CMS Update: Tuning for Faster Websites Using the New CDN
2014.08.11 by Sebastian Maier
With the rapidly growing number of websites on smooster, increasingly complex projects will also be implemented. We have looked for ways to even further optimize our hosting services, more precisely our CDN (Content Distribution Network), so that these large websites can also be displayed on your screen with the usual speed in the future.
The CDN is a multi-server network on which copies of the website are stored. This way, the website can be displayed faster, no matter the location of the visitor or the “original” of the website. Furthermore, this distribution ensures greater reliability.
In order to find out how we can improve our hosting services even further, we took a look at how you go about updating your websites through the smooster CMS. We noticed: updates, that is, text and image content editing, are made within a short time frame. In between updates, there are relatively extended periods of time during which the websites remain unchanged on the server.
Faster websites through better communication between server and CDN
So far, our approach to communications between our servers and the CDN was to have the CDN periodically check the servers to see whether there are any changes and then, if necessary, retrieve that new information.
But your usage behavior has shown us that it makes more sense to turn this process around, so that while no updates are being made, the CDN no longer makes information requests from our servers. That means that the server now communicates the changes directly to the CDN, which then accesses the most up-to-date version, until it is notified about a new change.
Unfortunately, our previous CDN partner was unable to meet our technical standards for implementing this conversion. So we looked for alternatives and we finally found a new CDN partner that meets our quality standards and facilitates improved communication between the servers and the CDN.
Through the conversion, we were able to reduce the loading time from 500 ms down to 170 ms per subpage, on average. (This data comes from our own website, smooster.com, which is one of the larger websites due to its bilingual nature and the blog)
View changes directly in the CMS
When making changes, it can nonetheless still take up to 1 minute at most, before the updated subpage is replaced in the CDN in its entirety. This delay, however, is due to the browser, which does not immediately recognize the new content as such. To remedy this, smooster offers you two options that enable you to see your updates immediately.
1. In the editor, you can switch to preview mode. The blue editing frames disappear, and you can see the website in the same way as the visitor would actually see it.
2. Since some animations are only visible in the proper web-based interface, you can still find a direct link to the subpage in the page overview. This link attaches a numerical code to the subpage so it can bypass the current update process in the CDN. That way, you can see the change immediately.
Currently, we are running the new system experimentally on a small number of websites. So far, the results and the feedback have been good and so we will soon be migrating all of the sites.