WHY USE A CONTENT DELIVERY NETWORK (CDN)?
While CDNs are an appropriate solution for most websites looking for speed improvements, not every site necessarily needs one. It’s important to understand how CDNs work and ultimately, if the benefits are worth the cost of adding one.
What is a CDN?
A CDN is essentially a network of geographically dispersed servers. Each CDN node (also called Edge Servers) caches the static content of a site like the images, CSS/JS files and other structural components. The majority of an end-user’s page load time is spent on retrieving this content, and so it makes sense to provide these “building blocks” of a site in as many server nodes as possible, distributed throughout the world.
When a user requests your site, the node closest in proximity to user will deliver the static content, ensuring the shortest distance for the data to travel (reduced latency), therefore providing the fastest site experience.
Why do I need a CDN?
The number one reason for using a CDN is to improve your user’s experience in terms of speed, and as we know - speed matters!
Ensuring a consistent experience for all your users is important.
A website may be hosted in a particular region, but have the majority of its users coming from an entirely different region - for example, if your site is hosted in North America, E2C might report fast speeds based on our default test location, but if a good chunk of your users come from Europe, their speed will not be as fast as you experience it to be.
A global CDN would allow users from a European point of origin to download static content from a closer source. Instead of spanning the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve data, they can connect to a server in say, London, UK, to get the same data. This reduces latency and provides a faster loading of your website.
WHY USE A CDN?
“CDNs not only ensure a faster experience to your users, but they also help to prevent site crashes in the event of traffic surges - CDNs help to distribute bandwidth across multiple servers, instead of allowing one server to handle all traffic”.
Geoffrey Vande Weerdt, Managing Director Ecritel Cloud Center
Implementation and Cost
It might sound like setting up a CDN for your site is a difficult endeavor (sometimes it is, depending on the site size/complexity), but for most websites - CDNs are easy to implement. Essentially, we tell the CDN which files (typically static resources) it needs to mirror. Then, we configure your site to send requests to those files to the CDN for handling.
For anybody using a popular CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc.), plugins exist to set your site up for a CDN provider without much difficulty. Other implementations may involve modifying DNS records and changing the name servers of your domain.
The cost of a CDN also depends on bandwidth, region reach, and/or security/SSL needs. For example, if you find that most of your users come from North America and Europe, you can omit purchasing server nodes in Asia.
CDNs don’t have to be cost prohibitive, and can be accessible to website owners of various budgets.
* Source GTMETRIX - https://gtmetrix.com/why-use-a-cdn.html