How CDNs Improve Website SpeedJanuary 15, 2023 | By David Selden-Treiman | Filed in: hosting.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a system of distributed servers that are located in various geographical locations. The main purpose of a CDN is to deliver web content to users as quickly and efficiently as possible by caching and delivering content from the server closest to the user. It can improve website loading time, user experience, search engine rankings and increase conversions.
Choosing a CDN provider, configuring it on the web server and measuring the improvement in website loading time are important steps. It’s also important to keep monitoring website performance and adjust the CDN accordingly. If you’re looking for the simplest option, Cloudflare is usually pretty quick and easy to set up.
What is a Content Distribution Network?
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a system of distributed servers that are located in various geographical locations. The main purpose of a CDN is to deliver web content to users as quickly and efficiently as possible by caching and delivering content from the server closest to the user.
Why is Website Loading Time So Important?
Website loading time can be affected by a variety of factors, such as the size of the resources, the number of requests made to the server, and network speed. Slow loading times can lead to a poor user experience and negatively impact a website’s search engine rankings, traffic and conversion rate.
Users expect fast and seamless browsing and slow websites can cause them to lose interest and navigate away.
Search engine such as Google also consider website loading time as a ranking factor. Faster loading websites will get better ranking than slower ones.
Improving website loading time can lead to increased user engagement, higher search engine rankings, and increased conversions. This can be achieved through various techniques such as optimizing the website’s code, compressing resources, and using a CDN.
How Does a CDN Improve Load Time?
CDNs Cache Static Assets
CDNs cache and store copies of static assets, such as images and videos, on multiple servers across different geographical locations. When a user requests a webpage, the CDN will serve the cached assets from the server closest to the user, reducing the time it takes to load the resources and improving website loading time.
CDNs Reduce Server Load
When a user requests a webpage, the origin server must handle the request and send back the necessary resources for the webpage to load. As the number of users visiting a website increases, the number of requests to the server also increases, which can lead to server overload and slow website performance.
CDNs can help to reduce the load on the origin server by distributing incoming requests to different servers in the CDN network. This is done by caching and storing copies of the website’s resources on multiple servers across different geographical locations.
When a user requests a webpage, the CDN will serve the cached assets from the server closest to the user, instead of forwarding the request to the origin server. This reduces the number of requests made to the origin server, and improves website loading time by allowing it to handle fewer requests.
Additionally, CDN providers might implement load balancing strategies to divide traffic evenly across multiple servers which helps to avoid overloading a specific server.
Reducing server load can help to prevent website downtime and improve website performance during periods of high traffic, making it more resilient.
CDNs Deliver Content From the Nearest Location
One of the main factors that affects website loading time is the distance between the user and the origin server, known as latency. The further the user is located from the origin server, the longer it takes for the resources to be delivered, which results in slower website loading times.
CDNs use multiple servers in various geographical locations, allowing them to deliver content from the nearest location to the user. This is done by caching and storing copies of the website’s resources on multiple servers across different geographical locations. When a user requests a webpage, the CDN will serve the cached assets from the server closest to the user, reducing the distance that data has to travel and minimizing latency.
By delivering content from the nearest location, CDNs can help to improve website loading time, especially for users located far away from the origin server. Furthermore, it can help to distribute the traffic across multiple regions, providing a better experience for users located in specific areas.
CDNs Optimize Network Routes
As data travels from the origin server to the user, it may have to pass through multiple network points such as routers and switches. Each of these network points can introduce additional latency and slow down website loading time.
CDNs use sophisticated routing algorithms to optimize the network routes for content delivery, which can further improve website loading time by reducing the distance that data has to travel to reach the user. This is done by selecting the most efficient path for the data to travel, which can include selecting the server that is closest to the user, selecting the server with the lowest latency, or avoiding network bottlenecks.
The CDN network provider monitors the network performance and uses global mapping systems to analyze the real-time traffic and routing patterns, This can help to improve website loading time by avoiding network congestion and providing a faster and more reliable service.
These routing optimizations can be especially beneficial for users located in remote or geographically distant areas from the origin server, providing a better experience by reducing the latency and improving website loading time.
How Should I Choose a CDN Provider?
What Factors Matter When Choosing a CDN Provider?
When choosing a CDN provider, there are several factors to consider to ensure that the provider can meet your specific needs. These factors may include:
- Network coverage and PoP locations: Ensure that the provider has servers located in the regions where your target audience is based.
- Security: Look for providers that offer security features such as DDoS protection, SSL certificates, and firewalls to protect your website from malicious attacks.
- Scalability: Consider providers that can scale up or down as your website traffic changes.
- Customer support: ensure that the provider offers adequate customer support in case you have issues or needs assistance.
- pricing and contract flexibility.
How Should I Compare CDN Providers?
Once you have identified the factors that are important to you, you can begin researching and comparing different CDN providers and their offerings. This may include researching providers’ network coverage, security features, scalability options, and customer support.
It is also important to compare pricing and contract options, to ensure that you find a provider that offers a good value for the cost. It can be also beneficial to check the customer reviews and providers’ case studies to know more about their performance.
Ultimately, the goal is to find a provider that offers the features and level of service that you need, at a price that you can afford.
How Should I Configure My CDN?
Setting up CDN on the web server
Once you have chosen a CDN provider, the next step is to set up the CDN on your web server. This will typically involve creating an account with the provider, configuring the CDN settings, and specifying which resources on your website you want to be cached and delivered via the CDN.
Configuring DNS settings
To ensure that your website visitors are served by the nearest CDN server, you must configure the DNS settings for your website to point to the CDN provider’s server. This can usually be done by changing setting your nameserver records to use the CDN’s nameservers. The CDN will have instructions on how to do this and what you should set the nameservers to. DNS propagation could take a while though.
Mapping of URLs to CDN resources
Mapping URLs to CDN resources is essential for the CDN to work properly. This can involve specifying which resources on your website should be served via the CDN, and which should be served directly from the origin server. This can be achieved through a variety of methods such as creating a rules-based mapping system, or by using a plugin or an extension that can automatically map URLs to CDN resources.
It is important to note that configuring a CDN is a technical task that can vary depending on the provider and the complexity of the website, thus consulting the provider or a professional could be necessary.
How Can I Measure The Improvement in Website Loading Time?
What Tools Can I Use To Measure My Website Loading Time?
To measure the improvement in website loading time after implementing a CDN, you can use various online tools such as Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, and Pingdom. These tools can help you to identify the page load time, the number of requests made to the server, and other performance metrics that can help you to understand how your website is performing.
Google PageSpeed Insights for example, will analyze a website’s performance and provide a score for both mobile and desktop devices. It also gives you recommendations on how to improve the website’s performance. GTmetrix is another tool that analyzes the website’s performance and generates a report that includes page load time, page size, and the number of requests made to the server.
These tools can provide a lot of valuable information, including load time, the number of requests, and the size of resources, as well as identifying specific issues such as slow-loading resources or blocked resources that are preventing your website from loading quickly.
It’s important to note that while website loading time is an important metric to measure and optimize, it’s not the only metric, user experience and other performance metrics such as Time to First Byte (TTFB) should also be considered.
Comparing Website Load Time Before and After Implementing a CDN
It is important to compare the website loading time before and after implementing a CDN. This can be done by taking a baseline measurement of your website’s loading time before implementing the CDN, and then comparing it to the loading time after the CDN is implemented. By doing this you can get a sense of how much of an improvement the CDN has made.
Identifying and Addressing Any Issues That Arise
Even though implementing a CDN can improve website loading time, it may not solve all performance issues. It is important to continuously monitor the website’s performance and identify any issues that arise. By identifying the issues and addressing them, you can further improve the website’s loading time and overall performance.
It is important to note that implementing a CDN is not a one-time process, and it’s important to review the CDN performance regularly and adapt the settings if necessary.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can significantly improve website loading time by caching and delivering content from the server closest to the user, reducing server load, delivering content from the nearest location and optimizing network routes.
While CDNs can greatly improve website loading time, there are always more ways to improve performance. Techniques like image optimization, code optimization, and browser caching are some methods that can be combined with a CDN to further improve website loading time. Additionally, new technologies such as Edge computing and HTTP/2 could also bring new possibilities to improve website loading time in the future.
Implementing a CDN can greatly improve website loading time, giving users a better experience, improving search engine rankings and increasing conversions, it’s an important step for improving website performance
It is important to keep in mind that implementing a CDN is not a one-time process and ongoing monitoring and optimization is necessary to fully benefit from the improvements it can bring. By regularly monitoring website performance, identifying any issues and making adjustments accordingly, you can ensure that your website continues to perform at its best.
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David Selden-Treiman is Director of Operations and a project manager at Potent Pages. He specializes in custom web crawler development, website optimization, server management, web application development, and custom programming. Working at Potent Pages since 2012 and programming since 2003, David has extensive expertise solving problems using programming for dozens of clients. He also has extensive experience managing and optimizing servers, managing dozens of servers for both Potent Pages and other clients.