A content delivery network, otherwise known as a "CDN" is something you're likely to hear about when someone is talking about ways to speed up their website, or improve customer experience. However, a lot of webmasters aren't entirely sure what a CDN is, or why they should be using one.
Content delivery networks are often regarded as one of the simplest, and most effective ways to ensure that your site loads faster and performs better. In a world where businesses have an opportunity to expand their reach all over the globe, a CDN service could be your opportunity to boost reliability and response times for your website, ensure stronger analytics for the future of your online presence, and reduce costs at the same time.
What is a Content Delivery Network? (a.k.a CDN)
Before we dive into the unique advantages that a CDN might be able to offer your company, let's explain what a content delivery network actually does. Over the years, content delivery networks have improved and revolutionised web hosting experiences for customers, by allowing them to distribute their website files and packages across a host of systems. In other words, rather than relying on a single server to keep your online presence in check, with a CDN, you balance the load across a "network" of servers.
Today, there are a number of free CDN solutions available for budding webmasters, including options offered by search giants like Yahoo, Google, and even Microsoft. But, the million-dollar question isn't where you should host your system, but what makes a CDN so beneficial?
1. Hosting Over Different Domains Means Better Performance
A content delivery network caches your information in servers around the world, meaning that you can achieve a better performance for your website overall. In standard hosting environments, your files are kept within a single domain, which means that one server has to work extra hard to distribute data to computer browsers around the world whenever someone clicks through to your site. On the other hand, with a CDN, you can minimise your distance to users by allowing customers to retrieve the information they need from the closest possible cache.
2. CDNs Allow for Better Scalability
When you're just beginning to build your online presence, the chances are that you won't need a lot of bandwidth or computing power to keep your website running. However, with a little bit of luck, and a lot of successful marketing, you should gradually see your traffic numbers begin to grow, and that means that you're going to need to deal with a lot more requests in a smaller amount of time. To keep your website performing at its fastest, a CDN distributes data into the best position, making your website infinitely more scalable. Some of the best content delivery networks offer lower latency, lower packet loss, and higher availability as standard.
3. Make Your Website More Reliable
Today, if your website breaks down in the middle of a purchase by a new customer, that client isn't going to sit around waiting for your servers to load back up so that they can continue with their order. An unreliable website not only means that you'll lose customers to distractions and frustration, but it could also mean that you end up with a damaged reputation when your clients see that you don't devote enough time and money into making your system work exactly as it should. With a content delivery network, requests for information will always be routed to the closest possible location. That means that if one server isn't available, requests will be sent to the next and so on, reducing your chances of broken links and pages.
4. Enjoy Lower Costs
There are a number of different ways for today's webmasters to host the information they need online to keep their website running in tip-top condition. Some packages, like private hosting, are far more expensive than others. A distributed hosting solution like a content delivery network is usually a less costly way to give your customers the fantastic experience they expect when they're logging onto the internet. A CDN will require less self-managed infrastructure than other hosting options, which could mean that you save a significant amount of money, without compromising on speed or performance.
5. Improve your Analytics
One interesting, and often-overlooked benefit of content delivery networks, is that they can help you to learn more about your website from an analytics point of view. Most commercial CDNs will provide usage reports to their customers as standard, because they typically charge each user "per byte". These reports not only show you exactly what you're paying for when you're trying to adjust your budget for hosting purposes, but they can also supplement your existing website analytics to give you a deeper insight into your online presence.
6. Better SEO and Google Ranking
Google has consistently made it clear that page load time continues to be one of the most important search engine ranking factors for any website online. By using a CDN, you can improve your ranking by speeding up your website significantly. Additionally, fewer broken pages and long loading times should mean that you end up with a lower bounce rate, because your customers won't hit the back button in their frustration. A small bounce rate and a quick load time comes together to give you a better value score for search engine algorithms.
7. More Chances for Sales and Conversions
Finally, your CDN could ultimately make your website more effective when it comes to getting you the sales and customers you crave. A fast site leads to happy customers, and happier customers contribute to more sales.