According to an article in Forbes, 47% of users expect a website to load within 2 seconds. 40% of users will leave a website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds. Today’s customers expect their online experiences to be swift, seamless, and secure –regardless of location or time of day.
So, no matter what content you’re serving your audience (text, images, audio files, games, videos, or applications), or which device is being used to consume the content, you need to deliver it rapidly to ensure an engaging user experience. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) were built to address this challenge, and if the speed at which you deliver content to your end users is business-critical (and it should be), then having a CDN in place is no longer an option.
How CDNs work
A web page today is made of several content assets (such as images, videos, scripts, style-sheets, etc.), most of which are static (staying unchanged over a period of time). With a CDN, such static web content can be cached (duplicated and stored) in several caching servers in locations known as points of presence (or POPs) around the world, simultaneously. When users in a specific geography request content, it is retrieved from the caching servers in nearby POPs instead of making requests across the world to the origin server. Essentially, CDNs minimize the distance (or latency) between a user and the content, and improve overall page load times. CDNs offer other benefits as well, including improved traffic management, DDoS attack mitigation, and more.
So how much does a CDN cost?
The answer, like most things in life, depends on a number of things. You can get CDN services for free… or for thousands of dollars a month. The pricing depends on many factors – your geography, bandwidth needs, number of visitors/page views, the number of assets that form your web pages, regions that you operate in, and the features you want.
But there are a number of things you can do to reduce your monthly commit to your CDN provider.
- Cache assets for longer times. Some of the assets that CDNs cache don’t change very often – for example, images and style sheets that are components of a web page. Typically, assets are cached for a fixed time – usually a certain number of minutes (specified in the cache expiry settings). You can change this configuration to cache assets for longer or until they are no longer valid. When you do that, browsers don’t need to fetch from CDNs, and CDNs don’t need to fetch the content from the application backend multiple times till the cache expires. This reduces data transfers and bandwidth consumption overall, and can result in cost savings.
- Optimize images. Images make up a significant portion of a webpage, so image formatting and resizing techniques play a vital role in delivering performance. Delivering a large image on a mobile device, for example, not only increases bandwidth consumption, and thus, CDN costs, but also slows down loading times.
Similarly, using the right image format (one that offers high quality at lower file sizes, like WebP images for example) also helps reduce bandwidth consumption. So, if you optimize image formats and delivery based on device, you consume less bandwidth, reducing your CDN costs, without compromising on quality. You can learn more about that here.
- Optimize web pages. A web page has multiple assets that are needed to complete its structure, and they load in a certain way. Without any kind of web page optimization in place, your CDN might be making multiple round trips to fetch all the assets from the application backend. This can increase page load times.
Even if you’re not on a Webscale plan, you can get access to our content optimization features by using our CloudEDGE CDN product.
- Pay for what you Need. The question to ask yourself is, are you signed up for features that you don’t use? Most CDNs have bundled plans including several features that may not be right for you. Alternatively, CDN vendors may mandate that you buy multiple products to build a solution that’s right for your business. In such cases, re-negotiate your CDN contract and for certain feature sets, explore innovative (and less expensive) solutions from other vendors.
- Pay for what you use. Some CDNs expect you to commit to a monthly bandwidth tier and pay for it all even if you don’t use it completely. Conversely, if you use more than the allocated tier, you pay exorbitant overage charges. You can easily find yourself in a situation where you are either overpaying or always leaving money on the table.
You shouldn’t. Move to a usage-based pricing model, so you pay for exactly what you consume – nothing more, nothing less.
- Avoid premium CDNs. CDNs come in different flavors and at different price points. Unless you have a multimillion-dollar CDN budget, stay away from premium CDNs. Premium CDNs (like Akamai) can charge you up to five times more than others (such as Amazon CloudFront and Google CloudEDGE CDN, for example) for content delivery services and just acceptable levels of site performance. You can also combine basic CDN services from providers like Amazon and Google with Webscale CloudEDGE CDN (including cloud-based load balancers, etc.) and achieve better performance than premium CDNs at a fraction of the cost.
- Cache more assets. If you’re in the e-commerce space, most of your web pages are dynamic and personalized to show recommendations, shopping history, items in the shopping cart, etc. based on a user’s shopping behavior. These pages cannot be cached and re-used for other users. Moreover, some premium CDNs charge significantly higher for dynamic content delivery than for caching static content.
For users that are anonymous or not logged in to the e-commerce site, and for bots, these HTML pages can be cached. Technologies like Webscale’s Dynamic Site Cache enable caching of HTML pages and content delivery based on criteria that identify anonymous sessions, such as URL patterns, cookies, origin country, etc. This also results in reduced data transfers, lower bandwidth consumption at the origin server, and cost savings (in addition to improved site performance and end-user experience).
Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out this form if you’re considering investing in a CDN, evaluating solutions to improve the performance and security of your site, or looking to reduce your overall CDN spend.