Before we talk about a content delivery network (CDN), let's talk about your company's website. Maybe it’s for marketing, maybe it’s for ecommerce, maybe it's for sharing cat GIFs. But in 2016, no matter what your company does, it definitely involves a website in some way, shape or form. In fact, visiting your company website is almost certainly one of the first interactions that new customers will have with you. If they find you through an ad, that ad will direct them to your website. If they are responding to an email, they will be clicking on a link to your website. If they speak to one of your salespeople on the phone, they will probably visit your website right after - or even during - the call. If they find you via Google, the link they find will be to your website. Etc., etc., etc.
The point is: no matter what business you’re in, your website plays an important role in the experience your customers have with your company. If your ecommerce operation is slow, it will affect conversions. If your marketing pages are down, it will cause customers to question your technical competence or just abandon the site altogether. If your “help” videos don’t load quickly, people won’t stick around to use your product.
Don’t believe me? Let’s look at some hard data. Way back in 2010, Akamai found that 57% of online shoppers would wait no longer than 3 seconds for a page to load before abandoning the site. They also found that younger users were even less patient: 65% would abandon sites after 2 seconds. Have users gotten more patient since 2010? Ha! In a more recent survey, half of smartphone users said they expected mobile web pages to load in 2 seconds or less.
What about other kinds of content besides general web pages? Are users more patient if the payoff is a rich media experience? Well, researchers found that when it comes to online video, users will start abandoning a site after waiting 2 seconds for a video to load – and another 5.8% will drop off with every additional second it takes. Oh, users are also less likely to return to the site after having a video failure.
The harsh reality is that no matter what kind of business you are in or what kind of content you are delivering online, visitors will simply not excuse poor website performance.
But don’t worry, CDNs are here to help.
What is a CDN? In short, a CDN is a global network of servers that hold cached copies of your content in multiple locations. These are commonly called “edge” servers, because they represent the edge of the network (creative, I know) with your own server(s) sitting at the center. When a user requests content from your website, the CDN delivers as much of it as possible from edge servers that are physically close to the user. This minimizes the load on your server(s), and reduces the time it takes for the requested information to travel to your users.
Instead of responding directly to user requests in real-time, your server(s) push updates out to the edge servers, which in turn handle all of the real-time user requests. It’s a win-win for you and your users: they get faster load times, you get to minimize your own IT investment. And by leveraging a massive CDN infrastructure, you get some great bonus features: DDoS mitigation, network load-balancing, scalability, and greater uptime. Plus, it will help your SEO efforts: since 2010, Google has used site speed as a factor in web search ranking.
A CDN can accelerate all types of content: static, dynamic, mobile, ecommerce, video, audio, games - virtually anything that you might want to deliver to your users. Major CDN customers today include online retail, new media, old media, SaaS solutions - virtually anything that touches the internet. So no matter what kind of business you’re in, a CDN can help you.
So now that you know a little bit more about CDN and how it could be useful for your business, you might want to know what you should do next. Fortunately we are here to assist! If you’re ready to find a CDN provider, or to compare your existing CDN provider to its competitors, Vendorful allows you to request proposals from more than 30 CDN vendors. If you want to learn more about the CDN space, might I suggest our free CDN mini-guide? It contains much more information than can fit in this blog post. And if a mini-guide is too much of a commitment, check out our two-page CDN cheat sheet.
Just to be 100% clear, we have no affiliation whatsoever with any CDN provider. Our only goal is to make sure that you find the best vendors for your needs, in CDN or any other area that touches your business. So feel free to get in touch with us if you think we can help you in some other area of need - we are at your service!