What’s a Content Delivery Network and Do You Need One?

Content delivery networks sound like a scary and super complicated subject, but honestly, it's actually pretty straightforward!

Let me clear some of that confusion up for you.

Read on to find out what a content delivery network is and why you need one.

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CDN Related Terms Explained

First, there are a few terms that you should familiarize yourself with:

User: Someone who requests data (i.e. a page on a website)

Latency: The time between when you request a page to load and when the page appears on the screen.

Bandwidth: The amount of data that can be carried from one point to another within a given time frame.

Static Content: Web content that doesn’t change.

Origin server: The server where all of this data is kept permanently.

Cache server

  • Building block for CDNs
  • Stores and delivers the same data but from a different location in the world
  • Reduces load times and bandwidth consuption
  • Capable of storing lots of data (due to lots of RAM and SSD storage)

Random Access Memory (RAM), Solid State Drive (SSD) or Hard Disk Drive (HDD):

  • Where cached files are stored
  • Hardware that allows data to be stored and accessed easily

Points of presence (PoP):

  • Data centers
  • Strategically located based on traffic patterns
  • Reduces the time it takes to bring content to a user, due to the server being physically closer to the user, compared to the origin server.

What is a CDN?

A content delivery network (CDN) delivers data quickly by using cache servers and PoPs that are geographically located closest to the user. They are used to transfer static content such as images, videos, webpages, etc.

Think of it this way...

MonetizePros.com is hosted in the United States, but you're browsing it from say Australia. A content delivery network has basically saved our page and also put it on a server in Singapore.

Since Singapore is significantly closer to Australia than the states, your request to view a page on our site is received quicker and the data will come back to you quicker - resulting in you seeing the content quicker!​

How does a CDN work?

There are many cache servers placed strategically around the world or in different PoP’s.

PoPs contain multiple cache servers with copies of data stored in them.

A website also maintains an origin server where all their data is stored permanently

When someone wants to receive data from a website that has an origin server that is geographically far, data is instead drawn from a PoP that is closer.

The closer a cache server, the less time it takes for a user to receive the data.

So if someone from New York wants data from Madrid, instead of the data being pulled from the origin server, it is taken from a PoP that is closest to Madrid.

Who uses CDNs?

Generally sites that:

  • Find loading speed important
  • Have large media files (images, videos, etc.)
  • Receive large amounts of traffic generated from all over the world

Examples: CNN.com, Amazon.com, YouTube.com and MonetizePros.com! 🙂

Sites that often don’t need a CDN:

  • Small local businesses websites
  • Sites that only generate traffic from one very precise geographic location

Why do I need a CDN?

According to LoadStorm:

  • 1 in 4 people will abandon a site if it takes longer than 4 seconds to load
  • 46% of users will not return to a poorly performing website

A one second delay in load time will result in:

  • A 7% loss in conversions
  • 11% fewer page views
  • 16% decrease in customer satisfaction​

For example, Amazon reported receiving a boost of 2% in conversion rates per second of loading speed improved upon.

WhoIsHostingThis shows the differences in load times between images that were hosted on a CDN and ones that were not:

Using a CDN can:

1. Improve user experience:

  • Having a CDN will reduce the latency period for users trying to load a page from your website
  • Help prevent site crashes in the event of traffic surges by distributing bandwidth across multiple cache servers
  • Prevent packet loss: When one or more packets of data are lost somewhere between their point of origin and their destination
  • Improves user experience for mobile and tablet users who tend to have lower internet speeds

2. Improve security

  • They've got security standards to meet. The networks, their services and infrastructure are constantly checked to ensure safety and reliability
  • CDNs vigorously keep up with payment related security standards (PCI) to reduce credit card fraud and a lot of them are even able to protect your site from denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks where hackers attempt to take down your site with a surge of fake traffic

3. Create global connections

A truly global CDN has an established presence in places that would normally be difficult to access (i.e. China has extensive firewall protection).

Note: CDN providers typically don’t cover every single country in the world. Make sure to choose a CDN that reaches the locations that are relevant to your business.

4. Improve your SEO

Site speed is a huge ranking factor in Google Organic search!

5. Save time and money

  • A CDN will reduce costs by eliminating the need to invest in multiple datacenters and pay foreign network providers
  • Setting up the infrastructure to create your own functional network of data centers would take insane amounts of time
  • CDNs distribute bandwidth to different cache servers and thus reduce traffic on the origin server, keeping your costs lower

A few bonuses

1. Analytics

  • Most CDN packages come with analytical tools that help you keep track of your website speed and data.
  • The analytical tool offered by MaxCDN comes with real-time data so that is easy for you to predict future trends and behaviors.

2. Are easy to integrate:

  • Although CDNs themselves are complicated, setting them up for your own site is super easy, especially on the more common platforms like WordPress or Magento.
  • For anyone using WordPress, there is a CDN enabler plugin that makes integrating a CDN easy.

How do I set up a CDN?

Depending on the hosting site that you use, setting up a CDN may vary. Here are a few videos to help you through the process of setting up MaxCDN:

How to set up MaxCDN for WordPress.

How to set up MaxCDN for Magento

How to set up MaxCDN for Joomla

What's The Best Content Delivery Network?

Here's a breakdown of the best content delivery networks out there right now.

#1 - MaxCDN

The expert in CDNs with direct reach in over 90 countries. They're by far the biggest provider out there and it integrates super easily with virtually any platform, especially WordPress.

Blazing fast speeds, lots of servers, undeniably the best support and an affordable price to go with it!​

#2 - Akamai

With over 100,000 servers placed in over 80 countries, Akamai is one of the largest CDN providers and hosts a significant amount of the world’s web traffic.

Pricing: Akami does not display their pricing because they want to work individually with each

#3 - Amazon Web Services

A global CDN that serves static and streaming content. Servers available in US, Europe, Asia (but not China), Australia, and South America

Pay as you go and free on contracts.

#4 - CloudFlare

​As a free service with 80+ PoPs and zero charge for transfer/bandwidth, cloud fare is an increasingly popular provider. Cloud fare has serves set up in the US/EU and China.

Free plans available for smaller traffic generated by personal websites and blogs. If you’re running a professional website to an enterprise then you may want to consider using a Cloud Fare plan.

To read more on CDN providers click here.

Conclusion

Remember that when choosing a CDN it is important to think about what your needs are.

Who are the customers you are trying to reach?

How much traffic does your site generate?

Once you have these questions answered, choose your CDN provider, install it and get those clicks and conversions up!

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