What is a CDN and Do You Need One?

The speed at which your website loads affects your bottom line. Google recommends web pages load in two seconds or less, and the goal is under half a second. A CDN can help you reach that goal. It could potentially give you faster loading pages, happier users, improved security, and several other benefits. What is […]

Written By Matthew Martin

August 28, 2020

The speed at which your website loads affects your bottom line. Google recommends web pages load in two seconds or less, and the goal is under half a second. A CDN can help you reach that goal. It could potentially give you faster loading pages, happier users, improved security, and several other benefits.

What is a CDN?

We try not to throw around too many acronyms, but there are a lot of them associated with website design, web hosting, search engine optimization, and so on. CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. It’s a group of interconnected servers scattered strategically across the globe that deliver web content faster.

A CDN Improves Web Experiences

Without a CDN, all a website’s HTML pages, stylesheets, videos, images, and other files “live” on one single server. When users request access to any of those files, their request has to travel from their location, often crossing oceans and multiple landmasses to the server, then the files must transmit back that same distance. If that user is in Germany and the server is in Texas, you can see how there might be a longer delay than there would be if the user were in Austin and the server was in Dallas.

Plus, sometimes there are spikes in web traffic. Let’s say you’re having a Black Friday sale, and everyone tries to visit your website and buy your widget as soon as the limited quantity becomes available. If you only have one server to process that traffic, the traffic spikes and heavy load could cause failure. Your sale won’t go as planned and your users will have a bad experience they might never get over.

In contrast, a CDN basically spreads out access points between multiple servers. The users are geographically closer, and more than one server shares the load.

How A CDN Works

A CDN addresses both uptime reliability and website speed. It places Points of Presence (PoPs), which are user endpoints in as many locations around the world as possible. The first time a user anywhere in the world visits a page, their request goes to the origin server.

At that point, the server sends data back to that user, and also transmits it to all the other endpoints across the globe. Then, when users are active in Sydney, Australia or Rome, Italy or Denver, Colorado, their request goes to the nearest PoP where the content is cached. Each PoP takes responsibility for keeping fresh content and delivering that content to users nearest that location.

CDN Benefits

Using a CDN has major benefits for website owners.

Faster website load times – More than half of website visitors surveyed say they’ll leave a website that takes longer than three seconds to load. Page speed is a ranking factor, so it affects where your page displays in search engine results. And, because almost 70 percent of consumers say page speed affects whether or not they’re likely to buy from a brand, faster website load times could bring you more revenue.

Reduced server load – Because users get content from its nearest access point, no single server has to handle all your website traffic.

Better website security – CDNs go through highly secure data centers placed at strategic locations around the globe. If one data center has technical problems, traffic gets rerouted so users don’t experience disruptions. CDNs keep data secure through TLS/SSL certificates.

Lower costs – Using a CDN is much less expensive than hosting your website at separate providers in multiple countries. CDNs also reduce the amount of data required from an origin server, so your website consumes less bandwidth.

Who Should Use a CDN?

Anyone with a business website or mobile app can benefit from a CDN, even if your website or your business is in the beginning phases, you don’t currently experience much traffic, or you only do business within the United States.

We haven’t encountered many business owners who didn’t intend for their business to grow. When you guarantee you can deliver content rapidly and securely to users, you ensure your website will create business growth, not hinder it. Here are a few examples of businesses that benefit from using a CDN.

  • E-commerce – If you sell online, you can’t afford for a busy day to crash your website. When you can deliver content quickly, happy shoppers are more likely to browse and buy.
  • Finance – Security is the chief concern for banks and other financial institutions. Customers also want fast access to their sensitive data.
  • Media – News websites constantly update information, and a CDN can deliver dynamic, location-based content that stays current.
  • Entertainment and gaming development websites – Users are constantly downloading large amounts of data or consuming media, and a CDN will improve their experience.

Any website that includes lots of videos and large files can benefit from a CDN. Netflix, Facebook, and other services that provide streaming rely on them because they distribute content to endpoints closer to individual users. A CDN also makes sense for website owners looking to improve their search engine ranking.

CDN Drawbacks

Like just about everything else, using a CDN costs money. Most content delivery networks charge a monthly fee. If most of your business comes from local sources and your website is fairly simple, it may not be worth it to pay the additional cost. Using a CDN also makes your website deployment more complex, so you’ll need someone with technical expertise. And, in some countries certain types of content are restricted, so customers might find the nearest content delivery network is blocked.

Considering a CDN for Your Website?

In most situations, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. If you’re wondering whether your website traffic and users would benefit from implementing a CDN, we can help. Get in touch and we can help you choose the best and most cost-effective solution based on your current needs and budget.




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