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CDN in a nutshell, or: how a Content Delivery Network helps you (in more ways than you think!)

If you’ve never heard of a CDN or you’re not sure exactly what it is, CDN is an acronym for Content Delivery Network. What a Content Delivery Network does, in very basic terms, is serve your site files from multiple data centers all over the world so that your visitors download files from a server near them and experience faster page loads. As a bonus, you get to experience reduced bandwidth use due to your content being cached at the various locations on the network.

How does it work? You change your domain’s name servers to point to the CDN, which then handles the requests for your site. When a request comes in to the CDN, here’s what it does:

  1. Determines the location of the visitor and the data center location nearest to that location.
  2. Pulls the requested files from your central repository (which in this case would be your Winhost server) to that data center near your visitor and serves the files to the visitor from that local server.
  3. Requested files are cached on the local servers for a period of time, so that the next time they are requested from that location they will load from the local server for visitors in that region.
  4. Visitor interacts with the local server until a new file is requested, at which point the CDN goes back to step 2 and repeats.

That makes for a better visitor experience, since visitors are getting files from a local server. And it saves bandwidth on your Winhost account, since the files don’t have to come from the Winhost servers every time they are requested.

There are a lot of CDNs these days, and their setups vary in levels of difficulty. We’re offering a CDN that’s really easy to set up, and if you already have a SiteLock security plan for your site (and you really should, but that’s a separate article), you can add the basic CDN for free.

If you’re thinking that sounds great, but your site doesn’t contain much static content, SiteLock TrueShield CDN can also serve dynamic content from more than 25 data centers around the world via its Dynamic Content Caching system. It’s all completely automatic, but you have control over the cache and can purge files any time you need to, for instance when you update or change content on your site.

On average, sites using the SiteLock TrueShield CDN load 50% faster and use 40-70% less bandwidth.

The TrueShield CDN can also handle end to end encypted SSL (https) requests, and perfoms advanced CDN optimizing techniques, including content minification, image compression, session reuse optimization, “on the fly” file compression, TCP optimization & connection pre-pooling and progressive image rendering.

Not only speed, but protection from the bad guys too

The TrueShield CDN isn’t only about speed, it also offers a layer of protection for your web applications. Does your site use WordPress? If so, you probably know that WordPress is a common target for exploits, and if someone gets into your WordPress installation, the cleanup can be a nightmare, not to mention the probable damage to your site and your reputation.

The SiteLock TrueShield CDN protects you against many web-based exploits with a Web Application Firewall, which blocks malicious bots from accessing your site, and depending on the plan you use, can protect your site against many SQL injections and cross site scripting. Whether your site uses a third party application that runs on a database or works with a database you designed and built, the Web Application Firewall can help keep you safe.

I know this sounds like a commercial for SiteLock, but we’re big fans of their service, and we’re able to offer you some really cool and useful tools through them. We see the damaging effects of website exploits every day, and as I mentioned, cleaning up after them is no fun. It’s either going to cost you time or money – sometimes both. So prevention, as they say, is the best medicine.

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