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What is a CDN and why should you use one?

If you’ve read our “What is website caching and why should you use it?” blog post you will remember that we mentioned using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) to improve the performance of your website even more after you finished configuring caching.

 

What is a CDN?

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) refers to a distributed set of servers across the globe which work with one another to provide super fast delivery of internet content. A CDN enables blazingly fast transfers of the assets needed for visitors browsers to load your website, from HTML and PHP pages to JavaScript files, CSS stylesheets and videos & images, a CDN will deliver it all.

CDNs have continued to grow in popularity over recent years, as the loading speed of a website is one of the most influential factors for a visitor to remain on your site. Think about it, if you visit a website and the content loads slowly with images appearing a chunk at a time you’re soon going to get frustrated and visit another site where you don’t have to wait to see what you’re looking for. The use of a CDN can ensure your content is ready whenever your visitors want to view it, without any delay.

 

So, is a CDN the same as a web host?

In short no, they are two separate things. A CDN does not host content in the same way a web host does and therefore a CDN cannot replace the need for web hosting. However, a CDN does help by caching content at the edge of the network (internet) which dramatically improves website performance & loading times.

 

How does a CDN work?

As mentioned earlier, a CDN is a distributed set of servers across the globe working together to serve content quickly to your users from a location geographically close to them, thus reducing latency (the delay in content being sent from its source to its destination). To ensure content is served reliably and in the fastest way possible CDN providers place their servers at various exchange points that exist between Internet Service Providers (ISPs), these Internet Exchange Points (IXPs) are the primary locations where the ISPs interconnect with each other. By hosting their CDN servers in these geographically strategic spaces the CDN provider can ensure a consistently high speed of data/content delivery.

 

Other than decreasing load times, are there any other benefits of using a CDN?

Yes, as well as increasing the speed of your website using a CDN can also:

  1. Reduce bandwidth costs – Through the use of a CDN the data needed to be transferred from your web hosting server is reduced as the content is served from the CDN
  2. Increase content availability and redundancy – Owing to the distributed nature of a CDN, it can withstand higher peaks of traffic than a typical web host can, allowing it to stay online and available during heavy visit periods. A CDN is also much more diverse in its infrastructure than most web hosting providers so a failure of one (or even multiple) parts of the CDNs network often do not cause any disruption to your visitors.
  3. Force secure content delivery (SSL) – Enforcing content to be served over SSL is an option on most mainstream CDNs so you can be sure your content is being served securely

 

What CDN should I use?

As with most technologies, there are a large number of CDN providers out there. The below 2 are what we consider to be the very best of the bunch for both pricing and feature set:

  1. StackPath (formerly MaxCDN) – https://www.stackpath.com
  2. CloudFlare – https://www.cloudflare.com/

 

Does Hugoton Hosting use a CDN?

Absolutely! To ensure the super fast delivery of our website we have used StackPath as our CDN since July 2018. We also have a number of our customers using CDNs in conjunction with our website hosting packages to deliver their websites from e-commerce to discussion forums.

 

Conclusion

After caching the content of your website, a CDN is the next step to ensuring super fast content delivery of your website to your visitors. Make sure you choose a fast & reliable web hosting provider to start with, then deliver your content over a CDN to see (well, imagine seeing at least) your visitors smile as your website pops up in milliseconds before them!