By Anna MacLachlan, Content Marketing Manager, Fastly.
Most websites and applications that people interact with every day are run out of one physical location, but content on the site or application (like images, text, and video) still needs to travel over wires to the entire world.
It works like this: if a website’s servers are based in New York City, people in Boston will get the content faster than people in San Francisco or Tokyo. The farther away customers are from a company’s data center, the slower the website or application loads — creating an inconsistent and frustrating user experience.
Lag times of any length frustrate web and mobile users accustomed to real-time digital experiences. According to LoadStorm:
- 25% of users will abandon a website that takes longer than four seconds to load.
- 74% of users will abandon a mobile site that takes longer than five seconds to load.
- 46% of users won’t return to a poorly performing website.
This problem can be fixed with a content delivery network (CDN).
WHAT IS A CDN AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
A CDN is a way to deliver content from your website or mobile application to people more quickly and efficiently, based on their geographic location. A CDN is made up of a network of servers (“points of presence,” or POPs) in locations all over the world.
The CDN server closest to a user is known as the “edge server” — when people request content from a website served through a CDN, they’re connected to the closest edge server, ensuring the best online experience possible.
You can cache (temporarily store) your content on a CDN so it’s delivered from the edge to your end users much faster than if it had to be delivered all the way from the origin. If you use a CDN, it means that if someone tries to access content from your website or mobile app, then that person’s request for content only needs to travel to a nearby POP and back, not all the way to the company’s origin servers and back.
CDNs also purge (remove and update) content constantly, so that the most current, relevant content is delivered. Also known as content invalidation, purging allows businesses to update content when necessary.
Some of the benefits of using a CDN for your website include:
- Faster load times for web and mobile users
- Quickly scalable during times of heavy traffic
- Minimizes risk of traffic spikes at point of origin, ensuring site stability
- Decreases infrastructure costs due to traffic offloading (less load on origin)
- Better site performance
MODERN CDNS VS. TRADITIONAL CDNS
CDNs have been around since the late 1990s, but traditional CDNs often lag behind advancements in hardware and technology, and can’t provide the same benefits as a modern CDN. Often, these legacy CDNs are not built in agile software environments, where the company is constantly iterating on products, incorporating customer feedback, and improving the product. These CDNs have been around for five or more years without much change.