What would your reaction be if you were searching the internet for a specific piece of content and came across a website that took a long time to load?
You would BOUNCE! You would dip. In other words, you would get outta there. Unless you have the patience of a saint, and you’re one of those weird people who enjoy a nice long loading screen.
There are tons of reasons why a website performs slowly; the website contains excessive amounts of heavy graphics, videos, animated content, poor structure, and so on. But if the site is perfect from a design standpoint, it could be that the website is hosted on a slower server, a server with a higher latency rate, or a server that is located far away from you.
But what exactly is a CDN, and why does it matter? In today’s article, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of using a CDN, some of the best ones, and some of the most important things you should know about them.
First off, what is a CDN?
A content delivery network, or CDN, is a network that consists of a large number of servers spread across many physical locations that provide caching services to a website.
Any CDN server stores the most recent copy of the content on its storage media, and when a request for that specific page comes in, the nearest server provides the most recent copy of the web page.
It is a technique used by many of the internet’s big bulls these days. Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, Facebook, Instagram, and others are among these household names.
It is critical to understand that by utilizing CDN, these service providers ensure maximum service uptime, lower delay, improved reliability, reduced risk of cyber attacks, minimal bandwidth consumption, excellent customer experience, less traffic over the actual server, accommodating high user volumes, and consuming less cost.
The question now is how a Content Delivery Network can help the website owner achieve all of these objectives.
To comprehend this, we must delve deeper into the operation of these networks. But first, we must thoroughly understand why webpage speed is so important. So, let’s get started.
Why does your website’s loading speed matter so much?
If you’re in the web development field, you’ll encounter CDNs more often than you might think. Nowadays, having a website is essential whether you run a business, a non-profit organization, or work as a web developer.
A website can help you generate leads, increase organic traffic, and improve user experience, all of which will lead to more business.
However, if your website is slow or takes too long to load, this will increase user bounce rate and page abandonment.
As a result, search engines such as Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and others cease crawling and displaying your website in search results.
Because web page speed is one of the key factors used by search engines to rank your website.
As a result, it is critical to consider when you begin developing your website and when it begins receiving hits.
To determine the actual speed of your website and other performance factors, you must run various tests such as load time tests, database tests, and so on.
Now that we’ve established the importance of website speed and web page loading speed, let’s look at how CDN works and how it can help a web page load faster.
How does a CDN work? How does it help load web pages faster?
As the name implies, a CDN is a collection of servers known as POPs (points of presence) or edge servers. All of these servers are spread over many locations around the globe and download the data from the origin servers.
Before delving into the entire CDN workflow, it is important to understand a few key terms, which are as follows:
- Origin Server
- Edge Server or Pop Server
- End User
An origin server is a server that hosts the webpage or website. It is the location where the data is stored or hosted by the website hosting service.
If your hosting provider stored your website’s data, including all of its web pages, image files, video files, and other necessary folders, in a data center in Frankfurt, you can claim to be using a Frankfurt-based origin server.
It is the first and most important component we interact with during the web page request process.
In the absence of a CDN, it is the origin server that bears all traffic, and your origin server in Frankfurt will be responsible for responding to every query generated from clients all over the world.
It is an inefficient use of resources because your Frankfurt server is constantly busy receiving and responding to queries, which can cause a variety of issues such as slow performance, increased chances of DOS / DDOS and other Cyber attacks, hardware failure, server crash, and more.
Clients are also inconvenienced because users accessing the website from France, Luxembourg, Belgium, the Netherlands, and other similar locations will receive an instant response.
On the other hand, users browsing the same web page from the UAE, Indonesia, New Zealand, and other far-flung countries will receive a slow or no response.
As a result, distributing or caching web pages across multiple servers around the world is the solution to this problem. Because it allows us to serve the users’ requested web pages from the nearest available server.
It will not only solve the latency problem and reduce the distance between the client and server, but it will also assist us in avoiding the single point of failure issue.
Edge servers are used to achieve these goals, so let’s go over them in more detail.
EDGE Server or POP Server
If you want to understand how a Content Delivery Network works, you must first understand its primary component, which is known as the Edge Server or POP Server.
An edge server is a component or machine that caches a web page after it has been queried from the origin server. Because of its location, it is also known as a POP server or Point of the Presence server.
A POP is a physical location where an edge server resides, such as Frankfurt in our case.
It can now contain a single server as well as multiple edge servers, so they are sometimes referred to as a POP server.
All of these POP locations with multiple edge servers also have multiple web pages from various origin servers.
This simply means that these POP locations cache a variety of websites, including e-commerce, social media, streaming platforms, and many others.
Because these pop locations are spread throughout the world, each user is connected to its nearest server and receives a copy of the website.
If an edge server fails, it will not affect other users because they are connected to different cache servers, removing the problem of a single point of failure.
Aside from these, the edge server provides many other advantages, such as improved website performance, better SEO, protection against various cyberattacks, better traffic management, efficient resource utilization, and many more.
User is the most important part of the website querying process because they are the entities that allow a website or a web page to be created.
They are the entities that use the origin servers, and a content delivery network is built to help them.
Now as we have built an understanding of all the important building blocks of the content delivery network it is time to combine them and understand the whole working mechanism.
The Working Mechanism of a CDN
A content delivery network’s caching process is similar to that of any computing device.
In this process, any type of data or information is saved for a specific period so that it is readily available whenever a need arises.
We can improve the overall data accessibility speed with this method. The following mechanism occurs in a typical Content Delivery Network:
- When a user searches for a web page by typing its URL into the browser, the request is routed directly to the edge server after the name is resolved via Domain Name Server.
- However, if the edge server has not already cached the web page, the query is routed to the origin server.
- In addition, as the original server resolves the query, it is simultaneously stored on the nearest edge server for future use.
- If the same visitor or another user from the same geographical location queries the same webpage, they will receive an instantaneous response.
- If the same visitor connects with a different edge server for any reason, step two must be repeated.
Because of this mechanism, once all of the edge servers receive the web pages, all queries are resolved from them rather than the origin server.
The process is repeated until the web page expires or is removed from these servers.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how a CDN works. This mechanism provides the website owner with scalability, load balancing, and improved website security.
Now that we’ve grasped the process, it’s time to delve into some of CDN’s advantages.
Benefits of Using a CDN
When we connect our website to a typical Content Delivery Network, we gain many advantages. It is critical to comprehend these advantages to comprehend the effectiveness of a CDN and how it improves the efficiency of our website.
So let us go over them one by one.
Today, every business relies heavily on its digital footprint, which includes its websites.
Because these websites are an easy way to convert casual visitors into potential customers.
However, the most significant challenge that a website can face is higher latency, which can result in a higher bounce rate, negatively impacting your search engine visibility and your business.
To better understand this condition, imagine you own an e-commerce store that sells almost everything but isn’t getting traffic because your website isn’t ranking in search engines.
Customers who arrive on your website via other channels, such as social media ad campaigns and others, are also leaving due to the slow performance.
Now, you’ll need the assistance of a CDN, as well as other important factors like on-page and off-page SEO.
If you connect your website to a CDN, you will get similar results as the platforms listed below.
Kanopy: A movie streaming website that serves over 4000 libraries at one point started losing potential viewers, but once they switched to a multi-cloud service provider, they were back in business.
Big Cartel: This is yet another platform that allows artists and musicians to grow their stores. It is now utilizing the services of Fastly, a CDN provider that not only adds reliability to its platform but also assists them in detecting abusive content and optimizing images based on the needs of the client browser.
It is critical for a continuous business stream that your website is always up and running and easily accessible to users.
However, not every day is a lucky day because websites are extremely vulnerable to network outages, cyber-attacks, malfunctioning, network congestion, overwhelming traffic, and other threats.
If you are using a single origin server and encounter one of the problems, it will take a long time to restore your website, resulting in a significant loss in terms of money, reputation, clientele, and SEO ranking.
However, if you want to avoid such a situation, you can use the services of the best CDN providers, who can increase the reliability of your website by providing backups, multi-cloud servers, failover process, handle congestions, redundancy, lower latency, and other services.
Connecting your website to one of the CDN providers will increase your website uptime, making you more searchable in Google, Bing, and other search engines.
In addition to this maximum uptime, you will gain your clients’ trust as you become a more convenient and reliable option for their needs.
To reap all of the benefits, here is a list of some reputable CDN service providers:
Reduced costs and increased profits may be the most important goals of any business owner, whether they run an online grocery store, an e-commerce platform, a video streaming site, or something similar.
If you are one of these website owners, connecting your website with a reputable and capable CDN service provider will greatly assist you in saving capital and operational costs.
The majority of the funds are spent on implementing infrastructure and hosting services. However, if you use a CDN, it will reduce the amount of traffic that your website sends and receives, which is normally changed by a web hosting service.
Furthermore, the presence of a content delivery network eliminates the need to build your data center infrastructure around the world, which will provide more reliable services to your website customers based on their geographical location.
The use of a CDN also helps you save money because you do not need as many hardware resources for over-hosting servers. After all, a CDN will share your load and provide the desired results to the customers immediately.
In a nutshell, by implementing the CDN, you only have to pay for the services that are necessary to make your website available over the internet, and the rest will be handled by the CDN.
If you are just learning to code and making your first websites, you don’t really need to worry about PAYING for a CDN yet. Just focus on the free stuff.
CDNs play an important role in ensuring your global availability. As a result of these networks, your origin site is not a single point of failure in the event of a cyber attack.
Assume you are an online streaming platform that hosts thousands of content libraries and serves millions of customers, but your website suddenly experiences unusual traffic spikes that cause it to go down.
Because of its multiple data centers and thousands of servers distributed across the globe, the CDN allows you to keep your website up even during DOS / DDOS attacks and makes your website available 24/7.
Benefits of Using a CDN: FAQs
What are the businesses that can get the most benefit from CDN?
A CDN can be beneficial to a variety of businesses, but only a few of them can make the most of it. Online education, entertainment, gaming, e-commerce, online restaurants, e-libraries, and other services and businesses are among those offered.
What are some of the best CDN service providers?
There are several service providers available who are capable of providing you with top-tier CDN services. Google Cloud CDN, Rackspace, KeyCDN, CloudFlare, Amazon CloudFront, GoDaddy, Sucuri, and others are among these providers.
Is a web hosting server and CDN is same?
No, both servers are distinct entities, as one web hosting server houses our website, whereas a CDN edge server only houses a cached copy of that website, which becomes unusable when the cache is cleared, or the copy has expired.
Why would I use a CDN for my website?
Using a CDN is highly recommended because it provides numerous benefits such as cost reduction, increased performance, managing heavy traffic, prevention of cyber attacks, and more.