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Content Delivery Networks Explained

By Snap Agency June 20, 2017

Think about the last time you encountered a web page which wouldn’t load? Did you stick around to wait or did you try to find the information somewhere else? If you’re like most people, you probably hit back on your browser or closer the window entirely. People will only wait a few seconds for a page to load before moving on.

There are a variety of on-page SEO strategies which can help improve page load times. They’ll be implemented by your SEO agency as part of a standard overhaul. One powerful technique which many business owners are often unfamiliar with is the use of a Content Delivery Network.
Let’s take a look at what a CDN is and how it can help your e-commerce business.

The 4-1-1 on the CDN

A Content Delivery Network is a way to move content across the internet quicker. In order to understand how a CDN works, let’s first take a look at a site which doesn’t have a CDN in place.

The content for a site without a CDN is all stored on a single server. When someone visits that site, the content loads. How quickly it loads depends on the person’s individual distance from the server. This isn’t a question of “down the street” as much as “on the same coast of the country.”

A CDN mirrors your data on multiple different servers around the world. Each user’s geo-location is determined when they land on your site. Content is pulled from the closest server within the CDN.

The CDN also uses cached resources. This means data from your site can be kept on the browsers of your users. If someone visits your site frequently, your site will load quickly each time. Even better, a frequent visitor to your site is likely someone is working through your brand’s online conversion funnel – and potentially ready to make a purchase.

Benefits for Content Providers

Even if they’re not aware it’s in use, people like Content Delivery Networks because they lead to fast-loading sites. But businesses which use a CDN will see benefits, too.

A Content Delivery Network helps keep your site stable and secure. By distributing bandwidth across multiple servers, your site is protected against Direct Denial of Service attacks. The likelihood of a site crash is reduced – even one caused by heavy traffic

A CDN can also help save some money, too. They can offload traffic directly from the origin infrastructure, which can help reduce data transfer time.

Types of Content

Online content is divided into three different types:

  • Dynamic – Content which is created instantly for the user using a web programming language
  • Static – Unchanging content such as images, JavaScript and CSS
  • Streaming – Audio and video files which are played via web browser

A Content Delivery Network helps reduce latency. Measured in milliseconds, latency is the about of time data takes to travel from the server to the point of origin. When latency is low, content is delivered quickly.

While this is important for all types of content, there are two types in particular which benefit from low latency. They are audio/video and mobile.

If your site uses a ton of video, or has many mobile users, using a CDN is often very useful. Check out The Beginner’s Guide to Mobile Indexing for more on mobile optimization.

Key Parts of the CDN

Delivery Nodes

These are caches with one or more delivery applications. They deliver the data to customers. Each node is placed as close to a customer base as possible.

Storage Nodes

These store data and then send it to the Primary Nodes as necessary. They’re especially effective when re-published content is required.

Origin Nodes

This is where the main content is stored. From the Origin Node, the content can be spread to anywhere within the content owner’s infrastructure

The number of nodes and servers in a CDN will vary. Some networks include thousands of nodes and tens of thousands of servers across remote Points of Presence. In other cases, the global network will be larger with a reduced number of PoPs.

How to Use a Content Delivery Network

Content Delivery Networks are third-party services with paid subscription plans. Most business owners will work with an SEO agency to set up a CDN. Plans are often flexible based on budget and needs.

Not every business needs a CDN. But if your site has a lot of traffic, video or international customers, a CDN is absolutely something you should consider. They’re an affordable, effective way to increase the loading speed of your site.

Do you have any questions about a Content Delivery Network? We’re happy to provide info on how a CDN can help your e-commerce – call or email us today!