It is impossible to predict the future.

25 years ago, in 1991, F W de Klerk announced the end of Apartheid in South Africa paving the way for Nelson Mandela to be South Africa’s first black president.

Boris Yeltsin became the first President of the Russian Federation, signalling the end of the 46-year-old Cold War.

A coalition of 34 countries led by the US and the UK attacked Iraqi forces occupying Kuwait – The first Gulf war starts the involvement of “Western” armed forces active conflict in the Middle east that continues to this day, 25 years on.

Tim Berners-Lee, a British computer scientist at CERN in Switzerland invented the world-wide web and launched the first web site – info.cern.ch.

No one would have predicted then, which event would have the biggest global impact.

The Scale of the Challenge

Big things are impressive – the Grand Canyon, Mount Everest, Monster Trucks…

The Web is big, really big. It is hard to get your head around just how big it is.

25 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee unwittingly released a conceptual virus upon the world that would proceed to replicate and mutate, changing the way that people live their lives across the globe from international cities like New York, London and Tokyo to some of the more remote regions of Africa. The combination of the Internet, Hypertext and communications technology has proved to be unstoppable.

20 years ago there were just over a quarter of a million websites and about 77 million people were connected to the Internet. The previous year, Windows 95 had been out for over a year and over the previous Christmas, Bill Gates realised that the Internet may be important for the future so Microsoft hurriedly updated their strategy.

10 years ago there were over 85 Million websites and over a billion people online.

Today there are over a billion websites and over a third of the world’s population are online. The web has become a primary source for news, entertainment, business IT, finding life partners, communicating with friends and relatives and is now disrupting the political establishment across the world.

Over the last 25 years, websites have constantly evolved as technologies such as broadband, browser capability and the computing devices themselves have evolved. In 1994 we saw the launch of images and text appearing in one browser. A decade later that videos became a possibility through enabling technologies.

Today we have smart phones and tablets as well as laptops and desktops, the web is full of HD and 4K video, audio, images and interactivity. VR 360 degree video with 3D audio, enterprise software applications… basically anything and everything you can think of.

The traffic is also going both ways – in the early days, the data traffic was almost exclusively from websites to their audience. Today, for example, YouTube estimate that hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to their site every minute and over a billion users are storing their data, photographs and other media “in the cloud”

Over the last 6 years, the average size of a single web page has grown from 702kB in 2010 to 2.2 MB in 2016. I MB of this growth can be attributed to still images.

The risk of Success

When you create a new website for a client, remember Tim Berners-Lee.

It impossible to predict how successful an idea might be and in many cases, unexpected over-achievement can be as bad as not achieving your initial goals.

In 2006, British teenager, Alex Tew, came up with the idea for the Million Dollar Home Page in order to raise funds to finance himself through university – the idea took off and he ended up with just over 1 million dollars but along the way, the road was bumpy…

“From the outset I knew the idea had potential, but it was one of those things that could have gone either way. My thinking was I had nothing to lose (apart from the 50 Euros or so it cost to register the domain and setup the hosting). I knew that the idea was quirky enough to create interest … The Internet is a very powerful medium.” Alex Tew, 22 February 2006.

The bumps in the road included having to constantly beef up the server bandwidth to cope with the high level of traffic and, at one point, coping with a DDOS attack and ransom demand that took the site down for a week.

The takeoff point for his site was a press release being picked up by the BBC and the television coverage that followed.

Increasingly, television coverage can have a massive impact on a site – take Dragon’s Den, a TV ‘game show’ for entrepreneurs that is now produced in over 30 international versions. With consumers now sitting in front of their TV with their smartphone and/or tablets to hand – the response time for something being mentioned to a surge in page requests on the website can be measured in seconds. Participants in Dragon’s Den frequently find their websites crashing during broadcast, as their servers are overwhelmed.

This is where CDN comes in to play. Treat it as an insurance policy that will protect your client’s site from rogue or unexpected peaks in traffic. No one is suggesting that the next site that you build will be as influential as Tim Berners-Lee’s invention of the World-Wide Web, but better safe than sorry.

Push vs pull – which CDN is best? Why can’t I have it both ways?

Often you see posts describing the difference between push and pull CDN but which is best for you? And why can’t you have it both ways? CDN stands for Content Delivery Network, a network of multiple locations that deliver your content to the nearest user, as opposed to one server location, which can take time to deliver the content.

CDN allows users speedy access to your web content, less time loading and buffering, but there are difference types of CDN. So which one is best if they both do the same thing in the end? I’m going to try and show you the difference between push and pull CDN and convince you that sometimes the simplest way is the best way when it comes to content delivery.

What are Push and Pull CDNs? – Well it’s all in the name 

Push CDNPush CDN

Content is distributed proactively to edge servers in your chosen CDN locations and the web content is automatically populated in the CDN PoP closest to your end-user’s location. So when the end-user sends a request for a file (html, video, css etc) the CDN has it all ready it a neat package and it’s delivered seamlessly into their browser.

The catch: Push CDN means the user (that’s YOU) has to form these links to files, and format it all to “push” it out to the CDN, and this will need to be maintained. So whenever there’s an update or change in the content you need to PUSH it back out to the CDN.

Pull CDNPull CDN

When the end-user sends the request for the web content it “pulls” it down from the nearest edge server (cdn location). All the content is cached in one place and the CDN does the work to pull it down into the end-users browser.

The catch: It needs to be said, that the first person to send a request to a new CDN location will find it hasn’t yet pulled that information and cached it ready for viewing. Making their experience seem no different to a site without CDN enabled. But once that first request has been made, the content is cached, and there it will stay until you tell it otherwise.

But which CDN is best? Push vs Pull

Here at CDN.net we provide a PULL CDN. We believe it’s the best option because you, the user, have fewer configurations and less to maintain. Once you’re up and running that’s it… All done! CDN is enabled and you can use lots of free ping checkers online to prove that.

Pull CDN is often used for smaller files, such as website images, javascript, css and html files. Making it the ideal CDN for web designers, especially for those working on website template platforms such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or Magento. When all you need to get started is your CNAME record and an out-of-the-box CDN plugin.

If you’re a web designer and use a web platform such as WordPress it can all be done with a CDN plugin such as W3 Total Cache. You tell the CDN plugin your CNAME record, which is given to you on your CDN package purchase and the plugin does the rest for you. You can read how to integrate cdn.net with WordPress here, using W3 Total Cache Plugin.

In fact we’ve created a few pages to show you how to set up CDN for the platforms Drupal, Joomla and Magento. Magento has it’s own native support for CDN, so there’s no need to download an external plugin at all.

How much does CDN cost?

CDN.net provides a range of packages to match your particular requirements. You choose what you need, where you need it and pay for it when you use it. It’s all here in the pricing page.

If you still need convincing that CDN.net is the simplest CDN option for you, then why not try it for free for 30 days and see what happens. CDN.net provides a FREE CDN trial for those that can find it. (Clue: click the link!)

What about CDN for live streaming and video on demand

CDN.net’s low latency CDN can serve multi-format video without stutters and buffering. Once the content is cached on the closest edge server to your end-user there it will stay until it expires.

Live streaming – CDN.net is based on OnApp CDN and the live streaming capabilities are enabled by Wowza Media Server 3, the leading high-performance media server.

  • Adobe – RTMP / RTMPE / RTMPT
  • Android – RTSP/RTP
  • Flash – HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS)
  • Apple – HTTP Streaming (HLS) for iPhone, iPod, iTouch
  • Microsoft – Smooth Streaming for SilverLight

Video on Demand – deliver video with YouTube-style features like fast forward and rewind:

  • HTTP Pseudo Streaming support includes FLV (Flash Video – .flv) and MP4 (QuickTime container – .mp4, .f4v, .mov, .m4v, .mp4a, .3gp, and .3g2)
  • 264/AAC content in MP4 container files can be delivered to any supported player
  • Playback is up to 1080p
  • Uses Nginx to serve videos through normal http

Video on Demand is available for:

  • Adobe® Flash®
  • Apple® iOS: iPhone®, iPad®, and iPod® touch
  • Microsoft® Silverlight®
  • Apple QuickTimeTM
  • AndroidTM, Blackberry® & other 3GPP platforms

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Using a CDN with WordPress – A real world example?

It is understandable to mistakenly assume that CDNs are only used by big sites that deliver huge amounts of data, whether streamed media or software downloads etc. This was the case in the beginning but the world has moved on and, as with most aspects of technology, bigger and faster are accompanied by cheaper.

Today, websites of all shapes and sizes are regularly featuring video and audio streaming and are often built using content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla etc.

As of today nearly 20% of all self-hosted websites on the web are using WordPress (About 37 million). If you look at an average WordPress site using an analytical tool like GTmetrix (https://gtmetrix.com) you can easily see the overhead from WordPress itself together with theme elements, plugins and content. If your site has no commercial purpose then you’re probably not bothered about how fast and efficiently it performs but if not, you should be aware that there is plenty of potential to improve matters. One of the many tools available to improve your WordPress site is by using a CDN.

There is no substitute for a real-world example so here is our own website and we are going to see how far we can get in optimizing it today

The website uses WordPress with a one-page theme, parallax effects, large images and streaming video content. It is hosted on a mass-market reseller account using basic shared server hosting.

We have installed the W3 TotalCache plugin and setup a cdn resource on CDN.net.

We are using GTmetrix to measure its performance…

This is the starting point before using any optimization:

Unoptimized WordPress

Unoptimized WordPress

Now we set up a CDN (cdn1.logic-workshop.co.uk) resource using CDN.net, enable it in W3 TotalCache and run the test again:

WordPress with CDN 1

WordPress with CDN 1

Using the CDN, we have reduces the page load time by 26% from 4.6s to 3.4s. This has had a slight impact on the YSlow score but nothing else is changed significantly.

Now we’ll disable the CDN in W3 TotalCache and enable all the other caching options including minification, concatenation and compression of CSS and JS files to measure the impact of those features:

WordPress with W3TC caching.

WordPress with W3TC caching.

The various optimization techniques employed by W3 TotalCache have had a significant impact on the PageSpeed and YSlow scores but the real impact is the reduction in file requests and the total page size – 29% and 42% respectively. The resultant reduction in page load time is 26%.

Finally, we will re-enable the CDN and run it together with the caching.

WordPress with CDN & Caching

WordPress with CDN & Caching

As expected, the CDN returns the same marginal improvement in YSlow score but the real impact is the 21% reduction in page load time. This is a smaller reduction than before because now we have 29% fewer file requests to accelerate.

The end result is a 43% reduction in page load time and a 42% reduction in page size. As well as a significant improvement in user experience, the acceleration will also improve the SEO score with Google.

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