GoDaddy builds a CDN for small businesses

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Web hosting giant GoDaddy is continuing its 21st-century makeover by rolling out a content-delivery network, or CDN, for its customers. CDNs are common in the world of large businesses and web sites that want to speed up the loading time of web pages by caching certain content in locations closer to site visitors, but they’ve generally been out of reach for the types of businesses that rely on GoDaddy hosting.

Web site performance is critical because visitors are more likely to leave sites the longer they have to wait for pages to load. For mom-and-pop businesses without any real internal knowledge on how to design fast web pages, this could mean losing business to larger competitors whose sites perform better. And while a CDN won’t cure bad web design, getting a page’s images to load faster can definitely make a difference.

Jason Rosenthal

Jason Rosenthal

GoDaddy’s new service, called Website Accelerator, launched on Tuesday for users of the company’s “ultimate” hosting plan and, President of Products and Technology Jason Rosenthal told me, is designed for relatively unsophisticated sites and users. It’s optimized for sites that are fairly straight HTML and maybe a bit image-heavy, rather than dynamic, personalized sites that rely heavily on database interaction. The GoDaddy CDN also starts intelligently caching parts of customers’ web pages with just one push of a button rather than requiring them to go through and tag which content they want housed on a CDN providers servers.

Because GoDaddy handles many domain and web-hosting for many customers, Director of Product Marketing Eric Moyer said, the company is able to optimally route traffic without involving third parties. Early users have seen improvement anywhere between 25 percent and 100 percent, in part because the routing process remains entirely within GoDaddy’s network. Rosenthal said the CDN spans several major population and traffic centers throughout the United States, but that the company will expand it internationally at some point.

GoDaddy is also providing its CDN users with metrics to see how their sites are performing and will offer suggestions on how they might improve performance even more. Moyer said the company partnered with webpagetest.org as the backend for gauging performance improvements.

Really, though, the CDN is just part of a bigger push by GoDaddy to transition from a simple domain and web host into a full-service cloud provider that’s focused on users without software-development or systems-administration knowledge. Yes, it already tried and failed at offering its users something akin to Amazon Web Services and other popular infrastructure-as-a-service offerings, but Rosenthal chalks that up to poor judgment about what GoDaddy’s users really wanted in terms of server-level control.

03_Website_Accelerator_SettingsWhen it killed its Cloud Servers offering, GoDaddy said it would use those technologies and the lessons learned to build cloud offerings better suited to its users. Rosenthal said Website Accelerator, which has been in development about for about six months, is the product of this plan. “This is really fruit that came out of our Cloud Servers product,” he said. ” … What we heard loud and clear from our customers is ‘I don’t want to know what makes my web site go fast, I just want it to work.'”

Presumably, that means they’re also not interested in looking at other services, such as Yottaa, that claim to be less-expensive CDN options than what giant CDN providers such as Akamai provide. It’s possible they’d work even better, but they would require a greater effort and cost than just sticking with GoDaddy.

GoDaddy actually brought in Rosenthal from Ning.com to help with its transition, and in December it hired former Yahoo and Microsoft executive Blake Irving as CEO. In November, GoDaddy launched a new service to convert customers’ web sites into mobile sites and discussed plans to start offering higher-value cloud applications, as well.

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