Golden Rules of Choosing a Fast & Secure CDN for Your Business
A CDN, or content delivery network, ensures a fast content delivery to end-users, which is extremely important, especially if we take into account that web pages continuously grow in size. According to HTTP Archive, the average size of all resources requested by a website in 2010. was just around 500 kB, while in January, 2021 the average size reached about 2 megabytes.
Source: HTTP Archive, The sum of transfer size kilobytes of all resources requested by the page. The size of all resources requested by the page grew from around 500 kB in 2010. to around 2 MB in 2021.
It’s evident that businesses use CDN heavily, and the trend is rapidly growing. What’s the reason behind it and how to pick the right CDN provider for your business? Keep reading as we’re going to cover these key questions.
What is a CDN and how does it work?
Source: Wikimedia Commons, Content delivery network explained
CDN stands for content delivery network, and it’s the network of connected servers around the world. For instance, you’re selling shoes online, and you’ve built a good looking website. Your website data is stored on your hosting server that is located somewhere in the world. CDN, on the other hand, keeps your website copy on multiple servers around the world.
According to Google, the lower the page load time is, the lower the chance of the user bouncing from the website is. Imagine your website is hosted in Los Angeles, California, and it works perfectly for users from the USA. Do you need a CDN if you’re serving local customers from Los Angeles, and your origin server is located in the same place? Well, a CDN definitely won’t hurt in that case. You won’t experience a noticeable faster service, but your security levels and availability will be way higher. For instance, without a CDN, only one surge of traffic is enough to clog your server and makes your website unavailable to your customers. A CDN ensures a balanced traffic distribution through servers which results in higher security levels (DDoS attacks) and availability.
But what if someone wants to buy your shoes from Vietnam? It takes a while to reach a host in the USA from Vietnam, which translates into slower site load speed that can result in a higher bounce rate, bad user experience, and losing a competitive edge and customers.
CDN caches your website on servers around the globe and will redirect to data centers that are geographically closest to end-users. That setup ensures the highest load speed of your websites, as well as increased security since the user doesn’t reach the origin server which can be very vulnerable.
Key Benefits of Using a CDN for Content Delivery
So you’ve understood how CDN works, and now looking for reasons to implement it in your business. Keep reading as we’re going to share an extensive list of key benefits a CDN has for your business.
Reduced Page Load
Reducing a website load plays a crucial role in online business, and it’s essential to provide your customers with the fastest and uninterrupted user experience. One of the main reasons behind implementing a CDN is reducing page load time and increasing website speed. A CDN caches a website copy to servers around the world, and once the user requests to load your page, he or she will see the website copy stored on the nearest server.
That way, the total distance between the user and the server is drastically reduced, which results in faster page load time. Choosing fast and reliable business hosting is essential if you want to unlock the true potential of a CDN. For instance, if you’re using shared hosting and you experience a surge of traffic that exceeds your current disk space or bandwidth, your website won’t be available to users.
Shared hosting works on the principle that many users (websites) share resources of one server, and once the website experiences too heavy traffic, there are a few options – upgrade the shared hosting plan or choose VPS hosting or a dedicated server. Also, shared hosting is extremely beginner-friendly as complete setup and maintenance are automatic processes which makes it a perfect choice for beginners or small businesses. If the price is a key consideration factor, the average cost of dedicated servers varies anywhere from $50 – $350 per month, while you can find reliable shared hosting for $3 – $20 per month on average.
CDN comes handy, especially when you have limited hardware resources, as it serves the content from the nearest server to your end-users, saving your hosting resources and ensuring uninterrupted and fast service.
A VPS or a dedicated server gives you a complete ability to customize the server resources such as memory usage, disk space, and bandwidth. It enables a detailed optimization of your server which can result in a faster and more optimized website. The downside of having a dedicated server is the required technical knowledge to set up a working and optimized server for your website, regular manual maintenance, and of course, higher costs.
Detailed User Segmentation and Analytics
Understanding data is critical for understanding your customers and focusing on their needs. A CDN provides you detailed analytics and real-time statistics, which helps in understanding and configuring your CDN settings correctly. For instance, instead of analyzing one node (origin server), you can analyze incoming traffic for each geographical node, which ultimately gives the access to information such as the percentage of traffic served through CDN, detailed user information logs (increased security), traffic consumption and bandwidth usage sorted by a geographical location. All of that information can help in optimizing CDN and delivering your content faster to users, no matter their actual location.
So it’s important to mention that CDN analytics mainly helps to breakdown technical metrics. It doesn’t help much when it comes to analyzing the behaviors of the users. CDN Analytics helps in understanding the technical aspects of serving the content to end-users, while Google Analytics for instance, helps in understanding the users and creating a marketing strategy that converts.
Increased Security Levels
Securing sensitive business data and users’ personal data is fundamental, especially nowadays when cybercrime is on its rise. The number of DDoS attacks is constantly growing. Did you know that 15,000 DDoS attacks were reported in Italy during 2019 alone? Protecting your digital assets is a must, and CDN can increase your security levels. For instance, DDoS attacks are very prevalent, and CDN effectively helps in mitigating the risk of facing a substantial financial loss and, even worse, a reputation loss.
Source: Statista, Estimated number of distributed DDoS attacks in Italy from 2017 to 2019.
According to an article from DataDome, there was a staggering 776% surge in the count of substantial DDoS attacks, each surpassing 100GB/s in volume, solely during the first quarter of 2020.
Using a CDN provides your business with an extra layer of security that blocks a DDoS attack before it reaches the server where your website is stored. DDoS attacks can disrupt the whole business for extended periods, but with CDN, you can expect an uninterrupted service without traffic or customer drop. For instance, if you’re a target of a sophisticated DDoS attack, and you use CDN for content delivery, then your content is stored on servers around the world (POPs) disabling the attacker to reach the origin server and make your website unavailable. Even if the server experiences a surge of traffic, it redirects traffic to another closest server and that way actively fights against DDoS attacks.
It’s important to mention that serving your content through CDN mitigates the risk of DDoS attacks, which is the nature of the CDN network structure. On the other hand, a sophisticated and targeted DDoS can reach the origin server around CDN, and an extra DDoS security layer comes in handy if you seek for the best defense. For instance, Akamai offers a dedicated Kona DDoS Defender that serves as an effective defense even against the highest scale DDoS attacks.
Effective Customer Support
Almost every CDN provider offers 24/7 customer support that enables you to solve any problem you may face. Not being able to fix a problem often results in losing money due to interrupted service, and professional customer service saves your business tons of money. You’re not paying only for a CDN but a whole specter of services that supports your business growth. Before picking a CDN provider, make sure to check all services they offer for the money.
Alternative communication channels, such as live chat and email backed by a direct 24/7 phone line ensures all your problems get quickly solved. Also, aim for the in-house customer support rather than outsourced as the quality of service is a way higher. The reasons? Mainly because the in-house team is well-trained, knowledgeable on the subject, and speaks fluent English.
Higher Stability in Peak Times
Some businesses experience peak times during the day, which translates to many users visiting a website at the same time. It can make your server overload, which translates to financial loss due to users not being able to visit your business during peak hours. A CDN helps in mitigating the risk of losing your customers due to server overloads and ensures a stable user experience during peak times.
Since CDN servers are located around the world, the traffic is evenly distributed among servers, which results in lower individual server load and better website performance. Even if one server fails to serve the end-user, it automatically redirects the traffic to another nearest server.
Picking The Right CDN Provider For Your Business
While it’s true that CDN increases the website speed, decreases server load time, increases security levels, and much more, picking the wrong CDN can limit those benefits and drastically increase the cost of running your business below its potential.
Keep reading as we’re going to talk about the key metrics and data you should analyze before choosing the right CDN provider.
1. Responsive Customer Service
One of the most important things when considering a CDN provider is their customer service. Imagine that you’re facing an overload problem during peak time, and your customers can’t access your online shop. You want to fix it as soon as possible as it can only result in losing your reputation, customers, and sales. Every CDN provider offers a level of customer service, either through phone, live chat, or email.
Many review websites give a real picture of customer service quality, so don’t forget to read as many reviews as possible. Not to forget, check the costs of establishing a connection with customer service as well as their availability.
Key takeaway: After researching hundreds of customer reviews and asking experts, you should aim for 24/7 availability, in-house customer service, live chat, and at least one extra alternative way of communication.
2. Transparent and Fair Pricing
Since there are way too many CDN providers, it’s essential to understand their pricing. The fairest pricing model we experience today is custom pricing, depending on your needs. For instance, Akamai offers a custom pricing model where you can tailor the service to your needs picking the right bandwidth, geographical server location, and other features. It’s a more exclusive pricing model as it requires registration to figure out the best possible pricing. On the other hand, most popular CDN providers such as StackPath offer bundle-based pricing where you can pick one of a few available bundles providing specific features.
Source: StackPath, Bundle-based pricing
Key takeaway: Aim for a custom pricing model or for the package that serves your business needs. For instance, you can track the bandwidth through the cPanel which gives you insights into how much traffic your website receives on average. Tracking received bandwidth helps you in determining the suitable package which limits and rationalizes your spendings. Also, some CDN providers offer free CDN that covers a specific amount of traffic. You get detailed CDN analytics that helps in determining which package do you need for your business.
3. Location Matters
The concept of CDN is delivering content from the closest server to end-users. Picking the right CND provider highly depends on the location of your customers. For instance, if the majority of your users are visiting your website from China and Australia, then you want to pick a CDN that has servers close to these locations. Not only that, you want servers (POPs) close to these locations, but you also want as many servers as possible distributed around these locations. Since China and Australia are massive territories, you want as many POPs as possible spread around these locations.
Also, if you experience even traffic from all over the world, then picking the CDN provider that has servers on every continent makes sense. Having more POPs not only provides you with a faster website but also gives you an opportunity for detailed analytics organized by micro-locations.
Source: Datacenter map, Cloudflare
Key takeaway: Pick the CDN provider that has points of presence (POPs) close to your users. Every provider offers a different way of listing their server locations, but you can find this data by searching for server locations on the provider’s official website.
4. Type of Content
What type of content do you offer to end-users? Do you focus on video streaming or visual content, or maybe software downloads? It’s crucial that you pick the CDN provider that specializes in delivering a particular type of content. For instance, if you’re streaming a video, and it’s your primary content type you provide to the users, picking a provider that partners with online video platforms (OVP) makes sense. CDN77 offers a specific CDN service that focuses on video streaming and ensures the highest possible performance for that kind of content.
If your business focuses on video content, having a specialized CDN for OVP brings many benefits. These include fast and secure video content delivery, streaming live videos, uploading on-demand, advanced responsiveness, custom video players, and similar. All of these features ensure the highest-quality content delivery along with increased security, extra services, and customization options.
Key takeaway: Pick the CDN provider that offers unique services depending on your primary content type.
5. Bandwidth Needs
Think about the amount of traffic your website gets. Do you receive 50 GB or 50 TB per month? Login to your hosting cPanel to access all data about bandwidth, memory, and disk space usage in a specific period. Alternatively, CDN analytics gives you details about bandwidth usage, peak bandwidth, number of requests, and other valuable metrics.
It’s a huge difference not only in performance but in price as well. If you’re running a small scale niche business that receives around 10 GB of traffic per month, then you don’t need to spend money on premium packages. For instance, a free Cloudflare CDN will do the job which you can always upgrade.
Source: Cloudflare, CDN packages by Cloudflare
The bandwidth needs depend on the type of content you present. If you’re streaming videos or music or providing big software downloads, picking more bandwidth will provide your users with uninterrupted and fast service.
Key takeaway: Don’t go with more bandwidth than you need.
While picking the right CDN provider for your business, keep in mind that if you’re running a high-traffic website, there is no one-fits-all solution. Every business is different, so are the customers. Invest your time in researching the current CDN market and different offers. Analyze your current traffic, website performance, and figure out your business needs. Picking the right CDN provider isn’t an easy or fast process, and it requires a strategic approach to reap all the benefits.
Deana is an internet marketing specialist and self-professed geek, passionate about writing. She enjoys sharing the knowledge and expertise she gathered with her team but also with wider audiences.