Web Development

What is a CDN?

Modern websites are very complex and are made up of various components. There is the code that makes a website work, the static assets such as images, stylesheets and Javascript files that are downloaded, the content that goes with it, videos and anything else developers and designers work into the mix.

Some of the most important things anyone has to consider with web hosting is the cost to transfer data to lots of users, the speed that a website loads and the ability to handle malicious attacks such as DDoS.

Also, more and ore websites are being browsed from around the world and not all of your users will be coming from a location close to where you host your website.

How adding a CDN affects this

CDNs exist to handle exactly these scenarios. Essentially a CDN is a network of servers that are spread across the globe and deliver website assets from the closest location to the user.. These servers are usually located in areas where a lot of communication happens in a region such as major continents or regions.

Because these servers cache content from your server (the origin), they can handle sending the content very quickly to lots of users in many different locations.

Multiple sources for content

Because the network of CDN servers is large and distributed over a large area, you get the benefit of many servers being available to send content from. Imagine you have a server loading your website code, another loading your images. You have the benefit that you are reducing the load that any one server has to handle and making your site that much more efficient.

This has the benefit of speeding up the loading of your website while also improving how your website will be handled when many visitors try to load your site.

Edge locations for international visitors

The benefit of servers being in edge locations means that if you get a user in Australia trying to access your site hosted in London, the nearest edge server cluster is used to send content rather than the London server. Loading from a server nearby reduces the distance data has to travel and thereby reducing the amount of time it takes to load that data.

Reliability and DDoS protection

Because CDNs are made up of multiple clusters of servers globally, your content is far less susceptible to individual server issues or attacks.

If a server goes down, another server simply picks up the slack and keeps your site running smoothly. This can also provide protection in case your origin server fails. Many CDNs will serve a cached version of your website if the origin server fails to work.

The other side of this reliability is the ability to protect against DDoS attacks. In this type of attack,many hundreds or even thousands of connections are fired at your server in order to try and overwhelm it. This can cause the server to come under too much load and to become unresponsive. Because the CDN is made up of many server all over the world, no single server is susceptible to failure because the rest of the network simply jumps in to help.

Load balancing added to CDNs means that connections are also filtered before going to any server. The purpose of this is to find out the best location to send data from but it also means that if a known attack occurs, those connections can be blocked before even reaching a server.

Reduction in bandwidth costs

It costs a lot of money to cover the amount of bandwidth it takes to deliver your site and content to all of the visitors to your website.

CDNs can provide a very cost-effective means of reducing that bandwidth usage and therfore the cost associated. A CDN will cache your site assets and files on the CDN servers so when a user accesses your site through their CDN edge server, your origin server doesn’t have to use up precious bandwidth for that user. If you have a busy site or a lot of media and assets, this can mean a huge reduction in your origin server bandwidth usage.

So why do I need a fast site?

There is nothing more frustrating for a user than a slow or unresponsive website. Every second a page takes to load is the potential to lose potential customers. If a site fails to load altogether that visitor may lose trust and never return.

If you want to compete online then having a fast and efficient website is one of the most important factors. This means not only have a fast and efficient hosting plan, but also adding in additional important features such as CDNs to enhance what is already there.

Hosting and CDN

Some hosting providers will include CDNs with their plans. These come in a huge array of options. Some are additional paid options, some are free, limited plans. Others include CDN only for your media while other will cache everythig on a CDN.

It is important to be aware of all the factors involved in the CDN you are wanting to use so that you can ensure it provides the correct solution for your specific needs.

Regardless of what type of CDN you use, there is almost always going to be a major benefit to including this in how you run your website.

If you would like to know the best way to implement a CDN, how to set one up on your current hosting or how you can set your website up to be as efficient as possible, speak to the team here at Illustrate Digital and we’ll be happy to help!