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When should you avoid compressing your website?

04/15/2013 | Internet hosting |

For most operations on the web these days, using compression technology is essential. This brings several benefits to a site, mainly in the form of cutting the bandwidth your site uses and reduced page loading times.

This brings with it benefits such as a better experience for your users. Uncompressed web pages that take a long time to load will also be penalised by search engines such as Google in their rankings.

If you're using tools such as cPanel, it's easy to compress your site using the standard gzip compression format. Hosting News recently explained this option can be selected under the 'Optimize Website' menu of your control panel, found under the Software/Services section.

For the vast majority of circumstances, doing this is the best way to ensure you're using good compression technology to deliver your pages to users as smoothly as possible. But there are occasions when it might be useful to avoid this technology and some of these have been identified recently by news and information site Opposing Views.

Small sites
The publication noted that if you're running a small website that uses only a small amount of text and already-compressed images, adding compression to this may be an unnecessary extra step that won't bring any noticeable benefits, because your bandwidth use is already low.

"While there's no real disadvantage to compressing a small website, you're also probably not going to see much advantage either. In fact, you may just end up putting more load on the server's central processing unit than is necessary," it was added.

Compressed files
Another occasion where you might need to think carefully about the need for compression is if your site contains a lot of media files that have their own compression technology already built in. These can include PDFs, music and movie files and images. As these formats are already as small as possible by their nature, there's no further benefit to be seen.

It was observed that compression is best reserved for when you have large volumes of text types, such as HTML, CSS and JavaScript, as this is where using gzip technology can really help improve page load times and provide the best possible experience for your visitors.

Older browsers
While most modern web browsers support the gzip compression technology and will have no problem requesting compressed versions of your website and then converting them into a viewable format, there may still be compatibility issues with older browsers.

Therefore, if you know a significant percentage of your users will still be using older browsers for whatever reason - such as businesses that haven't upgraded for security reasons - you might want to consider choosing not to compress your website.

If you want to know whether this will apply to you, you'll need to take a look at your analytics data and look at the browsers that are being used to access your site. Large numbers of users with software such as Internet Explorer 6 could be a key indicator that there may be widespread compatibility issues if you compress your site.

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