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Heather Oliver is a Technical Writer for Constellix and DNS Made Easy, subsidiaries of Tiggee LLC. She’s fascinated by technology and loves adding a little spark to complex topics. Want to connect? Find her on LinkedIn.
If there’s one thing every domain owner has in common, it’s the need for top speed and performance for their website and applications. In this digital age, literally every millisecond counts. A large part of the online equation is in your network. This blog will cover the ins and outs of network latency and the role DNS plays in keeping your domain running at optimal levels.
First, let’s take a look at what latency is in general. In simple terms, it’s the passage of time between an end-user request and the answer given. For example, once you type Constellix.com into your web browser, the latency would be the time it took for the home page to display on your screen after pressing enter. This is often measured by time to first byte (TTFB) and time to render (more on this later).
Network latency represents delays or lag across a network. More specifically, it’s the travel time between the communication from one resource to another. This communication involves packets of data that are transmitted and processed over several devices before being decoded at the final destination.
I might sound like Captain Obvious here, but the importance of network latency is speed and performance. If there are delays across your network, end-user experience suffers, and subsequently, so does your business. A slow-performing website or application doesn’t just annoy people, it can cause current users to leave and potential customers to choose a competitor over your service or product. It can also result in reduced productivity if internal systems are lagging. Suffice it to say, latency issues are something you can’t afford to ignore.
A DNS lookup is the very first step in loading a website. This is why DNS server and DNS network performance are such critical aspects in how content is served. If a DNS server is overutilized or isn’t equipped to handle large query volumes, this can cause delays in page load times. Another factor to consider is nameserver locations within a DNS network. If web traffic is poorly routed or servers aren’t close to a user’s location, it can add hundreds of milliseconds to the DNS lookup, which becomes noticeable to the end user.
Did you know?: Just a two-second delay in page load times can lead to a 1.8% drop in queries, nearly 4% in click reduction, and loss of revenue per visitor by as much as 4.3%.
Network and domain latency issues can stem from many things, but here are a few of the most common causes.
As mentioned earlier, every website connection starts with DNS. Without it, devices wouldn’t know where to go for the information they need to get users to their intended destination. However, there is “dumb” DNS and then there’s “smart” DNS. The dumb DNS will get the address of the domain you need, but the smart DNS will take it a step further and choose the fastest and most efficient way to get there—and that can make a world of difference in how quickly things move across all devices involved. Here are some examples of how DNS helps with latency and rendering times for domains:
This is where a fast and intelligent DNS service makes a difference—reaching a website starts here, so you want a DNS solution that chooses the fastest resources automatically.
DNS monitoring solutions can help you identify problems within your network and spot issues that are causing domain lags. This is particularly useful for pinpointing software bugs, potential threats, network congestion, and possible hardware issues as you can analyze your real-time and historical web traffic.
Who you choose as a DNS or CDN provider goes hand in hand with reduced lookup times. Not all providers are equal. Services offered vary wildly and so do speeds and performance. Keep in mind that there are often multiple lookups for just one web page. If some of your content is hosted on an underperforming server it can slow everything down.
As mentioned earlier, every millisecond counts when it comes to online performance. Conversion rates are directly impacted by page load times. Studies show that just a one-second delay in loading time can result in an 11% drop in page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and a 7% decrease in conversions. There might be 1,000 milliseconds in a second, but that adds up fast if even one link in the chain is slow or is experiencing issues. Website speed is also a factor in Google ranking for SEO.
While domain mapping is directly correlated with DNS, there are aspects on the domain side that can make DNS even more efficient. To avoid extra DNS lookups that cost your domain valuable time, ditch any unnecessary assets and refrain from mapping to inessential hostnames. The more domains and subdomains your DNS records are pointing to, the more lookups will be required.
To help improve domain latency, you can use a technique called DNS prefetching. Using this method prevents the need for additional lookups for certain content on your website, such as links (link fetching) or images. When your domain uses DNS Prefetch, you are instructing DNS servers to gather specified information in anticipation of user needs or behavior. For example, if you notice that the majority of your web traffic goes to a specific page on your site after hitting the home page, you can pre-fetch that page, which will subsequently speed up the process.
Tip: Overdoing DNS prefetching can actually hinder speed and performance. If too much content is prefetched, it can take a much longer time for your site to load and increase bounce rates. Be strategic about what content should be prefetched for the best user experience.
Another way to improve latency with DNS is by using ANAME records (sometimes called CNAME flattening). ANAME records function like a CNAME record, but can operate at the root of your domain. What makes ANAME records so special is that unlike a CNAME, which requires two lookups, ANAMEs bypass the additional request. This is especially helpful when used alongside CDNs.
Did you know?: The creator of DNS Made Easy and Constellix was one of the innovators behind ANAME technology. Before ANAMEs existed, we used API calls to achieve the same result, and later, developed our own record, which we coined “ANAME Record.”
Constellix is dedicated to providing state-of-the-art DNS products that solve common and complex problems for domains. When it comes to network latency, there are several specialized solutions that help your domain run as fast and as smoothly as possible on the DNS level.
Intelligently direct web traffic for the best possible end-user experience using GeoDNS and GeoIP solutions. These services determine the most efficient path for resolving DNS requests based on a number of client-based decisions.
Constellix’s ITO (pronounced Eye-tow) was developed to circumvent the restrictions of traditional DNS traffic solutions using location, performance, and reachability as factors for delivering DNS content.
This is a location-based service that instructs servers on how to steer your traffic. Geo Proximity instantly calculates what the closest resource is to the end-user’s location and updates the corresponding DNS record accordingly.
A load balancing solution that allows you to spread web traffic across various servers so that no single resource is overloaded. While basic Round Robin distributes traffic equally, Weighted Round Robin lets you decide how much traffic will be sent to each server based on capacity, performance, location, or cost-efficiency.
Constellix is one of the only DNS providers that offer a Multi-CDN management solution. Using Real-User Monitoring (RUM) and ITO, we monitor the performance of each CDN in your pool. If one of your CDNs fails, your traffic will automatically be rerouted to healthy resources. This ensures there is no downtime or disruption in service—a must for websites that serve image- and video-heavy content to large audiences.
Contellix’s analytics platform is the most advanced and robust DNS reporting system in the industry. With this tool, you can view real-time and historical query data. This is a powerful and multi-purpose solution that helps users identify misconfigurations, stale/unused DNS records, pinpoint CDNs making excessive requests, and assists in detecting and preventing DDoS attacks.
It’s best practice to proactively monitor your website for possible latency issues. This lets you identify your domain’s weaknesses and fix them before they become a costly problem. Here are a few factors that can help you pinpoint potential issues.
One way to measure domain latency is to determine TTFB. This is the amount of time it takes a browser to receive the first byte of data from a web server or network. TTFB comprises three parts: an HTTP request, time taken to process the request, and how long it took for the server to return the first byte of data. When examining TTFB, there is also actual time and perceived time. Perceived TTFB adds the time it takes content to load before it’s parsed by a browser. A good rule of thumb is for TTFB to fall below 100ms for static content and below 500ms for dynamic content—the lower the better for either case. However, the type of content you serve greatly impacts TTFB, and numbers lower than 500ms may not always be possible for certain websites and applications.
RTT is another factor that affects latency and page load times. Round trip time refers to the duration it takes for a request to make its journey from start to finish and then back again. You can think of RTT as a road trip that starts and ends in the same city, but there are multiple stops along the way. This is where a strong DNS service really makes an impact, as it “steers” traffic to the server that will provide the fastest RTT for the end user. RTT is especially important for CDNs. Troubleshooting network reliability and speeds can help IT administrators reduce RTT and avoid cases where roundtrips are unnecessary.
Domain optimization is also influenced by start render time, which is a visual cue for users that a server or site is responding to their request. In other words, when you go to a website you’re able to see something happening, such as images or text appearing on the page before it’s entirely loaded—as opposed to seeing only a blank screen. Start render time affects TTFB, so it’s imperative to know your domain’s render times for best optimization.
While latency is crucial for every website or application, industries with domains that provide mission-critical services or that serve image- and video-heavy content stand to lose the most from slow-loading or congested networks.
Media and Entertainment
There are several tools available that can help you identify and troubleshoot latency issues. These resources will assist in better optimizing your domain and make your job that much easier.
Latency can become a bigger problem for domains than many organizations realize. Speed and performance issues are too crucial to online success to be left on the wayside. Luckily, there are innovative DNS and monitoring solutions that can help solve latency challenges. By implementing “smart” DNS into your domain’s strategy, you can ensure end users are sent to the closest, fastest, and best-performing resource every time they access your content. This doesn’t just provide a better end-user experience, it also helps your company’s bottom line.
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