You may have seen the acronym CDN floating around the internet and never understand what it meant. Don’t worry, I was the same way. I’m not a computer engineer, so I figured I didn’t need to know. That is, until I saw that little red lock symbol on my browser when I visited my own site. A red lock seems ominous and I had to figure out what that was all about. Enter the CDN…
What does CDN stand for? A CDN is a content delivery network. A CDN is made up multiple servers in different locations to deliver information much faster. A CDN will greatly improve website site speed, website security, and reduce bandwidth costs.
This might all still be confusing and that’s understandable. Let’s clear the air and make you a master of CDN and how to get it implemented on your site.
What exactly is a CDN?
A content deliver network is a system of servers across many locations. Remember, a server is where you store things. Your website will hold images, text, videos, and more. All of this information has to be stored somewhere—the server. With me so far? Awesome.
Now, let’s say you work on your website from you home in Orlando, Florida but your web hosting company has its server in Fairbanks, Alaska. Every time you upload new images and content, you’ll be sending your data to Alaska. No problems yet.
You’re busy writing great content and you notice a few website visitors from Texas. What an awesome feeling! The problem is that when they click your page from a search engine or social media, it routes their request to Alaska and then back around to Texas. They notice the site is loading a little bit too slow and decide to click away. Dang!
Sorry dude, people are inpatient and want information like YESTERDAY. This one incident isn’t a huge issue, until your site picks up steam. Now every visitor is noticing a slow down and you’re losing sales and readers right and left. What are you to do?
Get a CDN. You see, a CDN is a network of servers in lots of different locations. Instead of routing your Texas reader all the way to Alaska and back, a CDN would have found a much closer server in Texas to send that data from, shaving seconds off the loading time. Believe it or not, people staying on your site and leaving your site is a game of seconds.
Many large CDN’s out there have hundreds of data centers all over the world to make the routing much faster. We often hear complaints from people about how slow their site loads and we usually offer the following advice:
- Compress all your images
- Get a CDN
- If 1 & 2 don’t improve, change your hosting immediately.
- If 1, 2, & 3 don’t improve your site speed, give us a shout.
Does a CDN improve web security?
A CDN helps with web security big-time. The main way that a CDN improves your site security is from limiting DDoS attacks. Let’s not get too technical here, but just know that DDoS attack is when a hacker sends ton of data at your website attempting to crash it. If your site is on a single server in a single location, chances are you are CRASHING TODAY!
When you have a CDN in place, your ability to manage such an attack is much better. You’ll have multiple servers taking on the load at the same time. I like to say that it’s like have 5 goalies in soccer when 50 balls are kicked at the same time. You might still feel the impact, but you’ll be in better shape than going at it with one goalie.
The other interesting way that a CDN will improve web security is by its analytical ability. As unusual web traffic begins to come through, the CDN can redirect traffic to somewhere else. That makes the bad guys work for nothing. Success.
There are a few other ways a content deliver system will keep you safe such as protection from man-in-the-middle attacks and data breaches, but that’s beyond the scope of this article. Just know you’ll be in better hands with a CDN than not.
Are there any other benefits to a CDN?
You bet. And this is probably the most IMPORTANT part. A CDN like Cloudflare will give your website a free Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate which is great for your website. A little lock will appear next your url in browsers like Google Chrome and people will know they are safe.
What is an SSL and why do I need one? There are two common URL’s that you are going to visit these days: HTTP and HTTPS. If your site is an HTTP, then you need to change that immediately. If you look at your browser address bar right now, you’ll notice our website has an HTTPS in front. That is the internet browser’s way of saying, “Your safe. This website is legit. Continue clicking away”
In fact, it’s a big enough deal that Google has issued a statement saying they will penalize websites that don’t have it. You want that HTTPS in front, trust us. Having an SSL through your CDN will encrypt your data as it passes through the server. This is where the whole “secure sockets layer” jargon comes from. It’s a fancy way of saying your information is more secure when it leaves your fingertips than before you had an SSL/HTTPS. You get the SSL and then the HTTPS appears in your URL.
You don’t want to be penalized by Google or any search engine for that matter for not having an SSL/HTTPS setup on your site. We’ve known sites where their traffic has dropped from not making this simple change. And, there are millions of sites in the world right now that haven’t made this change, so it gives you a competitive advantage in search engines.
It’s too easy not to fix this immediately. If you aren’t sure where to start, call your web hosting company and request they install an SSL certificate on your site. Make sure to ask that they ensure all pages are redirected from HTTP to HTTPS; they’ll know exactly what you are talking about.
Does a CDN cost a lot of money?
Yes and no. Here is the deal, like anything in technology, the price will vary depending on your needs. For larger technology firms with large amounts of data transmission, a proper CDN might cost a metric ton. They will require lighting fast speeds to ensure their advertising data is impacted by site drop-off and they will require robust security. Not everyone needs a monster CDN package though.
For a small business or personal blog, a free CDN is probably all you need. And there are many options out there.
Wait, did you say free CDN? That’s right. You can get all the benefits of a content delivery system for free. And it’s not very hard to setup. We recommend most of our clients with smaller budgets to use Cloudflare. We’ve had great success using them. And, it doesn’t take us very long to add this to client sites which is awesome.
Is a CDN hard to install? Not at all. I’ve seen tech novices do it with ease. If you don’t have hosting yet or you’re looking for a change, we recommend either GreenGeeks hosting for the DIY people out there or SiteGround hosting for non-tech people.
GreenGeek people can sign up for Cloudflare free plan, add your website to Cloudlfare, follow the steps to get your new name-servers, and then change them in the Greengeeks manager portal.
For the SiteGround people, just call SiteGround have their tech team do it for you.
See, we told you it would be easy 😉
I have a new site, do I need a CDN? Technically, no. You don’t have much site traffic to worry about unless you already have a huge social following funneling traffic to your site. But, you should do it anyway. It’s never a bad time to secure your website. Start sending those positive security signals to Google from the beginning.