CDN - you’ve probably seen this acronym bandied about by the web community. But do you actually know what it means? And better yet, do you know how it can benefit your WordPress site?
Whether you have zero idea what a CDN is or you’re just not sure whether or not you should use a CDN for your WordPress site, keep reading to learn all about the benefits of CDNs.
What is a CDN?
CDN is short for "content delivery network". To understand what that means, it helps to have a quick baseline for how the Internet works. Don’t worry - I won’t get too technical on you (nor do I have the knowledge to!).
Essentially, whenever someone visits your site, their browser queries your web server for the data it needs to load. Your web server responds back with the all the data necessary to render your beautiful website in your visitor's browser.
But here’s the problem…
Physics Still Exists...as Far as I Know
Unfortunately, us humans haven’t quite figured out how to break the laws of physics. That means the physical distance between your visitor and your web server has a very real effect on how quickly this process plays out.
If your website’s data center is in Texas, USA, but I’m sitting over here at my apartment in Hanoi, Vietnam...well, that’s a long way for all those bits and bytes to travel.
Content delivery networks get around this issue by caching your static content (like images) on different data centers around the world. That means instead of getting data all the way from Texas, my browser would get data from, say, a Singapore data center (assuming I’m in Vietnam).
To help you visualize how this plays out, here’s a great graphic from Cloudflare:
The example on the left is using a CDN - each person gets content from the server nearest to them. The example on the right is without a CDN - everyone has to get content from your web server, no matter where they’re located. See how the example on the left is more efficient?
Why Should You Use a CDN for Your Wordpress Website?
CDNs offer very real benefits for your WordPress site. Here are some of the positive results you’ll get from implementing a CDN:
Your Users Will Enjoy Better User Experience
Did you know that, at least for eCommerce sites, 30% of people want sites to load in under one second? That number comes from 2015. In 2009, that number was 2 seconds. Users are increasingly expecting blazing fast speeds as part of a positive web experience.
CDNs, as part of a full-scale WordPress speed strategy, can offer this improved user experience by decreasing how long it takes your site to fully load. A CDN isn’t a panacea for an otherwise unoptimized WordPress site, but it will absolutely improve your page load times.
Page speed is definitely the main benefit of implementing a CDN for your WordPress site. But it’s not the only one...
You Will Enjoy Improved SEO Rankings
Since at least late 2010, site speed has been a ranking factor in Google. Slow sites get their rankings dinged and fast sites get a boost. Now, a CDN isn’t going to make you instantly rank top position for “Mesothelioma lawyer”, but any SEO boost, no matter how small, is always worth gunning for.
You’ll Use Fewer Server Resources
For most websites, the bulk of a page’s file size is comprised of images. In fact, Akamai found that, at least for eCommerce sites, ~65% of an average web page’s size is a result of images. That means most of the bandwidth you use is because of your images.
Well, guess what? CDNs shoulder the load when it comes to static content like images. So instead of your web server having to send out those images, consuming both bandwidth and processing, the CDN will handle that.
Your server gets a break and your visitors get their content faster. That’s a pretty sweet deal, right?
Your Website is More Accessible to Global Audiences
You may not think about this one if you live in North America or Europe. But as someone who lives in Vietnam, trust me when I say that CDNs make a huge difference for your global audience.
Most CDN services will have a Singapore data center, which vastly improves load times for anyone visiting you from Southeast Asia (speaking from personal experience, here!).
And it’s the same for other locations. Many developing countries rely on just a few Internet cables for the bulk of their access - CDNs make your site infinitely more pleasant for those audiences.
WordPress Makes CDN Implementation Easy
Here’s the best part about WordPress and CDNs:
CDNs are super duper easy to implement on WordPress. You don’t have to spend hours configuring some complicated system. Instead, many CDNs offer dedicated plugins that make setting up a CDN a matter of mere minutes.
For example, if you use MaxCDN and W3 Total Cache, you can configure your CDN in just a few minutes. Similarly, KeyCDN’s Cache Enabler plugin makes it a cinch to implement KeyCDN on your WordPress site.
Whether you want a free or paid CDN, you can get up and running in no time.
You Can Actually Save Money
Remember how I said that CDN’s make your web server use fewer resources? Well, if you’re on a host which doesn’t offer unlimited bandwidth, that can actually save you money.
For example, KeyCDN charges as little as $0.01 to $0.04 per GB of bandwidth, whereas many hosting companies will charge you more in the range of $.15+ per GB of overage.
So even if it seems like you might be adding another monthly charge, CDNs may well save you money in the long run.
In my opinion, CDNs are a no-brainer for anyone running a WordPress site getting decent traffic. While it’s true that sites with tons of static resources will get the most benefit from a CDN, all sites will at least get some performance improvements from implementing a CDN.
With plenty of free CDNs in existence, there’s really no reason not to start serving your static content from a global delivery system.
Have you implemented a CDN for your WordPress site yet? Why or why not?