Remember the pitch for a cloud-based internet? As I recall, it went something like this: “It doesn’t matter where your (website / data / Sons of Anarchy fan fiction) lives, because we access it all from the cloud anyway, man.” It actually sounds even better if you pronounce “cloud anyway, man” like one of the stoners from Dazed and Confused. There was a certain “all things to everyone” peace and love sentiment behind the whole cloud computing movement. Everyone and everywhere was equal.

It didn’t last long. As the ongoing struggles with net neutrality have taught us, there are still a lot of levers being pulled behind the scenes on the web, and that can make a big difference in how quickly the content on your site loads. Even geography still has a role in site performance: the less wire your information has to traverse, the faster it can be served to the user. The internet may still evolve into the “instant access from anywhere” panacea that we all talked about five years ago, but it’s not there yet. 

Enter content delivery networks. Known as CDNs, these are software-as-service solutions that spread a website’s static content (images, CSS, Javascript, etc.) out over the web to multiple server locations, then retrieve the most convenient copy when it is requested by a user. (You can find a more in-depth explanation here). This can mean that the CDN chooses the closest copy of an image geographically, but it also might mean that it chooses a copy of the image that is faster to access for some other reason (availability, traffic, etc.). And faster is the key word here. By choosing the most opportune copy of the asset, it can be delivered faster – sometimes much faster.

That can be a big deal when your customers are trying to view your menu as their hailing a cab in a downpour. If the image of your new chef’s brilliant take on Bananas Foster doesn’t load quickly enough, that hungry millennial customer will likely give you the old one-thumb brush off, pulled in by quick-loading photos of your competitor’s mushy tiramisu recipe instead.

Interested in putting a CDN to work for your site? {code} Roadies can use WP Engine and MaxCDN’s network to make your content more accessible, and consequently, more effective. Just give us a call.