Online consumers frequently abandon web pages that load slowly, emphasizing the need for fast-loading websites and mobile apps to provide a delightful user experience. To achieve faster load times, utilizing a content delivery network (CDN) is essential.
What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
So, what exactly is a content delivery network? Among the myriad marketing acronyms that pertain to business operations, a CDN stands out.
To grasp the concept of a CDN, let’s imagine you have a website hosted on a server in Denver, Colorado. Although we often perceive websites as existing everywhere due to the ubiquity of the internet, they are actually based in a physical location known as an origin server.
Now, how do the assets from the origin server in Denver reach visitors’ browsers in various locations like Boulder, Boston, or Tokyo? The answer lies in a CDN, but understanding its purpose and functionality might still be unclear.
To comprehend this, let’s return to our website in Denver, Colorado. Whenever a visitor enters your site address into their browser, the browser contacts your origin server to fetch, assemble, and display the content assets on their screen. This process is relatively straightforward if the visitor is in Boulder, Colorado.
However, it becomes more complex when you have visitors from different locations like Boulder, Boston, and Tokyo. Not only does your content have to travel long distances, but it also requires diverse routing paths.
This is where a CDN comes to the rescue. Instead of relying on a single server to send content from Denver to Boulder, Boston, and Tokyo, a CDN utilizes different servers within its network that are geographically closest to each visitor. This allows for efficient delivery of assets.
What is the primary purpose of a CDN?
The primary purpose of a CDN is to deliver digital content promptly and securely to visitors worldwide, regardless of their location or the device they are using. To accomplish this, CDNs consider two crucial factors: geographical distance and traffic.
Geographically, CDNs ensure that the server closest to the visitor delivers and displays the website. The proximity of the server to the user results in faster content delivery.
Regarding traffic, CDNs are crucial when your website experiences surges in visitor numbers or encounters high traffic regularly. Without a CDN, such spikes could overload your server and cause your site to go offline. However, CDNs distribute traffic across multiple servers, reducing the strain on the origin server and keeping your site accessible.
By now, we understand the definition, purpose, and importance of a CDN. Let’s delve deeper into how it operates.
How does a CDN work?
When subsequent visitors from the same region attempt to access your website, the CDN redirects their requests to the server nearest to them. This server can then deliver the cached content swiftly since it has a shorter distance to cover.
All of these operations occur seamlessly, without the end-user being aware of the intricate details. They experience the expected page loading speed and benefit from reduced waiting times.
Besides accelerating content delivery, CDNs also serve as a protective barrier for your site. Positioned in front of your backend server, they act as a gatekeeper, blocking attacks and regulating incoming traffic to balance the load on each server.
What is the primary purpose of a CDN?
To utilize a CDN, you have two options: selecting a website building platform with a built-in CDN or purchasing one from a CDN vendor. If you opt for a third-party vendor, you’ll need to configure the DNS settings of your root domain and subdomains to make the CDN the default inbound gateway for all incoming traffic. Most vendors offer tutorials or assistance to simplify this process.
One convenient approach is to choose a web hosting service that incorporates a CDN, saving you the trouble of setting up additional tools. For example, HubSpot’s CMS Hub features a built-in CDN, streamlining website hosting and leveraging CDN capabilities to enhance performance.
Whether you opt for a platform with a built-in CDN or engage a third-party vendor, utilizing a CDN empowers you to create or expand a high-traffic website that caters to a global audience, offering accelerated web performance, DDoS protection, data loss prevention, and bot mitigation.