A Content Distribution Network (CDN) is a service that can host your web content in the cloud and distribute it geographically to servers around the globe.  When web users access a website’s pages, the data that is hosted at the CDN gets sent to the user from the CDN’s server/node that is closest to the user which decreases the download time it takes to reach the user.  Many popular video streaming applications use CDNs as part of their infrastructure such as so that videos can be streamed to the user quickly and efficiently from the closest point to them.

This same CDN technology can be used to speed up your company website or your custom web application.  A typical configuration would be one where your site’s HTML and other code files would be hosted at your existing hosting environment, just like it normally would be, but website assets such as images, CSS, and JavaScript (as well as and videos and downloadable documents that might be part of your site) would be hosted at a CDN provider where the assets would be downloaded from CDN server that is geographically closest to the end user.

There are a number of services that are economical and easy to use such as Amazon’s CloudFront service (our favorite), Rackspace Cloud FilesCacheFlyCloudFlare, and others.  In most cases, you only pay for the amount of data stored and the amount of data streamed/downloaded from their network, or a subscription fee which includes a certain volume of files stored and/or downloaded.

Implementation is typically as easy as uploading the assets to the CDN and then replacing the URL links for the assets on your site to instead point to the URL of the CDN.  If your site is built on a CMS platform such as Drupal or WordPress there are modules/plug-ins available that can do all of the heavy lifting for you with just some quick configuration.

Having a website or application with fast page loads is important for a number of reasons including user retention, user experience, lead capture, and SEO.  Using a CDN to host your site’s assets is a cost effective and easy way to increase your website’s speed.