Over the past couple of years, Content Delivery Networks (CDN) have become commonplace for major websites around the world.  But the question remains, are they effective, and should you use a CDN for your website?

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

Content Delivery Networks allow websites with high amounts of traffic to speed up the delivery of that content to the end users.  This is done geographically through a network of servers around the world.  The website content will be served to the end user by the server that is nearest to them geographically.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) for your website

A CDN works by copying a cache of the website content from the website’s original serverin to the content delivery network and distributing it throughout the network of servers.  Therefore, whenever a user requests a page from the website, a cached version can be delivered quickly.

Whenever the content is delivered by the CDN, the network will also check with the website’s original server to ensure no new content or pages have been added.  If they have, a fresh cache of the website will be distributed through the network. Whether it’s a blog or an ecommerce site, a CDN can have some great advantages…

Advantages of using a CDN

There are many advantages of using a CDN, especially for websites that have a huge global audience.  A CDN can greatly reduce the load on the website server because the large number of visitors is distributed throughout the delivery network.  This in turn not only speeds up the delivery of the content (website loading time) but also helps keep hosting charges down.

Page speed is also an important ranking factor for search engines, such as Google, and so having a CDN in place to help deliver content and load pages quicker for the end-user means there can be SEO benefits as well.

There is also the benefit that a CDN can handle sharp spikes in traffic much better than a single hosting server is likely to do.  Again, this not only continues to help with user see the website at high-speed and prevents slow-downs or sites going offline during busy periods, but it can also prevent additional charges being incurred from web hosting companies for overages.

Finally, using a CDN for your website adds an extra layer of reliability.  In the case that your website goes down on your web hosting’s original server, the site will continue to be served to users thanks to the CDN.  The network will serve the cached version of the site to your visitors, meaning they do not notice any downtime and you can focus on resolving the technical issue with your host.

Disadvantages of using a CDN

Many professionals feel that CDN’s do not bring too many disadvantages with them.  The main drawback is probably that it is likely to incur additional cost over and above the overheads you already have for your website.  For very small sites, there are free CDN providers, however for large commercial ventures it can soon become expensive.

Another potential issue is that using a CDN can add an extra layer of complexity, or at least something else to worry about when it comes to maintaining your website.  The problems here will mainly occur at the set-up stage, which is fairly straight forward, but it can give you headaches in the early days.

Finally, if you are not using standardised systems and infrastructures with your website, then adding a CDN can become problematic.  Not only the set-up, but also in doing upgrades and maintenance further down the line.

Before committing to putting a CDN in place for your website, a thorough review of the advantages and disadvantages specific to your website and your content should be performed.