Getting started with Fastly

In this guide, we explain what Fastly does and how best to use it with your site.

How Fastly works

Fastly works by storing the content of your website on servers all over the world and quickly delivering that content to your users. We do this using Varnish, an open source web application accelerator.

how fastly's services work

We track the geo-location of each user and make sure they are connecting to a server that is closest to them. This makes your site faster by reducing the time spent waiting for data to be sent from the server to the user.

We also give you full control over when and how we store content from your servers. You can set a Time To Live (TTL) for any path on your site and instantly invalidate or purge any path on your site using our Purge API.

By using these tools, you only have to generate pages one time for the site for many millions of page views. This saves time for your users and costs on your server bills.

Advanced features

Fastly also provides many advanced features that help you monitor how your data is accessed and customize your content delivery.

how fastly's advanced features connect to a customer's data

  • Instant Purging allows you to have better control over when and how content is updated. You can update your data when you want and as often as you want, rather than waiting up to 24 hours to change data at the edge.

  • Real Time Analytics provides a top level view of your network and how your site is performing. Every second, we compile the relevant data about all of your traffic into an easy-to-read report.

  • Conditions change how requests are routed, what headers to send, and how content is cached.

  • Health Checks monitors the status of one or many of your back end servers. This way if anything goes wrong with your servers, you immediately know about it.

  • Streaming Logs are quickly and easily configured to send information from your servers anywhere and in the format you want.

  • Varnish Configuration Language (VCL) allows you to modify nearly every aspect of an HTTP request and response. You can upload VCL files with specialized configurations to your account.

  • The Fastly API can programmatically handle your configuration. This allows you to write scripts to handle basic configuration tasks and create your own administrative views (so they can be directly coupled with your existing admin software).

Getting started

If you don't have an account, sign up and create your first service. Feel free to choose the developer trial plan so you can test how Fastly works on your site. The interface will step you through everything you need to set up and configure your first service for your site.

To explore more about basics, check out our guide describing how caching and CDNs work. Then consider exploring our guides to services, purging, and shielding.

If you want information on advanced features, especially related to things like load balancing or the Varnish Configuration Language that we support, check the advanced configuration section of our help files or the API Reference, which includes a full reference to the Fastly API.

If you are having problems, send us a message at

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