Today, we’re going to talk about a growing – and incredibly important – tool in the world of web hosting: the content delivery network. You’ve probably heard the term, at least in passing – and wondered if your website could use one. Today, we’re here to help you decide.
First thing’s first, let’s talk about exactly what a CDN does.
A CDN works by caching your content at several points of presence spread out across a global network. When a user accesses something on your site, the CDN taps into whichever point of presence is closest to them. This has several effects.
First, it significantly improves the speed of your site, as users are downloading media and information from a location much closer to them than your website’s home server. Second, they reduce the load placed on your server, significantly lowering the resources required to run your website.
Speed Is Important – And Your Website Isn’t Fast Enough
It’s long been known that speed is one of the qualities Google’s algorithms look at when indexing a site – the faster a site is, the better its rank. For that reason, anything that drags down your site’s performance will naturally bring down its SERP ranking. You want to prevent that from happening.
As you’ve no doubt already surmised, a content delivery network is one way you can accomplish this – speed and performance are the two most common reasons to sign up for a CDN, after all. If you’ve noticed that your website seems to be chugging lately – maybe because you’re running out of bandwidth or putting too much strain on your hosting plan – a CDN might be just the thing you need to.
You’ve Got A User Driven Site (Or You Manage Large Volumes Of Rich Media)
One of the surest ways to tell you need a CDN is to look at how much content your website deals with on a regular basis. Are you running a massive user-driven photo site with hundreds of daily uploads? Do you frequently manage large quantities of rich media such as Flash video or in-browser games?
A Content Delivery network will allow you to do all of the above much more effectively – without having to worry about poor website performance for the user.
You Anticipate Rapid Growth Or Viral Content In The Near Future
There’s a funny little phenomenon that people refer to as the Digg effect (or Reddit, or Slashdot; take your pick). Basically, this is what happens when a site is featured on a super-popular aggregate site, and its servers are incapable of handling the influx of traffic that this brings with it. If you’re aiming to produce viral content – and you don’t want your servers to buckle under the traffic that will bring – a CDN can be a great way to scale up your website to meet whatever demands are thrown at it.
You’re An Online Vendor (Or Thinking Of Setting Up A Digital Storefront)
As a vendor, a positive user experience is one of the most important goals to pursue when setting up your storefront. Your site needs to be both highly interactive and incredibly fast in order to maximize your sales. What that means is that you more or less need to spring for a content delivery network of some kind – you can’t risk not doing so.
You Serve A Geographically-Diverse Clientele
Basically, if you’re noticing a large volume of global traffic to your website, it could be a great idea to implement a content delivery network. If you aren’t…not so much. Due to the way CDNs work, they lose a great deal of value if your website only serves local visitors.
While that in itself is certainly no reason to avoid a CDN (see every other entry on this list), you certainly aren’t going to be getting as much out of the deal if you’re only getting traffic from one city.
A Kingdom For Your Content
As the old saying goes, content is king – and every king needs a kingdom. Through the use of a content delivery network, you can keep your website running as efficiently as possible. For you, that means your users can focus on experiencing all the awesome stuff you have to offer, and you can devote yourself to providing them that stuff – without having to worry so much about latency or performance.
So, in light of all this, ask yourself again – does your business need a content delivery network? Perhaps there’s an even better way to phrase that: can your business afford not to have one?