What is a CDN?
A CDN is essentially a network of geographically dispersed servers. Each
CDN node (also called Edge Servers) caches the static content of a site
like the images, CSS/JS files and other structural components. The
majority of an end-user's page load time is spent on retrieving this
content, and so it makes sense to provide these "building blocks" of a site
in as many server nodes as possible, distributed throughout the world.
When a user requests your site, the node closest in proximity to user will
deliver the static content, ensuring the shortest distance for the data to
travel (reduced latency), therefore providing the fastest site experience.
CDNs ensure users download data from servers that are closest in
Why do I need a CDN?
The number one reason for using a CDN is to improve your user's
experience in terms of speed, and as we know -
Ensuring a consistent experience for all your users is important.
A website may be hosted in a particular region, but have the majority of
its users coming from an entirely different region - for example, if your
site is hosted in North America, GTmetrix might report fast speeds based on
our default test location, but if a good chunk of your users come from
Europe, their speed will not be as fast as you experience it to be.
With a CDN, users from a European point of origin will be able to
download your site's static content faster from a closer server node.
A global CDN would allow users from a European point of origin to download
static content from a closer source. Instead of spanning the Atlantic
ocean to retrieve data, they can connect to a server in say, London, UK, to
get the same data. This reduces latency and provides a faster loading of
CDNs not only ensure a faster experience to your users, but they also help
to prevent site crashes in the event of traffic surges - CDNs help to
distribute bandwidth across multiple servers, instead of allowing one
server to handle all traffic.
...But CDNs Aren't Absolutely Necessary.
Most users who analyze their site through GTmetrix will have YSlow's
"Use a Content Delivery Network (CDN)"
recommendation triggered. This leads many to believe that it's a
recommendation on the same level as
"Minify CSS/HTML" or
"Specify image dimensions".
A CDN is a "next-level" optimization. It is not a
self-contained fix like a server configuration change or a small code
modification. CDNs are paid, third-party services, and so implementation of
one depends on your goals, priorities and budget.
Will a CDN help improve the performance of your website? Yes. Is it
absolutely required for all websites? No. You can still provide a decently
fast website experience without a CDN - but it would probably be faster
For those with heavy traffic, mission critical websites and that are
serious about providing the best possible experience for all their users, a
CDN should be a crucial part of their optimization strategy.
Implementation and Cost
It might sound like setting up a CDN for your site is a difficult endeavour
(sometimes it is, depending on the site size/complexity), but for most
websites - CDNs are easy to implement. Essentially, you
need to tell the CDN which files (typically static resources) it needs to
mirror. Then, you need to configure your site to send requests to those
files to the CDN for handling.
For anybody using a popular CMS (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc), plugins
exist to set your site up for to a CDN provider without much difficulty.
Other implementations may involve modifying DNS records and changing the
name servers of your domain.
Most CDNs are third-party paid services and can range from expensive,
high-end setups for enterprise websites, to more cost-effective
small/medium website oriented solutions.
The cost of a CDN also depends on bandwidth, region reach, and/or
security/SSL needs. For example, if you find that most of your users come
from North America and Europe, you can omit purchasing server nodes in
CDNs don't have to be cost prohibitive, and can be accessible to website
owners of various budgets.
Looking for a CDN?
Affordable costs and ease of implementation should be key in regards to
selecting a CDN provider, that's why we recommend
MaxCDN for CDN
integration. Their solution is great for most small to medium website
owners and offers:
- Easy integration - Straight forward integration for popular CMS platforms (WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc).
- Starts at $9/month - Perfect for next-level performance without breaking the bank.
- 30-day Trial - Give it a try for a month, and if it's not for you, get your money back.
We've partnered with MaxCDN to provide GTmetrix users an even better
Use coupon code gtmetrix and get 25% off when signing up
Get started with a CDN today »