Making WordPress Faster: Integrate a CDN

05/04/2010 | Follow me on Twitterhere

One of the most effective ways to increase the speed of a website is to integrate a Content Delivery Network (CDN).

A CDN is essentially a network of highly optimized servers that replicate the static content of your site (CSS, Javascript, images, etc.) and serves it from the closest Point of Presence (POP).

Um, why do I want this again?

There are several reasons why you might want to consider integrating a CDN. Let’s walk through six of them (or skip to my recommendation):

  1. Dramatically decrease load times
  2. Increase in the number of concurrent users
  3. Lower hosting costs
  4. Lighten the load on your server
  5. Better search engine rankings
  6. It’s easy to do—there’s no excuse

Dramatically decrease load times

Integrating a CDN is one of the most effective ways to get your site to load faster for visitors, regardless of location, internet connection, and device (computer vs. mobile device).

This is great for user experience, as data have shown modest increases in site speed to have significant increases in user engagement and time spent on a site. Put simply, users refuse to wait for a slow-loading site.

Increase in the number of concurrent users

Particularly in the case of fast-growing sites, integrating a CDN is a great way to dramatically increase capacity. With the typical client-server model, a fixed number of clients (people using computers and mobile devices) at one time. This is still true once a CDN is integrated, but a ten-fold increase in this number can often be achieved.

Lower hosting costs

There’s often a significant disparity between mid-level and top-tier web hosting options available. One of the reasons I had to leave MediaTemple is because their most powerful (dv) option was unable to meet my hosting needs, and the next step up was a whopping $750 per month.

Instead of making this incredibly expensive leap, website owners would be wise to consider using a CDN to boost site performance without breaking the bank. An affordable, robust server through VPS.net coupled with a CDN (the architecture upon which this site is built) can outperform most sites on the web.

Lighten the load on your server

Since the majority of your static content will be served from POPs all over the world (as opposed to one server in one location), there is an immediate and dramatic reduction in the effort required by your server to deliver your site to visitors.

The most troublesome server issues only appear when a server is under extreme load, so reducing this strain and eliminating bottlenecks is in the interest of both website admins and the end-user.

Better search engine rankings

Google has officially indicated that they have started taking page load speed into consideration when ranking websites. Ranking well in search engines depends on dozens of factors, and site speed has now been thrown in the mix.

The way you win on the web is to to optimize everything, from your site to the server. If your site is in a very competitive niche, it stands to reason that your site could see a slight boost in rankings by including site speed in the list of things that you optimize for.

It’s easy to do—there’s no excuse

It’s possible to integrate a CDN into a WordPress site in about 30 seconds, thanks to Frederick Townes’s amazing W3 Total Cache plugin. The CDN support baked right into the plugin makes adding a CDN to your site a trivial ordeal.

Recommendation

The CDN I tested on this site is by MaxCDN. I’ve done quite a bit of testing and experimenting and I’m extremely pleased with the overall performance and price point. My site loads in a breeze using a setup that doesn’t break the bank.

If you’re interested in this option and would like to ask a few questions, please drop me a note in the comments or hit me up using the contact form—I’d be happy to chat.