Why Should You Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)? | Rule #7
Over the past few years the Content Delivery Network, known as a CDN, has revolutionized web hosting.
While a Content Delivery Network may be the solution for many web sites that are looking to improve their site speed, not every site necessarily needs one.
What is a Content Deliver Network (CDN)?
A CDN is a network of servers geographically spread throughout the world.
The Performance Golden Rule, as mentioned in the article ‘Apply these 7 Rules for Explosively FAST Web Sites!’, states that the vast majority of your visitor’s HTTP response time (roughly 80 to 90%), is spent retrieving the above mentioned files, so it make sense to store this information across as many server nodes as possible.
How a CDN Works
It is important for a site owner to understand how a Content Delivery Network works, and if the benefits outweigh the cost of adding your site to a world wide CDN.
In short, a Content Delivery Network stores and delivers, when called upon, the static files for your website based on your visitor’s geographical location, making for faster response and downloading times of the content due to reduced latency.
Under normal circumstances, when a visitor comes to your site, the visitor’s HTTP requests are directed only to the server that hosts your website.
But, thanks to the CDN, your site can be different from the rest, if you choose.
Example: Let’s say that your visitor lives in Italy… this is where a CDN will shine… the person visiting your site will be redirected to the closest server that houses your static files.
This will limit the number of Internet hops that would be required to deliver the static content to your visitor, meaning increased site speed.
To Clarify, a CDN is a network of servers, that you use with your site, along with web hosting.
A Content Deliver Network will not replace a web hosting account, you will still need to have a stable and reliable web hosting provider.
Why Should You Have a CDN for Your Site?
The biggest reason for using a Content Delivery Network is to improve your site’s speed globally… this will create an improved end-user experience.
If your website is hosted in Texas, but many of your visitor’s live in Europe, their speed will not be quite as fast as it would be for a person living in America.
Having a global Content Delivery Network would allow your European visitors to download your static website content from a source closer to their home.
– Instead of your visitor’s HTTP requests crossing the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve your site’s data, the person living in Europe requesting your information would connect to a server, let’s say somewhere in the UK, to get the identical data.
Having a Content Delivery Network for your site will not only ensure a faster end-user experience, but it will also help prevent site crashes due to high-traffic surges.
To clear things up… a CDN is the next level of site optimization, it is not a quick fix to a poorly optimized or plugin heavy site.
For a quality Content Deliver Network, you will need to pay for the service, so deciding to implement one will depend on your end goals and budget.
– Will a CDN help improve the performance of your website? Yes.
– Is it absolutely required for all websites? No.
You can still have a blazing fast website if it is optimized properly… but, for those visitors from afar, a CDN would probably do your site some good.
Placing Your Site on a CDN
Setting Up Your CDN
It might appear as if setting up a CDN for your site might be complicated, but the level of difficulty will depend on your site’s size and file complexity.
You will need to tell the CDN which files you would like it to handle, then configure your site to send the requests to those files installed on the CDN.
There are many plugins available today that can help set up your site for a CDN without too much difficulty.
NOTE: There may be a time that you will need to change your DNS zone files and possibly the Nameservers of your domain.
The Cost for Your CDN
Many CDN’s are third-party services that can range from fairly cheap to very expensive, depending on your overall size of site, and the setup you want.
Your cost will depend on your bandwidth usage, the regions you choose, and whether you need an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) for a secure site setup.
Closing Comments About the Mighty Content Delivery Network
CDN’s don’t have to break the bank… you can choose whether to have a CDN fit for a King, or one on a tight budget.
For those with heavy traffic, mission critical websites and that are serious about providing the best possible experience for all their users, a CDN should be a crucial part of their optimizing strategy.
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