What Is a CDN? CDN Explained

by | Last Updated Dec 26, 2019 | Cloudflare | 0 comments

Mostly one server that physically placed in a data centre will be serving websites and apps that we interact with every day.

But the website contents like images, HTML and CSS files, and other dynamically generated files still need to fly across the internet.

Imagine, your website’s servers are in Bangalore, India. Visitors from Mumbai, India see the content faster than visitors from San Francisco, the USA.

The farther away customers are from a data centre, the slower the website loads. This slowness creates frustrating user experience and inconsistency across the globe.

You can solve this problem with the help of CDN, and that too, without you spending anything extra.

What is a CDN?

A CDN is a group of servers strategically placed across the globe to deliver static content to users faster.

PoPs and Edge Servers are the two vital components of a CDN structure.

Points of Presence (PoPs)

A PoP or Point of Presence refers to the geographical location of a group of CDN servers are placed.

These are typically spread across the globe to cover a vast distance. You can see Cloudflare’s full list of PoPs in their network page.

Edge Servers

Edge Servers are the servers located at each PoP.

These edge servers are simple proxy caches, which work in a similar way to the cache in your web browser.

They don’t generate the content for the website. Instead, Edge Servers keep a copy of it in its cache.

How Does a CDN Work?

When a visitor accesses your website, a CDN sends the request to your origin server and retrieve the information the visitor requested.

The CDN then cache the content to its edge servers if it is already not cached.

The same visitor or a different visitor would request the same content later. Then the CDN delivers the data which the edge servers already cached.

What happens if you changed your website file?

Next time when the CDN pulls the content from your origin server, already cached data get updated and stored in their network.

So, your visitors will always get the latest content.

As a website owner, you can force your CDN to remove the content and update by using the Purge feature.

What Type of Content Can Store on a CDN?

Do you know CDNs can store many more file types than what people commonly use?

Yes, it isn’t just images and scripts.

If you are running a WordPress website, anything in your “wp-content” and “wp-includes” folder can be pulled across and hosted on a CDN.

CDN’s also can deliver HD video, 4K content, as well as a multitude of other files.

Here is a small list of some popular file types that we can host on a CDN.

Images: PNG, JPG, SVG, GIF, TIF

Stylesheets: CSS

Script: JS

Video and Audio: MP4 (HTML5 videos), MOV (QuickTime), WMV (Windows Media), MP3 and WAV

Web Fonts: TTF, OTF, WOFF

Other File Formats: HTML, JSON, PDF, ZIP

Why Do You Need a Content Delivery Network?

Whether you manage a small blog or a large enterprise website; there are many benefits that everyone can avail from using a CDN.

Here is a list below outlines some of the most important benefits of using a Content Delivery Network.

46% of users won’t return to a poorly performing website.

Your users can enjoy better user experience and faster loading time.

Quickly scalable during times of heavy traffic.

You can enjoy improved SEO rankings.

Your website is easily accessible to global audiences.

You can do reverse proxying.

You can have a high-capacity infrastructure.

You can check your usage analytics.

Protect your websites from cyber attacks like DDoS.

How to Enable CDN?

Enabling CDN for your website requires you to install a small piece of script on your hosting server.

Sometimes, you may need to change the DNS value of your domain.

Some CDNs requires that you must change the URLs of the cacheable contents.

It depends on which CDN provider you use.

You can see a list of popular CDNs and their performance at CDNPerf.

For example, if you choose Cloudflare CDN, then you need to change your nameserver value provided by Cloudflare to start using Cloudflare.

We have a massive list of 30 recommended best Cloudflare settings to boost your website performance and security.

Are you using or planning to use a CDN? How is your experience so far?

Please share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

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By Gifty Antony

Gifty is passionate about Web Development and connected with various communities. She loves WordPress.

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