Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting Speeds in Australia with Hummingbird Pro

Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting Speeds in Australia with Hummingbird Pro

Flywheel has recently moved to using the Google Cloud Platform as the backbone of their WordPress hosting platform, and with this, comes more data centre locations including Australia (Sydney). In my previous test, their closest location was Singapore. Hosting your website locally in an Australian data centre is a great way to ensure fast loading for Australian visitors, so this is a big plus for Flywheel’s Australian customers moving forward. The cheapest option to get started is $23 USD/month when paid annually ($25 USD/month if paying monthly) and includes global Fastly CDN access and Flywheel’s FlyCache.

So, what I would like to know, is, how fast is WordPress running on Flywheel in the Sydney Google Cloud? And, do I get extra gains by pairing it with a WordPress specific caching plugin like Hummingbird Pro? Or, does Flywheel’s FlyCache do better without another cache plugin.

I will be testing a WordPress website running with our standard combination of plugins and the GeneratePress theme to see how it performs under Australian conditions. This is the same configuration used for my other WordPress hosting performance tests.

Being located in Sydney, on a cloud container optimised for WordPress, I’m expecting to see some much better speeds then the previous closest location in Singapore.

Our standard configuration:

In my test setup, WP Smush Pro will be used to ensure all images are optimised, however, the WPMU Dev CDN connection will be disabled to ensure that I get an accurate reflection of the Flywheel Sydney cloud.

Initially, I’ll test with FlyCache and all Hummingbird Pro caching disabled, then again with different combinations of FlyCache with Hummingbird Pro’s caching and optimisation settings active.  Also of note is that Flywheel’s Fastly CDN appears to run all the time and cannot be disabled.

For these tests, I’ll be using an average size WordPress website for a service-based business (exactly the same site used in all my other WordPress hosting speed tests including my previous Flywheel test). It sports an assortment of images and different kinds of Elementor objects and templates, including an embedded YouTube video, so it should give a reasonable reflection of the performance of a website built on GeneratePress using Elementor Pro.

Also of note is that at the time of testing, our Flywheel server was running PHP version 7.2 and had a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate. Caches were manually purged between tests and each test run multiple times to ensure caching was taking effect.

Speed test platforms

I will be using three test platforms

The first test platform will be Google PageSpeed Insights since this provides feedback directly from Google on how it sees your website.

The second will by Pingdom Tools using the Sydney test location to ensure we are seeing results reflective of the Australian experience.

The third test platform will be GTMetrix, also set to the Sydney test location.

Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting - No caching plugins

For this test I have no caching setup with Hummingbird Pro, we are just using the built-in Flywheel caching.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Mobile rating

31 100

  • First contentful paint: 5.4 seconds
  • Speed index: 6.4 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 9.5 seconds

Desktop rating

72 100

  • First contentful paint: 1.8 seconds
  • Speed index: 1.8 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 2.5 seconds

Pingdom Tools

  • Load time: 1.29 seconds
  • Requests: 63
  • Page size: 4.1 MB
  • Wait time for server response: 4.1 ms

Performance grade

75 100

GTMetrix

PageSpeed score

84 100

  • Load time: 3.2 seconds.
  • Page size: 3.89 MB

Yslow score

74 100

  • Requests: 64
  • Time-to-first-byte: 214 ms

GTMetrix flags 1mb of JavaScript from the embedded YouTube video as delaying the initial page load.

Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting with Hummingbird Pro enabled

For this test, I enabled Hummingbird Pro’s persistent cache. Hummingbird Pro also had GZIP compression enabled, but all asset optimisation was turned off.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Mobile rating

32 100

  • First contentful paint: 5.4 seconds
  • Speed index: 6.2 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 9.5 seconds

Desktop rating

73 100

  • First contentful paint: 1.7 seconds
  • Speed index: 1.8 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 2.5 seconds

Pingdom Tools

  • Load time: 1.16 seconds
  • Requests: 63
  • Page size: 4.1 MB
  • Wait time for server response: 24.2 ms

Performance grade

75 100

GTMetrix

PageSpeed score

84 100

  • Load time: 4.7 seconds.
  • Page size: 3.89 MB

Yslow score

74 100

  • Requests: 64
  • Time-to-first-byte: 134 ms

GTMetrix flags 1mb of JavaScript from the embedded YouTube video as delaying the initial page load. There are no other negative flags.

Flywheel Managed WordPress Hosting with Hummingbird Pro enabled and Assets Optimised

For this test, I ran the Hummingbird Pro persistent cache with all CSS files combined and all CSS and Javascript files moved to the footer.

Google PageSpeed Insights

Mobile rating

56 100

  • First contentful paint: 2.4 seconds
  • Speed index: 4.4 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 9.7 seconds

Desktop rating

92 100

  • First contentful paint: 0.7 seconds
  • Speed index: 1.4 seconds
  • Time to interactive: 2.5 seconds

Pingdom Tools

  • Load time: 1.14 seconds
  • Requests: 63
  • Page size: 4.1 MB
  • Wait time for server response: 1.8 ms

Performance grade

75 100

GTMetrix

PageSpeed score

84 100

  • Load time: 3.1 seconds.
  • Page size: 3.91 MB

Yslow score

74 100

  • Requests: 64
  • Time-to-first-byte: 111 ms

GTMetrix flags 1mb of JavaScript from the embedded YouTube video as delaying the initial page load.

How does it look in a chart?

Load Speed

Google PageSpeed Insights

Observations and final thoughts

While Hummingbird caching didn’t show a huge impact alone, and GT Metrix actually showed a negative impact, full asset optimisation gave the best performance overall across all the test platforms. The data suggests that if you aren’t doing asset optimisation, you will still get great speeds in Australia using Flywheel’s Australian location and depending on your website that could be more than sufficient to reach your loading speed goals without any WordPress caching plugins. The added layer of caching does improve things though and asset optimisation helps to get the best performance overall.

Does it perform better than the Singapore location from my past tests?

Yes and no.

Loading speeds in Australia are much faster primarily because the response speed is, as expected, much lower. The actual performance data though suggests the actual Google Cloud platform now in use by Flywheel is slower and performs worse than Flywheel’s older platform. That said, it doesn’t really matter if the speed ratings are lower if the overall performance for your customers is better. If your customers are in Australia, then the performance is excellent.

So what do I think?

Flywheel’s Sydney Google Cloud location is a simple approach to cloud servers for hosting Australian WordPress websites. The response times are some of the fastest I’ve seen in Australia, although Cloudways Sydney Vultr location is faster to respond. Flywheel’s platform does however beat out Cloudways Vultr location for overall performance as well as WP Engine’s performance. This means that Flywheel’s Australian location actually achieves the fastest overall loading speeds I’ve seen in any of my tests to date.

As far as pricing for managed WordPress hosts, starting at USD $23, the Flywheel solution is reasonably priced for the performance, beating out WP Engine for both price and performance.

Overall, Flywheel offers a great solution for Australian websites in their Sydney cloud location. It is a great option for speed in Australia that is designed to cater to global customers. The included Fastly CDN has many points of presence globally, and more locations in Australia and New Zealand than most other providers. This means that the CDN does actually provide a lot of value for Australian website with predominately Australian customers.

All things considered, as of the time of writing, Flywheel beats out it’s parent company WP Engine on every front, better CDN, faster loading speeds, and its cheaper.

Tip:

The closer the server or CDN is to your end users, the faster that those users will receive the first byte of data.

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