Site speed has, for quite a while now, been a significant factor towards expectation of user experience as well as for things like organic Google ranking. When a website is slow to load, the end user is more likely to abandon the effort and Google is more likely to rank that site lower in the organic rankings.
There is an entire industry (arguably overlapping niche market industries) dedicated to alleviating this problem among websites. For websites that are hopeful of being accessible across a more globalized marketplace, their website must be fast to any end user around the world.
What is a content delivery network
Like the name suggests, a content delivery network delivers the content from your site from a server that is geographically closer to the user who is requesting it. This means that if a user in Hong Kong loads your site, all the images (and static content) will be cached from a Hong Kong server and served to them directly from that end point. What results is a faster browsing experience because you are not serving the request from as far a distance.
The CDN (ours in this case) will also ask your browser to locally cache a copy of many of these static elements including CSS files, JS files and image/media files. Subsequent requests to the website will be even faster as a result of this additional browser caching.
Why is it faster to request something that is geographically closer?
What is network latency anyways? Well without getting into too much of a technical explanation, what it comes down to is the farther you are geographically from a server means the longer your request will take to be received, processed and responded to by that server.
The screenshot above is whats called a “traceroute” test. This is a specific type of network probe used typically in the diagnosis of networking or routing issues. The numbers on the left are the number of “hops” it will take for a request to be received by the server. Each hop is a path on the internet that your request will take. You can see at around hop number 8 , the millisecond time on the right side jumps from around 14 milliseconds to a whopping 227 milliseconds!
Why is that? Well usually you see a significant jump when your request has to travel across the ocean or a similarly long distance. If instead of travelling across an entire ocean, your request could be received within the 14 millisecond time range, your overall user experience would be much much faster.
What else does the Shift8 free CDN provide?
What we have rolled into the Free CDN service for WordPress users is an automated compression system to leverage browser based compression. What this does is take the element (be it an image, CSS file or something similar), compress the data before being sent to the end-user, and then the end user receives and will uncompress the element locally. What this does is significantly cut the size of the element being transferred, making it even faster.
Which Geographic endpoints are available?
With our CDN service, we currently have 14 endpoints strategically placed around the world :
- USA – Northern California
- USA – Northern Virginia
- USA – Dallas, TX
- USA – Miami, FL
- Canada – Toronto
- Europe – London, England
- Europe – Stockholm, Sweden
- Europe – Warsaw, Poland
- Asia Pacific – Hong Kong, China
- Asia Pacific – Tokyo, Japan
- Asia Pacific – Sydney, Australia
- Asia Pacific – Singapore
- Asia Pacific – Mumbai, India
- Latin America – Sao Paulo, Brazil
As usage of the service grows, we’ll be adding more and more endpoints. The plan is to always keep the WordPress Shift8 CDN service free and easy to use. Using our CDN is as simple as installing, activating and registering your site with our service. You never have to leave your WordPress administration area and can be up and running within 5 minutes.
What about security?
With any free service, you are going to have people try and take advantage of it. The best approach is a multi-pronged approach. First of all establishing close network monitoring, trending and analysis system using our existing enterprise infrastructure will be leveraged. Secondly we will conduct regular security auditing as well as malware and antivirus scanning systems to ensure that malicious use is stemmed as soon as it begins.
All users who register for the Shift8 CDN will be segmented and manually audited regularly. At all stages of growth, processes will be audited and automated. We want to make it easy for you to speed up your site, without having to worry about commitment or dependency to a service or ecosystem.