Got an eCommerce store you’re looking to scale?

Perhaps you’re either anticipating a huge surge of traffic soon, or you’re already experiencing a heady amount of international traffic.

Either way, if you run a global eCommerce store that’s taking off, it’s important to get serious about providing your website visitors with a great user experience. 

It’s a no-brainer. Any eCommerce digital marketing strategy requires a multichannel approach, finding the right balance of channels for your customers: 

  • SEO 
  • affiliate marketing 
  • performance marketing (e.g. Facebook and Instagram adverts 
  • Google Adwords and email marketing) 
  • Amazon sales and Google Shopping 

But, if you don’t provide a great user experience then your digital strategy will flounder on the rocks of poor conversion. CDNs are not just about SEO. 

Those stunning product videos you retargeted to Facebook, may look great and have a sky-high CTR, but if your site loads slowly, that Facebook video budget has still been squandered.

Why? The faster your online store loads, the lower your bounce rate will be—and you’ll keep customers browsing your store for longer.

One of the best ways to deliver a fast-loading website is via a CDN (Content Delivery Network).

In this article, we’ll be explaining exactly what a CDN is (you’ve probably heard of the term before), how it works, and how it can benefit your eCommerce store. 

Let’s dive in.

What is a Content Delivery Network

What is a CDN (Content Delivery Network?)

A Content Delivery Network is a group of geographically distributed and interconnected servers and their data centers. 

They are strategically placed across the globe and transmit web pages using the closest server to a user’s geographical location.

The purpose is to reduce response times for requests and deal with large bulks of traffic that could otherwise hamper the performance of a website, resulting in possible downtime and poor UX. 

A CDN isn’t the same as web hosting and it doesn’t host content. Instead, it helps cache content, thus boosting website performance. This is especially helpful for online stores that have found that their performance needs aren’t being met by a traditional hosting service. 

How Does a CDN Work

How Does a CDN Work? 

Content Delivery Networks boost efficiency by storing cached versions of an eCommerce store’s content on numerous servers in different locations.

These locations are otherwise referred to as PoP (Points of Presence). A PoP contains multiple caching servers that are each in charge of delivering cached content to your site visitors/customers within their geographic location.

Essentially, you can look at a Content Delivery Network as being like an extended hosting service that goes the extra mile by putting your website in numerous different locations all at the same time. 

The end result is that your customers—no matter where they’re located—get to experience the same fast-loading times as customers located on the other side of the world to them. 

No longer is there a need for hosting signals to traverse vast distances around the globe. 

What are the Benefits of Using a CDN

What are the Benefits of Using a CDN? 

More and more online stores are utilizing CDNs to assist with their operations. 

But why are merchants using them, and why should you consider using a CDN, too? 

Faster Load Times 

Research has shown that 70% of online shoppers claim that page speed dictates whether or not they want to buy from an online store.

If your page takes too long to load, customers will either bail out there and then, or their first impression can be so negative that they may no longer trust that your store is a safe place for them to purchase products from. 

Likewise, the first 5 seconds of page load time have the biggest impact on your conversion rates. 

Secure Online Store with a CDNs

Your Online Store Will Be More Secure 

If there’s something else a customer wants from an online store, it’s watertight security.

Naturally, spam, hackers, and malware are lurking everywhere on the internet—and they want your customers’ details.

And while your primary host should come with security measures that help to thwart most attacks, a CDN puts a moat around your host so that malicious traffic will usually be stopped before it even reaches your host. 

Less Downtime 

There are a lot of things that can kill conversions, and one of the biggest is downtime. 

If your website is experiencing too much downtime, your customers will head elsewhere. 

Downtime often occurs as a result of spikes in traffic. When we experience a spike in traffic, we typically need to add more servers in order to cope. Naturally, this requires more resources as costs rise when we attract more customers. 

The problem is that many of us are still relying on a single server when we use traditional hosting. And when it can’t cope with an increase in traffic, our website goes down—and we lose potential customers. 

A CDN gets around this issue by spreading the amount of traffic to different servers. 

You’ll Consume Less Bandwidth

When you consume less bandwidth, you spend less money on bandwidth consumption. 

This is a good thing, and a CDN helps by storing copies of content nearer to the end-user. This means you don’t need to be at the mercy of web hosts who are charging you for data that’s transferred from your origin server. 

Disadvantages of a CDN

Disadvantages of a CDN

We’ve looked at a few reasons why you might get a CDN.

But are there any reasons why an eCommerce store might not use a CDN? 

For the sake of balance, let’s see why CDNs can sometimes be a disadvantage to eCommerce stores. 

Servers Located in the Wrong Place

As we’ve seen, a CDN boosts the performance of your website via a geographically distributed architecture.

In other words, person A in X part of the world benefits from the same web performance as person B in Y part of the world. 

However, this only works in theory if the location of your servers corresponds with that of your customers. If it doesn’t, a CDN is hardly likely to benefit you that much—or certainly not as much as it could. 

CDNs could lead to Lack of Customer Support

Lack of Customer Support 

When something goes wrong with your web hosting, you can usually contact customer support (especially if you have a premium plan) and fix the issue ASAP.

With a CDN, things are a tad more complicated, due to the fact that it involves third-party infrastructures. 

Not just this, but because the serving path is so complex, diagnosing a problem will take some time, especially if the issue is region-specific. Might the problem involve an edge server and the users… or might it lie with just the edge server? 

Resolving issues requires lots of communication, and can be time-consuming. 

You Might Not Find a CDN That Suits Your Needs

There isn’t just one single CDN provider—there are many. Some eCommerce platforms even come equipped with CDNs, like BigCommerce.

And it might be the case that you use one that just doesn’t deliver the goods. 

The issue is that pretty much anyone can put together a CDN infrastructure, and there are indeed lots of CDNs on the market, with many more being introduced all the time. And when a CDN vendor doesn’t understand what a CDN can truly do, the client suffers. 

A good CDN vendor will understand that CDNs are much more than their number of PoPs. They should also come with innovative and intelligent solutions and features that enhance website performance.

Factors To Consider When Buying a CDN

Factors To Consider When Buying a CDN

If you’ve decided that a CDN might be for you, it’s really important that you find one that actually fulfills your needs. 

Let’s take a look at some of the things you need to consider before you purchase a CDN. 

Find a CDN That Works in Your Geographic Locations 

Ecommerce stores that sell worldwide need to find CDNs that deliver content in the countries where their customers are located.

There are two things you need to do here. First, dive into your analytics to find out where most of your customers are located. 

Then, find CDNs that have PoPs in your main geographic locations, whether that be the US, France, China, India, and so on. 

Not just that, but the PoPs must have enough capacity that allows them to deliver content to your users super fast. It helps a lot if a CDN has a connection with regional networks and local ISPs. 

Speed

Speed is crucial when it comes to CDNs. 

As we’ve seen, the whole purpose of a CDN is to ensure that your web pages load faster. 

Therefore, when weighing up which CDN to buy, you need to consider response time, latency, and throughput, the latter referring to how consistently fast a CDN is able to deliver content. 

It helps if a CDN has multiple PoPS. More servers in various locations around the globe = faster delivery of content. 

Security 

A CDN needs to protect your content. Otherwise, you’re at risk of losing compromising not just your data, but also your customer’s data. 

A good CDN must offer encryption and it must be able to handle DDoS attacks, which are the most common attacks that cloud solutions experience. 

It’s also beneficial if a CDN is compliant with your content. 

Understand Your Requirements 

One of the fundamental questions you need to ask yourself is, “what are my requirements?”

In other words, how much traffic are you expecting? Where is your traffic coming from? What budget do you have? And—most importantly—what do you need a CDN for first and foremost? 

As we outlined above, there are different CDNs that fulfill different needs. Some are adept at delivering content, others are created for security purposes. Understanding your needs will help you find a CDN that’s perfect for you. 

FAQs about CDNs

FAQs for CDNs

We’ve already seen that a CDN is a network of servers located in different parts of the world that together deliver web content to your customers wherever they are. They boost page load time and overall website performance. 

We’re going to end this article with a few common questions related to CDNs to help deepen your knowledge of them some more so that you can decide whether or not a CDN is really the right thing for you. 

Are CDNs Compatible With Mobile Devices?

Yes, a CDN will work on a mobile device and a desktop computer.

Do CDNs Host Websites? 

No, CDNs are not the same thing as a website host. Instead, they’re designed to aid the performance of your website, improving content delivery speed, downtime and boosting security. 

Do CDNs Really Increase the Speed of my Website? 

CDNs increase the speed of your website by distributing and storing content such as text and images, allowing for quicker access. 

CDNs also minimize bandwidth because, instead of delivering content from a single server, they deliver it from various locations.

Lastly, if there’s a traffic spike that would typically slow down your website’s performance, CDNs come in to save the day. 

Are CDNs Safe?

As we mentioned earlier, whenever you’re shopping around for a CDN it’s important to look for things like encryption and other safety measures. 

Encryption ensures that your data is encrypted, and this protects both your online store and your customers’ personal details.

You should also check for DDoS mitigation, as this will further bolster your CDNs security. 

And as long as you purchase from a reputable company, CDNs are 100% safe to use. 

Conclusion 

CDNs can handle large amounts of traffic, as well as ensure that all your customers, no matter where they’re located, experience the same high level of website performance. 

This is why—if you want to keep providing an excellent customer experience to your site visitors wherever they are, CDNs can be solid investments. Likewise, it may be worthwhile to dedicate some of your funding to finding the right CDN or apply for a start-up loan to make sure your business is prepared.

Hopefully, this guide to CDNs has helped to clear away a bit of the fog so that you’re now in a better position to understand what a CDN is and does, how a CDN might benefit you, as well as what to look for in CDNs so that you invest in one that’s right for you.