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How a CDN can Save You Money and Make Your Website Faster

Let’s face it: shared hosting is usually one of the most-cost effective ways to host a website that doesn’t receive tens of thousands of hits each month. Many of these shared hosts can be a great value with unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth, and tons of features.

However “unlimited” is often followed by an asterisk that is buried deep within your provider’s terms of service, and soon “unlimited” doesn’t mean what you think it does anymore. But the next level of service might require too much technical knowledge or is just outside your budget range.

That’s where CDNs come in.

What is a CDN and How Do CDNs Work?

According to Wikipedia, a CDN is:

A content delivery network or content distribution network (CDN) is a large distributed system of servers deployed in multiple data centers across the Internet. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. CDNs serve a large fraction of the Internet content today, including web objects (text, graphics and scripts), downloadable objects (media files, software, documents), applications (e-commerce, portals), live streaming media, on-demand streaming media, and social networks.

In other words, a CDN is a series of data centers optimized for speed, share the same data, and are designed to deliver that content to users based on their region.

Traditional Network v.s. a CDN

A traditional network compared to a content delivery network (CDN). Source: Wikipedia

Saving Money with a CDN

So your host sent you an email or notification that your website is using too much storage space or too much bandwidth, and now they’re twisting your arm into getting a VPS server. Your eyes bulge out of their sockets and your hat rocket launches off your head at the increased cost and additional technical know-how required.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

CDN services either have a flat-monthly fee for a specific set of storage space and bandwidth or a pay-for-what-you-use model. For example, MaxCDN has several monthly service levels for websites of all sizes. On the other hand, Amazon S3 has dozens of tiers dependent on how much storage, bandwidth, type of storage you use each month.

There are dozens of CDN providers out there and most have calculators to help you estimate how much their services will cost you. There’s also a free option with CloudFlare, and we’ll talk more about that soon too.

I personally spend less than $2 per month using Amazon S3 to not only serve content to websites, but also to store roughly 40GB of files on their Glacier service. That’s right, $2. Just imagine how much it would cost if I didn’t have 40GB of files.

CDNs Make Your Website Faster

Everyone has a morning routine. For me, I make coffee, watch last night’s The Daily Show and Colbert Report, eat breakfast, read one of my magazines, take a shower, and then off to work. If got a dog, I’d have to add additional time to my routine with taking it out for walk, feeding it, and giving some affection.

It’s the same way with your website. Every image, Javascript file, or CSS file that you add to your website, either manually or through a plugin, it adds additional load on the server. You’re telling the server: “Hey, Server, get all this stuff as fast as you can!”

With a CDN, your website’s server only sends the HTML files to the visitor and the images, Javascript and CSS files are delivered from the CDN. So, the server is doing less much faster and the CDN is taking care of the rest on cloud systems optimized for speed.

Your host will thank you, your wallet will thank you, and your user will enjoy the seamless experience.

 

CDNs are GREAT for SEO

Google wants the internet to be fast. Why not, right? A fast website means that your visitor can interact with your products and services faster, giving them a great user experience because they wait less That’s also a factor for SEO.

Moz has a great article about how they tested a variety of metrics to measure speed. Their results show that there is a correlation between websites that faster Time to First Byte (TTFB) and higher search rankings.

 

How to add CDNs to Your Website

Adding a CDN to your website is dependent on your content management system (CMS). Typically, your CMS will have either free or premium plugins that allow you to connect the CDN of your choice to your website. Once setup properly, the website will “push” static files like cached HTML, Javascript, CSS, and images to the CDN. Once completed, your website will only serve HTML files, and the CDN will supply the rest.

In WordPress, the W3 Total Cache plugin makes this process stupid easy by having you select your service and then entering in your account information. That’s it. Take a few hours to push all your content to the CDN, but once it’s all good to go, your site will see some speed increases.

You should also consider caching and minimizing your files using the same W3 Total Cache plugin. That can also increase your site’s speed.

Services

Although I’ve mentioned them above, below are some of the most popular CDN services.

Amazon S3

Amazon S3 CDNAs stated earlier, Amazon S3 is an a la carte service, and you only pay for what you use. Their S3 service actually comprises of several dozen different cloud services from storage, databases, websites, and much more. Amazon recognized very early that their site needs to be incredibly fast, as even a half second slowdown could mean a loss of millions of dollars. The S3 service can be a little tricky to navigate and setup for a novice. Luckily, there are many tutorials all over the internet to help you link Amazon S3 to your website.

MaxCDN

MaxCDNMaxCDN’s service is pretty straight forward. They have affordable plans for the small business website all the way to high-volume rock star websites. Their cheapest plan is about $9/month for 100GB of bandwidth.

CloudFlare – Our Favorite

CloudFlare CDNCloudFlare is a progressive security company that built their own custom security systems and realized they accidentally made websites faster.  Oops! Since they recognized their “mistake”, they have since added static resource serving, so in some sense, they aren’t a true CDN.  They also do not charge you based on your bandwidth at all, they only have flat-rate monthly plans.

What is so killer about CloudFlare is that they have a free plan that should be just enough the majority of websites on the internet. That’s right, most websites will never need to upgrade to any of CloudFlare’s other plans. CloudFlare doesn’t bill on bandwidth or storage, they just have their own plans with certain capabilities. Recently, they offered free SSL to all plans, which really makes CloudFlare’s free plan one of the best CDNs deals on the internet.

Even better, you can use CloudFlare in conjunction with a CDN. This can reduce even more wasted bandwidth of bots and spammers.

Other CDNs

  • Akamai
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Rackspace Cloud Files

Need Help Adding a CDN?

Contact Tampa SEO to learn how a CDN can help your website be fast. We’ve helped several websites implement CloudFlare for free on their websites. Let us help you by not only adding CloudFlare, get the CDN of your choice, and we’ll also help find other way to boost your speed!

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