The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Years ago, if you asked me if a CDN was worth it, I would tell you it was the biggest waste of money you could spend. You already purchased your domain and your web hosting, why pay any more than that? You have a website and depending on the plan you have, you probably have a lot of space or even unlimited. With WordPress, all you have to do is upload your images and there they are on your website. Safe, secure, and nothing to worry about.
I did not understand a CDN really and every website tells you the same thing because how much can you search to find different information about a CDN? Basically, a CDN is a Content Delivery Network that delivers your files to a bunch of servers around the world, so that download times are much faster for your visitors. Why should a person in Australia have to wait for their computer to reach a server in the United States to download a file? Basically, Australia requests a file from a computer. The server has to send a request, wait for a response, and then finally, the message is sent back to their computer, where the file is finally downloaded. It might only seem like it takes a few minutes or less, but even waiting more than a few seconds is too much time. What if that file could go to some central computer in Japan, where Australia could download it from there? Wouldn’t that speed things up? If the central computer is already in Australia, the file is there, and will download much faster. That pretty much sums up what a CDN does.
A CDN had never made sense to me. Why put all of that data on a CDN when you can have it on your website? The simple truth is that as great as your web host may claim to be, it is catering to you and too many others if you are on a Shared Hosting account. That’s right, your website sits on a server with a thousand or more other websites, and you are all thinking the same thing: A Shared Host is good enough and keeping files on my website is fine. With all that storage space, you have no worries about any of your data, do you?
I was so skeptical about the uselessness of a CDN that it took me so long to even bother trying one. I made the switch to a CDN when I realized how easy it was on DreamHost, which offered a great deal at 2 cents per gigabyte storage space and 12 cents per gigabyte download. Total bill usually comes to less than $5 a month. Since having one, it has only taken a month to see the full benefits of having all website data on a CDN. On top of that CDN, I also use WordPress Photon which only makes speed and reliability on the website godly. Currently, I use it for just one of my websites, Confessions of the Professions.
While analytics data on Confessions of the Professions are not 100% accurate, as most websites can only get sample data, the website receives about 1,000–2,000 visitors a day, or about 30,000–60,000 visitors in a month, with some months being more busier than other, depending on what webpages Google decides to index that month, usually adjusting their search engine results for “trending topics” and popular keywords. A popular confession, Webcam Model, remains as the most popular article on the website, having received over 200,000 visitors in just a few years. It might not sound like a lot of traffic to some bloggers, but the article has never been advertised, other than social media shares by its readers.
With this much traffic, a CDN just makes sense because if you have hundreds of thousands of people coming to the website, the resources are being downloaded; and remember, the computer is being shared by a thousand other customers who sit on it with you who might be receiving the same amount of people to their website. Luckily, Confessions of the Professions was only on a Shared Host for a short time, before being switched to DreamPress, which is suited for optimized WordPress hosting.
Instead of relying on that computer to do the work, a CDN is called when a visitor comes to the page, because it is now on a dedicated server, in several places around the world. A cache program might help and deal with some traffic spikes, but even caches have to expire and renew. You could use a code optimizer, image compressors, and even make sure your code has no errors, but this is only half the battle of giving your visitors the ultimate experience of your website. To cut to the point: If you are on a shared host, your website needs a CDN.
What your web host doesn’t really want to share with you is that they need to make money to keep their costs down and still make a profit, so they upsell their product and your website is placed with hundreds and maybe even thousands of other websites. The hope is that hundreds to thousands of people sign up for their hosting and don’t use all the resources. If those websites don’t use all the resources, it can lead to a nice amount of income every month, and income that helps your web host company thrive and actually make money. If they don’t upsell, their prices will remain high, so it works in your favor that they upsell. Don’t be mad about it, companies need money just as much as you do.
What should actually be on your web host? If you are on WordPress, the only thing that should be on your web host is your website. Images, files, and anything static that rarely ever changes should be on a CDN. A CDN, over the years, has become very cheap because they are actually being used a lot more. See the rule in the former paragraph about “companies need money” and what it means for you.
If there is anything I recommend anyone, amateur website owner or professional website developer, get your website using the services of a CDN. These three reasons you need a CDN will make you realize how much you need a CDN.
1. Keep An Eye On Data
Most CDNs will let you know how much of your data is being used, offering insight into just how popular your website may or may not be by the number of downloads or views of files. When you upload an image, it is on your website and that’s it and you are missing out on data you could be getting, such as how many times the image is clicked, downloaded, shared, etc. With a CDN, you can collect this data and use it for the greater good of your website.
While every CDN is different on the amount of data they reveal to you, find the data you are comfortable with and stick with that CDN host. Search around and compare before considering a CDN company. Some things to consider: Is integration with your website easy and can you afford it? If you are looking for free, you do have WordPress Photon, but the files are still stored on your own server. When a file gets renamed or deleted, the Photon version is no longer available. It is still best to get those files on another server, a more permanent solution.
2. Backup and Security
Are you sure your files are safe? What if you do not want people to access them? What if they get into your website and gain access to your files? What if you accidentally delete a file? What if you get hacked? Are your files backed up somewhere? Do you have to back them up manually? What if your website goes down and there are other websites linking to your files?
Most CDNs provide a firewall for your files so they are well protected on the server and make daily backups of all of your data, as CDNs are dedicated to ensuring your data is always available. Not only do they backup everything, but they are constantly updating their servers and making sure that hackers are not trying to tamper with your data.
If your website ever crashes or goes down, you probably won’t have to worry too much about restoring your files, just the web pages that reference those files. It will certainly save a lot of time and headache and you can be confident enough that instead of taking hours to restore your website, it can be restored in mere minutes.
3. Reliability and Speed
Almost all CDNs guarantee an uptime of 100% and most are accurate in doing so. With technology today, companies are getting smarter, using more efficient means to store your data, and have applications to make multiple storage spots of your data available, so that if one area goes down or is lost, it can be quickly retrieved from a backup server.
When it comes to speed, most people are impatient and don’t want to wait, and they are allowed to feel that way. When your files are stored around the world on several servers, and someone from around the world requests that file, they should be able to access it from a location that is closer to them, not around the world. The faster, the better.
Data is becoming more and more sensitive and the loss of data or downtime of data is unacceptable. Both instances will result in lost customers and a loss of trust in website and product. With data being accessible 24/7, it must be available 24/7. Having a CDN will ensure that your data is always available to your visitors.
If you are in need of hosting and a CDN, consider DreamHost and DreamSpeed CDN for your website needs. Everything is taken care of for you and is easy to setup and implement. If you are using WordPress, download the DreamSpeed CDN plugin and get started immediately uploading your files to a CDN. You will see results immediately of faster loading assets.
Whether you are on a Shared Server or a VPS, a CDN makes sense because it takes care of the most important things: backup, reliability, security, and speed. With a CDN, you do not have to worry about your data getting lost or your website going down because it is using too many resources or cannot handle the load on the server. With that peace of mind, isn’t it worth investing in a CDN?
Image Sources: Google