What Is a CDN and Do You Need It – Some Important Questions Answered

What Is a CDN and Do You Need It – Some Important Questions Answered
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Launching a website is not complicated even for a beginner. Making it highly-functional, successful, frequently visited and performing well for your business – those are tasks more difficult to handle. CDN is not a solution to all your needs, but it will be quite helpful. Let’s figure out why and how.

What is a CDN: meaning and the main purpose

So what does CDN stand for? This abbreviation is short for a content delivery network. This term describes the scope of servers with specialized software that speeds up content delivery to the end user. Such servers are located all around the world to ensure minimal response time. The main purpose of CDN is to enhance user experience and improving website ranking by increased functioning speed and loading time.

History

The rapid development of the Internet in the mid-90s resulted in serious server loads and a need for new solutions. IT specialists noticed that there are two types of content – static and dynamic. Dynamic is assembled and recreated by a server when it receives a request, while static is stored in its final form ready for presentation. These content types created different kinds of server load, so they required different approaches to those improvements. Companies started using different servers for static and dynamic content, sometimes located at different corners of the planet.

Cloudflare was one of the first to come up with a CDN strategy around 20 years ago. It reduces traffic bounces and website response time – you reach content in less than 10 bounces and 30ms. Companies using Cloudflare reduce homepage loading time up to 42%. Files are recorded on all places of localization (42 locations worldwide) to be closer to a user, then content loads from servers located the closest to users, content is reached twice faster.

Purpose

It is already clear from CDN meaning that it connects all remote servers into a single network, reducing the waiting time for 5-6 seconds. It acts similarly to cache, just of a bigger scale. The main task of CDN is to reduce your time in a waiting line for content. No one likes to wait. CDN helps to bring new and keep existing clients, and backups website reputation.

Differences between CDN and website hosting

After reading the definition, some are still puzzled by the too slight difference between CDN and hosting. Here are several comparisons will be helpful:

  • Web hosting locates a website on a server. CDN helps to access the content on this website fast.
  • Hosting provides access to all the information stored on the site. CDN allows reaching the majority of static and some dynamic files.
  • Web hosting features one server that lets a website exist physically. CDN is a global system of browsers that duplicates its files.
  • Web hosting can function without CDN, but not vice versa.

How it works

Website resources are copied on a different network server. When users request certain files, CDN defines the nearest server and delivers files from it. Website owners need to choose one of the following strategies to make it work:

  1. upload static files into cloud storage, which gets a DNS name issued by providers or chosen on your own and is indicated in HTML;
  2. indicate origin for a domain which CDN can address for downloading and transferring files.

Reasons to use CDN server

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Every website owner will come up with their own reasons to use or not to use CDN. Nevertheless, there are two cases, when it will be very helpful.

  • Your run a large-scale website. The more pages and files you possess and show to users, the more space and resources you need. The smart distribution will increase website loading speed and your reputation.
  • Your website is multilingual. It would be smart to store the files for each language separately. It is better to organize files according to versions, not topics. Sometimes you can predict where a particular language version will be requested.

Why you need WordPress CDN

  • Speed increase– it has been already mentioned, WordPress sites are not an exception.
  • Preventing breakdowns– a website can distribute the load between several servers so it won’t be down in case many users come simultaneously.
  • Enhanced user experience, which results in lower bounce rate and page views increase.
  • SEO improvement – Google admits high loading speed and always awards it due to the help of CDN.

Benefits of using CDN

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  • Content availability – servers work as a backup for one another, websites work 24/7, data loss risks are close to zero.
  • High loading speed thanks to the short route and minimum requests.
  • Server load reduction – the main server is used only for distributing updates and generating some dynamic content.
  • Publishing heavy content, which is especially useful for software and media hosting and interactive promos.
  • Fail-safety and security significantly lower the probability of an effective DDoS attack.
  • Scalability – distributed server networks handle requests of thousands and millions of users equally easy.

Checklist to find out whether you need CDN

After answering “What is a CDN?” you may need to answer a couple of other questions to finally define whether CDN is crucial for your site. If you end up with “YES” to most of these questions, you definitely need it.

1. Are your website users located in different countries or on different continents?

The closer your web resource is to users, the less time a request for content display will take. A ping, time that passes from the request to receiving the first byte from a server, is short, so your site works fast.

2. Does your website store much information, including photo albums, galleries, videos?

Server performance also matters. Your server can be located close to a user, but loading still remains slow. This happens due to numerous factors: servers aren’t able to process a large number of simultaneous connections with users’ browsers; hard drives are old and slow; servers don’t use load balancing; servers have low zero error capacity, etc.

3. Does your website have more than 100 pages?

CDN is perfect for sites of all types – web shops, forums, news portals. Fast page loading is always an advantage, regardless of the scale of your resource. It is always an advantage, especially in case your competitors don’t use one.

4. Does the loading speed matter for your website/business?

CDN usage speeds up the performance and loading speed while lowering the risks of breakdowns and data loss. As a result, you will improve the user experience.

5. Are DDoS attacks on your website frequent?

CDN guarantees protection from scammers. It becomes difficult to achieve their malicious goals because very powerful resources are required for DDoS attacks on websites that use it.

6. Do you face troubles with reaching high ranking positions?

Google likes websites with high loading speed. Server speed-up will result in the increase of site positions in search system and new users, lower bounce rate and higher ranking.

7. Do you have a limited budget for service hosting?

CDN helps to set up a stable operation with limited resources. In case a website owner cannot afford expensive tariffs, it provides an opportunity to launch a site even on virtual hosting with limited server and traffic resources.

CDN is not obligatory in case:

  • website traffic is concentrated in one region;
  • hosting tariffs completely cover the traffic;
  • you don’t have specially allocated budget currently.

By answering these questions about CDN you are totally prepared for the final decision.

How CDN can improve website load time?

Let’s back to CDN and website speed correlation. Back to the loading time we’ve mentioned so many times, even if you manage to increase the speed by 0.5 seconds, in the 80% of cases it will result in:

  1. conversion increase;
  2. lower bounce rate;
  3. visit depth increase;
  4. sales growth;
  5. higher ranking.

The sub-servers located in different parts of the world. Users receive it from the nearest source. Information passes the shortest way, reaching users very fast. Load time is short thanks to the optimization of requests and structure. That’s why CDN is the best solution for you and your website.

How can CDN impact on SEO

Search systems pay attention to server response time – the amount of time that passes from users’ request to content display. It directly influences the bounce rate, which is greatly determined by page loading time. Users are clear about their attitudes to page loading (research can be found here ):

  • 46% of smartphone users dislike waiting until a page loads the most during web surfing.
  • The best-estimated loading time is 2.4 seconds – it increases the mobile conversion rate. 2 seconds drop it.
  • Sessions on websites that load less than in five seconds last up to 70% longer.
  • Pages that load in 5 seconds have 38% bounce rate, while for the two-second loading it is only 9%.
  • 79% will not return to buy something at a website that had troubles with fast loading.
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