What Is a CDN? CDN Explained
Last updated on October 30th, 2018 at 12:13 pm.
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.
If your website’s servers are in Bangalore, India, then visitors from Mumbai, India will get the content faster than visitors from San Francisco, the USA or Melbourne, Australia.
The farther away customers are from a data centre, the slower the website loads. This slowness will create the frustrating user experience and inconsistency across the globe.
We can solve this problem with the help of CDN, and that too without you spending anything extra.
What Is a CDN?
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a group of servers strategically placed across the globe with the purpose of delivering static and dynamic content to users much quicker.
A CDN structure is built up of two key components: PoPs and Edge Servers.
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 are the servers located at each PoP. 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, they keep a copy of it in its cache.
How Does a CDN Work?
When a visitor accesses your website, a CDN will send a request to your origin server and retrieve that information the visitor requested. The CDN then cache the content to its edge servers if it is already not cached.
Next time, when the same visitor or a different visitor requests the same content, then the CDN will deliver the data which the edge servers already cached.
If you changed your website file, then next time when the CDN pulls the content from your origin server, the already cached data will 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?
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 of the file types that we can host on a CDN.
Images: PNG, JPG, SVG, GIF, TIF
Video and Audio: FLV (Flash), HLS, MP4 (HTML5 videos), MOV (QuickTime), WMV (Windows Media), MP3 and WAV
Web Fonts: EOT, TTF, OTF, CFF, AFM, LWFN, FFIL, FON, PFM, PFB, WOFF, SVG, STD, PRO, XSF, and more…
Other File Formats: HTML, JSON, PDF, DOC, PPT, XLS, EPUB, ODT, ODP, ODS, TXT, RTF, 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 benefit 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 will enjoy better user experience and faster loading time.
- Quickly scalable during times of heavy traffic.
- You will enjoy improved SEO rankings.
- Your website is more 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 or change the DNS value of your domain. It depends on which CDN provider you use.
For example, if you choose Cloudflare CDN, then you need to change your nameserver value provided by Cloudflare to start using Cloudflare.
However, if you are activating Cloudflare CDN through Host My Website Online, you don’t need to do such a heavy lift to make use of the power of a CDN. Everything is just a click away right inside your cPanel.
Do you know, with FREE Railgun, Cloudflare’s advanced dynamic caching technology, we can have even dynamic contents cached on their CDN networks. And this will also increase the page load time 200% more.
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.