Tips for Choosing the Right Content Delivery Network
All was not well during Apple's iPad announcement on March 7. As consumers rushed to Apple.com to purchase the latest version of the device, they experienced a number of performance problems, ranging from slow page load times (according to research anything over three seconds is slow and can cause site abandonment) to downtime and "Service Unavailable" errors. The problems with Apple's site led to more than 2,000 negative tweets about the retailer.
Content delivery networks (CDNs) such as the one used by Apple have been a crucial component in ensuring site stability and increasing site speed for online retailers over the last 15 years. Yet Apple's inability to keep its site functioning during heavy traffic was a sign that the traditional technology behind CDNs can no longer meet the demands of today's online shoppers.
AccuStream Research estimates the CDN market at $3 billion. While the industry is large and growing at about 20 percent annually, not all CDNs are created equal. With legacy CDN technology still being sold and used today, online retailers choosing a CDN for the first time or re-evaluating their CDN needs must ask CDN providers the right questions about performance, technology and cost to ensure they're getting a good return on their investment.
First, you must evaluate whether the CDN service actually speeds up your site's performance. Most existing CDNs are built to address the delivery bottleneck that existed 15 years ago. Due to the complexity of modern websites, these CDNs have been lagging behind in fulfilling the promise of "site acceleration."
This is why looking into CDN technology, specifically how a CDN makes your site faster and more reliable, should be the first step of any CDN evaluation. The key is to make sure that the CDN incorporates technologies that focus on front-end optimization in addition to delivery features. You must insist on getting specifics about what the CDN's front-end capabilities are and how much they can boost site speed. CDN providers using state-of-the-art front-end optimization techniques should be able to guarantee site speed increases of 100 percent or more.
Concerning price, CDNs should no longer cost the hundreds of thousands of dollars they did when the technology first arrived on the market. Yet some CDN providers still try to sell solutions that are unnecessary and in come cases outdated. When negotiating CDN prices, keep in mind that if the price seems high there are usually alternative options.
CDNs should also have few, if any, set-up costs. Be weary of providers that talk about significant time and resources needed for CDN implementations.
With site speed playing such an important role in time spent on site, conversion rate and ultimately revenue, online retailers need affordable and reliable CDNs that guarantee significant site performance gains. Taking the time to evaluate CDN technologies and costs helps ensure a great customer experience, whether on a slow traffic weekday or during a product launch that drives iPad announcement traffic levels.