A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is kind of like the extra icing that makes your cake oh so sweeter! It’s the go-to tool for taking your website to the next level.
It’s a performance optimization tool that saves server resources, allows you to handle web traffic efficiently, and gives your website an extra layer of security.
An industry-recognized tool, CDN’s are recommended by both search engines and website-performance optimization tools like GTMetrix and Google PageSpeed Insights.
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Speaking of GTMetrix, you can actually get a good score even without a CDN. We’ve personally seen straight A’s all across the board without it.
This can prompt one to ask, is a CDN really needed? If so, which one’s the best for WordPress?
This guide on WordPress CDN’s is aimed at answering these questions. But before we begin, let’s lay down some groundwork.
What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?
Allow us to add a few lines to confuse you:
“A CDN is a network of interconnected servers used to cache and deliver data from a website to the end-user. The delivery of the cached data is based on the geolocation data of the user.”
It isn’t very clear, we know. Let’s break down the workflow a bit, shall we?
- A user accesses your website.
- The content is delivered to the user through a web host (i.e., WPEngine or Pantheon).
- Your web server is located in, let’s say the US, while the user is accessing the site from the UAE.
Even while transferring data, distance matters a lot. You’re transferring over 7000 miles (12000 km), cutting through an entire continent to deliver it to the end-user.
At such distances, data is bound to get delivered at a slower rate than usual to the end-user. If you have CDN, you could deliver a cached version of your content from the closest server. Now, let’s take a look at the flow with the CDN:
- A user accesses your website.
- The content is delivered from a web host in the United States but is cached in a CDN server located in Greece, for example.
- The content files aren’t transferred directly from the US but from Greece, making the web page load without taking up too many server resources.
If you’re accessing the site from, let’s say, Singapore, then the content will be fetched from a CDN server closest to that location. How? Because it’s a network of clustered servers spread out across the world.
The ultimate goal? Reduce distances and enable faster content delivery to the user without the extra internet hops.
Benefits of Using a CDN for WordPress
In the previous section, we talked about CDN’s being distributed across the world. A cluster of servers, CDN’s provide WordPress users a variety of performance-based benefits:
- Allows you to handle large amounts of traffic effectively.
- Keeps a static copy of your website, making changes as you update your website’s content.
- Users can access your website regardless of their geographical location.
- Reduces extra burden on your hosting server.
- With a quick loading website, you can gain more traffic, and thus, better viewership and sales.
- CDN providers add value to their services by offering protection against malicious hackers and bot filtering mechanisms through a firewall.
These services are designed to make the WordPress experience better for both the end-user and the website owner. Now comes the question; do you badly need it for your website? The simple answer is that it depends.
Let’s take a deeper look at this statement:
Cases When You Don’t Need a CDN
It turns out; you don’t always need a Content Delivery Network. As discussed in the introduction, you can get good performance rankings even without it.
This makes the CDN selection process one that requires significant foresight. To elaborate, you need to focus on your requirements before you purchase it. Let’s look at some scenarios now:
Scenario 1: Single-Tier Targeting
If you want to target an audience in a specific region, you can use a geolocated hosting service instead of a CDN.
For example, if you’re targeting an audience in South Korea, you can opt for hosting over there instead of your home country.
Scenario 2: Traffic Filtration
If you’re looking to avoid malicious robots and web traffic on your site, you don’t need a CDN. Yes, while it does protect against it, you can also integrate a dedicated security system like WordFence.
Using a CDN with just the intended goal of traffic filtration isn’t intuitive. Of course, when you actually need a CDN to improve performance, having a CDN can prove to be a serious complement to your security solution.
Scenario 3: Hosting Services That Also Provide CDN’s
In some cases, you don’t have to go out and purchase a CDN. You’ve already purchased it; you just don’t know it.
Several hosting providers offer CDN as an add-on to their hosting packages. If you think your package included a CDN, ask your hosting provider for more information on integrating it.
Besides these factors, you also have monetary constraints. Combine all these factors, and you don’t need a CDN service.
Picking the Best CDN For Your WordPress Site
There are plenty of WordPress CDN’s available on the market today. Each one is powerful in its own right when it comes to features and functionalities. But the question is, which one should you opt for?
The following are some of the most popular CDN’s available in the market:
- Amazon CloudFront
If you’re running a high-end WordPress website, you can shortlist any one of these services. All in all, they can prove highly effective in giving your site superior performance.
But what if you don’t have a high-end website but rather a simple blog?
In that scenario, you can try a service like Jetpack. It’s not a CDN per se, but it performs similar functionalities just limited to images and other media content. It improves your website’s performance by serving content quickly and efficiently.
We’ll conclude this article with a question; what if you don’t want to purchase a CDN for your website?
Though mentioned before, if you just want the basic functionalities, you can use services like Jetpack. There are plenty of free CDN’s available online that you can use as well.
Lastly, you should also confirm whether your web host has already provided you with a CDN or not. This will help you avoid the entire hassle of going out and purchasing a CDN service.