A CDN or a content delivery network is a network or system of distributed servers that delivers web content, such as web pages to a user based on his geographic location, the content of the delivery server and the origin of the webpage. The main reason CDNs are used is because they speed up the delivery of the content of high traffic website, but also that of the websites with a global reach. If the CDN is geographically closer to the user, then the content will be delivered a lot faster. Content delivery networks can also provide effective protection from sudden surges in traffic.
WHY USE A CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK
One of the main reasons CDNs are used is due to the fact that they can easily improve user experience when it comes to speed. As all website owners know, it’s vital that a stable experience is offered to all users.
For example, if a website is hosted in a specific region, yet the largest number of its users comes from a completely different part of the world, then there’s going to be a problem with delivering the content at fast speeds. So if a website is hosted in Asia, there’s no doubt that GT Metrix is going to report great speeds when using the typical test location, yet if a large number of the users visiting the website come from the US, then their experience with accessing the website is not going to be that great.
However, thanks to CDNs, users from the US will easily be able to download the static content of the Asia-based website faster by using a closer server node.
Global CDNs make it possible for those in the US to establish connections to servers in New York for instance, instead of one in Tokyo in order to retrieve the exact same data. As a result, this not only greatly minimises latency, but also provides speedier website loading times. On top of that, a CDN can also prevent a website from crashing in the event of a traffic surge. That’s because they manage to ensure the bandwidth is effectively distributed across many servers and not allow a single server to process those requests.
It’s important to be aware of the fact that a CDN is a great optimisation, yet it doesn’t actually qualify as a self contained fix like a small code modification or server configuration change may be. This is a third party service (paid) and implementing one depends on your budget, priorities and goals.
So anyone who is wondering whether a CDN will improve their website performance, the answer to that question is a resounding Yes. While not every website requires a CDN, it’s true that having one is going to make the website it’s used for much faster.
For websites that want to offer the best experience for their users, mission critical websites or websites receiving a lot of traffic, a content delivery network is an essential for their specific optimisation plan.
The Benefits of Using a CDN
There are many reasons why people should use a CDN and about some of them we’re going to discuss below.
1. Files may be precached
There’s no doubt that jQuery is almost everywhere on the internet. There is also a great chance that a user accessing your website already visited a website using the Google content delivery network. Because of that, the browser has already cached the file, so it doesn’t need to be downloaded again.
2. Different domains
The number of concurrent connections is usually limited by browsers to a single domain with the majority of them permitting 4 active connections, so the 5th download is going to be blocked until any of the previous files has been completely retrieved. This limit can easily be seen in action when trying to download a few or several larger files from the same website. Given the fact CDN files are hosted on a separate domain, a single content delivery network makes it possible for the browser to download a further 4 files concomitantly.
3. Asset Delivery Control
Another great feature of content delivery network technology is the fact that more control of network load and asset delivery is provided. What this means is that operators are now able to report viewing details to their clients, indicate the various types of assets which are high in terms of popularity, display active regions, but also optimize capacity per client and deliver real time load stats. For a company, this data is very important and that’s because once the source is added to the content delivery network, usage logs are automatically deactivated.
4. High capacity infrastructures
It’s quite easy to find great hosting packages, but these packages certainly lack the level of scalability offered by the likes of Yahoo, Microsoft and Google. The better content delivery networks offer lower packet loss, lower network latency and also higher availability. Also, instead of wasting funds by investing in separate service providers across the world and infrastructure, you could use a global content delivery network in order to cut down on the costs of high priced foreign hosting. If you’re a company that’s running on a low budget, this is a great solution since it works across various regions at an affordable cost.
5. Usage analytics
The majority of content delivery networks offer file usage reports and that’s because they usually charge per byte. Not only can these supplement the analytics of your own website, but they can also provide a greater impression of video downloads and views. By having this data available immediately, it’s easier to come up with new ways of improving website performance, but also attracting more users and hence, more traffic. Better yet, data can also be used for tailoring online campaigns while targeting specific audiences.
6. Distributed data centers
If your primary web server is based in New York, then users from Asia and Europe are forced to make a few (electronic) transcontinental hops when trying to access your files. The good news is that the majority of content delivery networks offer localized data centers that are very close to the user and therefore allow for much lower download times.
7. Saves money and increases performance
What’s great about CDNs is that they can lower your current hosting costs, improve performance, save bandwidth and also distribute the load – in most cases for free. On top of that, using a content delivery network also ensures the integrity and consistency of data. This is made possible due to the fact that updated info is mirrored to various servers instantly. Website owners are always trying to ensure that their users are properly updated with the latest content in order to maintain the website’s relevancy and in this regard, a content delivery network does the trick perfectly.
Use A CDN for a Higher Amount of Traffic
One of the main benefits of using a CDN is that it greatly reduces the load on your host, which results in consistent speeds. In a typical hosting scenario, the resources of a website are all hosted on a single private or shared server which can result in poorer speeds and even complete failure during high traffic times. Because of the added loads, things usually slow down and may even break down during traffic spikes.
By using a content delivery network though, traffic spikes are effectively managed due to the fact that the network is configured to efficiently handle traffic spikes. What this means is that if your website suddenly goes viral, the chances of it crashing range from very slim to zero.
Content Delivery Networks can Help Improve Security
Content delivery network hosting offers a cost effective solution for a content provider, E-commerce owner or online vendor to ensure that all his clients are completely satisfied regardless of the number of objects they download from a page or what part of the world they access the website from. This all translates into higher security levels from hacker attacks and faster performance for your website.
That’s because content delivery networks maintain many Points of Presence and also use a special mechanism that offers information and logs to the origin servers. So instead of a regular client-server communication, 2 communication flows are employed.
A content delivery network is basically a surrogate server that’s situated across various data centres in various regions around the world and this specific type of infrastructure is what actually provides a more secure network.
It’s important to note that a CDN is able to absorb less sophisticated DDoS attacks by simply providing enough bandwidth for those requests to be processed. Since the requests are also dispersed to be processed on a wide range of servers, saturating a single server in the process is not possible.
The majority of CDN providers also limit abusing crawlers, bots and block threats so that they don’t waste server resources and bandwidth. This eventually results in a lower number of hack attacks and much less spam.
CDN Helps with Speed, which in turn will Help with SEO
Since Google begun taking site speed into consideration when ranking websites, it’s very important that website owners do everything they can in order to improve website speeds. In this regard, using a content delivery network can play a major role not only in improving your website’s loading times, but also helping you a lot with SEO. After all, if your website is faster, then it’s definitely going to look much better in the eyes of Google.
However, it’s very important that you also keep in mind the fact that Google does take into account a wide range of criteria when ranking a website. Probably the most important factor is content, so that is why it’s essential that you try to get solid content uploaded on your website. You could have the fastest website in the world, but if it’s full of poor quality content and lacks proper meta tags, it’s not going to rank well.
According to Google Engineer, Matt Cutts, when website speed was implemented in Google’s ranking algorithm, a meager one percent of search queries changed. However, even though website owners may decide to immediately invest in a content delivery network, it’s essential that they keep in mind the fact that there is a host of factors that influence page speed, including external requests, CSS sprites, code magnification, caching, image optimisation and so forth.
Is it Still Recommended to Invest in a CDN if the SEO Benefit is Minimal?
According to various industry experts, even if the perceived SEO benefit seems to be minimal, investing in a content delivery network is still a great choice. After all, even the tiniest advantage can be crucial, especially when having fierce competitors and this is also going to help website owners when it comes to SERP positions. In fact, the search engine optimisation benefit is the number one reason why getting a CDN is recommended, yet the benefits experienced by everyone who is going to visit the website is probably the greatest factor that warrants a content delivery network subscription.
The Internet is already extremely competitive and there are more and more websites launched every day. In this conglomerate of data, it’s the fittest that’s eventually going to survive in the long run as society gets used to speedier loading internet pages and superior technology and more and more users are going to expect new and older websites to keep up unless they want to be left behind. Given the fact that a content delivery network can be easily setup for about fifty dollars per annum for the large majority of people, investing in one is an absolute must.
Worldwide Access Improves Reach
Can a content delivery network expand Internet presence into global markets? The short answer to this question is yes, but it’s worth mentioning that not every content delivery network is able to offer you a solution that can help achieve your particular needs. It depends on which markets or regions around the globe are targeted and the amount of traffic received from them.
A larger global content delivery network can be useful to a lot of website owners and that’s because it can provide the means of cost effectively and swiftly reaching a global audience because of its superior reliability and vast network. A smaller content delivery network may have zero presence in markets considered difficult to reach, including India, Russia, China and so on and can also have a limited access outside of its home region.
Set Up The CDN… Easily
Some people may think that setting up a content delivery network takes a lot of time and that this is also very difficult (which is partly true, based on the complexity and size of the website it’s used for), but for the majority of websites, it’s actually very easy to implement a content delivery network. Basically, you just have to tell the content delivery network what files it needs to mirror and then all you have to do is ensure your website is properly configured so that it sends requests to those files to the content delivery network for handling.
Some website owners may use popular CMS, such as Magento, Drupal, WP and so forth in which case they can use plugins to set up their website to a content delivery network provider. There are also a few other types of implementations that may be required, such as changing the domain’s name servers and DNS records.
Are They Cost Effective?
Last but not least, the cost of the majority of content delivery networks ranges from cost effective solutions for small and medium website oriented solutions to high-end setups for enterprise websites that can get pretty pricey. Cost is also influenced by SSL/security needs, region reach and of course, bandwidth. For instance, if the majority of your users come from Asia, you can forego buying server nodes in Europe.