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What is a content delivery network?

13 February 2019
A stock photo of game pieces | What is a content delivery network? | Neon

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) have become a much talked about topic in the continuing battle to reduce website load times. But what are Content Delivery Networks and how do they work?

What are content delivery networks?

Content delivery networks are a means of serving any content within your website to the Internet browser. I can already do that, I can hear you cry. But chances are you may be doing it in a less than efficient manner.

If you host your website on a single server in a single location, with no content delivery network in place, then you have a single point of failure. If that server is running slowly, using out of date software, or cannot handle spikes in traffic you may find that for some users your website loads very slowly, or in extreme cases not at all.

With a content delivery network a version of your content exists on multiple servers in multiple locations. This enables it to serve content to users based on their location, thus reducing load times and latency, and also means that during spikes in demand, load can be balanced amongst multiple servers to dramatically reduce the risk of downtime.

Who uses a CDN?

Most professionally managed websites will be using a CDN to serve some or all of their content. Especially those which receive international traffic or experience short burst of high demand.

But really, if you care about your user experience and the speed in which your website loads, then you should have one in place.

Why does speed matter?

The modern day internet user is impatient. High speed broadband has led to an expectation on instant gratification, and the advent of mobile-first internet use has meant people are often on the go, in between tasks, searching for what they need.

Research suggest that a 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversion. Increase that to 4 seconds and the drop in conversion increases to 40%. So literally every second counts.

On top of that Google has confirmed that they include page load speed in their considerations when it comes to ranking websites. They recognise the importance of page load speed and do not want your slow loading website to influence customers perception of the results that they present.

The benefits of a CDN

CDNs are not just about speed though, there are a number of other benefits of implementing one to your technical set up, most notably:

  • Handling spikes in traffic
  • Blocking bots and scrapers
  • Localisation of content delivery
  • Load balancing
  • Security against DDoS attacks

If you don’t currently have one in place then you should definitely do your research and consider implementing a content delivery network. And if you need any help, just drop us a line.

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