Reducing the World Wide Wait: CDNs, Explained

Several reports suggest (one being from Business Wire) that the Content Delivery Network market is expected to grow enormously in the next few years. Several companies make use of CDNs today to ensure that they have an edge in online reach. The misconception that many have about CDNs is that they are only used to reduce latency. As you will find out in this blog, CDNs can do much, much more for a business. If you’re not even sure what a CDN is and how do CDNs work, read on.

What is CDN (Content Delivery Network)?
A CDN or Content Delivery/Distribution Network is a network of servers located in strategic geographical regions to store cached content. This ensures that web content is delivered faster to users around the world regardless of their location to the originating server.

Source: moz.com

Why do they exist:
While the primary objective of a CDN is faster content delivery or faster web page loads, there are several other advantages to using a CDN:

  1. Reduced bandwidth consumption & lower costs:
    As content is shared from caches, the load on the originating server is reduced. This also helps prevent the possibility of bandwidth limits being breached with your web hosting provider. To look at a typical scenario for an e-commerce company, a large percentage of traffic will browse a website, first looking through products/content to see if it’s worth their time and money. Only a small percentage will decide to proceed with a conversion. In this case, the company can use a CDN to cater to their browsing traffic (a larger percentage) and serve customers in the conversion stage with updated content from the main server.
  2. Security:
    CDN technology today is equipped with DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) mitigation, bot mitigation, WAFs (Web Application Firewalls), spam blocking, bot blocking, TLS (Transport Layer Security) encryption and hacking prevention. These preventive measures are used to detect and eliminate any threat before it reaches the main server. Considering present cybersecurity issues, these security features are a huge boon.
  3. Improved SEO:
    With a reduction in page load speeds, the potential of a website to rank higher in Google search results is increased. Speed is a key factor in search engine optimization.
  4. Increased Performance:
    Offloading content to their CDNs helps the main server effectively handle traffic spikes that may occur.
  5. Reliability:
    If one server is unavailable, the request is automatically routed to the next available server, ensuring a no-fail setup.
  6. Dynamic content:
    A traditional understanding of a CDN is one that just caches static content (such as HTML, CSS, JS and image files). However, today CDNs cater to serving dynamic content as well. Most brands are trying to reach their audiences with the best content possible. However, video content could affect your web page load time. For example, some CDNs promise to make that easier with features to support broadcast-quality video.
  7. Advanced Analytics:
    CDNs today offer advanced analytical insights into network traffic and how content is experienced.
  8. Saves complex infrastructure upgrades for small companies:
    Most importantly, CDNs allow small and medium-sized companies to accommodate large amounts of traffic without having to upgrade their IT infrastructure.

Thus, CDNs let you give your customers an uninterrupted, smooth and secure experience of your online services.

What is the exact difference that a CDN makes?
Performance with a CDN vs. no CDN:
This is an illustration of the difference a CDN makes by Cloudflare.

Source: https://www.cloudflare.com/cdn/

To a web user, these numbers are a huge difference.

How does CDN work?
The geographical locations across which the CDN’s data centres are spread are known as ‘Points of Presence’ or PoPs. These will be placed according to the location of website traffic. The servers at each PoP are known as ‘Edge Servers’. Edge servers cache the content from the originating server.

Source: em360tech.com

When a user requests for a web page, the CDN redirects the request to the nearest connected server to the user’s geographical location. This happens if the content of the web page is cached with the CDN server in the first place.
Which businesses should use a CDN?

Large businesses with usually pull in a large amount of traffic and those that serve locations all around the world will benefit from the use of a CDN.
A CDN really isn’t necessary if you are a local business and don’t expect to expand your areas of operation.
CDNs and hosting packages:
Most web hosting solutions today already include a content delivery network. For example, all shared web hosting packages at ResellerClub come equipped with Cloudflare CDN services which offer all the benefits of a modern CDN that we’ve talked about here including DDoS mitigation and internet security services.
I hope we have helped you better understand what CDNs are and how to make a better choice for your website or web hosting business.