Some of the big things we look at when acquiring websites and taking over their operations are potential quick performance wins. One such simple improvement is to improve page load times through using a CDN. The motivation for improving page load times is the proven benefit to sales and user engagement. Users are increasingly likely to abandon pages that take too long to load.

In one site we acquired, by simply properly implementing a CDN the performance rating on Pingdom Tools jumped from 82/100 to 92/100. For that particular site we used KeyCDN (that referral link will get you an extra $10 in credits; enough for 250GB/transfer). Other times we’ve used Amazon CloudFront to similar effect. It’s worth evaluating multiple solutions and finding which works best for your target users.

A CDN can also help to free up load on a particularly struggling web server. This can be an effective stop gap solution requiring minimal application changes. KeyCDN or CloudFront as well as many other competitors can be configured to pull data from an existing origin server. All that needs to be changed on the application side is the URL of images so that rather than pointing to your own server directly they point to the CDN address.

For example, we acquired a site which was written in Microsoft ASP Classic running on Windows Server 2003 mere months before the end of life deadline for support from Microsoft. It was obvious that continuing to run the configuration as-is after the end of life would pose an increasing security risk. Additionally, the server running the application was an underpowered GoDaddy VPS that suffered from very poor performance. We were considering several possibilities for migration including to Windows Server 2013 on Amazon’s EC2 platform or rewriting the application from scratch in a different, more modern platform. Given that we knew significant, potentially time consuming changes would be necessary in either case it made sense to introduce a CDN early in the process to offload the poorly performing server and get a quick performance win early in the process.

Case Study: Optimizing Performance with a CDN