Blog / Do you use Fastly CDN? Learn more about how Fastly CDN performs in and outside of China

Do you use Fastly CDN? Learn more about how Fastly CDN performs in and outside of China

What is Fastly?

Fastly, founded in 2011 by Artur Bergman, Fastly provides a diverse array of services, encompassing streaming media delivery and private CDN solutions. It is best known for being a “real-time CDN” which meant changes happen instantly and its capability to effectively deliver 'uncacheable' content

Fastly network map : Fastly has POPs in ~80 locations on 6 continents. Image from Fastly website

Fastly operates on the principle of edge computing, with a vast network of strategically placed servers (edges) around the globe. These edges work together to deliver content as close to the end-user as possible, reducing latency and improving website performance.

Fastly: How is Fastly CDN used & what are its key benefits

Instant Purging

With Instant Purge functionality, the content is immediately removed across the entire cache network. 

Fastly later introduced Soft Purge, complemented by Cache-Control extensions like stale-if-error and stale-while-revalidate. This combination allows users to serve stale content to end users, ensuring uninterrupted site and application experiences, even in scenarios involving unavailable origin servers or sluggish performance.

Fastly Control panel

The Fastly Control Panel home shows a summary of the user analytics . It gives a quick look at key data like requests, bandwidth, cache hit ratio, and errors, providing an easy way to assess the overall health and performance of Fastly services.

Custom Varnish Configuration Language (VCL)

Fastly allows users to write and implement custom VCL snippets, a scripting language used to configure and add logic to Varnish caches, providing unparalleled flexibility in configuring how content is cached, processed, and delivered. This level of customization caters to the unique needs of different websites and applications.

Image Optimization

Fastly CDN includes powerful image optimization features, allowing organizations to deliver visually appealing content while minimizing load times.When an image is requested, the image optimisation feature dynamically resize it, enhances quality, perform cropping/trimming, adjust orientations, convert formats, and execute various other transformations. This process eliminates latency associated with pre-processing and enables you to enhance page load times, thereby augmenting your site's Search Engine Optimization (SEO) performance.

Advanced Protection

Fastly has integrated security features, encompassing Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection, next-generation Web Application Firewall (WAF), and Transport Layer Security (TLS) offerings, all alongside performance optimization tools. This robust security infrastructure empowers developers and security operations teams to work within a swift and secure environment, enabling them to develop, build, and deploy modern applications with confidence and efficiency.

Read more about the Top CDN for China

Performance and challenges of Fastly CDN in China

Fastly is one of the best CDN service providers globally. In China, not so much.

According to CDN Perf, Fastly CDN is ranked 6th in terms of speed in China.

While they have near-China CDNs in place - including in Hong Kong - Fastly CDN does not have a local partner or equivalent presence in China.

Points of presence contribute to performance as fewer points of presence correlate with greater distance, and therefore delivery latency to end users.

However, it is important to note that Fastly, like most CDNs, specialize in mostly primary resource optimisation. A number of issues websites face in China stem from slow or inaccessible 3rd party resources (i.e. Google APIs, Youtube embeds, Vimeo embeds) that CDNs - including Fastly - do not address.

Findings are taken from CDN Perf in January 2023 (Sources: CDN Perf)

Below is an example of a waterfall chart when a China visitor attempted to load resources past Facebook trackers.

Note that by 35 seconds, only 30% of this website's resources have successfully loaded.

Depending solely on a CDN will improve speed but won't fix these issues.

How to achieve further optimisation with Fastly CDN and Chinafy

Fastly CDN lacks code-based optimization for China. Traditionally, fixing code issues in China demands multiple experts, involving diagnostics, researching best practices, setting up ongoing monitoring, etc.

This might work for some companies, but not all.

For an effective, and customer-celebrated solution, check out Chinafy.

Chinafy is a website optimization platform that intelligently re-engineers websites into China-friendly versions. Chinafy uses Rule-Based Smart Actions to address slow or inaccessible resources like YouTube/Vimeo embeds and Google Maps.

Users often turn to Chinafy even after adding a CDN to their website because it offers more than any CDN.

Chinafy, although not a CDN, leverages fully-managed CDNs (either onshore or offshore) or complements Fastly CDN to achieve high performance in China.

Chinafy compliments with CDN in your existing stack to optimize

How Chinafy works:

Chinafy generates a 'China-specific' version of your site using theHTML, CSS, and JS from your original site.

Chinafy’s Smart Actions provide rule-based optimization rules, tackling about 75% of the most blocked or slow resources. It either replaces them with Chinese equivalents or removes blocked components without a China-compatible replacement, ensuring minimal impact on website functionality. custom optimization rules can be manually enabled

Chinafy automatically adds China-friendly stack for your site, including file hosting, load balancers, and near-China premium CDNs

The Chinafy version automatically stays in sync with your original site. Chinafy Enterprise users benefit from ongoing change management, especially for custom configurations with Fastly CDN and similar services.

By using Chinafy, websites become 30% to 40% faster compared to relying solely on CDNs near China, effectively addressing resource compatibility issues that affect the loading process.

Check out “CDN or Chinafy? Which One Do You Need?

Chinafy for Fastly CDN: Bootstrap Test Study

Bootstrap is a popular open-source front-end framework for building responsive and mobile-first web applications. Bootstrap’s website uses Fastly CDN.

We’ve run a one-page page comparison that compares its existing homepage and its Chinafy-optimized version.

Here are the results in terms of Fully Load:

The original site “Before Chinafy”: 9.4 seconds

The first-pass Chinafy Preview “After Chinafy”: 3.3 seconds

In the one-page comparison, the findings indicate that with Chinafy, Bootstrap’s website loads 3x faster.

Ready to optimize your website for China? Click Get Started to evaluate your website with Chinafy.

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Enter in a few details and one of our Chinafy team members will reach out to you shortly with a plan and next steps to 'Go Live' in China.
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Please feel free to check out our case studies or blog in the meantime.
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