Recent years have seen tremendous technological developments which have prompted businesses to reassess how they deliver content to their customers.
Recent years have seen tremendous technological developments which have prompted businesses to reassess how they deliver content to their customers. As modern consumer buying habits shift even further into the digital terrain, it’s in every company’s best interest to ensure their website provides a fast, seamless and straightforward purchasing journey.
However, this is easier said than done, not least because of the technical complexities of website development and optimisation. The increasing pressure on mobile-first delivery and indexing, along with Google’s Core Web Vitals measurement criteria for optimum site speed and user experience, have certainly compounded matters. This isn’t even accounting for the fact that consumer expectations have also shifted, with prospective buyers looking for a fast, actionable solution as quickly as possible.
It’s fair to say that the pressure is well and truly on for web developers and business owners looking to retain that competitive edge online. Optimising site speed and customer experience is a tough balancing act, but one proven solution has become all the rage – Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs for short. More businesses are utilising CDNs to enhance their website content and branch out to larger consumer bases, among other benefits such as their environmental friendliness, which we are very much about here at EcoFriendlyPlanet. This short guide will explain how a CDN works, its advantages, and how you can easily get started with one.
What is a CDN?
A CDN is a group of servers that are distributed all over the world, working together to make web content delivery faster. CDN servers work like standard website servers but may, depending on the location of the browser, be closer in proximity.
In summary, CDN server networks move data and applications closer and more swiftly to the end user, thereby improving the user experience.
Benefits of Using a CDN for Your Website
There are many benefits of CDNs for websites.
Faster page load time
Arguably the biggest benefit of using a CDN is improved performance in page load times. CDNs enhance content delivery by reducing the distance between where content needs to go and where it’s stored.
CDNs also optimise server infrastructure to respond to browser requests more quickly. In addition, they reduce file sizes to further reduce load speed, without compromising on quality. This can be handy for eCommerce websites with high-resolution photography and video content.
As glamorous as the Internet may seem, things do, unfortunately, go wrong. There will be times when servers are inaccessible, connections are interrupted and networks become overloaded. CDNs are much more performative and provide a more consistent, reliable and steady service to users even when origin servers are encountering interruptions.
CDNs perform a task known as ‘load balancing’ which ensures that no origin server is at risk of being overloaded. Should a server stop working, some CDNs can initiate a process which allows a backup server to take over, delivering content in the same way. Of course, that is not to say that CDNs are ever exempt from downtime, but they are more of a failsafe option if origin servers prove unreliable.
Long-term cost savings
CDNs help companies significantly cut down on expenses, which is handy for the turbulent economic situation many UK businesses face. Web hosting providers typically charge their customers for the amount of data that’s transferred between the host (also known as bandwidth costs); the more data transferred, the more expensive it is.
CDNs reduce the number of exchanges to and from the origin servers, as cached content is much easier to distribute. It’s therefore more cost-effective to deliver cached, condensed content (that takes up less data) rather than generate that content from the origin server each time.
CDNs are more resilient to proficient cyber attacks like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. By being able to store large quantities of spam network traffic that is intended to overwhelm and crash origin servers, CDNs, with the help of their server networks, will absorb these amounts and protect the origin server, thus allowing websites to still continue to deliver content normally and seamlessly to users, even while under attack.
Not only that, but CDNs also help with data encryption by providing TLS (Transport Layer Security) and SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates to ensure that transmitted data is not vulnerable to exploitation. You’ll know if a site has encrypted its data if you notice a padlock icon in the top-level search or URL bar of your browser, or if it has ‘https’ in its URL.
Better for the environment
Transmission of data across the world consumes quite a lot of energy. The further the data has to travel, the more energy it uses. CDNs help to minimise the distance that large files travel through networks to reach the user, thus lowering energy consumption.
There is an argument that disputes the eco-friendliness of CDNs given that they are usually situated in data centres, which also use significant amounts of energy. However, most CDN providers have demonstrated a commitment to net zero, carbon neutrality or clean energy targets, and lowering the emissions of their operations.
Many CDN providers take carbon footprint reduction seriously, so make sure you research providers and choose one that you align with.
Which Businesses Need a CDN?
Companies that have established a strong online presence will benefit from using a CDN. Below are just a few examples of online businesses that a CDN would help exponentially.
eCommerce platforms – These sites are likely to experience heavier traffic, often at specific seasonal peaks, but this will fluctuate based on the sector(s) of the website and the customers it’s targeting.
Digital publishers or media sites – Websites that boast a global readership and a plethora of server requests can use CDNs to distribute loads more easily and evenly across their servers.
Web hosting providers or marketing agencies – Companies may outsource marketing activities or web development to a third-party agency. The agency itself may utilise specific CDN providers to host multiple websites on their servers and also optimise their visibility in search engines.
Financial service providers – CDNs can be effective at caching content as well as APIs, which are commonly used by financial providers to serve dynamic, relevant content – such as stock prices – to their users.
Video distribution providers – Video sharing and streaming platforms are hugely popular, but the hosts themselves will need something reliable and robust to deliver swathes of content, particularly if multiple users will be using them simultaneously.
Written by Annie Button