Speed and reliability are undeniable priorities for any website: 47% of customers expect online stores to load in less than two seconds, and a one-second delay in load time reduces page views by 11%. And with search engines increasingly prioritizing loading times, maximizing your site’s speed is becoming crucial for SEO too. This has a real impact on your business!
While there are a variety of ways to improve website speed, a content delivery network (CDN) should be one of your first considerations.
On most hosts, site content is served to all your users, wherever they are in the world, from a single location. In contrast, a CDN is a network of servers strategically distributed around the world. It takes the strain off of your server by downloading assets — images, videos, and CSS — from your website and serving them through its own network.
The result? High uptime, media optimization, and faster delivery of assets. If your usual hosting company’s server is in San Francisco and a user visits your site in London, a CDN would load your website from the closest server (which may well be in London itself) rather than all the way from San Francisco.
Who needs a content delivery network?
According to Yahoo’s best practices for speeding up your website:
“The user’s proximity to your web server has an impact on response times. Deploying your content across multiple, geographically-dispersed servers will make your pages load faster from the user’s perspective.”
Given that, CDNs are a great choice if…
1. You have a WordPress website with a global audience
Most of your traffic might come from the USA, so it makes sense to host your website there. But if a good portion of traffic comes from Europe, Asia, or Oceania, a WordPress CDN would improve load times by serving website assets like images from a server geographically close to each individual user — so every visitor gets a great (and fast!) experience, no matter where they are.
2. You have lots of images, graphics, and other static files
Jetpack offers effective ways to optimize your website, but the CDN might just be the star of the show.
Not only does it improve load times by serving assets from distributed CDN servers, but it also automatically resizes images for mobile devices. Phones and tablets are prone to poor or unreliable internet connections, so fast-loading, optimized images are critical for a good user experience.
Jetpack also includes lazy loading, which only loads images that are on the screen and loads other images as you go scrolling down the page. This can drastically decrease initial page load times.
3. You need to prepare for sudden traffic spikes
It’s every company’s dream — you land an interview on a major television network, a top celebrity tweets about you, or the video you created goes viral. But if your site can’t handle the sudden influx of traffic, you might end up with high latency, and it may load slowly or crash altogether, turning off potential new fans or costing you sales.
Your site might also see a sudden traffic spike because of more nefarious reasons: DDoS attacks. This is when a coordinated network of bots bombards a server with a very high number of requests all at once. Small businesses reliant on ecommerce income are particularly susceptible to lost traffic in this way, as individual customers turning away from a temporarily broken website can harm your bottom line far more significantly than it would that of a well-established company. Content Delivery Networks, therefore, act as a type of DDoS protection and are therefore a key part of any good site’s security features.
A CDN helps you prepare because of the way it distributes assets: CDNs balance site requests across their entire distributed network of servers. This allows you to accommodate more site visitors at one time by spreading them out across multiple locations.
Should I set up my own CDN?
There are many CDN providers, all with different costs, features, and setup procedures, most of which require technical knowledge and close attention to complex step-by-step tutorials. Missing a step can cause critical problems with your site’s functionality, so it’s very important you know what you’re doing. Set up typically includes the following:
1. Sign up for a CDN service. There are many options. Amazon Cloudfront, KeyCDN, and MaxCDN are some of the most common.
2. Create a pull zone. To create a pull zone, you need to give the zone a name and then set a URL that the CDN should “pull” content from. You typically don’t need any FTP (file transfer protocol) details but, instead, should use the URL of your website. Pull zones may also have more advanced options, such as enabling an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.
3. Optionally, create a push zone. It’s unusual to have any images, CSS, or JS files that are above 100 MB, but if you have videos that need to be delivered via a CDN, then a push zone may be necessary. To push files, you will usually need to use a third-party client.
4. Optionally, create a custom URL for your CDN. CDNs will often provide a URL for you (e.g., user54334.thecdn.com/yourasset.css), but most people would prefer this to be a subdomain. In this scenario, you would need to edit your DNS settings and create a CNAME that points from your chosen subdomain to the CDN-generated domain.
5. Test your new URL. To test, simply take the web address of a known asset (e.g., yourjetpack.blog/picture.jpg) and replace it with the CDN URL (e.g., cdn.yourjetpack.blog/picture.jpg). If it loads, then your URL is working properly.
6. Redirect your assets. At this stage, your website is still pointing to non-CDN URLs. You’ll need to find all of your non-CDN URLs and replace them with CDN URLs.
7. Remember caching. Remember that your CDN caches your website assets, so if you make any changes, they may not be reflected on your site immediately. For changes to appear, you’ll need to log into your CDN and clear the cache.
How much does a CDN cost?
Costs vary from provider to provider, but typically CDNs charge per gigabyte of data transfer, with different pricing per region (e.g., Asia may cost more than North America). Most also have a small, minimum monthly charge. There are a few CDN providers with a free tier, Cloudflare CDN being a popular choice.
The easier, cheaper option
Jetpack is a WordPress plugin that offers a free content delivery network that simplifies the process. You’ll benefit from optimized delivery of photos and static files, but won’t need to worry about creating push and pull zones, redirecting assets, or any of the other technical steps required to set up most other CDNs.
And even though Jetpack CDN is free, its features surpass many paid competitors and can be up and running right away.
You can install Jetpack in minutes and enable the content delivery network in a few clicks — no coding knowledge or complicated setup required!
Built on an industry-leading platform
Jetpack delivers content from high-speed, dedicated data centers; the very same network that powers thousands of the best WordPress.com sites and is trusted by millions of WordPress users.
Reduces hosting fees
This reduces bandwidth, which saves you money since many web hosts charge based on the amount of data transferred. And since Jetpack’s CDN feature is free, more money stays in your bank account.
Free doesn’t mean limited
There’s virtually no limit to the number of files you can serve with Jetpack. Whether your site has five pages or five thousand, ten images or ten thousand, Jetpack has you covered.
Created for WordPress
Instead of needing to configure a third-party CDN to work with your WordPress site, Jetpack was designed specifically for WordPress. You don’t have to guess which settings are best for your exact scenario — Jetpack takes care of that for you, whatever WordPress themes or plugins you’re using.
Jetpack CDN has been around since Jetpack 2.0 (released in 2012!), when it was called Photon. It’s time-tested and proven to effectively speed up your site.
Setting up Jetpack CDN
If you’re already using Jetpack for automated, real-time backups, brute force protection, or some of the other available features, you’re just a few clicks away from using the best CDN available today. If not, start by:
- Logging into your WordPress dashboard.
- Navigating to the plugins menu.
- Searching for Jetpack.
- Clicking Install Now → Activate.
After installing Jetpack, it will prompt you to sign into a WordPress.com account or register a new one. Once you’ve done so, take the following steps:
- Navigate to Jetpack in your WordPress dashboard menu.
- Click the Performance tab.
- Choose Enable Site Accelerator.
Note: This will take a few seconds to load, after which your site will start to serve images and other static files, such as CSS and JS, from the global CDN.
And that’s it! There’s no cost, no hard setup, and no risk of downtime; just accelerated assets loaded from a global CDN. Jetpack’s CDN also:
- Automatically links to CDN URLs. No need for complex rewrites; Jetpack does all of that for you.
- Fetches images and resizes them appropriately. This is a quick way to reduce the size and load time of a website.
If you’re hosting video content, a Jetpack Premium account might be a good option, with its unlimited video hosting feature. When using this, all of your videos will be on the same global network as your other assets.
Improve site speed with Jetpack CDN
If your site loads slowly, has a global audience, or anticipates traffic spikes, Jetpack CDN could make all the difference. Install Jetpack and follow the helpful getting started guide to have it set up in minutes!
Since the CDN is completely free, you have nothing to lose, and you’ll benefit from Jetpack’s many other security, speed, and performance benefits.
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