A Content Delivery Network, or CDN, refers to a globally distributed group of servers that work collaboratively to help make your website more reliable and load faster. The great thing is, they are affordable to suit every budget and available from many different companies each with their own fair share of advantages. The popularity of CDNs continues to grow, and with good reason. They do their job well and today the majority of web traffic is served through CDNs, including popular websites such as Amazon, Facebook and Netflix.
Choose a CDN to make your website Faster and more Reliable.
Here are our Top 5 reasons to partner with a CDN for your website:
Reliability & Redundancy
The secret to making this technology work is caching. There are many different types of caching technology employed these days from Browser based to HTTP caching as well as server-side caching technologies (we’ll explore these more on a separate article). But a CDN is different by introducing an extra layer to make things even faster. And by faster, we mean it. A WordPress website can expect to see speed increases anywhere between 50-80% when served through a CDN. Who wouldn’t want a speed boost like that?
The simple fact of the matter is web-servers, in the traditional sense, struggle to keep up with demand. With so many requests to handle, it can be challenging for a shared web server to respond in a timely fashion. It doesn’t help that there’s no globally enforced standard to adhere to either, no rule book states a web server ‘must respond in x milliseconds‘ for example. This directly impacts your website loading speed.
One thing a CDN does really well is reduce the TTFB or ‘Time-to-First-Byte’. A slow TTFB means your web page has taken a long time (potentially several seconds) just to establish a connection with your web server and receive an initial response. Keep in mind that your visitors are likely seeing a blank white page while all of this is happening – doesn’t make a very good first impression does it? A CDN greatly reduces this as it already has ‘oven ready’ content ready to serve. Wave good bye to those blank white pages!
A CDN can reduce up to 65% of the load from your web server and distribute it more evenly across a many of their regional servers. This results in less bandwidth and resources being used. If you are on a web hosting package that’s very restrictive, with limited resources for example, this really matters and could be the difference between you needing to upgrade or change hosts entirely – that’s one big headache avoided.
Reliability & Redundancy
Because CDNs have such large networks, they provide excellent redundancy. We have all experienced our website going down at one time or another. Incredibly frustrating wasn’t it? It can be particularly embarrassing when a customer is the one that notices first. A CDN can help solve this problem, but granted, it does depend on what plan you are on. Some offer excellent down time protection by caching much if not all of your website, while others offer bare minimum protection. So it’s important you do your research and compare the providers and plans.
It is true that by adding an extra step in the process, or ‘cog in the machine’ if you will, you are technically reducing your reliability. However, there is something important to consider. More servers spread around the globe are much more reliable than just one web server handling everything in one location. So a CDN actually is more reliable given the context when all said and done.
Pricing can vary considerably with CDN providers so shop around. There are free plans available with most CDN’s, however, we recommend avoiding them. They will provide you with bare minimum improvements to speed or redundancy which begs the question – what’s the point? If you’re going to the time, effort and expense to implement a CDN you need a plan that delivers and we know of no free options that do.
Prices generally start from $10 per month but can increase quickly. The reason for this is either size of the network, for example they open more global servers to you on higher paid tiers. Or due to bandwidth, whereby some CDN’s implement traffic control mechanisms or bandwidth limitations. Take a look at your last year of bandwidth use, your current web host can help you find this if need so reach out to them. You then have a ballpark figure of what your bandwidth use was, what the projected use is, and can then choose a suitable CDN plan around those numbers.
There are some extras we definitely recommend looking for in a provider. For example, permitting the upload of custom SSL certificates is a positive, this improves your security posture. Custom rules help tailor the CDN for your use case and thus improve compatibility. DDOS Protection and security rules really help to protect your website from hackers and illegal crawlers. Detailed analytics which can be exported in a variety of formats is really useful for reporting. Lastly, more servers around the globe which expands the network reach is definitely a plus, this directly improves website performance. Now you might not sell globally but that’s not the point, if they have servers located all around the world this provides you with even more redundancy – the more the better.
Integrating a CDN into your website is a process, but it’s not a difficult one. If you are unsure you can always reach out to a web developer for help, but if in doubt – YouTube is your friend. The first question you need to answer is – how is my website hosted?
If it’s a cloud based solution such as with WordPress.com or even with Wix, it might already be on a CDN. Check with your provider, and whilst your doing so ask if they offer different tiered plans. Remember, avoid free CDN’s. If your website is on a traditional web hosting platform or on a dedicated server, the process is a little more complex. You will need to update your Domain’s DNS records, specifically the Name Servers. For the sake of full disclosure, it is possible to do it via a CNAME record but we recommend against this approach – simply put, it just doesn’t work reliably from our experience so stick with the Name Server approach and you’re good to go.
Once the DNS records are updated and the CDN is fully configured (typically within 24 hours), you will be up and running and the best part is you achieved it with little to no downtime. Now is the moment to sit back, pat yourself on the back and realise you just made a great decision for the future of your website. And when your customers start commenting on how much faster your website is – you have yourself to thank.
Your next steps.
So, which CDN’s do we recommend? A good place to start is with RocketCDN, BunnyCDN or QUIC Cloud. They are all particularly good if you’re on WordPress as they include plugins that take away all the hassle by setting everything up fast. However they also work on other platforms too such as Joomla, Drupal, Magento and Laravel. With flexible integration, top notch speed, globally distributed servers and pricing plans offering great value – we gladly recommend them all.
At VIEWFULE, we migrate customers to content delivery networks regularly. So reach out for your FREE consultation and we’ll be glad to help!