How to Ensure Peak Performance via CDNs

How to ensure peak performance via CDNs -banner -by Hamnah Amir

In this fast-paced world, web-users have incredibly low patience. Internet users want results in milliseconds at the click of their fingers. Infact, a 2004 study by University of Nebraska (Nah, 2004) proved that Web users’ bearable waiting time for information retrieval is approximately 2 seconds! The study was conducted among 70 students of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  The subjects were asked to look up the names of 10 Web acceleration tools on the internet, using the Web page provided to them. Of the 10 hyperlinks provided on the standard Web page, only 7 of them were working. If they clicked any of the 7 working hyperlinks, the results would appear instantly. For these 3 non-working links, the students would have to click the “STOP” icon to finish the search. It took students (on average) around 2-4 seconds to terminate the search if it wouldn’t load! That’s less than half of the average load time for the largest 1000 websites which is a whopping 6.4 seconds! (*According to httparchive.org).

How slow website performance affects your rankings;

Website speed and performance does not only affect users from bouncing back to other sites, but also has a direct impact on SEO rankings as well. Google penalizes sites that have slow waiting times and take longer to load, by displaying them lower in the search results. And studies have shown that web users rarely click below the top three search results in any web search! Bounce rate also affects SEO rankings and pushes your website further downwards in the results. And the circle continues.

Therefore, business and website owners face a tough competition nowadays to keep their wait times lowered.

How to check your website’s performance;

There could be a number of reasons why your sight does not load fast enough. To check if your site is optimized and your site’s speed, you can use a solution such as Pingdom Tools.

This website is free, and it will tell you how long it takes your site’s pages to load completely under several conditions. It also offers some recommendations for what you should do to improve low speeds. The ideal loading time for your website is 2 seconds.

Reasons for slow website performance;

Unoptimized images, too much flash content, excessive HTTPS requests, unclean codes and not using gZIP Compression are some of the most common culprits for slow website loading, but predominantly, it’s the lack of a quality web hosting service. However, if you’ve run through all these tests and are still facing the same problem, you may need to work on your web hosting. Your hosting can be terrifically improved with the help of a CDN

A CDN or Content Delivery Network is a network of servers that keeps a cached copy of your website on many servers all around the globe.

However, you should know that you will still need your web hosting account (such as WordPress) to host your website files. The purpose of the CDN provider is to keep the static resources of your website for increasing the loading time and speed.

How you can use CDN to solve your problem;

While there is a huge amount of monitoring tools on the net to try to improve website performance, many have neglected to monitor the CDN. CDN or Content Delivery Network is a group of web hosting servers that are spread across the earth. The purpose of this network of servers is to host and disperse the static content of your WordPress website. The static content is the unchanged content that is delivered to the visitors each time they visit your site. The static content could include images, CSS, JavaScript, videos, music and more.

How does a CDN Work?

When a user visits your WordPress site, their browser places a request on your website to display your site’s content. This request that is generated by the user, is sent to your website’s server. Your website’s server is provided to you by your web host. In this case, it is WordPress’s own servers.

For every visitor, the process is the same.

  1. A request is directed to your server.
  2. The server gets the data required and sends it back to the user’s browser.
  3. The user can then see the data.

If you have high volumes of traffic, too many requests can put heavy load on your server. It will slow down your site and in case of an overload, it can lead to a server breakdown. To prevent this from happening, you can use a CDN.

CDNs use a network of cdn servers all around the world to share the load. When one server receives a request from a visitor, it caches your static content. This content is distributed to all servers on the network.

So now, whenever any user visits your website, they are directed to the closest server based on their location. As these servers have already cached your website’s static content, they can serve the content immediately. The shorter the distance between the caching server and the user, the faster the user gets the data.

This reduces the load on your website’s server and makes the whole process efficient. Thus, when users visit your website, your web page loads much faster!

How CDN Improves Your WordPress Website Performance;

  1. Your website will load faster

Because most of your website’s loading time is dependent on downloading static files like images, music, videos and CSS stylesheets, therefore the loading time will be significantly reduced. Secondly, the CDN provider company’s servers use boosted RAM and SSD storages, to store the cached content. This results in reduced loading time.

  1. Your Bandwidth cost will be reduced

A CDN lowers your expenses by removing the necessity to pay for high-priced web hosting services. Because majority of your files will be hosted on the CDN servers, you won’t have to host files on your original web servers.

If you use a CDN Service, you will be using a single platform that works across different countries for a fair price. This is a great option if you’re on a budget.

  1. Your website Security will be increased

Many cyber-attacks seek to make your website unavailable to your users by disturbing the services of your host’s connection to the internet. When you have a CDN, it takes on the traffic and can eep your website running while you figure out the issue and have it solved.

  1. Your website’s availability will be improved

Suppose you had only one web server which crashed while you had an important launch or event coming up? Suppose it took ages to fix the problem and have your website up and running again? Having a CDN eradicates this problem as your content will be duplicated and placed on different servers around the globe. If any one of these servers goes down, the web traffic will be immediately directed to another server.

  1. Your google search rankings will be higher

Faster loading times are rewarded by google by giving a higher search ranking. In contrast, when your visitors leave your sites due to lengthy loading times, Google’s bots take this a s a sign that your visitors are not interested in your content, OR they did not find what they were looking for and your ranking drops. Fast loading times will remove this problem and also make it a more enjoyable experience for your clients who are more likely to stay longer.

How to Evaluate CDN Performance;

Before you test your CDN’s performance you need to first know the geographic location of your users and what exactly they need your site for. After establishing these two objectives, you can carry out the following tests to know if the CDN service has actually improved site speed or whether you need more bandwidth for even better performance.

  1. Ping Tests

Ping tests are used to check how long it takes data to reach your users form your servers. You obviously need lower ping time for better performance.

  1. Availability Tests

You need your website to have high availability, which means that your users should always be able to connect to your website and receive data at any time of the day, without having your website crash.

  1. Throughput Tests

Throughput means the amount of data that you can send through your website at any point in time. You obviously need higher throughput as possible.

How to choose a good CDN;

When selecting a CDN Provider Company, you have to take into account the following things about your business. What are your needs, how much traffic do you get and which issue are you facing. This may seem to be a daunting task but typically the organization will conduct an RFP and create a scoring model on your business based on some specific methodologies. Do not hesitate in reaching out to any companies to get a quote or help!

When choosing the best CDN for your company, consider the following factors;

  • User geography;

Which countries do the bulk of your visitors come from? You may want to get a CDN provider that is based in that country. (Cdn servers will be nearer to your visitors which means faster loading times.)

  • CDN reliability & Service;

Since your website being available to your visitors will now depend on the CDN, you need maximum uptime and availability of the service. Make sure you go over the terms in the SLA. The Service Level Agreement that you will sign goes over Service performance, support and service level targets.

You also need a company which provides good service. Suppose you have a big launch and a problem comes up. How quickly will they respond?

  • CDN Performance & Cost;

Since you’re using CDN to speed up your site, it will be of no help if it doesn’t do its job. You should test each CDN to find out whether it’s really helping or not. You have a number of options for this;

  • RUM vs Synthetic Testing; The difference between these two, as they sound like, is that Synthetic testing is not actual data of your users. While RUM (Real User Monitoring) gathers actual data of your users. The way in which synthetic testing works is that the set-up visits your website periodically and gathers the data it collects on each visit. It’s actually a lot like robot visitors to your site.

In RUM testing, the company will place a JavaScript code on your site which will track your vistors.

  • Location Testing; Geolocation testing is a test where you perform website testing from a set of IPs addresses that come from different countries around the globe. This is especially important if your site has a lot of international visitors.
  • Stress Test; A stress test basically measures your websites capacity. It monitors how many requests your website can take before it breaks down.

Generally, the older and larger the CDN provider, the higher its cost will be. However, you need to assess your needs to see if your website really does have the amount of traffic that requires for a costlier service.

  • Analytics;

When your website goes through a CDN, they will have your data, instead of it being in just your hands. Now that they have become the source of your traffic measurement, what analytics will they be providing to you, and how often?

  • Purge Mechanism;

If you want to have something removed from your site, how quickly will they be able to do this and what will be the process?

Some good CDN Options for your WP Website;

When it comes to choosing the best CDN service for your company,StackPath, Sucuri, CloudFlare and KeyCDN are some of the popular options out there. You may want to look at the pros and cons of each before deciding on a CDN. Some providers give a limited options free plan and you have to upgrade for the full version. Some providers have a ‘pay-as-you-use’ option which means that if your website gets fewer visitors in a month, you won’t be paying extra. They all have a different number of cdn servers in different locations, so you can select the best CDN according to your geographical needs.

You can look at the details of each on this article here.

Wrapping up:

If your website has been lagging in speed and performance and you’ve already tried all the other methods and failed to solve the problem, it’s time you upgraded and got a CDN service. As a business owner, you know that your success depends on the visitor’s satisfaction. A faster and more efficient website will cause visitors to stay on your site and increase conversion rates. Faster websites means that more hits convert and become buyers, which means more sales revenue for you. We hope this article will be enough in clarifying the steps you need to take in order to implement CDN on your website.

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