WordPress hosting; time to add a CDN?

In this post I discuss the basics of content distribution networks and how they can be used with your WordPress hosting to vastly improve performance. Clients using our managed WordPress hosting can now benefit from CDN technology.

WordPress Performance

Here at the DMA we host and manage a lot of WordPress websites. At last count our infrastructure serves up over 1 million page views a week.

As with many things in life there is a bit of the 80 / 20 % rule in play here; in this case about 20% of client sites represent 80% of the load on our hosting – in terms of bandwidth used and pages served.

Our WordPress hosting offering has evolved over the years to keep up with the demand but also to introduce new technologies to support the growth and keep serving up web pages as quickly and efficiently as we can.

During the later part of 2014 we were testing and working with a number of providers to provide CDN capabilities for our WordPress hosting – now it’s ready for prime time!

What is a CDN?

It’s another techie acronym! It stands for Content Distribution Network.

A CDN can do a few different things, primarily they are put into place to speed up the delivery of a webpage to an end user. There’s no denying that there are many benefits to having your WordPress website load quickly.

I’m going to expand on this below but in short: a CDN will serve your website not just from one web server but from multiple servers that are located in different parts of the world.

Serving data from a location that is geographically closer to the web visitor and spreading the load over more than one server are two key principles of CDN technology.

Achieving truly quick page delivery is more than just a CDN alone. You also need to ensure that as much of the page as possible gets cached by a visitor’s web browser as well as even more technical things like ensuring that the TTL (time to live) of your website’s DNS records are set to lower response times for most users.

How does it compare with a normal hosting setup?

A standard setup for a WordPress site is to have a web server and a database server setup to run the core WordPress installation. When you add or update pages or posts in WordPress this data is stored in the backend database. A user visiting your site requires WordPress to get this data out of the same database, collect together other resources (think images / style sheets and HTML code) and serve all of this up to a user’s web browser.

That’s the easy bit.

What is more complex is the process of making all of the above work as fast as possible.

Installing and configuring a CDN results in key assets (eg. images you upload to the media library for example) being automatically pushed to a number of other servers around the globe. Then when a visitor requests one of your pages, based on their location and even their device (eg desktop computer or smartphone) the closest server is selected to deliver the content to the user.

And all of this has to happen in that moment between them clicking on a link to visit your page and the page being delivered. We’re working in milliseconds here.

When is a CDN of most benefit?

It’s true that not every WordPress site requires the use of a CDN. There are three tipping points where using a CDN will have the biggest impact.

  1. the site has an audience in multiple locations or even a worldwide audience
  2. the site is media heavy, lots of images that need to be served
  3. the site has undergone some SEO work and to get even more search traffic page load times need to be reduced

How to get started with a CDN

As I mentioned in the first part of this post, we’ve been researching and testing a number of solutions during the first part of this year. We have settled on a rock solid solution that we’ve started to offer to clients hosting in our WordPress managed hosting setup.

If the three benefits listed above makes you think “this is me” then it’s time to have a conversation with us about your WordPress site.

Want to see all of this in action?

Well click around our website, right here. You’ll find that the first page you load is definitely quick but even more importantly each subsequent page load is ever faster before of the setup of caching and a CDN in use.

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