When building or revamping your business website, ensuring that visitors enjoy the best user experience is absolutely vital. Using a Content Delivery Network may be the smartest decision you ever make.
After all, a bad first impression could actively cause half of your visitors to leave and never return. But what exactly is a Content Delivery Network and why should your website use one? Here’s everything you need to know.
What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
A Content Delivery Network, also known as a CDN, is defined by Webopedia as “a system of geographically distributed servers that work together to provide fast delivery of internet content” while over 50% of all internet traffic is now delivered through this route.
One of the many features of geographically distributed servers is that it allows businesses to host parts of their website (including data files) on local servers. For example, American servers can be used to distribute files specific to services in the US while German servers are used to do the same for services in Germany.
However, it should be noted that a CDN is not a web host. The two items work together.
What are the benefits of using a CDN?
A Content Delivery Network will minimise the distance between visitors and the website’s server due to presenting content via multiple points of presence (POPs). In turn, this can improve the performance of a website for the sake of owners and visitors alike. Here are some of the key reasons why:
Faster loading times
Using a CDN means that when a user visits your site, they will connect to a local server rather than the main server. This means that the data has to travel smaller distances, which naturally reduces latency. It is further supported by the fact that hardware optimisation will promote faster data transfers.
Research shows that 47% of users expect a site to load within two seconds while conversions will rapidly decline with each second after this. Faster loading times instantly improve a user’s opinion of your business, not least because they will associate it with having a genuine local presence.
By now, you should be aware that cyberattacks occur every 39 seconds. Using a CDN protects your website against DDoS attacks, especially when traffic spikes occur or traffic comes from malicious IP addresses.
In many cases, the website will be further protected by a Web Application Firewall (WAF) to block malicious traffic. It is a significant boost to your website, which can prevent you from reputational and financial damage. When your web host provides good security measures too, you should be able to navigate this minefield without major disruption.
Reduced hosting costs
When the main server has to provide more data, it will inevitably cost you more. However, a Content Delivery Network means that local servers can cache the relevant files and data. Again, this also adds to the speed of webpage loading. Crucially, though, it means that less data travel through the web host.
In some cases, the savings made in this method can actively outweigh the cost of using a CDN in the first place. When combined with the fact that 88% of consumers have their habits influenced by the experience, it will provide value for money when your business operates in multiple locations.
Fast loading times are important. Perhaps more importantly, you must maintain high uptime levels. For starters, downtime is the equivalent of shutting your shop to customers. Meanwhile, it will also bring an average search visibility reduction of 30%. So, it has a big impact on the business and the UX.
Traffic and hardware failures are both capable of impacting a site’s function. CDNs will be strongly positioned to prevent downtime by distributing data in a more effective way than an origin server. Moreover, downtime can be restricted to a geographic server rather than affect visitors from around the world.
Are there any disadvantages of using a CDN?
It’s not really a question of whether a CDN has any negatives. The more relevant question is whether your business needs one. Depending on which CDN provider you use, the first 2.5 TB of transfers per month will cost around £150-£175. While it might not be your largest expense, you must consider whether the funds could be better invested on PPC ad campaigns or other features.
However, you should remember that the reduced bandwidth from the web host could produce some savings, which can cover some of the costs. The big issue, however, is whether you expect to gain lots of traffic from a global audience. Some examples of companies unsuited to a CDN may include:
- Local car dealerships
- Small retail outlets
- E-commerce shops that only deliver to the UK.
If, however, you expect to have areas of your website dedicated to different geographical locations, a CDN is advised. Not least because over one-quarter of online sales are international sales
Which CDN is right for my business?
When your business operates in multiple territories or serves a global online audience, there is a strong possibility that a CDN will serve as a great investment. To see the full rewards, however, it will be necessary to choose the right Content Delivery Network provider.
You will naturally want to look for reliability, pricing, and flexibility. Some of the best CDNs are:
In short, the big names are the most trustworthy options and often provide more versatile packages that suit your business and evolve over time. Better still, they have a truly global network of servers and will provide the peace of mind that you deserve.