What is a CDN and Why You Need To Use One

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers from around the world that delivers content to internet users. Data from content delivery networks such as MaxCDN and Amazon Cloudfront represent a large percentage of all internet traffic.

CDNs are used by high traffic websites to serve multimedia files, text, software, documents, and more. Small websites can also benefit from using a CDN.

Let’s look closer at what a Content Delivery Network can do for you and your website.

Faster Response Times

A typical WordPress website has all of its data stored in one location. The website is stored on a server; which is simply a computer that is used exclusively to host websites twenty four hours a day.

One or many websites may be hosted on a server. High traffic websites tend to be stored on a server of their own, though most websites share a server with dozens, or even hundreds of other websites (e.g. shared hosting). All of these servers are situated in a data centre; which is a large facility that is optimized to host thousands of servers so that they never go offline (most manage 99.5% uptime or more). As such, they are designed to withstand bad weather, outages, security attacks and more.

When a person visits a WordPress website, they download multimedia files such as images and video from the server. PHP files are executed and calls are made to the website database to retrieve content e.g. your posts and pages. Other types of files are also downloaded including theme files and Javascript.

All of this data has to be retrieved by visitors from your server. The further visitors are from your server location, the longer it will take to retrieve these files. For example, if your website is hosted in Texas, USA, a person from London would find your website slower than someone from New York. Visitors from further locations, such as the Middle East, would have even delays.

The time it takes for someone to retrieve data from your server is known as the response time.

An Illustration of How a Content Delivery Network Operates

Content Delivery Networks greatly reduce response times for visitors around the world. They achieve this by storing a static HTML copy of your pages on dozens of servers from around the world (this technique of storing static files is known as caching). An internet user from London can therefore retrieve the data for your website from a closer location, such as Amsterdam. Someone from Dubai may access your website via a server in Israel.

Static pages load quicker than dynamic pages too, therefore, in addition to reduced response times, the size of your web pages will also be reduced. This results in faster loading web pages.

Better Infrastructure

The speed and reliability of a website is largely due to what it is hosted on. Without the use of a CDN, a website is limited by the power of the hosting plan or server it is hosted on. Websites hosted on shared hosting accounts and Virtual Private Servers (VPS) only get a limited amount of RAM and CPU time.

On a day to day basis, a basic hosting plan is sufficient for hosting a small content website. However, they will struggle if they receive more traffic than normal. In the event of one of your articles or images being shared on Twitter, or making it to the front page of Reddit; your whole website could get overwhelmed and go offline.

You do not have to be concerned about this scenario when using a CDN as they host your pages on large servers across the globe. This allows them to cope with any level of traffic you throw at it; big or small.

It is not just traffic spikes that CDNs can help you with. CDNs can also improve the security of your website from hackers by hiding the true location of your website’s servers. They also proactively stop threats so that you do not see increased bandwidth costs.

If your main website does go down, CDNs can eliminate downtime that visitors experience when your website goes offline by serving them a cached copy of your pages. As you know, downtime can be very costly for a business, which is why so many websites opt to use a CDN.

Ultimately, Content Delivery Networks offer a solid infrastructure that is well equipped to handle common website problems such as traffic spikes, security threats, and downtime.

Higher Search Engine Rankings and Increased Conversions

Slow loading web pages drive visitors away. The longer your page takes to load, the more likely it is the visitor will abandon your page and click the back button on their browser. This loses you traffic. It also loses you potential subscribers and potential customers. You simply cannot afford to let targeted traffic like that slip through your fingers.

Search engines such as Google also factor in the speed of a web page into their ranking algorithms. Therefore, if your website is unnecessarily slow, you will be losing a lot of search engine traffic. This results in even more readers, followers, and customers, being lost.

By implementing a CDN, you can shave seconds off your page loading times and see traffic and income increase. I recommend trying it out for yourself to see how much a difference in performance a CDN can make.

Three reliable CDNs to check out are MaxCDN, Amazon Cloudfront, and CloudFlare. MaxCDN and Amazon CloudFront both charge around $0.08 per GB of bandwidth. This cost goes down as you bandwidth usage increases. CloudFlare are free to use, however their pro plan only costs $20 per month for your first website and $5 for subsequent websites. The pro plan will give added security benefits and real time statistics that the free plan does not offer.

This article was authored by:

Kevin Muldoon is a professional blogger with a love of travel. He writes regularly about topics such as WordPress, Blogging, Productivity, Internet Marketing and Social Media on his personal blog and and provides technical support at Rise Forums. He can also be found on Twitter: @KevinMuldoon and Google+.

Kevin Muldoon has authored 833 posts.Visit Website

Showing 2 Comments

  • Great summary on some of the benefits of using a CDN.

    Speed is definitely essential and arguably the most important factor to a successful website… it really does not matter how appealing the offers are, how relevant the content is or how user friendly the site is if people are not willing to wait an extra second for it to load.

    If I may share a bit more about what CDNs can also do (I work for one) is they are also capable of accelerating the delivery of dynamic content (applications, games, real-time data etc…). unlike static content, dynamic content is cannot be cahced and must be pulled from the origin server. CDNs that offer dynamic acceleration enables the delivery of dynamic content to bypass the standard internet delivery path, reducing delivery time by up to 900% (depending where the target region is.

    Standard caching alone is no longer sufficient for as websites are becoming richer and more interactive. Unfortunately, not all CDNs are able to offer dynamic or whole site acceleration solutions. Only the bigger CDNs such as Akamai, CDNetowrks, and a handful of others can offer such services.

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  • Another CDN network that needs to be mentioned is Edgecast, one of the leader in the industry. More and more business use this network to get their websites as fast as it’s possible. Because it’s no secret that nowadays it’s crucial to be able to deliver content to the end user without glitches and interruptions and almost instantly. The user doesn’t like to wait and he leaves a website very quickly if it doesn’t have a good speed.
    And that’s when you need to use some CDN network. Edgecast has developed an outstanding CDN service that automatically pulls and caches new media on your site in as little as one hour. SuperPOPs (points of presence) of Edgecast are located on five continents. That means that it doesn’t matter what kind of content the user wants to get. Anyway he will get it as fast as possible, because he will get it from the SuperPOP that is the closest to his location.
    At the same time adding a CDN to a website decreases the amount of processing power required to deliver your content – whether its an image, a flash video or a live streming event – to your visitors and cuts down bandwidth usage to your webserver. There is no need to say that this way you get less expenses while your visitors are satisfied and loyal and that means more revenue for any internet business.
    Read more about the network http://jodihost.com/2014_edgecast.php

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