How a CDN Works
With traditional web hosting, a single server hosts and serves all your website’s files, including static and dynamic files, to its visitors. When someone visits your website, this server transmits your website’s files to their web browser.
A CDN works together with your primary web hosting service.
With a CDN, copies of your site’s static files are created on a network of servers managed by the CDN provider. Upon visiting your website, your primary web hosting server will transmit your site’s dynamic files to the visitor, but the CDN will transmit its static files to the visitor using the server that’s closest to his or her geographic location.
Advantages of Using a CDN
1. Lower Cost of Web Hosting
You’ll need a traditional web hosting service regardless of whether you use a CDN. However, using a CDN can lower the cost of this service. Web hosting services are typically sold in plans, each of which has a maximum amount of bandwidth, CPU, memory and other resources that your website can consume.
Setting up your website on a CDN spreads the consumption of resources across your primary web hosting server as well as the CDN’s servers. Therefore, you can choose a cheaper web hosting plan.
2. Faster Page Load Times
A CDN may feature dozens or even hundreds of servers located in different geographic locations. The great thing about a CDN is that it automatically serves your website’s static files from the server that’s closest to its visitors.
If someone visits your website from California, for example, the CDN may use a California- or other West Coast-based server from which to serve your site’s static files. But if someone visits your website from Tokyo, the CDN may use a Japan-based server. This allows visitors to load your website more quickly since they are served static files from a nearby server.
A study conducted by KeyCDN found that using a CDN reduced the time it took visitors to load a WordPress website by 50.31 percent and reduced latency by 73 percent.
3. Higher Search Rankings
With faster page load times, a CDN can indirectly increase your website’s search rankings.
For more than 18 years, Google has prioritized fast-loading websites and web pages in its index. In July 2018, the Mountain View company announced the Speed Update for its mobile search ranking.
As a result, the time it takes visitors to load your website — whether they use a desktop computer or mobile device — will affect its search rankings on Google. And while Bing hasn’t officially confirmed speed as a ranking factor, research has shown that the Microsoft-owned search engine uses it as well.
Therefore, deploying your website on a CDN will speed up your website and subsequently increase its search rankings.
4. Increased Sales
If you use your website to sell a product or service, you may generate more sales when using a CDN.
According to HubSpot, nearly four out of five e-commerce customers are skeptical of making additional purchases on a website if it suffers from long load times. In 2007, Amazon conducted its own study to investigate the correlation between site speed and sales. The e-commerce giant discovered that forcing visitors to wait an additional one-tenth of a second resulted in 1 percent lower sales.
Don’t let slow speeds cost you sales. Use a CDN to make your website faster and achieve higher sales.
5. Protection From Malicious Attacks
A CDN can protect your website from common cyber threats, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.
With a DDoS attack, a hacker attempts to flood a website with an excessive amount of traffic in a short period of time. This typically isn’t real, human traffic. Instead, it’s bot traffic originating from a network of compromised computers and devices.
Without a CDN, all this bot traffic will hit the single server on which your website is hosted. But with a CDN, the bot traffic will strike both your primary web hosting server as well as the CDN’s servers, thus mitigating the damage. Most CDN providers also use their own cybersecurity measures to further protect against cyber threats.
For example, CloudFlare has a mode called, “I’m Under Attack”, that directs visitors of your website to an interstitial page while they verify the traffic is legitimate.
6. Increased Uptime
Your website is less likely to go offline if it’s deployed on a CDN. It uses the resources from its servers to transmit static files to your visitors. This means there’s less load placed on your primary web hosting server, reducing the risk of outages.
If your website experiences a traffic spike, a CDN can keep it online without any loss of speed or performance.
7. Easy to Set Up
Even if you’ve never used one before, you can easily set up a CDN in just a few simple steps.
First, subscribe to a CDN service, such as StackPath, KeyCDN, Amazon Cloudfront, CloudFlare, Google Cloud CDN or Incapsula CDN. Once subscribed, you’ll need to configure your CDN so that it’s able to create copies of your website’s static files.
Most CDN services have a plugin for WordPress that makes the installation a breeze. Although a plugin isn’t required to use the service.
For instance, I use CloudFlare but don’t use their plugin because I like to keep plugins to a minimum.
Some CDN services require website owners to add a pull zone URL to their account, whereas others require owners to modify their website’s domain name servers (DNS).
Once the CDN has identified the location of your website’s static files, it will begin serving them to your site’s visitors.
Setting up a CDN is an easy process that shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes. If you encounter any problems or otherwise need help, contact the CDN’s customer support.
All reputable CDN providers offer top-notch customer support that can walk you through the process of setting up your website on a CDN.
A CDN is a must-have tool for all serious WordPress owners. It lowers the cost of web hosting, reduces load times, promotes higher search rankings and more. Just remember to partner with a trusted CDN provider to take advantage of these benefits.