This is the third post in our three part series on web hosting and how it matters to your website. In parts one and two we covered shared and dedicated hosting. If you want to read those posts first, you can find part 1 here and part 2 here. Today we’re talking about content delivery networks, how they work and why you might want to use one.
Content delivery networks are built with locations around the world, usually in or near key “junctions” of the Internet. These locations are called points of presence (POPs). The best CDNs have a very robust infrastructure (meaning computer resources, fast networking, with redundancies) in and between their POPs. This means they can often guarantee uptimes closer to 100% than shared or even dedicated hosting.
When your entire website is hosted on a CDN it provides “whole website acceleration”. Your website will be duplicated and reside on servers in each of the POP locations. When someone in Hong Kong tries to view your website they get a quick response time because the request went to a POP in Hong Kong (or another POP in Asia), rather than travelling through the windy Internet network structure to a webpage located on a server in London. Costs are usually higher than dedicated and based on the amount of bandwidth you purchase. Even if you don’t use a lot of bandwidth, but still need to offer speed to your visitors, then you might find a CDN is a better solution than shared or even dedicated. But for smaller websites, the cost for hosting everything on a CDN may be too prohibitive.
And for many, if not most websites, that kind of speed isn’t required for the entire website. But there are high-bandwidth elements that you want to have hosted close to the visitor so their experience on your site is good. That’s why many people use CDNS for specific content – audio, video, and even images.
Take high definition (HD) video as an example. HD videos can be large and use a lot of bandwidth if you have many viewers. Even if you have only a few viewers, they may experience a lot of buffering with traditional hosting. So to make sure all your viewers can have a good viewing experience, you can upload the video to a CDN and then embed it into your website. Your visitor loads your web pages from your shared or dedicated server, but the video is loaded super-fast from the CDN.
So one advantage of a CDN to website owners is the ability to select what content they need delivered fast or what requires a lot of bandwidth to load. In some cases that might be an entire website. In others it may just be the video or audio content streamed from the CDN.
There’s a lot to know about hosting your website and its content so it performs well for every visitor. Using a CDN for some elements may be the answer to slow load times and buffering. If you want to test it out for yourself, you can sign up for our Freemium account here. Or give us a call and we’ll talk about your content and let you know if using our CDN or streaming services can help.