What’s a CDN?

Before we get into exactly how a CDN can help your website, let’s dive quickly into how a content delivery network works.

A CDN shortens the path information has to travel between the server and user. A CDN is a network of servers, rather than a single server, with locations in multiple geographic locations. When a user accesses a website, information is pulled from the server location closest to them.

The result is a faster flow of data.

That boils it down to the most simple of terms, but there’s a lot more information available about how a CDN works and how that compares to using only an origin server to house a website.

1. Faster Loading Speed for Readers

A CDN stores multiple content types, which can contribute to faster loading times for users. And because the CDN stores this content it can push it to users more quickly.

Files that can be hosted on a CDN include images, stylesheets, JavaScript, video and audio files, web fonts and other file formats (HTML, PDF, PPT, ZIP and more). The rule of thumb is that anything saved in the WordPress wp-content and wp-include folders can be stored in a CDN.

Using a CDN can speed up your website by making the time it takes to ask for information, retrieve it and send it to the user shorter. (Pretty simple, right?)

And here’s why a faster website should matter to you: A faster website can increase your conversation rate. A two-second speed increase could result in as much as a 14 percent increase in conversions.

2. Lower Bandwidth Costs

Because of the method through which a CDN serves data to users, it can use less overall bandwidth across multiple servers. If you are paying for hosting based on bandwidth, using a CDN can help reduce these costs.

The bandwidth reduction happens because multiple server locations are used to serve content to users, so not all inquiries to your website are hitting the origin server at the same time.

Check your hosting plan to see if this is a good option for you. Some plans charge based on bandwidth, while others come with unlimited options.

3. Better SEO

Because of faster loading speed and performance, a CDN can also improve your search engine rankings and optimization. (That’s a great added bonus!)

Google gives priority to websites that load quickly and that are easy to crawl repeatedly. The more often Google crawls your website, the more quickly it will recognize content changes and updates related to your content. This quick turnaround for search indexing will help get your content into more search results faster.

Content that’s indexed faster is more widely available to users. It’s all part of a cycle that starts with the health of your website. Even some of the more technical aspects of the website framework and design can impact how users find and consume your content.

The CDN also provides an extra level of security which can mitigate attacks. Plus, you can combine a CDN with an SSL certificate for one more level of security. Security is another factor when it comes to search, and can also contribute to better search indexing and rankings.

4. Ability to Handle Traffic Spikes

Every website owner dreams that a certain bit of content will go viral and generate plenty of traffic and recognition for the website or brand. But is your website ready for an unusual traffic spike?

A CDN can help there as well. Because a significant portion of website traffic is static – it’s not constantly changing – a CDN can ensure that content is delivered quickly and put less pressure, or load, on your server. Less load means there’s less chance of downtime.

A CDN is designed for scalability so that you can handle changes in traffic (up or down) with ease and without learning of a traffic change because of a website that’s no longer functioning.

A CDN is quite reliable during all periods of activity. When a user accesses the website, the CDN pulls information from the nearest server; if that server isn’t available, it will move to the second nearest server location. The automatic redundancy feature helps ensure that your website is online at all times. So not only does the CDN help when traffic spikes, it also helps if a server connection is compromised somewhere in the chain of information.

While users can’t actually see any of this – it’s happening in nanoseconds – it makes a difference for the user because your website won’t keep them waiting.

Conclusion

Go back and think about that Google speed test again. How did your website score? Could you use improvements?

Switching to a content delivery network can make your website load faster for users, lower your bandwidth costs, enhance your website’s search optimization and provide you with the ability to handle traffic spikes. It’s a great and practical option for many website owners. Learn more and give it a try.