There’s a world of difference between the hosting infrastructures of everyday standalone sites and the top web content providers in the world.
The heavyweights use a complex network of servers colocated across the world serving up optimized regional based content while still making it seem as if everything is originating from a single location.
Personal websites on the other hand consist of nothing but a single server – most likely residing in a shared hosting environment with limited resources and with every request being served by the same hardware.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – your architecture must be commensurate with your traffic. If you receive only a few thousand visitors a month, your existing setup should be fine. Nonetheless, you shouldn’t take your users for granted.
The average page size of the typical site has rocketed up. At the same time, users have become increasingly less tolerant of slow page loading speeds.
In one study, an additional page load delay of just one second resulted in 11% lower pageviews!
If yours is a typical website, it would have definitely experienced a passive slowdown over the past few years due to the increased content you are now likely to have compared to earlier.
How do you offset this inevitability? How do you continue to provide the same user experience for everyone who visits your site now and in the future?
There’s no way we can replicate the awesome infrastructure of the Internet giants, but there is one solution where we can replicate the pattern – CDNs.
The Anatomy of a CDN
The open Internet means that anyone in the world can visit your website. However, they will still connect to the same server regardless of where they are.
A CDN – or a Content Distribution Network arranges things in such a way that every client connects to a server that is close to them and which perfectly replicates the content on your primary server. Say for example, you have a visitor distribution that looks something like this:
creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by StevenErat:
While you may have your server located in North America, notice the large number of visitors coming from Europe and even a few from South America, India, and as far away as Hong Kong. What if these latter visitors were able to connect to a server close to them instead of having to go halfway across the world to obtain the content they need?
And this is the essence of a CDN.
It replicates static content on a number of servers all over the world thereby not only reducing the travel time for content, but also acts as a load distribution system.
What is Static Content?
On the other hand, dynamic content refers to stuff that changes depending on a variety of factors. Say for example yours is a blog that accepts comments. Due to the user generated nature of this kind of website, the content on your pages keeps changing as new comments are added. Or if you have something like a stock ticker or a weather marker. It’s obvious that none of this can be fixed and the only place to get it is from the source server itself.
And if you can offload processing onto the client’s site instead of your server, even “dynamic” content can be cache.
Why Do I Need a CDN?
1. Boost Your Website Speed
The number one reason? To improve your website’s speed. Using a CDN lightens the load on your server because it serves cached version of your website.
2. Improve SEO
Google dislike slow websites. They made it clear that a page speed is now an important factor in search rankings. So integrating a CDN will definitely help turbocharge the speed of your website, thus improve your search rankings.
3. Improve Website Conversions
Well, the faster your website is, the longer your visitors will stay. The longer they’re on your website, the more likely they are to convert. Here are some facts you need to know (source):
- 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in two seconds or less.
- 40% of visitors will leave a website that takes more than three seconds to load
- A one second delay in page response could result in a 7% reduction in conversions.
- Did you know that a slow e-commerce could damage your sales figures? If your shop is making $100,000 per day, a one second page delay could potentially cost you $2.5 million lost in sales?
4. DDoS Protection
To an extent, a CDN also provides you with DDoS protection. DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service and refers to a kind of attack where your servers are hammered with traffic in an attempt to bring it down.
However with all of your static bandwidth based content being hosted on various servers all over the world, it’s much more difficult to achieve this.
Content Distribution Networks like those operated by MaxCDN sport highly sophisticated and state-of-the-art DDoS protection safeguards in a way that personal websites would never be able to.
Having your content routed through one of these is equivalent to future proofing your website against high bursts of traffic – whether intentional or not.
Given that the CDN load balances your site, dramatically reduces page loading times, and also provides you with a certain degree of security from the majority of DDoS attacks, it’s not hard to see why it’s an essential tool for website owners in today’s world – especially given the low prices at which most CDNs operate these days.