February 24, 2017 by Diana Bocco

What Is a CDN and How It Can Help Your Website Speed Up

Web users today are demanding faster, superior services from the websites they visit. With the wide explosion of broadband and a bigger demand for rich-media content and applications, this increases the need for faster delivery and quick access.

What Is a CDN  and How It Can Help Your Website Speed Up

[guest post by James Pointon]

One way businesses are achieving this is with the clever use of CDNs, an appropriate solution for speed improvements, faster response and a better download time.

While not every website necessarily needs a CDN, it is good to look at how they work, what they can deliver and if the cost of adding one is good for your website.

So what is a CDN, and how does it work?

The acronym stands for content delivery network. They are implemented to improve global usability on a website, reduce the bandwidth, and decrease latency. This is the amount of time it takes to receive, process, and deliver on a request. It does this, simply put, by creating ‘copies’ of your site and hosting them on a network of geographically dispersed servers. The user will connect to your site from their closest server, reducing latency.

Will a CDN be useful in all circumstances?

A CDN is critical to the load time of practically all websites these days. The visitors to your website will quickly become impatient if their load time on visit is prolonged. However, there are still a few reasons where the cost of a CDN won’t benefit you. An obvious instance is when you are hosting locally and the majority of your users are also local and within close vicinity.

Secondly, it’s also good to remember that a CDN isn’t a performance solution that does all the work for you, due to varying factors. However, if you pick the correct CDN for your site, it can increase its productivity and offer you a host of other benefits.

What should I know?

It is good to be aware that latency can greatly differ between providers. Since you don’t want to purchase a CDN that only provides you with very limited benefits, you must first do your homework. For example, you should be aware of how the CDN stores content, or how many Points of Presence it offers. In addition to that, you should also know the geographic locations of your users and ensure that the CDN’s PoPs can reach them. After all, a CDN will only be effective if it covers the areas where your users live, so without establishing where the traffic to your website comes from you will be forced to choose blindly.

Finally, you need to ask yourself how critical the latency is for your website and its users. Obviously, the loading time of a website is of prime importance. However, several hundred milliseconds of latency usually mean nothing to the majority of businesses as their users don’t even notice them. If your website and your business don’t require the absolute best (and extremely pricey) performance, cut the cost and choose a cheaper CDN that will still perform very well.

Can it guarantee availability on my site?

Nearly all CDN providers guarantee 100% availability, even during problems such as power outages, network problems and hardware malfunctions. This is due to the fact that all CDNs have automatic mechanisms that read server information, with instant user redirection if the server goes down.

Will it speed up my website and are there other benefits?

In a word, yes. Along with other implemented solutions, a properly chosen CDN will definitely increase usability in your website. A fasting running website will also help you rank higher in search engine results, as it is good for SEO. Search engines don’t use your load time as a ranking signal, however, a visitor returning to Google and choosing a different result will effect it. So your slow-loading site could force users to inadvertently tell search engines your page was not a good result, leading to a lower ranking page for appropriate queries. A CDN can improve your load time, and therefore help with your SEO.

Can a CDN really help my website?

Google’s research experiments show that a faster website leads to happier users, increased productivity, and users that spend more time browsing. Other research demonstrated that over 40% of visitors will leave a site if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. So it doesn’t matter how great your website looks, if it doesn’t load efficiently, you lose visitors. The proper implementation of a CDN increases load time, meaning an increased chance of a visitor staying to check out your website.

So how do I choose the right CDN for me?

Luckily, CDNs are no longer a luxury that only larger sites could implement. There is now a growing selection of competitive products and pricing available for many website companies. Research the right type of CDN for your site. This is a good article on choosing a CDN or visit this article detailing the best top ten CDN providers.

** About the Author: James Pointon is a technology-addict but also a people person working as a Communications Specialist at OpenAgent. Mixing both his tech prowess and the easy-going approach, James improves communication between the company and its customers and occasionally shares some of his ideas.

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