HTTP/2 – Page speed increase and SEO boost
In September of 2015, Apache HTTP 2.4.17 came out with HTTP/2 included. HTTP/2 has been in the works for a while, but now that the most common web server platform has it built in, the rate of adoption is set to increase exponentially. There are a few hurdles that web developers and system admins will have to jump through to make the switch to HTTP/2, some of which will slow the growth in use.
What is HTTP/2 and where can I get it
That mostly depends on how much access you have to your server. Most website hosting is done on shared servers. These are the plans that generally cost between $5 and $15 a month. Your website and your Cpanel sit in a user directory on a server next to hundreds of other websites. If the server is configured well enough, no one website can cause much havoc to any of the other websites except for too much traffic or a DDoS attack. Even then, if the servers are load balanced, secure and powerful enough, even that shouldn’t be a problem. But since you’re sharing a server, you can’t have access to any of the software that you’re all sharing too. In this case Apache is what you would need access to in order to use HTTP/2 on your server. It’s only when major hosting companies start offering this as part of their basic service will we see wide spread use.
If you have a web hosting account on a virtual private server or a dedicated server, you should have access to enable you to add Apache modules. This tutorial on adding the H2 Module to Apache seems pretty straight forward for someone who’s not afraid of a little command line work.
You will need a SSL Certificate (HTTPS)
This is just one more reason to purchase a SSL certificate. Google has been saying they will “consider” the HTTPS status of a website in their ranking algorithm for a while now. The weight that it has is of course a mystery, so the ROI of the cost has been impossible to measure or justify for small websites and small budgets. Page speed is another ranking factor that is measurable and one that most developers go to great lengths to improve. In order to use HTTP/2, your domain needs to have a SSL certificate, so you might as well go ahead and switch to HTTPS.
Hosting Companies that offer HTTP/2
If you’re just starting out, the good news is you can purchase hosting plans on servers that are already running HTTP/2. Even the cheap shared hosting.
They’re offering HTTP/2 on all of the shared and cloud hosting plans. They also have a great explanation of the benefits and technical aspects of it. Their plans start at around $4/month ($10/month after the discount runs out).
Their “Turbo Servers” offer HTTP/2 capability for about $9/month. They claim their page load speed is 20x fast than the competition.
I will be checking out A2 Hosting in the coming months to their speed claim. Eben if their server is only twice as fast as HostGator’s, I will gradually change all of my sites over to A2 if their customer service is solid and their controls give me enough access to tweak everything I’d ever want to on a website.