Capturing the true value of a content delivery network (CDN)

“A CDN helps my web page to load faster”

This is a generally accepted and common statement, but how do we define ‘faster’? What does it mean in financial terms? What’s the true value of a CDN deployment?

In many cases, enabling a CDN distribution in front of a web site works. After turning CDN on and configuring appropriate settings, we often see an improvement in web page load time.  But what’s the true value of it and how can this be captured? Most deployments lead to significant costs for an organisation – this expense must be justified with an appropriate business case.

Measuring success

The first question we should ask is how can we define a successful CDN deployment and what metrics can we use to prove this? As with many IT projects, best practice includes creating a baseline measurement prior to deployment, then comparing that same measurement afterwards. This helps us understand the impact of investment in CDN on a crucial element, the visitor experience.

For example, during a web page load, several milestones can be identified:

  • Start rendering
  • Document on-load
  • Document complete
  • Fully loaded

A good starting point is ‘document complete’ – this’ll help you select and perform analysis for the key phase to a visitor’s experience. At this point the web page is visually present to a visitor, but some background scripts may be loading or running. Often, measuring improvements at the ‘document complete’ stage provides higher perceived value.

Understand your page – fix the right problem

Further analytics can help understand the web page from load time and performance perspective. One simple question to ask is which operations take longer to complete and negatively impact visitor experience? Identifying and overcoming such delays will provide bigger gains for the visitor experience, resulting in higher perceived value and return on investment (ROI).

Impact on infrastructure

An overlooked benefit of CDN is that it improves end user experience but can also impact source infrastructure requirements and cost. Bandwidth, memory and compute are just a few examples of where savings can be made. This is particularly true for cloud-based infrastructure deployments, where reducing resource consumption has a direct positive impact on costs. Serving static content from a CDN rather than source infrastructure reduces requirements and introduces High Load Resilience, as an added value. Infrastructure cost savings can help improve ROI analyses and add value to deployments.   

Visitor conversion and search engine optimisation (SEO)

An enhanced visitor experience means better conversion rates. If the website performs well, visitors are more likely to interact with the service. This can have a direct positive impact on brand reputation and revenue for commerce sites, revenue impact provides tangible value for CDN. User expectations around page load speed is constantly growing – faster load times and page responses also play contributing factors. For example, faster websites rank higher in search engines such as Google.

Our partner Akamai has developed an Online Retail Performance Report: Milliseconds Are Critical, which states:

  • A 100-millisecond delay in load time can hinder conversion rates by 7 percent
  • A two-second delay in load time increases bounce rates by 103 percent
  • 53 percent of mobile visitors will leave a page which takes over three seconds to load

By following these suggestions, the true value of CDN can be captured and demonstrated to your stakeholders. If you want to analyse your web site to see what optimisation can do for you, then feel free to contact our experts today.

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Tomasz Ziolkowski is an accredited member of the Portfolio Solutions Architecture team. Tomasz designs complex technical solutions across a multitude of service models and technologies. He creates customised solutions for our customers by blending managed dedicated hosting with leading cloud-based infrastructure and Public Cloud offerings, such as VMware, Hyper-V, OpenStack, AWS, Azure, Google Cloud, and layered security products. Tomasz started his career in 2002 and has developed broad technical knowledge and expertise, solidifying his experience in the IT industry. He has a keen interest in cloud solutions, IT project delivery and enjoys working with customers, helping them gain a competitive advantage with modern technology.

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