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  • CDN Options

    Has anyone used, or considered using, a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to eliminate downtime and speed up page loading on their sites?

    I've been using a tool called Torbit to monitor load times and I'm seriously worried that long page load times (average of 6 seconds yesterday) are driving customers away.

    I read about CloudFlare a while ago via TechCrunch and at the time thought it was a great model and idea, but a bit of overkill for a company our size. Now I'm reconsidering and would really like to hear if any other merchants have used a CDN and what your experience was.
    Chris
    TC Life Safety
    TC Wireless

  • #2
    I don't have much to add, but I did try out CloudFlare for a while. It is a pretty cool service and all it takes to set up is some domain changes. BUT I had to turn it off because I could not get CloudFlare and 3DCart support to agree on how 3DC should enable a CloudFlare-compatible SSL certificate (trying to be as objective as possible, the steps that CF provided seemed simple).

    I have been considering trying to offload my product images to Amazon to reduce my bandwidth usage.

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    • #3
      Thanks for the feedback cbsteven. The SSL certificate is what really concerned me about implementing it too.

      Which SSL option did you choose? Hosting it on a subdomain or buying one of theirs?
      Chris
      TC Life Safety
      TC Wireless

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      • #4
        I was using the CloudFlare 'pro' account which includes SSL, but it requires that you install a certificate on the server, which 3DC could not do since it wasn't quite the same as their default certificates. It looks like CloudFlare has changed their SSL options somewhat since then and they offer a free 'flexible' SSL thing now that does not require a server install, but I don't think it is sufficient security-wise for our needs.

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        • #5
          for what it is worth try upgrading to a higher 3dcart plan as a test. our site loads, on average using google stats, <1sec.

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          • #6
            I may have to do that - the bandwidth charges are definitely adding up. Thanks for your input.
            Chris
            TC Life Safety
            TC Wireless

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            • #7
              This morning I implemented Amazon CloudFront as a CDN for my site. I had avoided looking into it for too long because the documentation was confusing and I wasn't sure if it would do what I needed with minimal effort.

              Short answer, it only took 5 minutes to set up.

              Basically you just create a CloudFront account, create a "distribution". The distribution needs an "origin server" which is the source of your original content. So I just put in the web address of my store.

              That will give you a unique cloudfront URL, like 12397381931.cloudfront.amazon.com.
              If I have a product image that is normally hosted at:
              Code:
              http://mystore.3dcartstores.com/assets/images/product1.jpg
              then to access that same file via the CloudFront network you just make a request to:
              Code:
              http://12397381931.cloudfront.amazon.com/assets/images/product1.jpg
              I am going to update my item listing template so that product images are downloaded from that server. That should speed up my page load times and decrease my bandwidth overage charges.

              Let me know if you have any questions on this.
              Last edited by cbsteven; 10-02-2012, 02:29 PM.

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              • #8
                Thanks so much for posting your experience with CloudFare.

                What did you do about the SSL certificate, since it's not hosted on the 3dCart server anymore? Have you had a successful checkout since you switched over?
                Chris
                TC Life Safety
                TC Wireless

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                • #9
                  Right now I am just using product images from the CloudFront server, so that shouldn't affect checkouts.

                  You get the option to set up a CNAME reference, so you can use your own servername instead of CloudFront. For example I have mine set up so that

                  Code:
                  http://cdn.aebike.com
                  is a CNAME for my CloudFront server.

                  When I link to images using a template I use the non-specific identifier of // (rather than http:// or https://), like
                  Code:
                  //cdn.aebike.com/assets/images/Product1.jpg
                  This will load the image either via HTTPS or HTTP, whichever is appropriate.

                  Edit: It's important to note that I am talking about Amazon CloudFront in these posts, NOT CloudFlare. They are different services but have an overlap in what they do.

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                  • #10
                    cbsteven, thanks for the tutorial. Sounds very interesting.

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                    • #11
                      Edit: It's important to note that I am talking about Amazon CloudFront in these posts, NOT CloudFlare. They are different services but have an overlap in what they do.[/QUOTE]

                      Thanks for the note - if you can, I'd be interested to know how much your bandwidth use decreases using off-site image hosting.
                      Chris
                      TC Life Safety
                      TC Wireless

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                      • #12
                        Are you having any trouble with magiczoom when you use offsite hosting? ours began loading the large image full size when image_click fires, which then throws off the entire frame.

                        If you are having the same problems with this, please contact me. I have written some script to fix this and enable full control of off site image hosting. I dont have exact data on how offsite hosting has effected BestCostumeSite.com, but i do know prior to hosting offline we were exceeding our 60gb bandwidth limit by not a gb or two, by 15+ at peak. Now, we are in our busiest month of the season and our current usage is looking great to stay below or right at the 60gb mark by the end of the month. Last month (obviously second busiest month of the year) we didn't exceed 65% of max. The big images were killing it for a while till we switched.

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                        • #13
                          We implemented the AmazonCloudfront per cbsteven's explanation (thank you very much), and so far have pointed all of our static images there using //cdn.mysite.com/xxx/xxx.jpg . These include the Category page headers, images on static pages, and carousel images on the home page.
                          These are 30 to 75K images and added together they eat up a lot of band width, not to mention that they load up so much faster coming from the CDN.

                          We had 3dcart support setup the CNAME cdn.mysite.com for us and they were very quick and helpful.

                          I am having a problem with the Listing and Category pages though! The thumbnail.aspx and the imagezoom are giving me problems. Any advice on how to handle these would be appreciated.

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                          • #14
                            I was running into the same issue after my initial setup, and I do not think there is any workaround. The point of the thumbnail.asp is to resize images before they are transmitted, which in itself is a bandwidth saving. CloudFront has no way to CDN a dynamically generated image like this.

                            What I did was to abandon the thumbnail.asp link for just my main product image, and link directly to the product image file via the CDN, and then resize it via CSS.

                            It is debatable which is better. The files being transferred are slightly larger this way, but they are going through the CDN which is faster and has cheaper bandwidth.

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                            • #15
                              Good to know.
                              I just removed the reference to thumbnail.aspx from the category and search pages, as we upload all of our thumbnails via FTP already pre-sized and optimized. So Thumbnail.aspx was redundant anyway.

                              Since we have all the static images, and the images on the home page, category pages, and search page coming though Amazon, I think I don't have to worry so much about the listing page. Can't be too greedy.

                              I am also having a problem with SSL. even though I am using //cdn.mysite.com and the setting on Amazoncloudfront is to match user, the images still will not validate under https. Are you seeing this same issue?

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