Why Your Website Needs Content Delivery Network (CDN) Technology

Internet users are an increasingly demanding group, and understandably so. They expect high quality and fast, uninterrupted delivery of website content. Content Delivery Network (CDN) technology provides this – so why is it utilized by so few websites?

Download speed matters. You’re streaming a film or downloading a chunk of data, when everything suddenly freezes. That little ‘wheel of death’ appears on the screen, and refuses to disappear. There is very little in our web-based lives that causes more anger and frustration.

At the other end of the chain, the website’s owner also suffers. Users give up on the site, and repeat visits are far less likely. If the website is a business, reliant on client interest and sales, then that translates into a poor reputation for customer satisfaction and potential lost revenue.

CDN technology is an effective, available and cost-effective solution. This is especially so for businesses and other organizations that use WANs (wide area networks), spread over a large geographical area, to communicate with users worldwide. The advantages of WANs are enormous, but they bring problems, too. Sending data from a single point to clients on the other side of the globe means many more ‘hops’ (data trips between routers). That, in turn, means the packets of data are more vulnerable to system delays (called ‘latency’), corruption, and even loss. When there is a peak in demand, or a major malfunction, then that means website crashes. And website crashes mean low customer satisfaction and, therefore, lost revenue.

How can CDN technology help? Let’s start with how it works. Most of an end user’s download time goes on retrieving static content. Basically, a CDN is a network of cache servers that hold local duplicates of the static content of website pages – that’s files such as videos, audio and JavaScript. The largest CDNs comprise hundreds, even thousands of servers (called CDN nodes, or Edge Servers). When a client requests data from a website page, the CDN’s software works out which of its nodes is most local to the user, and sends the data from there. Simple.

The advantages are tremendous.

  1. The number of hops each data packet makes is vastly reduced, because it will be sent from the CDN server closest to the user, not from the host server. That means faster speeds, and minimizing of data corruption and loss. The end user will receive a speedy, efficient service, and be much happier with the website (or app) as a result.
  2. It is far easier to cope with unexpected increases in demand, as the CDN software can share the extra bandwidth needed across several CDN nodes in response. Similarly, if there is a website malfunction on the host server, or even a cyber attack, then copies of the pages will still be accessible on at least some of the CDN servers. Remember that browsers also put limits on the number of active downloads (usually no more than four) at one time to a domain, even in periods of normal demand. CDN technology avoids this by providing multiple servers.  
  3. CDN servers, as a supplementary benefit, can act as a remote data back-up facility, essential in disaster recovery arrangements. They can also provide extra storage and archiving space, and give you, as a bonus, additional analytics on usage.
  4. Google now uses page speed as a priority factor when ranking sites. Websites using CDN are faster and will therefore appear higher in search results, and that means increased traffic.
  5. The compression and caching technology supported by many CDNs means that files transferred over the Internet are smaller, and won’t need to be downloaded by the same customer more than once. That not only means faster speeds for the end user, but also means the website uses less bandwidth, and that saves the business owner money.
  6. Increasing numbers of users now access data on mobiles and tablets, when out and about. Without necessarily having access to the strong Internet connections of home and office users, download speed is hugely important to them – and their satisfaction with the website they are accessing. CDNs ensure the best possible mobile experience.

Despite these benefits, many websites are still not using CDN technology. Maybe businesses think their website already loads fast enough, or they are worried about the costs involved in using third-party software. They might even be worried about protecting content and security. With respect to the last of these, CDN providers already have solutions in place with settings that put a stop to hot-linking, and which protect content with authentication tools.

The costs are also lower than you might think. With so many CDN providers out there, they are in competition to offer a cost-effective and quality service. Neither is it a case of one-size fits all. Different websites need different levels of service. Some CDNs are free (Google, Microsoft, and services such as YouTube all offer a free service), or include a free option. Many commercial providers offer a ‘pay-as-you-go’ service. Some, on the other hand, cost a lot of money, and are aimed at larger businesses. It’s important to shop around, for service as well as cost, and according to business and customer needs.

Some website owners might be put off by the technology savvy and effort they think is needed. However, while some steps are needed to get set up, it’s easier than you might think, and the CDN providers are there to help. Less techy types should find a provider with options to get the files to the CDN servers automatically. Once the files are uploaded, then the CDN will copy the files to all its servers, and they are ready to download.

But what does this all mean? Here are some numbers that can show you why time really is money when it comes to your website:

  • Amazon calculated that a one-second slowdown in page load time could cost it $1.6 billion per year in sales.
  • Auto-parts sales company AutoAnything managed to cut their loading times in half and increased their sales by around 13%.
  • People have an estimated attention span of just about 8.25 seconds. If it takes longer than this to load a site, you have lost the customers. Ideally, you want an instant load time of around 0.5 or 1 second.
  • Waiting for a website for over 3 seconds will decrease customer satisfaction by 16%.
  • 40% of customers will leave your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load.

These are just a few of the notable numbers to consider. To put this in numbers, with regard to your bottom line: a website making around $100,000 risks losing nearly $40,000 in potential sales every year! These facts show you just how important CDN technology really is.

At the end of the day, any website owner who is serious about customer satisfaction, and operates across a wide geographical area, will really benefit from CDN technology. Website download speed is a huge impact factor in ensuring the end-user is happy. Happy end-users mean customers who will spend money, come back again for more, and recommend the website to their friends, family and colleagues. And that, of course, is good for business!

Author: Dmitry Shklovsky, Director of Sales (BelugaCDN.com)