Website performance is crucially important. It affects user experience and the quantity of traffic that you are getting. That is why everyone is in pursuit of methods that improve website performance.
CDN (Content Delivery Network) is an Internet service widely used by many companies. In fact, over 41% of the top 10,000 websites are using a CDN. The reason why CDNs are so popular is that it improves Website Performance across multiple dimensions.
This article written by Aleph Website team, helps you understand how CDNs improve website performance. We also explain what exactly the CDN does, and 5 major ways how it can improve your website performance. Finally, at the end of the article, we recommend the best CDN companies to work with.
CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a group of Web Hosting Servers that are distributed across the world and positioned in various geographical locations for strategic reasons.
A CDN Server can be understood as a set of Proxy (dummy) servers that mimic the original web hosting server.
What Does a CDN (Content Delivery Network) do Exactly?
Using a CDN means that you are hosting your website on multiple proxy servers scattered around the world, rather than using your original single-server setup.
To better understand how the client and server communicate when there is a CDN in between, check out this video done by IBM that explains the inner-workings of CDNs using a concrete example:
Whenever a user requests a web page on the internet, using an HTTPS request, the request goes to the CDN instead of your Source Server. As the CDN is geographically closer to the client requesting the web page, the HTTPS response is delivered faster.
Here we go, 5 major ways CDNs contribute to improved web performance:
1. CDN Increase your loading speed due to Geo-Proximity
The client HTTPS request travels faster to the CDN server. The server HTTPS response also travels back faster using a CDN. This increase in loading speed is due to the GEO-PROXIMITY of the CDN Proxy/Dummy Server.
As you can see from the image above, our website loads fully in under 1.4 seconds! That is an impressive stat right here! This is one of the main reasons why we are using a CDN on our website.
The improved loading speed becomes even more salient when we plug our website into Google Page Speed Insights:
As it turns out, our website fully loads the desktop experience in 1 second. That makes Aleph Website one of the best websites in the world!
2. CDN Purges Cache and minifies your HTML, CSS and JS on A server level
Caching on A CDN Server
Caching is simply organizing your website data in such a way that the most available data is the most requested one. You can cache web pages using your CMS, but also using the Server. In fact, caching is recommended on both Server and Web CMS (content management system).
Caching is very much like putting your work desk to order. Setting the most used items and files right in front of you, while notebooks that you are not using frequently you place behind. Server and CMS caching is exactly that!
CDNs control your caching and can purge the cached files. Purging the cached files will temporarily degrade the web performance. However, it also refreshes the website and starts caching the most recently requested web pages on your domain:
This type of control over your web pages and server files permits even faster interactions and faster HTTPS responses. In addition to that, controlling the caching level allows you to experiment with the most available files to the user. This may trickle down in an improved user experience:
Aleph Website recommends that you start with the Standard Caching level. Then experiment with query string optimizations. The reason why you should start with the standard is that query strings define the HTTPS response – this may or may not affect you – that will depend entirely on the backend of your website.
CDNs often provide you with a report that reveals the rate of caching by analyzing the ratio of Cached vs. Uncached HTTPS requests:
Code minification is frequently used for websites that are built using Website templates and themes. The code written in these themes and templates is auto-generated. For that reason, the code tends to be too long. You may do research using Google PageSpeed Insights to determine whether your codes need to be minified.
Just like caching, Minification is done on both the frontend environment level (the CMS) and the Web Hosting Server (or CDN) where your files are safely stored.
Let’s analyze a real website of one of the most renowned companies in the world:
Mayple is said to be one of the best marketing agencies in the world. However, we diagnosing their website performance it becomes clear that they have many problems – some of which pertaining to code minification:
Let’s take a look at code performance for this website:
To speed up the website, reduce page load time and latency, minification is required. If done properly, it will render the website faster and that will be reported in diagnostics as a performance enhancement.
CDNs permit you to minify the HTML, CSS, and JS code:
3. Firewall Protection against DDOS Attacks & Web Malware
When you use a CDN, you are also adding a layer of protection to your website and domain. This is so because users are not communicating with your actual Hosting Server, but instead with a Proxy/Dummy Server. So, if someone tris to hack your server, they will end up burning in the CDN Firewall:
Generally speaking, the firewall protection provided by the CDN will protect you against all suspicious activities. Let’s examine a few potential threats that the CDN actively deals with:
1. Internet Bots
Internet Bots are robot users that attempt to access your files very frequently. These bots often try to obtain access to your accounts by mimicking your IP address and shuffling a set of passwords until it hits the account access limit. Once the limit is removed, the bots are at it again!
CDNs help you reduce the possibility of a bot accessing your web files:
2. DDoS Attacks
DDOS, or Distributed Denial of Service attack, prevents your clients/users from accessing certain files. DDoS attacks can scrape your website from the frontend – as well simulate real user behavior.
CDNs can prevent DDoS attacks on multiple levels:
CDNs analyze the traffic coming to your website and intercept suspicious activity. CDNs observe the behavioral patterns and identify which HTTPS request is fraud and which is a real user request.
4. CDN grant SSL and HSTS Certificates & Enforce HTTPS Request/Response
End-to-End encryption is one of the core services of CDNs. Web Security is very important as data is shared around and profiles are accessible. In order to make sure that these interactions are monitored and tracked, the Web uses Tokens and Certificates to ensure that connection is safe for both the User/Client and Server/Domain.
1. SSL and TLS Encryption
- SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer
- TLS stands for Transport Layer Security
CDNs provide FUll SSL/TLS encryption by granting connection certification for safe browsing:
2. Enforce HTTPS Request and Response
HTTPS is the modern version of the HTTP protocol. It provides faster and safer communications via browsers. CDNs can enforce HTTPS connectivity on all your web pages:
3. HSTS (Extra protection)
For additional security, HSTS is used. This form of protection allows the request/response to be monitored during the transport phase of communication. CDNs provide HSTS certificates:
5. Image Size Compression (And LAzy Load For Premium Accounts)
Image compression and optimization are usually done from within the CMS (content management system). For example, WordPress offers a wide range of plugins that can bulk-optimize all your images. These plugins are more than sufficient.
CDNs can apply an extra compression to all your image files:
Certain CDNs provide more than Gzip compression, they convert your images to WebP format, which is better suited for the web. On top of that, CDNs can store your image files, so you can reduce the stress on your original Web Hosting Server.
Which CDN should I use for My Website?
There are many reliable companies that provide Content Delivery Networks. In essence, all it takes to provide this service is having a huge number of servers located in many geographical locations around the world. However, we recommend three CDNs over the others. These are:
Aleph Website uses Cloudflare CDN. We have had a great experience and we have seen that all our clients have benefited from hosting their website on Cloudflare CDN.
Learn More about Aleph Website and how we have improved our Web Performance
Aleph Website is a Web Design company in Rochester, NY. We are a diligent team of developers, designers, and SEOs. As part of our Services, we focus on Top-Notch Web Development, coupled with modern Web Design focused on providing the best User Experience, which trickles down into less bounce and more clicks. Our SEO experts focus immensely on increasing the loading speed and ranking for the desired keywords.
Learn more about Aleph Website:
Or check our case studies and the clients we worked with: