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What Is A Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

Although prices continue to drop on hosting and bandwidth, it can still be pretty expensive to host a website on a premium hosting platform. And if you’re not paying a lot, chances are that your site is pretty slow – losing significant amounts of business.

As you think about your servers hosting your site, they have to put up with many requests. Some of those requests may require your server to communicate with other database servers or third-party application programming interfaces (APIs) before generating a dynamic page.

Other requests may be simple, like serving images or video, but require an inordinate volume of bandwidth. Your hosting infrastructure may struggle to do all of this at the same time, though. A page on this blog, for example, could make dozens of requests for images, JavaScript, CSS, fonts… in addition to database requests.

Pile on the users and this server could get buried in no time in requests. Each of these requests takes time. Time is of the essence – whether it’s the user waiting for a page to load or a search engine bot coming to scrape your content. Both scenarios can hurt your business if your site is slow. It’s in your best interest to keep your pages light and fast – providing a user with a snappy site can increase sales. Providing Google with a snappy site can get more of your pages indexed and found.

While we live in an amazing world with an Internet infrastructure built on fiber that’s both redundant and incredibly fast, geography still plays a huge role in the amount of time it takes between a request from a browser, through routers, to a web host… and back.

In simple terms, the further your web server is from your customers, the slower your website is to them. The answer is to utilize a content delivery network.

While your server loads your pages and controls all the dynamic content and API requests, your content delivery network (CDN) can cache elements on a distributed network in data centers across the globe. This means that your prospects in India or the United Kingdom can view your site as nearly as fast as your visitors down the street.

What Is A Content Delivery Network?

A content delivery network, or content distribution network, is a geographically distributed network of servers used to load assets faster by caching the assets closer to the visitor.

CDN Providers

Costs for CDNs can range from free to quite prohibitive depending on their infrastructure, service-level agreements (SLAs), scalability, redundancy, and – of course – their speed. Here are some of the players in the market:

  • Cloudflare may be one of the most popular CDNs out there.
  • If you’re on WordPress, Jetpack offers its own CDN that’s quite robust. We host our site on Flywheel which includes a CDN with the service.
  • BunnyCDN is a simple option for small businesses that can provide great performance.
  • Amazon CloudFront might be the largest CDN with Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) as the most affordable CDN provider right now. We use it and our costs barely top $2 per month!
  • Limelight Networks or Akamai Networks are quite popular in the enterprise space.
Image from Akamai Networks

Your content delivery doesn’t have to be limited to static images, either. Even some dynamic websites can also be displayed via CDNs. The advantages of CDNs are many. Aside from improving your site latency, CDNs can provide relief to your current server loads and scalability well beyond their hardware limitations.

Enterprise-level CDNs are often redundant and have high uptimes as well. And by offloading traffic to a CDN, you may even find that your hosting and bandwidth costs drop along with revenue increases. Not a bad investment! Aside from image compression, having a content delivery network is one of the best ways to serve your site faster!

Disclosure: Martech Zone is an affiliate of BunnyCDN and we are using our affiliate link in this article.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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