What is a CDN and when should I use it?

As businesses begin to rely on the internet more and more, the damaging effects of a poor internet presence have become obvious. Not only does the content and format of your webpage effect your bottom line, but the accessibility and speed of digital information has significant effects on how your website attracts clients. A common solution for accessibility issues is the use of a CDN, or Content Delivery Network. To decide whether a CDN is right for you, you need to fully understand its functions and benefits.

What is a CDN?

A Content Delivery Network is a system of globally located servers which deliver your static content (text, images, videos, audio content, etc.) to the user through multiple, interconnected computer systems. In simpler terms, CDN will store content from your site on multiple servers located throughout the world. When a user wants to access your site, the information will be delivered to the user through the closest server geographically. This ensures efficient and quick information delivery. Imagine your main server is located in Texas. The amount of internet hops between your server and a potential client in Australia would cause slow site loading times, poor downloading times, and could cause your potential client to quickly lose interest. If your page has a CDN, however, the website would be delivered to the user from a server in the user’s home country, and the speed of the site would be immediately improved. CDNs are commonly used for large websites and have significant benefits.

Multiple, international data centers

CDNs offer the unique opportunity to utilize data centers all over the world, often for free. With a server near virtually every potential client, you can ensure quick website responses and downloading times across the globe. Speed is more than just for user comfort, it also significantly effects your bottom line. In a recent study, Amazon discovered that every 100 millisecond increase in loading time decreased sales by 1% on their sites. This number is significant for an internationally respected company, and can it can be assumed that the number increases dramatically for a company with a less global reputation.

Search Engine Optimization

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the ability of your site to catch the attention of search engines, such as Google or Bing. These search engines not only search the web for matching content, but take multiple other facts into account before compiling their lists. As search engines aim to promote the most accessible and functional pages, speed becomes a major consideration. Google has stated, in no uncertain terms, that they promote faster pages higher on their lists. The added speed from your CDN will immediately offer higher SEO ranking and attract more users. More users quickly convert to more leads, clients, and sales.

Crash Resistance

If your page attracts high traffic rates, you are probably already familiar with website crashes. A large influx of visitors to a webpage with a single server not only slows down delivery time, but can cause a total page crash. If the site’s information is spread between multiple servers, however, the problem is avoided. Each visitor will be accessing the information from the server closest to them, detected by the user’s geolocation. Your website’s visitors will avoid a site crash while enjoying quick loading speeds. Having a CDN will not only protect you against crashes caused by high traffic rates, but from widespread internet outages as well. As long as your website’s content is stored on servers all across the globe, your page will stay live even in the face of a severe internet blackout or hosting failure.

Bandwidth Conservation

A CDN can often be utilized for no cost as companies as large as Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft offer free CDN versions. This free service will not only increase your clientele, but can save your company money from the administrational budget as well. As a CDN distributes the weight of your online information over many servers, your company may find itself using significantly less bandwidth. This boost of performance will potentially decrease the costs from your original web hosting account.

User Experience

Just as customers to a store judge the physical appearance of the store, visitors to your website judge the speed and accessibility of the site as a commentary on the quality of your product. Whether this is a good assessment measure or not, the fact remains that potential clients will doubt the efficiency of your product if they find the website to be slow or confusing. Studies have shown that if a website takes longer than 3 seconds to load, over one third of the visitors will leave the site. Improving the user’s experience when navigating your site can be extremely influential to the user’s decision of whether to engage in your product or not. Your website is your store, and the efficiency of your store affects your brand and reputation. A positive shopping experience (or navigating experience, in this case) leaves the user not only with a positive image of your brand, but increases the user’s likelihood of returning to the site or suggesting it to a friend.

Is a CDN right for me?

If you maintain a large website with heavy resources or experience high traffic to your site, the answer is a clear yes. Improving your site’s loading time will immediately benefit your company’s bottom line. Smaller websites may also enjoy many of the benefits of CDNs, but may find the benefits less significant. Remember that CDNs are not infallible, and any additional complexity to your site could be a stress to you. It’s important to consider the benefits carefully when considering a CDN.