What’s A Content Delivery Network (CDN) And Why Use One?

Confused? Don’t be. A CDN is actually much simpler than what it sounds like. It’s not quantum physics, but its function is quantum-physics-worthy. In this post, we’ll go through the most important reasons why you should finally install a CDN—if you haven’t already. But first, let’s define what a CDN is.

What Is A CDN?

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a server network system whose aim is to distribute web content to users based in different geographic locations worldwide. Basically, a CDN is a way to deliver web data much faster by using a server located nearest to the end-user.

CDNs effectively minimize the distance between the origin server and the end-user, thus offering higher website performance, as well as a more satisfactory user experience.

They’re used for caching a plethora of content such as text, media files, graphics, live streaming videos, social media, and so on. A CDN replicates all this web content on the server networks distributed worldwide.

How Do CDNs Work?

You might wonder how the specific server is chosen to distribute particular data. To optimize for performance, what basically happens is that the CDN is designed to choose the server that can respond best.

These networks of servers are called “points of presence” (POPs) and they are globally placed in different locations. The server choice, however, depends on several factors, such as which server can deliver data faster to the end-user at that moment, the current server availability, and so on. Also locations having fewer hops are taken into consideration.

You store (or “cache”) your web content on a CDN (and the CDN server nearest to the end-users is called “edge server”), so the cached content can be delivered to your users from the edge server that’s closest, which is way faster than if it was delivered from its origin server.

Let’s illustrate this.

Let’s assume a user from Paris wants to access web content on a website from San Diego. Now, instead of pulling that content all the way from the United States’ origin server, the user’s request can travel to the server closest to Paris and get content stored in one of the so-called “points of presence”.

Likewise, when someone in Barcelona wants to access a UK-hosted site, the user’s request for content is handled by a Spanish POP. So, the user’s request doesn’t need to travel to the origin UK server and back again.

You get the point.

What Type Of Website Would A CDN Be Useful For?

Honestly, any larger website could use a CDN. However, CDNs are especially useful for the following website categories:

  • Publishing
  • Government
  • Ecommerce sites
  • Mobile apps
  • Online gaming
  • Banking institutions

Basically, websites that experience more frequent traffic spikes are the perfect candidates for a CDN, along with any site that receives global traffic.

Why Do I Need A CDN?

CDNs are multi-functional and can help with the following:

1. Lower Latency

Improving your page load speed is one of a CDN’s key features and the reason why most webmasters actually decide on installing a CDN in the first place. Serving your website data from a CDN allows you to cut down the latency of each roundtrip time between the server and the end-users, because the physical distance has been minimized.

The findings of a 2016 study reveal a 73% decrease in website latency while using a CDN.

You can’t change or ignore the fact that physical distance causes roundtrip delays when it comes to web content distribution. However, you can significantly modify this time delay with a CDN.

So, CDN usage is a very easy way to boost your website speed, yet at the same also proves to be the most practical. Improving your website speed has very much to do with the overall user experience on your website, which is our next point.

2. User Experience

Since a CDN enables faster website performance, this also affects the digital experience users have. If a website doesn’t load fast, guess what? Your bounce rates increase. And we’re not only talking about website performance. This also affects mobile performance, because nowadays, the latter is considered to be even much more significant.

Take a look at the following Google page load time stats:

  • 1–3 s load time = a 32% bounce back probability
  • 1–5 s load time = a 90% bounce back probability
  • 1–6 s load time = a 106% bounce back probability
  • 1–10 s load time = a 123% bounce back probability

User experience is shaped by your web content and the visual components of your site among other things, and, yes, a lot of them depend on the users’ personal preferences. However, the stats speak to the fact that a slow-loading page is universally a BIG NO.

All in all, do keep in mind that poor user experience is usually the number one reason for increased bounce rates.

3. Uptime

Website crashes happen. But if a crash happens and you’re using a CDN, the data requests are simply transferred onto the next server. So, basically, the next server handles the user’s request. This ensures less downtime, and contributes to the overall reliability of your website.

4. Affordability

CDNs are much more affordable than you might think. For instance, CDNs can save up to 60% bandwidth, which, in turn, reduces costs on your origin server.

Also, if you install a CDN, you won’t need any foreign network providers. CDNs cover this bit. Or if you decide to build your own network of data centers, you’ll end up spending a lot of time and more money. You can get all this, along with even better network functionality by simply using a CDN.

Since CDNs have become really popular, they’re much more affordable than in the past, and you have tons of CDN providers to choose from. Investing in a proper CDN provider like the ones used by LaunchCDN is definitely worth your money, especially with the web speed changes you’ll quickly notice.

Tell Me More…

Wasn’t this enough to convince you of the power of CDNs?

On the whole, CDNs speed up your website, provide better user experience, are affordable, and contribute to the overall website uptime.

Imagine a giant such as Netflix trying to thrive without a CDN, or Twitter accepting tweets worldwide.

CDNs are vital tools for performance optimization, and the sooner you realize this, the faster you can let your website thrive freely.