Content Marketing, Technology

Next Generation CDN Technology is About More than just Caching

In today’s hyper-connected world, users don’t go online, they are constantly online, and marketing professionals require innovative technologies to deliver a quality customer experience. Because of this, many are already familiar with the classic services of a content delivery network (CDN), such as caching. For those who are not as familiar with CDNs, this is done by temporarily storing replicas of static text, images, audio and video on servers, so the next time a user goes to access this content, it will be delivered faster than if it had not been cached.

But this is just one basic example of what a CDN has to offer. Marketers are leveraging next generation CDNs in an array of ways to connect with audiences and overcome the challenges of providing a seamless customer experience across multiple devices, varying connectivity and more complex web applications.

Here are some key functionalities designed to improve the customer experience:

Front End Optimization

One way that you can optimize the perceived speed of a page is through Front End Optimization (FEO) techniques that render a page visually complete more quickly. Visually complete is when a user can see and interact with the page even though elements below the page fold and some scripts are still loading in the background. There are many different FEO methods that you can utilize such as dynamic minification, on demand image loading, asynchronous JavaScript and CSS, EdgeStart and cellular keep-alives to name a few. These can all be done at scale and without altering your website code.

Responsive Server Side (RESS)

In addition to short page load times, optimizing your web presence for different devices is absolutely necessary to create great customer experiences. Employing responsive web design (RWD) can be an effective way to help do this. For example, RWD ensures that when a mobile or tablet shopper visits a website, images are fluid and other assets are scaled appropriately, so users aren’t trying to navigate the desktop version of a website by pinching and zooming. However, RWD has a downside in that it can be prone to over downloading since it sends the same images and HTML to the mobile device that it sends to the desktop. Using RWD with edge device characteristics sites can tailor the actual content delivered to groups of devices and dramatically decrease the size of the page download and increase performance.

Adaptive Image Compression

While RWD will make the images fluid so that they fit properly based on the device screen size, it will still be using the same size image as shown on the desktop. This can mean your users on slow 3G or high latency networks are required to download an image that’s several megabytes only to have it show to them in near postage stamp size. The solution is to send the user only the size of image appropriate for their current network conditions. Adaptive image compression accomplishes this by taking into consideration the current network connection, latency and device then compressing the image in real-time to provide a balance between image quality and download time to ensure users have access to high-quality images without suffering from slow performance.

EdgeStart – Speed up the time to first byte

Some very dynamic pages or elements, while not entirely cacheable, can still utilize caching to improve performance. These pages tend to be very similar from one user to the other as they share the same page header, use similar JavaScript & CSS files, and often share many images too. By utilizing EdgeStart, sites can prefetch the next step a client is most likely to take by sending the request for that content before the user even asks for it, thereby increasing the page performance even of elements that can’t normally be cached.

Simply put, if you’re only caching content, you’re missing out on many of the benefits of an intelligent platform approach. Marketers have to be just as savvy with and demanding of technology as their consumers are if they want to succeed. And if this seems like an overwhelming process, it doesn’t have to be. There are experts available to help guide you to the right services that suit your company’s and your end users’ needs.

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