PZ Cussons, the owner of the Imperial Leather and Pure soap brands, has implemented software from website optimisation company Aptimize to boost the performance of its global intranet.

The software runs on Microsoft Sharepoint 2007 on Windows 2008 Server with SQL Server 2005, and was distributed by Application Performance.

In addition to deploying Aptimize, PZ Cussons went through a number of stages in an effort to boost its intranet’s performance.

“We followed MS (Microsoft Sharepoint) best practice in building the servers and installation, then optimised content, master pages and so on, as much as we could. The servers were taken care of, traffic prioritised and all other steps taken that we could think of to make the user experience optimal across our diverse group. Then we learnt of Aptimize,” said Mark Cadwaladr, group management information systems manager at PZ Cussons.

Aptimize helped the company configure the software on the Sharepoint web front-end servers in the UK datacentre. After rolling out the software across PZ Cussons’ global network, which took just one day, the company found that page load times improved across the board.

“In most cases the page load time was more than halved,” said Cadwaladr. “For some regions, such as Africa and Asia where network latency is higher and bandwidth is lower due to in-country infrastructure, the improvement was even greater.”

“It [Aptimize] was able to reduce the highest page load times from over 10 seconds down to three to four seconds,” he added.

PZ Cussons had noticed a slowdown in its intranet as more rich content and functions were built into the interactive sites created by users in Sharepoint, and the sheer number of objects which make up the page caused the performance to degrade.

Cadwaladr explained: “Aptimize speeds up the site by first merging these objects and then compressing them. Finally, the optimised versions of the objects are cached in the user’s browser until they change, meaning that the majority of the page content can be served locally from the browser cache without any additional requests over the network to the web server."

In addition to the optimised speeds, PZ Cussons noticed bandwidth benefits.

“The ‘weight’ of each page was reduced by 40 to 55 percent for users with an empty cache, and 79 percent to 91 percent for users who had previously visited the site and had the page resources cached in their browser,” said Cadwaladr.

“Since thousands of users can visit this site every day as their browser homepage (enforced through policy), the reduction in traffic can be measured in several GB/day. This frees up valuable bandwidth for use by other critical business applications.”

PZ Cussons has offices in the UK, Europe, Africa and the Far East. Its intranet serves 3,000 employees and receives up to 12,000 hits each day.