What is a Content Delivery Network and Does Your Business Need One?

Before looking at the basics of a content delivery network (CDN), it’s helpful to take a step back and realize just how vitally important page speed has become on today’s virtual landscape. Behold these eye-opening statistics:

●      A 100-millisecond delay in site load time can cause conversion rates to fall by 7 percent.

  • Sites that load within 5 seconds see 70 percent longer average sessions vs. sites that load in 19 seconds or longer.
  • Sites that load within 2 seconds have an average bounce rate of 9 percent, while sites that load in 5 seconds have an average bounce rate of 38 percent.
  • 52 percent of online shoppers say that site speed is a major factor in determining brand loyalty.
  • The bounce rate for mobile sites jumps to 123 percent if loading times exceed 10 seconds.

So, now that you know about the need for speed, we can shift gears and bring CDNs into the story.

 

A CDN is a geographically distributed group of servers that are located physically closer to site visitors than a business’s host (i.e. its origin server). As a result, these servers deliver HTML pages, javascript files, images, videos, stylesheets and other Internet content faster, because there’s less distance to travel. As you’d expect, all of the major social media platforms, streaming services, and e-commerce players use a CDN, such as Amazon, Facebook, Netflix and so on.

 

While speed is clearly the most important and compelling benefit of using a CDN, there are other advantages as well. For example, a CDN can also:

 

  • Reduce bandwidth consumption costs through tactics like caching and various optimizations.
  • Increase content availability by leveraging redundancy.
  • Strengthen website security by establishing DDoS mitigation, etc.

 

Based on the above, making sure that your business website uses a CDN seems like a no-brainer, right? Well, not quite.

 

It’s important to keep in mind that a CDN will have the most positive impact for businesses that have an influx of site visitors from across the country and around the world. For example, imagine a business based in Massachusetts that:

 

  • provides VoIP phone systems;
  • has a page on its site titled “What is a VoIP number?”; and,
  • regularly gets traffic from visitors from the west coast.

 

If this business uses a CDN that has a server based in Los Angeles (or anywhere along the west coast), then the “What is a VoIP number?” page will load significantly faster for the folks in that part of the country. Instead of taking 5 or 6 seconds to load, the page might take 1 or 2 seconds to load. That’s a huge improvement, and could mean the difference between winning or losing a customer.

 

Now take the same business, but imagine that it only gets traffic from visitors in Massachusetts and New England. In this case, using a CDN won’t have much — or possibly any — positive impact on speed, since all visitors are within about 500 miles of the origin server.

 

Ultimately, it comes down to numbers. If investing in a CDN will improve site speed for a significant number of visitors, then it’s probably a good investment. Otherwise, businesses are probably better off looking at other ways to boost site speed, such as enabling image compression, reducing redirects, removing render-blocking javascript, and other tactics.

 

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