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Monday 9.23.2013

The CDN: One of Many Tricks for Improving User Response Times

Did you know that, on average, 80-90 percent of end-user response time on a web page is spent downloading images, JavaScript, style sheets, and other components? Did you also know that Google and other major search engines factor page load time in to their search rankings? Page response time is critical to the success of an online business, because not only will search engines penalize slow loading websites but consumers will, as well. Few people will tolerate even a few seconds of delay when browsing a site, no matter how great the content or products. Taking steps to improve page load speeds can boost page views, search positioning, and user satisfaction.

Start with the Front End

Depending on the application, changing back-end architecture may include complicated tasks such as replicating database transactions and session details across several server locations. Rather than tackle the back-end architecture, look first at optimizing the front-end to achieve quick performance gains. Deploying static content across multiple, geographically-distributed servers, should make pages load faster from a user’s perspective.

Use a Content Deliver Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a group of web servers distributed across multiple locations in order to efficiently deliver content to users. The server selected for delivering content such as JavaScript, images, and style sheets to a specific user is typically based on network proximity. For example, when a user visits a website, the server with the fewest network hops or quickest response time will be chosen. With a CDN, users may see content that has been delivered via different routes according to their location, but all will see the same resulting web page.

Increase Speed

Switching to a CDN is a relatively easy code change that can dramatically improve the speed of web sites. Because data is cached on edge servers and content requests are directed to the closest or most optimal network node, a CDN sends data along the shortest (or most timely) route to the user. This reduces latency and packet loss, allowing for faster load times as well as improved streaming quality.

Reduce Traffic Jams

CDNs also handle bursts in traffic. By offloading the static components of a page to a CDN, a site’s web servers are freed up to serve dynamic pages and content. Freed up resources can lead to a reduction in the number of web servers needed to support a website. Since most CDNs are designed to handle large bursts in traffic they should be able to handle sudden increases in traffic as well.

CDNs at GiftCards.com

At GiftCards.com, we rely heavily on CDNs to offload the many images and other static content on our sites. Our gallery of predesigned gift cards contains thousands of images customers can choose from when ordering a personalized Visa® gift card or MasterCard® gift card. We also have hundreds of static images such as our logo and other web design elements on each page. We use a CDN to serve all of those images. Without a CDN, GiftCards.com would have to greatly expand our web server footprint to handle the traffic or speeds would suffer.

Using a CDN is just one of the many reasons that GiftCards.com is the highest ranking gift card website on the internet. Our quick response times positively impact our search engine rankings as well customer satisfaction—two things we take very seriously.

~~ Kyle Fulton

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