8 Reasons Why You Should Use a CDN to Boost and Protect Your Business Website
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Last week I visited a website that didn’t just look like a rancid stew made with a hodge podge of rotten ingredients, but whose content also drip-loaded like one – in 22 seconds.
That led me to write today’s article – 8 Reasons Why You Should Use a CDN to Boost and Protect Your Business Website – in the hopes that it might inspire and motivate website owners like yourself to take positive action in creating better user experiences.
What is a CDN?
A content delivery network (CDN), also known as a content distribution network, is a networked collection of servers strategically placed globally to enable the most efficient delivery of content. A CDN leverages a set of geographically distributed points of presence (POPs) to improve security and content loading speed, creating a better user experience.
How do CDNs work?
CDNs work mainly in two ways – statically and dynamically.
The most basic and widely known method of static content delivery is by means of serving cached content from POPs. This is where a website’s static content, such as images, CSS, JS and other files, are copied and stored on CDN servers for delivery to the end-user based on their geographic location.
Dynamic site acceleration is a more complex setup involving a set of technologies which make the delivery of dynamic web content more efficient. Websites which serve content that change with user requests, such as membership or e-commerce websites, SaaS portals and video streaming platforms require a more sophisticated approach to content caching and to connections with the origin server.
Some of the methods employed in dynamic site acceleration include:
dynamic cache control,
pre-fetching of resources and uncacheable web responses, and
improved connection management – TCP multiplexing, route optimisation, HTTP keep-alive, etc.
Who should use a CDN?
With the globalisation of service and product provision especially over the last few years, CDNs have played a massive role in keeping business websites online and available. Because CDNs have grown in leaps and bounds with many providing multiple POPs within larger countries, even “local” businesses have much to gain from using a CDN.
The following are some examples of industries where CDNs are widely utilised.
E-commerce platforms with a national and/or international customer base.
Businesses in the hospitality industry such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.
Media websites such as digital publishers with large readerships.
Entertainment websites such as video-streaming platforms which serve content in real-time.
Online gaming and social media websites with high traffic volumes and feature rich multimedia content.
Public organisations such as those in healthcare, higher education and government.
Financial services providers such as stock market and cryptocurrency platforms, banks and digital money services.
8 Reasons Why You Should Use a CDN to Protect Your Business Website
Security. The benefit of utmost importance, CDNs add extra layers of security to protect your website from various cybersecurity threats.
DDoS and DoS attacks: vast volumes of network traffic are blocked from overwhelming a website by the distribution of the traffic through various POPs, mitigating traffic spikes which can overload the origin server (or website host). CDN-level reCAPTCHA is another method of preventing malicious actors from hitting your website application at Layer-7 (also called the Application Layer).
Web Application Firewall (WAF): WAF offers shield-like protection from threats like cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injections by scanning all through-traffic and blocking suspicious threats from ever reaching your website with intelligent botnet detection.
WordPress Brute Force Protection: CDN providers who offer WordPress-specific protection (like QUIC.Cloud) have features to prevent brute-force hacking of WordPress XML-RPC (which allows your website to receive trackbacks and pingbacks) by blocking browser XML-RPC or by IP.
Other WordPress-Specific CDN Protection: QUIC.Cloud natively includes additional CDN-level WordPress security features such as blocking:
malicious bots from accessing the WP users API endpoint for hacking purposes,
WP-API embed which prevents your website from being embedded elsewhere,
WLWManifest to prevent bots from detecting that your website is running on WordPress, and
Author Scanning to prevent bots from learning administrative usernames for hacking purposes.
Hide IP: Having a CDN hides the IP address of your web host or server by placing the IP address of the CDN between your website and the user, thereby mitigating direct server attacks.
Server Resources. All web hosts enforce one or more combinations of bandwidth, CPU and memory (RAM) limits on their web hosting plans which reflect the operational costs of running their servers – attributed to data which is transferred to and from their servers. CDNs help with reducing these costs to the customer by caching content and serving website visitors with the cached content, saving trips to the origin server. This proves to be especially useful at times of peak traffic loads such as during holiday and sale seasons. CDN providers also offer built-in hotlink protection which prevents the embedding of your website content (including images) on other websites that then use your bandwidth to serve the files.
Availability and Redundancy. Hardware failures, network congestion and cybersecurity threats are not uncommon these days. CDNs provide website content redundancy by availing cached content in an “always on” mode. This means that even if the server your website is hosted on is down or overloaded, your CDN kicks in to serve available cached content from any one of its POPs.
Reliability. CDN providers load balance internet traffic within data centers by distributing incoming requests, use intelligent failover to prevent traffic loss in case of a server going down and maintain servers across a vast number of data centers located all over the world. This offers resilience against interruption to serving your cached content.
Dynamic Caching. Complete caching is the caching of an entire website – both static and dynamic content. True dynamic caching of content ensures that your dynamically cached content remains accurate while being served directly from the CDN. While some CDN providers (like Cloudflare) claim to offer “dynamic caching”, what is really happening in the back-end is the CDN provider is retrieving all requests for dynamic content from your server rather than serving a cached copy themselves. True dynamic caching at the CDN-level such as with what QUIC.Cloud offers, where dynamically cached content is served by the CDN provider themselves.
Improved PageSpeed and Performance Scores. Using a CDN like QUIC.Cloud that intelligently caches an entire website (all static and full page dynamic content) improves Time to First Byte (TTFB), First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) measurements.
Improved User Experience. QUIC.Cloud is the only CDN that offers CDN-level cache for logged-in users. Custom caching for logged-in users naturally improves a user’s experience by serving content specific to that user. CDNs in general also improve user experience by reducing the delay in communication between a user’s browser and the server from which content is served.
User Analytics. CDNs offer a major side benefit that is often missed, i.e. visitor analytics which offer statistics and insights into real-time load, resource intensive content, visitor geographical distribution and device usage. Savvy businesses use this data to visualise trends and patterns to further optimise their websites, thereby improving user experience which ultimately lead to increased conversions.