Improve Loading Speed With Content Delivery Network
If you run a serious online business, you’ve probably come across the term “content delivery network” a time or two. It was probably something you were told you needed for your business. But what exactly is a CDN?
A CDN is a sophisticated network of servers that provides a caching system for your website’s content. These servers are dispersed across the globe to provide fast and secure access to your website’s content regardless from where it’s being accessed from. This can drastically improve the performance of your site by making it available as if it were in the city of the visitor accessing it.
Let’s take a closer look at the performance aspects of a CDN.
What exactly does performance mean when it comes to a website? It means your visitors being able to access your content without delays. It’s your visitors reading your articles, looking at your products or watching your videos without having to wait for page loading or buffering.
When your content is cached by the servers on a Content Delivery Network, and a visitor comes to your website, they’re provided a copy of your content closest to where they’re accessing from. This ensures that people all over the world can access your website at lightning speed rather than waiting for everything to travel from your web host in Toronto Ontario, for example, to your visitor in Vancouver, British Columbia.
And this is one of the most important factors to consider when running an online business. In fact, there’s a popular term used in internet marketing called “bounce rate,” and it’s how early and how often a visitor leaves a new website they’ve visited. The biggest impact on bounce rate? Website performance.
Availability is how accessible your website and content is to your visitors when it’s experiencing things like high traffic or even server problems. And it’s just as important as performance in terms of keeping your customers engaged and maintaining a quality user experience.
For example, if you’re running an online business, and you launch a highly anticipated product, your website traffic is going to spike dramatically. Without the infrastructure of a CDN, your website is going to be brought to its knees, resulting in a horrible user experience and oodles of lost business.
With a CDN in place, these requests are absorbed and distributed to where your content is being accessed from. Not only does your site remain up and fast, but your customers get the best possible experience, regardless of their location.
Last but certainly not least, a CDN plays a big role in website security. Take a Distributed Denial of Service attack, for example: This method relies on thousands and thousands of website requests from across the globe to bring down a website. It’s essentially a faked high-traffic situation intended to make a website inaccessible.
While there are other ways to mitigate these kinds of attacks, such as advanced firewalls and website lockdowns, having a CDN in place adds an extra layer of defense by dispersing the requests that get through to its network of servers. With website security, there’s no such thing as too much.
A Closer Look
Using WPAssist as a case study, let’s take a look at some of the most common website speed tests and how they measure a website’s performance. For the tests, a free tool called GTmetrix was used. This tool can measure several of the more popular website metric tests, such as YSlow and PageSpeed.
The WPAssist website is hosted on servers located in Toronto. We start the GTmetrix test by selecting the nearest testing location which happens to be Dallas, Texas. We can see that we get respectable scores of 97 percent in PageSpeed and 85 percent in YSlow. We also have a loading time of 2.1 seconds:
Vancouver Test Before CDN
However, what would those numbers look like for someone visiting the website from the other side of the continent? For the next test, we select Vancouver as our testing location.
Our loading time has now dropped to 3.1 seconds. That may not seem like a lot, but it’s a 50 percent increase in loading time, and this can compound depending on what kind of content your visitors are accessing.
One thing to keep in mind is that, as of the time of this writing, PageSpeed doesn’t check for a CDN. But taking a closer look at YSlow’s breakdown, we can see that we aren’t using a CDN, and this is heavily impacting our score:
Vancouver Test After CDN
Now that we know how much of an impact not having a CDN has on a website’s performance, let’s see what happens when we implement CDN for the WPAssist website. Please note that using a Content Delivery Network requires modification to your domain’s DNS and is beyond the scope of this article.
Once the DNS changes are made, we go back to GTmetrix to test again from the Vancouver location:
As we can see, the loading speed has dropped down to 2.1 seconds, and our YSlow score jumped nearly 10 percent. Taking a look at YSlow’s breakdown, we can see that the sole reason for these rather large jumps in performance is the result of enabling the CDN.
While website performance tests aren’t so black and white, they’re an important indicator to consider, especially if your website is an online shop with customers all over the world.
The Bottom Line
If you’re running a serious online business in this day and age, there’s no question about it: You definitely need a content delivery network. The advantages you gain in availability, security and performance can’t be quantified. You’ll ensure your customers—current and future—always have access to your website and have the best possible experience.
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