Why CDNs are a no-brainer when it comes to web performance

Why CDNs are a no-brainer when it comes to web performance

A much-used quote famously states that the world is becoming smaller. In many ways, that is true. However, it’s not as small as many people like to think it is. Even with the ever-present data highway of the internet, the world is still a big old place. And while data is less affected by large distances than people are, it still has to cover those distances in order to be delivered.

Yes, it’s possible to visit practically any website in the world within a few seconds; but as website owners are discovering, a few seconds is sometimes more than they can afford. With average connection speeds and website supply expanding all around the world, users are getting increasingly discerning about how much time they will allow for a site to load.

According to a survey conducted by the Kissmetrics blog, 47% of consumers expect a site to load in two seconds or less. That doesn’t leave you with a lot of leeway for load times. And latency is a real issue when it comes to web performance.

Latency: Like a rolling stone

But first thing’s first: What is latency? Essentially, latency is the time it takes for your host server to receive and process a request. This period of time increases the further away from your server the browser making the request is located. And while we are only talking in terms of milliseconds here, it can add up. Considering websites usually contain hundreds of objects, a large number of requests can easily amount to a few seconds. This time, again, extends along with latency, which increases with the distance.

This is where content distributions networks (CDNs) come in. The idea is simple and one of the reasons it was conceived was to combat latency directly. Latency gets lower the closer the user is to the server, so instead of relying solely on the main host server(s), an additional layer of servers is put between the user and the host as a cache.

Objects that don’t have to be retrieved from the database are cached in the CDN servers, bringing them much closer to the user. Said user, entering your website’s address, is diverted to the CDN server instead, receiving his requested data from there without being any the wiser. The reduced latency in each individual request adds up to a significant reduction in load times.

Prior research is essential

If you’re looking to improve your website’s performance, using a CDN is a no-brainer. Prices can vary widely, however, so doing some research into what the various providers offer can definitely pay off. There are some major providers like Cloudflare, which is the default CDN used for all Episerver websites, Fastly or MetaCDN. Major telco companies like AT&T, Deutsche Telekom and China Telecom also offer their own CDN services, while tech giants like Google and Amazon offer cloud-based CDN solutions.

When you’ve chosen to use a CDN, the next step is determining what to cache in it. Large files like images or videos should be the first to be moved there, as they will impact your loading times the most. Essentially, all static data objects can be cached in this way, limited only by your comfort level. The number of requests that then have to travel all the way to your host server can be reduced quite dramatically, meaning latency will not add up to as long a delay.

Certainly, using a CDN alone will not alleviate all your web performance problems, but it can help you shave precious seconds off load times, putting you on the right track to meet the needs of impatient users. Improving web performance is a complicated topic that touches everything from load times to image optimization. If you use an Episerver system and want to improve your web performance, be sure to check out Niteco’s three-part E-Guide on the topic (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

Niteco has experience in support and maintenance for sites of all sizes, including improving web performance. If you need help with your site’s performance, contact Niteco today.

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