CDNs speed up your site, but knowing how they work makes it much easier to determine your requirements and how a CDN works with your website. CDNs make file transfer much faster, especially if you have large files such as gaming content. You might be wondering if you need a CDN or if you can take advantage of any benefits. Here is a brief technical overview of how a CDN works with your host server to speed up file transfers.
CDNs versus Traditional Servers
When you buy into web hosting, you rent space on the provider’s server. You can rent an entire dedicated server, which gives you total control of the machine. But it’s still traditional hosting and the server is located in one place, namely the host’s facility.
You could take a more enterprise approach and buy into co-locations where you lease a network that integrates with your local network. A server farm behind a load balancer helps reduce stress on one server and instead balances traffic by sending it to available servers that aren’t overloaded. This also works, but again you might reach peak traffic times and see performance issues.
A CDN is a bit different, and it works in addition to your current hosting. The CDN provider has several data centers where your content is replicated. Content is delivered from the nearest geographic location to your visitor. For instance, a visitor from Australia would receive content from an Australian based data center. Another visitor from the US receives data from a US based data center.
CDNs also rely heavily on their caching mechanisms. Data is retrieved from your original host server and cached in their data centers. Cached content speeds up content delivery, and your users get content much more quickly. In this scenario, your site server at the host isn’t any faster. You didn’t need to upgrade to expensive CPU and memory resources. Your bandwidth usage remains the same, but now a CDN is delivering content at a faster rate than your host provider. The result is better performance at a lower cost than upgrading your host service.
Your site receives several advantages when it uses a CDN. Here are just a few:
Less travel time for data. Site speed increases due to data centers delivering data from a closer location than your origin server.
Better optimized hardware. If your host doesn’t have the latest equipment, a CDN can speed up performance by using more state-of-the-art hardware such as solid state drives and load balancing techniques across numerous servers.
Compressed files at data centers. Compressed files reduce the amount of data that must be transferred.
Improved failover strategies. If your site should ever fail at one data center, another one takes over without any interruption for your visitors.
Reduced bandwidth usage. Since your data is cached at the CDN, users retrieve this data directly from the CDN’s servers rather than your own. This reduces bandwidth usage on your hoster.
Whether you need site speed, reliability and even security, a CDN adds these benefits and more to your existing host configuration. It’s easy to set up, and speed benefits are noticed almost immediately.