Poor website performance has a direct, negative effect on your ability to generate revenue and retain an audience for your online properties. Even if just a small number of users have a bad experience due to slow load times, buffering video or incomplete downloads, the impact on overall conversion and retention can be significant.
In the CDN world we look at a number of metrics, two of which are response time and throughput. Response time is how quickly the user connects to the content, and throughput is how strong or consistent the connection is maintained during the session. To equate the Internet “pipes” to the water pipes in your home, response time is how quickly water starts to pour when you turn on your faucet, and throughput is how strong and steady the water flows as long as you have the faucet turned on. Bringing it back to the content you’re serving; response time can refer to how quickly a video starts playing or a game starts downloading, and throughput affects if that video plays smoothly and at a high bitrate, or whether that game takes 40 minutes to download or two and half hours.
At Highwinds, we monitor our CDN performance globally, 24x7x365. We use industry leading tools and our own monitoring systems to do so. But health of a network is only part of the equation. Ultimately the end-user’s experience has a lot to do with their own Internet connection, which can be affected by congestion at the last mile. The best way to measure response time and throughput is with Real User Monitoring (RUM). With RUM we look at statistical samples from real end-users, not just servers in data centers. The leading provider of this data is Cedexis. Cedexis Radar measures every CDN, in real-time, globally; so customers can determine which network is best for the regions that matter most to their audience.
The graphic on the right is a Cedexis Radar graphic for response time. You can view updated, free measurements whenever you want by visiting Cedexis’ reports page. You’ll find that Highwinds is at or near the top of the daily measurements on both response time and throughput. A recent blog post from Cedexis looked at analyzing site performance and some of the different statistics used to calculate it.
At Highwinds we admire their scientific approach and encourage our customers to use these tools to get to know how they are performing, both on Highwinds and on any other CDNs they use. Often times it makes sense to load balance between two or more CDNs to find the right mix. We offer this service as well if you’re interested (learn about SelectPath).
In the Cedexis blog you’ll learn about taking a fine-tuned approach to measuring website performance. For example, your site may be optimized for most users (say 95%) and while analyzing the center is extremely important, you’ll also want to look at edge cases and users who are having difficulty (say 5%). Remember, if performance is not optimal for any single user, there will be a negative impact on your revenue and retention. If you don’t dig deeper into the statistics, and take the time to learn about that edge 5% of users (and take steps to fix it, by the way), you could experience an ‘invisible’ revenue loss.
To read more, see Mean vs. 95%, Are you losing 5% of your audience?
By Scott Munger, COO, Highwinds