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What is a CDN (Content Delivery Network) and Why Do You Need it for Your Website?

Nov 30, 2020 | Web Design


The internet is full of dynamic content, including images, videos, live streaming, gaming, and more. The value of all this content depends on how readily available and accessible it is to audiences around the world. Content Delivery Network (CDN), thanks to uses its hardware and network expertise, securely and instantly delivers web content to online users, bringing them closer to businesses and organizations.

In this guide, we will discuss a commonly asked question, “what is a CDN?” and why do you need one for your website. As you understand why you should use a CDN, you’ll also learn how it works.

What is a CDN (Content Delivery Network)?

Also known as distribution networks, content delivery networks (CDNs) are the backbone of the internet which is responsible for content delivery. You may not be aware, but you interact with CDNs every time you use the internet.

Whether you’re watching a YouTube video, surfing social media feeds, conducting online shopping, or going through the latest news on different sites, you engage with a CDN. In fact, CDNs are behind every character of the text, every movie frame, and image pixel that you’re exposed to via the browser on your computer or mobile device.

Before you understand CDNs, it’s important to get familiar with the problem they’re used to resolve, that is, latency. It’s the delay that occurs from the moment an internet user requests to load a website to the instant its content finally appears on the browser. While there are numerous factors that can cause this delay, the major cause that leads to this delay every time is the physical distance between the internet user and the hosting server of that website.

The ultimate goal of a CDN is to minimize latency or reduce the impact of that physical distance by improving site rendering performance and speed. Hence, a CDN refers to a collection of servers distributed around the globe, storing files that website visitors want to access. These servers outside of the origin server are referred to as points of presence (PoP) and help websites handle user requests more efficiently and manage web traffic.

Among the primary factors affecting web content transmission using a CDN include the website’s origin, users’ geographic locations, and the content delivery server. How quickly content is delivered to the user depends on their geographic proximity to the CDN server. Those located closer to the CDN server will fetch the content faster than those located further away. To further clarify the concept, let’s take the example of eCommerce.

CDNs are a huge asset to eCommerce websites that help them deliver images and other content to shoppers around the world, regardless of the users’ location and web traffic. For instance, by spreading their data centers or delivery systems around different parts of the world, Amazon is able to seamlessly accommodate international shoppers.

If an online store operates without CDNs, the load times for its product pages and landing pages would be outrageously longer for users located thousands of miles away from the origin servers.

Another critical issue that CDNs resolve is bandwidth consumption or spikes in web traffic. An unexpected spike in web traffic, such as on an eCommerce website during a sales season, can dramatically increase page-load times or even cause the server to crash. CDNs guard against this issue.

But how do CDNs work? When a user visits a website, their request is handled by the nearest CDN edge server. The role of the CDN is to copy the concerned website’s pages to a service network spread across different geographic regions. Next, it’s responsible to cache the site’s content and route the request of the user to the nearest CDN edge server.

Finally, the CDN delivers the cached content and connects with the initial server to deliver the content that was not previously cached. This entire mechanism occurs behind the scenes and stays beyond the user’s view.

Now that you know “what is a CDN?”, let’s find out why you should use a CDN for your website.

Why Use a CDN for Your Website

Improved Overall Speed and Performance

When it comes to providing a seamless user experience to site visitors, we all know how critical page-load time is. No matter how aesthetically appealing your web and landing pages are, if they take too much time to load, it won’t matter. According to Think With Google, a rise in page-load time from 1 to 3 seconds results in a 32% increase in the probability of bounce.

This means that for users browsing on the web, every single second counts. This is particularly true for mobile site visitors. Another study by Google found that 53% of mobile site visitors leave a webpage that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Considering that the majority of the web traffic now comes from mobile devices, an unresponsive site can take a huge toll on your revenues.

To avoid this, you must focus on improving site speed and performance as much as you do on your web design. An effective CDN can help you reduce latency or the time it takes to transmit information from the source to the user. It does this by eliminating delays in reading files resulting from blocked storage, improving the speed at which data travels from one node to another, and eliminating setbacks in data processing from the server.

By resolving these issues, a CDN can greatly improve your site’s user experience, resulting in a decrease in bounce rate.

Reduced Bandwidth Consumption

Reducing spikes in web trafficBandwidth is among the most costly services offered by web hosting providers. The best strategy to keep the costs low is to reduce bandwidth consumption. With multiple points of presence (PoP) present in a CDN, the amount of bandwidth it takes to handle web traffic can be conserved.

A CDN leverages optimization mechanisms such as caching that stores data in temporary storage on different systems or mobile devices for quick access.

When it comes to handling web traffic, there’s another advantage a CDN can bring about for your website. A boost in the popularity of your brand can lead to a spike in web traffic, which in turn can bring down your web server. A well-rounded CDN conducts load balancing, which serves as a ‘traffic guard’ for your servers. It alternates the flow of incoming requests in a way that web traffic jams are avoided.

CDNs employ reverse proxy topology that provides them with enhanced visibility into the incoming traffic flow, enabling the CDN to accurately track the number of pending requests on each backend server. This ultimately helps achieve more effective load distribution. With network traffic spread evenly across multiple servers, your website should be able to scale rapid boosts in traffic.

Robust Security

As digitization increases at exponential rates and the world becomes more data-driven than ever, a business with an online presence can’t afford to ignore cybersecurity. Today, it’s extremely important to manage outside access to your website’s protected perimeter so that all threats are blocked before they can set foot on the platform.

A website that relies on a single server to transfer all its web data remains under a constant threat of malicious occurrences such as a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks and other vulnerabilities.

DDoS attacks are planned, coordinated requests for web content made by multiple users from different locations at a designated time. They may also be automated using bots. The purpose of this practice is to trigger traffic overloads to cause the server to crash. This might be done for the sake of making mischief or to blackmail or extort site owners.

A DDoS attack can persist on a website for days. During this time, your website can be largely inaccessible to legitimate web traffic. If it causes your server to crash, your business can face downtime you may not be able to afford.

CDNs come with DDoS filters that immediately track and prevent artificially created traffic explosions. When a website uses a CDN, the bulk of the traffic is served by the CDN edge servers in different points of presence rather than the origin server. This way, the queries are evenly spread between multiple servers. This way, a CDN automatically mitigates a DDoS attack.

Moreover, a CDN, deployed on the edge of your network, is ideally positioned to prevent any such threats. Since DDoS floods need to be dealt with outside of the core network infrastructure, a CDN’s on-edge position makes it ideal for blocking them. Serving as a high-security virtual fence, CDNs blocks all sorts of attacks on your web application and website.

In addition, a CDN also helps protect your sensitive web data and keep hackers at bay. On most CDN platforms, SSL/ TSL certificates can be implemented to ensure that all traffic is encrypted. Since CDNs keep on refreshing your website’s SSL/ TSL certificates, websites are able to maintain high encryption and authentication standards.

On top of that, CDNs also come with extra security features, such as secure tokens, hotlink protection, etc., to safeguard your site from malicious events. Thus, once you’ve deployed a CDN for your website, you can have peace of mind about your website security.

Using a CDN on your website means your webpages will be much more responsive to audiences, regardless of their locations.

Improved Business Credibility

When a website uses a CDN, requests will be redirected to the nearest available server. If that CDN edge server is not available, the request is automatically routed to the next closest server available. This ensures that your web content remains available to your target audience all the time.

As opposed to this, if the same website relied on a single origin server, the visitor may be greeted by an error page. This can significantly reduce the reliability of your site. A site visitor, annoyed by a 404-error page, will not likely return to the site.

Higher Conversions

Using a CDN on your website means your webpages will be much more responsive to audiences, regardless of their locations. The resultant fast-loading webpages will improve the user experience of visitors. They’ll spend more time on your site and will be more likely to convert to paying customers. This way, using a CDN can give a notable boost to your conversions.

With reduced page-load times, your site’s bounce rate should also sharply decrease. With this reduction in abandonment, people should engage more with your content. A low bounce rate, combined with high user engagement will improve your site’s SEO performance. It should rank high on Google and other search engines. The subsequent increases in web traffic will not only be more manageable but also generate more sales for your online business.

Lower Costs

Vernier caliper measuring coinsSince everything is managed by the CDN provider, you need not worry about managing an in-house infrastructure for using a CDN for your website. This precludes the costs of setting up or maintaining infrastructure. The saved bucks and time can be utilized in other key areas of your business.

Besides, using a CDN also helps reduce bandwidth costs associated with your origin server. Remember, we talked about how a CDN helps reduce bandwidth consumption. Since the content is delivered by CDN edge servers and not just by the origin server, the origin server bandwidth costs considerably decrease.

Final Word

To wrap things up, a content delivery network serves as a reliable distribution system for websites looking to speed up their content delivery to site visitors geographically spread around the globe.

Hence, if you’re serious about providing the best possible user experience to your target audiences, A CDN should be a vital part of your optimization strategy. To deploy an effective CDN to your existing website or get a CDN-backed website designed from scratch, contact Nora Kramer Designs.

Clients who are on our Monthly WordPress Maintenance Plan will be setup on our CDN at no additional charge (regularly a $25/month value), one of the many perks for being a monthly maintenance client.


Nora Kramer Designs, Team 2
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