Content delivery networks have a simple purpose: to accelerate content. From static assets like CSS, JS and image files that make your website load faster, or media content like video and even live streams, to software downloads. However, nowadays a CDN does much more than that. It provides extended analytics of how your content is being distributed, increases your SEO score by providing stable and predictable performance and allows you to scale your website or service easily while reducing hosting and bandwidth costs.
Still, many website owners believe they only need to use a CDN when they have a lot of traffic or when they have visitors from all around the world. This was once true, but is no longer the case. Here is a 5-point check list to help you decide if you should use a CDN for your website:
1. If you are hosting large files or video
If you are hosting large files for displaying or downloading, or videos that your visitors are streaming, you need a CDN. Your shared web hosting provider's offerings are not made for such type of use and would usually not include enough system resources to handle traffic spikes reliably. It is very likely that you will need to move to a significantly more expensive plan to be able to handle the load without any real benefit in terms of speed and availability of your content. Even if your website visitors are local to the location of your hosting server, a CDN is better optimized and tuned to handle these specific types of loads, which will result in significantly better experience for every visitor, every time.
2. If you are running an eCommerce website
Online stores typically offer a large number of different products that all require at least a few product images each. With a growing number of visitors, your web server may start to struggle to respond to the many requests that the visitors are doing to load these images. Unfortunately, this may become evident exactly when you are running an otherwise great campaign, or during black fridays and cyber mondays. Apart from missing on sells, you are likely to also be running expensive advertising in search engines and social networks that will also cost you money without the needed returns. By offloading the heavy lifting to a CDN, you allow your web server to do what it does best: serve your online store's website to all buyers so they can buy your products. Implementing a CDN as early as possible is therefore nearly mandatory if you intend to successfully grow your eCommerce project.
3. If SEO is important to you
Search engine optimization and CDNs go hand in hand. One of the key factors for good SEO is the time it takes for your page to load up completely in the visitor's browser and even if your web server is perfectly tuned and optimized, the media content (including images, videos and other static assets) would load only as fast as the connection between the visitor and your server is. When search engines crawl your website with their indexing bots, they may very often happen to be hosted in a physical location that is distant to your web server, thus the same connection limitations would affect them. By allowing search engines to load your content from the closest CDN edge server instead, you will increase your SEO score which would result in better ranking for your website.
4. If you have plans to grow your website
It's great to start small but many webmasters have a vision of how they want their new web project to look and where they want it to be in 6 months, a year, or more. It is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that surround the start of your website and forget about how it would scale once you need it to. What this leads to is that when the time comes, you will hit an expensive roadblock. Either you will be upsold too early to a plan that you can not afford, or it may simply be that even the most expensive plan does not get you the performance that you wish for. Selecting the right platform from the start is therefore one of the key elements of your future success. You should implement a CDN from the beginning to avoid scalability issuesand expensive code/plugin rewritings. The most cost-efficient way to get started is with a CDN that offers pay-as-you-go billing model, so that you won't be locked to monthly payments for plans that you may not yet need.
5. If you want to lower your costs
Unlike the popular belief that CDNs are expensive, content delivery networks actually can help you lower your monthly bills significantly while increasing your website performance. The key here is the pay-as-you-go model mentioned above. With this billing model you only pay for the resources that you are actually using, at a price that you already know (usually per GB of traffic). No traffic means no cost to you, while traffic surges are handled easily and the costs of these are predictable. For example, at $0.008 per GB of traffic PUSHR is significantly less expensive than AWS S3 and once the content is cached on our edge, your origin server (in this case S3) is no longer used, and you save on large bandwidth bills that you would otherwise incur. Same goes for storage of your content. At PUSHR we provide SFS - our managed scalable storage service - which costs significantly less than most of the available solutions on the market and brings in further savings because you don't need to prepay or plan ahead of time your storage needs.
PUSHR offers a 30-day free trial (no credit card required) with $10 credit included so you can test and integrate our CDN service into your next project, or easily switch over from your existing CDN provider. Sign up to get started and check our knowledge base for further reading, or simply open a ticket from your account and we will be happy to assist.