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What is CDN Hosting?

Your media-rich website can benefit from a content delivery network (CDN), which copies your content and optimizes delivery for the best speed, usability, and performance possible.

How Does a CDN Work?

In a nutshell, a content delivery network (CDN) copies all your website content -- text, images, video files, etc. -- and delivers it to your website visitors on your behalf in a more efficient way.

A CDN duplicates your Web content and stores it across many servers at points of presence (POPs) along an Internet network. These servers are called "edge servers."

When someone visits your website, your CDN will then send your content to them from the edge server that will provide optimal delivery. Often the optimal server is the one that’s located closest geographically to the user, since the closer the server is, the faster the data will reach them. But this isn’t always the case; if the closest server is already at capacity, the CDN will choose another server that has the highest availability.

Benefits of Using a CDN

When a CDN is in place, each visitor to your website receives the content from the optimal server in a network, instead of from a single server which might be located far away or overloaded.

This system provides a number of benefits for any website, but especially for media-rich sites:

  • Using the optimal server to deliver your Web content improves site performance and usability for users who are doing things like streaming video.
  • Using a CDN keeps your site users from waiting around for content, such as images and videos, to load: buffering and latency, especially with video and e-commerce, is minimized or eliminated.
  • It reduces or eliminates the effects of traffic spikes on the user experience of your site.
  • CDN hosts can keep your sites online by delivering cached pages in the event of downtime.
  • The duplication and distribution of data provides you an extra level of security: If a natural disaster takes out a group of servers in one area, your data will still be available from the servers in other areas.
  • Tracking how edge servers are used in a CDN can also provide valuable analytics on visitor activity that can lead to a better user experience.

Even without all the above benefits, using a CDN can be worth it just for the speed boost alone. Reducing loading times on your website, even by just a few seconds, can lower your bounce rate, improve your search engine rankings, and increase conversions. These benefits are also especially important to e-commerce websites. If your customer has to wait too long, they may navigate away without completing a purchase.

Do You Need a CDN?

Individual bloggers and small bricks-and-mortar businesses without e-commerce may not see any benefit from a CDN.

Sites that deliver rich media content and those with e-commerce could decrease loading times and increase conversion rates by employing a CDN. You should consider using a CDN if:

  • Your website depends on displaying a lot images
  • You offer video or audio streaming
  • You run an income-generating website where revenue is affected by speed and uptime, such as an e-commerce site
  • You need faster loading times for your website for any reason

Finding a CDN Hosting Plan

With the popularity of CDNs increasing, many hosts offer CDNs included with their hosting plans in order to stay competitive. Many CDN hosting plans are cloud-based, using virtual servers, which is well-suited to sites that have traffic spikes and lots of media because typically, cloud hosting resources are instantly scalable.

You may also purchase a CDN service separately if it doesn’t come with your chosen hosting plan. Many brands of CDNs are available, some open source, others commercially licensed. They also vary in features; for example, some CDNs only allow for static content while others include dynamic content, as well. As such, the cost varies widely.

CDN Frequently Asked Questions

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