Do I need a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for my website?

Do I need a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for my website?

Short answer: Probably. A CDN offers many benefits that can speed up your website for users, however it can equally slow your website down depending on the type & amount of traffic you receive, the way your website is integrated with a CDN as well as where your traffic originates from. SpeedyPage offers assistance to all customers when it comes to CDN integration & questions.

What is a CDN?

A content delivery network, most known as a CDN, is a distributed network of servers around the world that operates as a front-end cache layer. This means that if your web hosting server is in the United Kingdom, but a user from Sydney requests a cached file - the user would receive that cached file a lot faster, speeding up the delivery of the asset as the file would be served from a CDN server in Sydney.

Is there a clear benefit to using a CDN?

This question can be answered by simply testing a website with a CDN, and without a CDN.

We did various tests in remote regions using our blog (the site you're reading on right now) without a CDN, and the results were clear. Our blog is located in the United Kingdom, and we experienced site TTFB's ranging from 612ms to 884ms.

Mumbai, India: 612ms TTFB, 1.7s LCP
Sao Paulo, Brazil: 693ms TTFB, 1.9s LCP
Sydney, Australia: 884ms TTFB, 2.4s LCP

We then did the exact same tests, in the same regions using the CDN in front of the website with all assets cached in each region.

Sao Paulo, Brazil
Sydney, Australia
Mumbai, India

Mumbai, India: 19ms TTFB, 234ms LCP
Sao Paulo, Brazil: 81ms TTFB, 436ms LCP
Sydney, Australia: 20ms TTFB, 265ms LCP

The results are clear. A CDN can be a great asset when it comes to speeding up the delivery of your website to international users. This isn't all as it seems however and there is more to why and when you should use a CDN.

Possible draw backs of using a CDN

  1. The purpose of a CDN is to speed up the delivery of static assets to users, it does not cache dynamic content (such as ecommerce websites, login systems etc). If these systems are the cause of slowness on your website, then a CDN won't be a fix to it. This is a common misconception and users try to use a CDN as a fix to slow websites, when in most instances they are unlikely to do anything.
  2. A CDN only works effectively if you receive repeat traffic to your assets where CDN servers are located. If you run a very small website with a very limited footprint in terms of request count - you may find a CDN actually harms performance as a CDN cache is temporary, it is only permanent if you receive repeat traffic to an asset once it is cached.
  3. If your server is located in the United Kingdom, and all of your user base is also located in the United Kingdom, a CDN is not for you. A CDN only works if you have a global user base and you need to speed up delivery for international users, if your users aren't located internationally however, a CDN will offer no benefit.

Benefits of using a CDN

  1. If you have a global user base, a CDN can mean the difference between a sale and a lost sale. A properly configured CDN can greatly speed up your website delivery time as shown in our results above and most studies find that users do not want to wait more than 1-2 seconds for a website to load.
  2. CDN's can offer great SEO benefits, mostly to do with indexers such as Google. If your assets load fast when they are indexing your website, they take this into consideration and it forms part of your SEO score. Other tools such as the Optimizer also increase SEO score, as it will minify site content as well as optimize images into webp - all of which are used by Google to rate a website.
  3. A CDN can also be a great tool for security, depending on the CDN that you use. Most providers offer additional security settings such as preventing content from being stolen using allowed referrers, DDoS attacks in addition to other forms of vulnerability protection from included WAF's.

Which CDN should I use?

At SpeedyPage, we are strong advocates for - we have a unique partnership with them and their ever growing network allows us to offer the best to our clients. We include this CDN with our web hosting offering as well as the Bunny Optimizer, both of which are great for speed and improving your website SEO.