You may be asking yourself, “What is a CDN?” A CDN has servers located around the globe, which helps to reduce latency between a user’s request and how fast the website loads. If you are looking to optimize website speeds for anyone who has access, then a CDN is the right choice for you.
More About CDNs
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a geographically distributed group of servers that work in tandem to optimize website speeds and provide users with expeditious access to content. CDNs increase website speeds by temporarily keeping your website content on servers conveniently located near end users.
For example, if your website is hosted in Atlanta and a user is trying to access it from Italy, the CDN will retrieve content from an “edge server” that is closer to the end user at the edge of the network. This will provide faster website speeds than if the end user from Italy tried accessing content from the server that hosts the main/original website in A-Town. When your content doesn’t have to travel across the Atlantic, your website will load significantly faster for the end user. If you’re wondering how to optimize website performance with a CDN, read on to learn how they work.
How Do CDNs Work?
CDNs do not act as web hosts themselves. CDNs consist of servers that host the website’s content, meaning that you will still need traditional web hosting in order to properly operate your site. A CDN always refers back to the original website content that’s stored on the main/origin store in case any changes or updates are made.
Origin stores can be an on-premises server located at your business headquarters or they can be operated by a cloud storage provider. Cloud storage can scale up and down in terms of pricing as website content changes in quality or quantity. This helps eliminate the need for expensive on-premises server(s).
Typically, a CDN provider will set up their edge servers at internet exchange points (IXPs). IXPs are predetermined points where web traffic flows between different internet service providers. Think of it as a highway interchange.
IXPs do not store your website’s content all of the time. A user must first request your content, and the content is held at the IXP for the duration of the time in which the content is requested. This duration of time is referred to as a TTL (time to live). The TTL specifies how long the edge server keeps the content. If content isn’t requested within the TTL, the edge server will stop storing the content.
CDN users benefit from a metric known as an RTT (round trip time). RTTs specify the time it takes for a request from a user to travel to its destination and back again. These metrics help website owners determine the speed of network connections. Essentially, the primary purpose of a CDN is to significantly reduce RTT.
Another key metric for website owners is known as the cache-hit ratio. A cache hit refers to a user pulling content from an edge server. When a user fetches content from the origin store, it is known as a cache miss. The ratio of hits to misses establishes the cache-hit ratio. This ratio is an important metric for website owners who use cloud storage as their origin store. Most importantly, the better the cache-hit ratio, the less egress fees are charged out of the origin store. These fees are mandatory charges made by cloud storage providers to send data out of their systems. This is something to consider when choosing cloud storage or an on-premises server.
Benefits of A CDN: Is it Worth it?
A CDN is, at its core, beneficial for any company bearing a broad geographical reach or one with a content-heavy site. Typically, e-commerce, media-streaming, and gaming companies reap the most benefits from a CDN.
However, any company in any industry can benefit from faster website loading times with a CDN. CDNs also offer lower bandwidth costs, improved security through DDoS mitigation, and scalability and redundancy during periods of high traffic. Getting started with a CDN usually warrants a relatively low cost as well.
Consider the opportunity cost of not having a CDN before implementing one, as well as how it will affect conversion. This will serve as your guide as you determine whether or not a CDN is right for you!