What is it? Do I need it? CDN

Talking about websites can feel like another language. I’ve been in marketing for over 15 years, and I admit that sometimes it’s just way over my head when developers start talking. That’s why we decided to publish a series of posts called “What is it? Do I need it?”. We’ll breakdown some key website topics and help you decide if this is something you should consider for your website.

This week we’ll cover Content Delivery Networks (CDN), which I like to think of as jet fuel for your website. Let’s jump in!

Web Hosting & Servers

Web hosts are like landlords, renting out space where your website lives. You rent space from the host, and users access it by typing your web address (domain name) in their web browser. Then their computer connects to a server that sends your website content to the visitor in their web browser. I found this explanation helpful – You have a house (your website), and you are continually sending packages (website content) to your viewers. To send these packages out at quickly as possible, you rely on a delivery service (the server).

Servers have a specific geographic location, and it can take longer to send content to users who are farther away. It can also take longer if your website has a ton of content, videos, and other large files. 1 in 4 users says they will leave a website that takes more than 4 seconds to load. This means a speedy website is a dealbreaker.

Web Hosting & Servers

Content Delivery Networks to the Rescue

CDNs are a network of servers all over the world that help speed up your website. So instead of just one lonely server working overtime to send out content, you have a whole network of servers, speeding up load time and eliminating website lag. To use the package delivery metaphor again, using a CDN is like hiring a bunch of new delivery drivers all over the world, allowing your packages to be delivered faster and more reliably.

Benefits of a CDN

The most significant benefit of a CDN is website speed. If your website has videos or other large files, a CDN is a must-have. Without it, you risk long buffering time and low video quality that can cost you visitors. Another consideration is website traffic. If visitors are already experiencing slow load times, then you may need to change your hosting plan. If that does not work, it may be time to add a CDN.

Also, be aware of visitor surges due to holidays or mentions in the press. I once worked on a website that was mentioned in Martha Stewart Living magazine. Their server was unable to handle all of the traffic, and the website crashed, costing them thousands of dollars in sales. Lesson learned, they added a CDN shortly afterwards.

CDNs can also help improve your search engine ranking. Everyone wants to show up at the top in Google searches, and a CDN can help with this. Page load speed is actually one of the ranking factors for Google. Since a CDN can increase your page load speed, it can also improve your search engine ranking. A big help to small businesses struggling to compete in the SEO world.

So Do I Need a CDN?

For some small business websites, a CDN is considered a next level optimization. For other sites, it is going to be a must-have. A good web developer should know your budget and website goals. They can help you decide if a CDN is right for you, but if your website has any of the following, you may want to add a CDN sooner rather than later. 

  • Slow website speeds
  • Large files and videos
  • Audience around the world
  • Need improved SEO rankings