Do you know what Facebook, YouTube, and Netflix have in common? Besides being one of the most visited websites, they all use CDNs to serve their content!
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a technological solution that addresses the challenge of distributing massive amounts of data/content rapidly to the end-users on the Internet.
In fact, the article you’re about to read is served through a CDN. But let’s not waste any more time on shallow explanations.
Here’s what we’re going to cover in this article:
Before proceeding with the definition of a CDN, it is important to address the issue it was designed to solve.
Network latency is that annoying delay that occurs from the moment that you request to load a web page to the moment its content is actually visible on your screen.
Although the delay interval could be affected by a number of factors, most of which are specific to a given web page, one of the most impactful aspects is the physical distance between you and that website’s hosting server.
And here, a CDN can provide a solution.
Simply put, a CDN’s main job is to shorten the physical distance between a user and the web server, which results in better website performance.
Here’s how that’s done:
A CDN consists of multiple geographically distributed servers at various points of presence (PoP) around the world.
CDNs help serve different types of resources, including:
I’ve already clarified that a CDN consists of geographically distributed servers all around the world.
To better understand how a CDN actually works, let’s look at the following example:
Let’s say that you have a website and the origin server where all the files of your website are stored is in Paris, France.
Because you offer high-quality products, you attract hundreds of visitors to your site from all over the world. However, you don’t have servers worldwide, and because of that, you run into the latency problem (the distance between the user and the origin server is too large).
For instance, if a user in Beijing wants to access your website that is hosted in Paris, each request will have to travel through a series of routers to reach the server.
And that “travel” will repeat for each resource request. The latency will happen, namely because of the geographical distance of about 5000 miles between Paris and Beijing.
In this case, the CDN can virtually shorten that distance and thus improve the site’s performance.
A CDN will store a cached version of your content in multiple geographical locations (also known as points of presence). Each PoP consists of multiple caching servers responsible for distributing your website’s content based on the user’s proximity.
Therefore, the user from Beijing who requested to visit your website will be served content from the nearest point of presence/caching server - possibly, from a server in the same city. Thus, the latency will be drastically reduced, and your website will load faster.
On that note, let’s have a closer look at all the benefits of using a CDN.
The benefits of using a CDN will depend on the size of the web page, its location in relation to the main traffic source, and the amount of traffic generated.
There are four main benefits of using a CDN:
Let’s make something clear right from the beginning:
A small local business with a physical location that serves a small geographic area might not benefit as much from CDN.
In fact, you might worsen your website’s performance by introducing another point of connection between your visitors and your origin/nearby server.
So, bear this in mind when you decide whether to integrate a CDN or will be better off without it.
Now that we know when you won’t need a CDN let’s get to the juicy part - who actually needs a CDN?
Pretty much every online business that operates on a larger scale:
Global E-Commerce stores (Amazon, Alibaba, etc.) benefit a lot because they have heavy traffic from all around the world;
Advertising businesses (like Yahoo or Forbes) use multimedia-based ads because they are more attractive and engaging, but at the same time, they require more resources to load properly;
Online games need even more resources in order to deliver the best gaming performance;
The entertainment industry attracts lots of people from all around the world with its downloading and streaming options.
The reality is that more than half of the web content is served by a CDN. As I mentioned at the beginning of the article, all of your favorite websites use a CDN to deliver your desired content in a glimpse of a second - Netflix, Facebook, 9GAG, UpWork, etc.
Being on this quest of learning more about the CDNs, how they work, and what benefits they can offer to your online business, you might run into some common misconceptions.
A popular one is that Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) can harm a website’s organic rankings.
However, Google representatives have dispelled this myth by stating that using CDN URLs is completely fine:
Furthermore, they make it crystal clear that hosting images on the same host/domain as your website (cdn.yourwebsite) instead of on a separate site/subdomain (yoursite.cdnprovider) won’t give you an SEO boost:
In fact, there are more misconceptions that aim to discredit CDNs’ value. In our article - Will Using a CDN Hurt My Organic Ranking (SEO)? - we look at other popular myths and why they’re wrong.
There are numerous CDN providers out there. However, when we first started building NitroPack, we knew that we wanted to create a site speed solution that offers out-of-the-box features for complete website optimization.
That’s why we offer a built-in CDN with all of our plans (including our free plan).
NitroPack’s CDN is pre-configured, which means that you don’t have to set it up manually, saving you time and effort. Our CDN automatically serves fonts, CSS, JS, and image files via HTTP2 from the nearest edge location.
Furthermore, NitroPack’s CDN serves resources between 5 and 20 ms, which is a huge benefit, given the fact that very few resources take longer than 10 ms.
Niko has 5+ years of experience turning those “it’s too technical for me” topics into “I can’t believe I get it” content pieces. He specializes in dissecting nuanced topics like Core Web Vitals, web performance metrics, and site speed optimization techniques. When he’s taking a breather from researching his next content piece, you’ll find him deep into the latest performance news.