What is a CDN, and is it worth it?

You’ve probably heard a lot of buzzwords, either from your own research or from your IT department, when looking into building your company website.

It is likely you’ve stumbled across the phrase ‘Content Delivery Network’, but what is a CDN and is it a worthy investment?

A CDN is a service that speeds up the delivery of internet content to users. They’re a great way to serve static resources, such as images, JavaScript files and CSS files; to your user. CDNs use multiple proxy servers and data centres across the globe. When a user visits your site, it will pull data from a geographical location close to them.

Say, for instance, your website is hosted in London but you have potential clients visiting your website in New York. Instead of that user’s browser having to download your website content from your server in London, it grabs it from the nearest data centre to them in New York. With a CDN, your pictures and code files get to your user much quicker, meaning it takes less time for them to load up your website.

This is a great way to boost your conversion rate and retain customers. Everybody loves a user-friendly website that loads quickly, and they’re likely to make repeat purchases from you rather than look elsewhere for a better website. So, investing in a CDN can help potential customers stick around and drive your profits up. Well, if they’re into what you’re selling, of course!

Also, because your web servers are not constantly communicating back-and-forth across the globe, your website will benefit too. This will increase your uptime, meaning your website will run into less problems and stay online for more customers to flock to your site.

An example of a major CDN is Cloudflare, the market leader. It’s easy to use. Once you’ve signed up, click ‘Add Site’ and enter your domain. It will perform a quick scan before you can click continue. It’ll display all the records it’s found from your domain registrar, e.g. GoDaddy or Namecheap. Make sure they’re all there and validate them.

Cloudflare will then give you two nameservers to use in your DNS page. Enter those into your nameserver section with your registrar. This will then mean that your DNS settings will be managed through Cloudflare instead of through your registrar, which is what you want.

Another great thing about Cloudflare is that they have a tonne of resources, meaning they’re not just a CDN. They offer a number of different things, including a firewall and speed optimisation to boost your website’s security and efficiency even further.

CDNs can reduce your web hosting costs, another thing that will be music to the ears of your finance department. Through optimisations such as caching, a CDN can decrease the amount of data needed from an origin server, meaning your hosting costs will go down and make your website cheaper to run.

They can also improve the security of your website, too. As well as Cloudflare providing a firewall service, as mentioned, a CDN can also improve your security certificates and provide DDos mitigation.

Some web hosts now come with their own CDN for you to use on your website. A sort of plug-and-play feature, if you will. It’s becoming a much more popular service for hosting companies to offer. Be careful though; there are still more web hosts without built-in CDNs than with them.

But more without than with though

Another important thing to keep in mind though, while we’re discussing web hosting, is that your choice of web host can have a big impact on your SEO rankings, which is massively important in terms of driving organic traffic to your website with no cost. This is all to do with something called Time to First Byte. To find out more about this, we’ve got just the blog post for you.

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