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May 21, 2021

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)? CDN Benefits & Features for Ecommerce

While it is always a good thing when your online store is beautiful and feature-rich, ultimately, its goal is to process transactions and earn profit. That’s where CDNs come in.

CDNs help online businesses by improving page speed.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

A CDN is a content delivery network. It’s a feature for the modern web. Most of the content you consume is delivered via a CDN. CDNs distribute the work of delivering content to your web browser. By increasing the number of sources, their closeness, and caching, CDNs make delivering content online more efficient.

How Does a CDN Work? (Example)

So, how does a CDN work? Think about it this way. In a traditional method of content delivery, everything comes from one source. Compare it to a single stream of water. A stream is usually only a certain width. That means that you’re getting water at the rate that the flow can deliver.

If you want to fill up a tub, several factors come into play. If the source is far away from the tub, it could take a long time for the water to begin filling up. 

And since you clear out your tub after every time you use it — like an incognito browser might — you have to repeat the process every time.

And, if you’ve ever filled a pool, you know that a great way to speed up that process is to have several sources of water at once.

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CDNs Make Content Delivery More Efficient

Through optimizations that range from increasing the number of sources, their closeness, and caching content for easy retrieval, CDNs make the process of delivering content online more efficient. 

This is essential to the modern web, which has become dominated by high resolution images and video, streaming audio, and beautiful animations.

Most hosting providers include a CDN in their plans. If that is not the case, a provider like Cloudflare can be helpful.

At Nexcess, we make it easy for you. We know how important page speed is, especially to ecommerce store owners. That’s why with Nexcess, your CDN setup is a toggle away.

3 CDN Benefits You Can Expect

There are a number of CDN benefits — especially for ecommerce site owners. CDNs are an excellent tool for growing revenue and retaining customers. Let’s walk through these content delivery network features and benefits in the context of Managed WooCommerce hosting.

1. CDNs Boost Page Speed & Conversions

CDN is key to page speed, and as we know, page speed is everything right now.

Slow page load times cost merchants money. In fact, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. People don’t like to wait. We are not patient.

By having a fast ecommerce site, you’ll improve your user experience. The longer a potential shopper browses, the more of a chance they’ll add something to the cart, or better yet, they will add multiple things to the cart. 

In this way, page speed is critical for conversions, or sales. 

2. CDNs Can Improve Your Page Ranking

We also have to consider the algorithmic factor. 

CDNs increase site speed, which is key to ranking high on Google. Google likes fast sites. Ranking factors today are all about usability and user-friendliness. 

To Google, slow page load times are considered a signal of poor experiences. If your site is too slow, your ranking will drop on Google. That means you’ll lose potential new customers and site traffic.

3. CDNs Help You Save on Bandwidth Expenses

In most cases, working more efficiently for your store’s visitors also means your technology is working smarter for you. Using a CDN not only improves page speeds, but it also can save you money in other areas.

For example, consider bandwidth costs in relationship to CDNs. 

In the tub analogy, you have to pay for every gallon of water you put through. In this case, CDNs help by adding more sources and managing the fill intelligently. 

You usually have a bandwidth recommendation on your hosting plan, and in the case of some hosts, a cap. By managing the delivery of the content better, your CDN also manages your bandwidth expenses better.

How to Get More Out of Your CDN

Think Differently About Video

With a CDN and bandwidth considerations in mind, there are other content delivery-related items to consider. An important one we see frequently is video. 

Video files are big. On most web hosting plans for your store, they take up a large percentage of storage space and bandwidth. 

While a CDN could deliver your videos, there’s a better way to handle that problem and get a 3 second load time. 

We frequently recommend using a service like YouTube or Vimeo to host and stream your videos to maximize your efforts. For a more professional-looking option without these streaming services’ logos, something like Wistia is an excellent choice.

You Still Have to Optimize Your Images

Before using CDNs on the modern web, we addressed the process that CDNs streamline by manually optimizing images. This is still a good thing to do, although there’s no need to do it manually — lots of tools now optimize images. 

For example, on Managed WooCommerce on Nexcess, we include the Compress JPGs and PNGs plugin. This plugin creates multiple sizes of images from a single upload. It then selects the right size image for the browser. This is another way to make sure your CDN is working smartest for your WooCommerce store. 

On the web today, there are more reasons to have large image file sizes. Consumers have increasingly growing expectations of how they can view and experience potential online purchases. 

Potential buyers expect to be able to zoom in, view products in 360 degrees, and more. Online furniture retailers are enabling augmented reality views of their products.

As expectations continue to rise, it’s important to balance features with site performance. A CDN used intelligently among other page optimization strategies, is a great way to get there.

Bottom Line

CDNs enable fast ecommerce sites, which is crucial to delivering a great user experience. Not only will this improve your Google rankings, but it will also help your site’s traffic and sales.

Nexcess fully managed WooCommerce hosting includes CDNs — because with Nexcess, Better is Built in.

CDNs are built into the Nexcess platform to make it easy for you to improve your site speed. The Nexcess CDNs are:

  • Fast, thanks to advanced caching prioritization.
  • Secured with a wildcard SSL certificate.
  • Scalable to each site, no matter how big or small.

Explore fully managed WooCommerce hosting with Nexcess, or learn more about our built-in CDNs.

This blog was originally published in July 2020. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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