Latency is defined as the time it takes to receive content on your browser once a request to the server has been sent. This isn’t the same as bandwidth, though. You might see bandwidth in terms of Mbps or Kbps or Gbps, but the fact is that bandwidth doesn’t really measure speed.
Think of it this way: Bandwidth refers to how big the width of the pipe is. Latency, on the other hand, is how fast content can move within this pipe. Bandwidth is measured in Mbps, whereas latency is measured in seconds.
So, how does latency affect a website?
Lower the latency time, the faster the website is. You’ll have had this experience: You open a website; nothing happens for a while. Then you see a logo, and then a few panels. Nothing happens for a while. Eventually, if you haven’t closed the website out of sheer frustration, you’ll see some content.
That is latency at work.
There are several reasons that lead to high latency. It could be that a website isn’t optimised, or the home page might have way too much media content that simply takes time to load, or it might be a thousand other things.
However, one of the most important reasons for latency is the geographical distance. So, let’s say that the server for your website is in Mumbai. Your website will load faster in Delhi than it will, in say, San Francisco.
Content takes time to move from one part of the world to another. And the time it takes isn’t really negligible.
This is the problem that Content Delivery Networks or CDNs solve.
What is a Content Delivery Network?
Think of famous video content websites. YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime — they all have a Content Delivery Network (CDN). And so do many other websites.
So, what does a CDN do?
In essence, a CDN is a method of delivering content to the customers using a collection of caching servers all around the world.
How does a CDN work?
The heart of any CDN network is the collection of servers that are placed across the globe. These servers are called PoPs (Points of Presence), and they are basically caching servers.
A caching server has a few important tasks.
One, it holds a cached copy of the website. Second, based on the geographical source of the request, it communicates with the browsers.
Let’s take an example and see how all of this comes together.
For our example, we’ll consider that our CDN has 10 caching servers around the globe. The main server is in Mumbai. The caching servers are in the US, South America, China, and so on.
Now, if a user accesses the website from Delhi, the main server will cater to that request. However, if a request comes in from San Francisco, the Delhi server doesn’t bother with that request.
A caching server of the website in say, Arizona gets that request and dispatches relevant content to the browser directly, given that it’s closer to the viewer. This way, the content reaches faster.
Do I Need a CDN?
So let us understand who needs a CDN and who doesn’t. Let’s tackle the latter group first.
If you’re a new website with not much audience, you don’t really need a CDN. Also, if the content of your website is specific to a single geographical area, you don’t need a CDN.
If your website is still slow, the problem is something else and having a CDN won’t help you.
CDNs are for websites that cater to a global audience. If your viewers are from all around the globe and a sizable chunk of them are quite far away from where your server is, then a CDN is exactly what you’re looking for.
Benefits of a CDN
Apart from blazing fast speeds, there are other benefits of having a CDN too.
There’s no need to overstate the importance of having great uptimes. When you have only one server, and it fails, your website is down too. There’s no other way around it.
However, if you have a CDN, what you have is a collection of servers that all have a copy of your website. So, when one fails, the rest of the servers pick up the slack. Thus, CDN improves your uptimes and adds to the reliability of your website.
Loading speed is officially recognised as a factor for SEO and SERP ratings – Google has been more than forthcoming with that fact. They want to show faster websites before the slower ones.
CDN improves your website speed, thereby helping you climb up the SEO ladder.
- User experience:
This isn’t a tangible advantage, to be honest. But it’s an obvious one. We live in times where people will not wait forever to see a page load. A load time of 2 seconds is average, and 1.5 seconds is above average.
That being the case, it’s crucial that you do everything you can to ensure that your website loads as quickly as possible. CDN helps in improving user experience by ensuring a fast website speed.
Hosting and CDN
Unfortunately, not every hosting company offers CDN services, as of today. More and more hosting companies are adding it to their arsenal, but it isn’t ubiquitous just yet.
However, veterans of the industry have been offering CDNs for a while now, usually coupled with great Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting, Cloud Hosting or Dedicated Hosting services. Yes, there will be a fee to use the service, but if you have a global audience, then a CDN is totally worth it.
It makes your website fast, helps you with SEO, and most important of all, it ensures that your customers have a pleasant stay at your website. And for a website owner, that is what matters.
VPS Hosting plans from HostGator India come pre-bundled with the CloudFlare CDN network. You can avail the CloudFlare CDN plugin with both Plesk and cPanel control panels. Now ensure optimal website performance and fast and consistent experience for all users accessing your website with CloudFlare CDN-enabled VPS Hosting plans!
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