A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is essentially a group geographically dispersed servers that deliver some of your Website content to the customer from servers closest to your Website visitor. This can mean that your Website content is delivered quicker to your visitor. Unfortunately far too many Webmasters/Website owners sign-up for costly CDN services without understanding if their Websites will in fact load faster by using a CDN.
Is there a benefit to using a CDN with WordPress?
Unfortunately there is no simple answer as to whether your Web page load speed will improve by having some of your content on a CDN. There are many factors that affect Page Load Speed of which where files are delivered from is just one factor. Also, when it comes to a CDN it is often only of benefit when large files are delivered from your WordPress Website and when you get visitors from many globally dispersed geographic regions. For example; if you host a mostly text WordPress Site in the U.S.A. and you get many visitors from Canada then there won’t be much benefit in using a CDN. If however you host in the U.S.A. and get many visitors from Australia, the U.S.A. and Japan then a CDN will likely be of benefit.
What WordPress content can be delivered via a CDN?
Not all WordPress content may be stored and delivered by a CDN. Typically only linked resources such as images, video, audio and other media files may be delivered via a CDN. There are some core and theme WordPress files that may also be delivered by CDN but not all files may de delivered via a CDN (e.g. for server side scripts such as PHP, of which WordPress uses many, it is often counter productive to deliver these files via a CDN). In summary a CDN is best for delivering that don’t require server-side processing and CDN delivery is especially beneficial for large files such as images, video and audio.
What CDN should you use with WordPress?
There are numerous CDN services available such as MaxCDN and Amazon CloudFront. These, and other, CDNs are usually simply integrated into your WordPress Site via a Plugin. The cost and quality of CDNs varies so you should do some research on the CDN that will best suit your needs if you choose to use a CDN.
UPDATE: Amazon CloudFront CDN now serves content from Sydney, Australia.
Alternatives to a CDN for WordPress
There are many things that may be done to improve your Website page load speed without (or in addition to) using a CDN. For example:
- Host closest to your visitors: If most of your visitors are form a specific geographic region then host your WordPress Site in that region.
- Ensure that you use a Host that is quick enough: A good host isn’t necessarily expensive. Some of the best WordPress hosts (e.g. Godaddy) are very inexpensive.
- Use dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting can be quicker than shared hosting. This is however a hotly debated topic and for smaller Sites in particular there won’t be a speed advantage by using dedicated hosting.
- Use free CDNs: So many people forget that much content may be delivered by CDNs for free; use Flickr to store your images and show that Flickr image in your Posts or Pages and use YouTube and embed that video into your Content.
- Cache, Minify and Compress your WordPress Site. There are many great Plugins that will perform these performance enhancing tasks for you such as WP Minify and WP Super Cache.
- Cloud Hosting: This is essentially your entire hosting in a CDN.
You should now have a bit better understanding of CDNs and WordPress. CDNs are not beneficial nor necessary for all Websites and they can be costly!