CDN isn’t a must to speed up your pages but it deserves a serious consideration and here’s why: When you run your site from, for example, Germany, meaning that your server is located there, and you target internet users globally, you are forced to accept that loading times for locations as for example USA, Asia, or Australia will be affected negatively by the content delivery process involving multiple servers – each with their response time and speed. This makes it difficult to rank well in search for these locations due to high page loading times and resulting high bounce rate.
What is a CDN?
A content delivery network (CDN) is a local or global network of servers making it possible for site owners to speed up their pages by allowing for instant availability of content at any covered location.
A CDN works by uploading your pages to their servers and keeping an updated copy of them for as long as you have an account with them. After uploading your site, it becomes possible to deliver it to the end user by involving much fewer servers.
The global availability concept is widely known from services as YouTube, DropBox and Google Drive. They are in fact used by many site owners to store their media files as a way to lighten their pages or avoid storing too much data on underperforming servers. This works beautifully for them.
Imagine now that you go a step further and upload your whole site there so it can be loaded directly via such a service. This is exactly what a CDN does for you. Thus, site users from across the globe can load your pages much faster due to less (and for the most of it faster) servers involved in the content delivery process.
Pros of Using a CDN
- Speed: you can expect a considerable boost of your pages’ speed, especially if your site is underperforming at the moment. In some cases you can shave off up to 9 seconds of loading times.
- Security: Most CDNs offer basic or advanced security features according to your account plan. SSL is also available.
- Cache: You can benefit from features as minified CSS, JS, and HTML, and customizable cache options.
- Availability: Some CDNs offer to keep your pages online even when your originating server goes down. Pretty handy.
- Updates: CDNs offer secure connections for uploads and downloads from your site’s core.
- Images: Pro-plans offer image optimization for even faster loading.
Cons of Using a CDN
- Price: There are free options but in most cases free or cheap means much worse performance. CDNs’ paid plans are quite expensive. One of the cheapest (and well established) CDNs offers plans starting from 9 USD/month.
- Reliability: In all truth, you have no guarantee how your content will be handled, even when you pay for it. You offer everybody with administrator rights the possibility to tweak your pages and code, including changing your pictures to something else, changing your text, adding or deleting pages, etc. This is the reason why you must make sure that you use a reliable CDN if you decide to do it. Don’t just go for free!
- Attacks: You can get hit by a hacker attack targeting not only your own but also another site on the network. You risk though the same when using shared hosting. The only difference is how reliable the security of the servers is – and this you can’t really know for sure.
- Troubleshooting: As long as everything goes well, it’s nice to run your site via a CDN. If a problem occurs – for example in form of pages loading with wrong design or without certain page elements – though, it’s quite difficult to figure out what went wrong.
- Performance analysis: It’s difficult to control performance and make sure that the CDN lives up to their promises as it implies that you measure performance from multiple locations every time.
- Setup: Setting up a CDN account might be a challenging job for somebody without enough technical understanding. There are a lot of options and chances are that they won’t be able to set it up optimally. In the worst cases wrong setup might lead to incompatible settings (CDN-Sever-WordPress configuration) and your pages not loading properly.
When Should I Consider Using a CDN?
It really makes sense to use a CDN for bloggers or small site owners who can’t allow to pay for fast and stable hosting. Especially if using free or low-cost hosting – usually meaning slow and unreliable, you should really consider exploring your options for CDN hosting.
Last but not least, every site with heavy traffic can benefit a lot from using a CDN as this will help bring the traffic load down at the originating server and will make it possible to handle a lot more traffic quicker and without downtimes.
Which CDN Should I Choose?
Which CDN you choose depends a lot on your budget and requirements. If you’re looking for a free CDN with good options, you might want to take a look at CloudFlare. If you, on the other hand, have the budget for it, you should go with a service as Akamai that most reviewers point to be the best out there.
You can see for yourself how the different CDNs perform and what reviews they get by following one of these links: