavy pages.
Monitor Performance and Events
To maintain optimal performance and security over time, you need to actively monitor your Drupal site using tools like:
- Site Uptime Monitoring – Use a monitoring service like Pingdom or UptimeRobot to receive alerts if your site ever goes down or becomes unresponsive.
- Page Speed Monitoring – Monitor page load times from global locations to quickly find performance degradations before customers notice.
- Drupal Logging – Enable and review Drupal logs for errors, security threats, traffic spikes, and other unusual events.
- Server Monitoring – Use your hosting control panel and server dashboards to watch site traffic, bandwidth, resource usage, uptime, and other metrics.
- External Attack Monitoring – Receive notifications about potential DDoS attacks, brute force login attempts, and other suspicious activity originating outside your own network.
- Performance Profiling – Profile database queries, hooks, page elements, and custom code with tools like XHProf to constantly optimize.
Active monitoring provides the visibility you need into the health, security, and performance of your production Drupal site in real-time. Quickly catch and resolve issues.
Plan for Scaling and Growth
Even a well-optimized Drupal site may require additional resources to handle spikes in organic traffic or during events like product launches. Consider these tips to scale your Drupal hosting:
- Choose Scalable Infrastructure – Use a hosting provider that allows seamlessly allocating additional server resources like Cloudways, AWS, and Azure.
- Horizontal Scaling – Add more servers behind your load balancer to scale out site capacity and performance.
- Upgrade Resources – Scale up to more powerful servers with more CPUs, memory, storage, and bandwidth as needed.
- CDN Scaling – A content delivery network provides near limitless scalability to handle huge sudden spikes in readership.
- Caching Efficacy – The better your full page and fragment caching strategy, the easier it will be to scale without degrading performance.
- Monitor Growth Trends – Watch traffic trends so you can proactively plan hosting upgrades in advance of demand growth.
- Load Testing – Use a tool like Apache JMeter to load test your Drupal infrastructure at higher traffic levels to uncover bottlenecks.
Scale out your hosting horizontally, utilize caching effectively, and conduct load tests to ensure your Drupal site can easily handle spikes in demand and growth.
A fast, secure, and scalable Drupal site relies first and foremost on choosing the right Drupal-optimized hosting provider with an infrastructure tailored to Drupal’s needs. From there, tune your Drupal configuration, implement a layered caching strategy, secure your site proactively, optimize images, monitor closely, and architect your hosting for easy scalability.
Following the Drupal hosting best practices covered in this guide will allow your Drupal site to deliver excellent performance and security as you grow your traffic over time. Your hosting strategy sets the foundation for success, so invest appropriately in a provider and infrastructure purpose-built for Drupal’s demands.