A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a way to help content reach your users as quickly and efficiently as possible. It helps you deliver your content to more people faster by providing a fast, reliable connection between your servers and the content they need.
An experienced web developer will tell you that the main goal of a Content Delivery Network is to provide you with an alternative channel for your content. If you can choose where your content goes, you can control how long it takes for someone to see it. You’ll be able to create highly personalized experiences for each of your users instead of relying on algorithms that are only good at one thing: serving up data.
What is a Content Delivery Network
Content Delivery Networks (CDN), often abbreviated as CDN, are a technology that improves content delivery across multiple internet connections and networks. This is done by sending the content from one internet connection to another (CDN) and then receiving it.
This is done by files that are initially placed in a central location (or “cloud”), where they are then stored in one of the CDNs. The documents that the CDN receives can be accessed from any internet connection without downloads.
The term ‘content delivery network’ was coined in 1999, when it was discovered that using a caching proxy at Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) could improve the speed of browsing on a web page by reducing latency – or delay between the time data arrives at the server and when it is retrieved.
It has since been used as both an adjective and noun to refer to technologies that use these proxy caching methods to improve performance on Internet connections.
A content delivery network can be considered an ‘everything,’ if you will, website cache server. However, many webmasters don’t know how much cache servers should be used for their sites or how much traffic their site receives each day. Setting up at least one cache server for every 200–500 concurrent users would give your site more hits and help protect your system from bandwidth hogs like Googlebot crawling your pages repeatedly.
Starting with a very cheap CPU-bound server will help speed up your site faster than starting with an expensive, slow one!
How Content Delivery Networks Work
Imagine this scenario to understand how CDNs work: your business is located in Barcelona, but you have website visitors worldwide. If a visitor from Sydney visits your website, for example, the information has to travel a long distance from Barcelona to Sydney. The longer the distance between the data centre and your visitor, the slower it will be.
A web development company will tell you that this is where CDNs come into play. Instead of hosting all your assets in Barcelona, you can have them copied onto servers worldwide. That way, if a visitor from Sydney accesses your website, they’ll be able to retrieve assets from Sydney rather than Barcelona. This will make your website load faster for them.
The same goes for visitors accessing your site from other parts of Europe — if you have an asset stored on a server in Munich, it will make more sense for them to retrieve it from there than from Barcelona.
Why You Need To Start Using A Content Delivery Network
A content delivery network is the best way to speed up your site and provide a superior user experience. As you start, you probably won’t need one, but as soon as you start getting significant traffic, it’s something you’re going to want to consider.
An expert at leading website development company will tell you that CDNs are super important for websites that are targeting an international audience. Still, they’re also useful for all sites because they reduce the load on your hosting provider and help prevent your site from going down if it gets slashdotted (e.g., Reddit or Hacker News suddenly sends you lots of traffic).
Benefits of using Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Fast load times: Using a CDN means that your site’s static content can be cached on servers worldwide. Rather than waiting for the request to go back to your origin server, users can get their information from a local server and see it instantly.
Reduced bandwidth: When you have more than one server, you don’t have to worry about one getting overloaded with requests. Also, because your static files are only downloaded once, you don’t have to send them out multiple times to different users. This saves bandwidth and reduces costs.
Increased security: When you use a CDN, it helps protect against DDoS attacks and other threats. If some external force tries to take down your site by flooding it with requests, the CDN will handle many of those requests and won’t reach your actual website.
Finding The Right Content Delivery Network For You
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers distributed across the globe to deliver content more efficiently to users.
A content delivery network (CDN) aims to serve content to your audience with a high degree of uptime and fast page loads. CDNs store cached versions of your site on their servers, which means the files can be delivered from a location that’s nearest to the user. This makes for a faster load time for those who visit your website.
Dynamic content delivery networks are used when your website is built with a framework such as React or Vue and rendered on a server before sending the results to the browser. These sites are more flexible because you can make changes in one place, but they will never be as fast as static websites because there is more work needed from your server to compile each page.
There isn’t a simple yes or no answer when it comes to deciding whether you need a CDN. If you have a small site with only one server in one data centre that doesn’t require frequent updates or changes, go with static CDNs! It will be cheaper than paying for dynamic hosting every month. But as soon as you start getting more traffic than your server can handle or your target audience is spread across different locations that it’s time to consider one.
Top 9 Content Delivery Networks providers
Akamai is one of the largest content delivery networks globally and offers a great variety of CDN services for ecommerce and other sites. Like other CDNs, Akamai uses a network of servers to deliver cached copies of web pages to users based on their geographic locations.
Akamai is a good choice for stores with high traffic and complex traffic requirements. Akamai is an advanced CDN that can handle large amounts of data and deliver rich media such as video, audio, and game streaming files. It’s also good at handling dynamic content and has a lot of customization options to help you get the best performance out of your site.
The only real downside to Akamai is its cost: The service starts at $6,000 per month — expensive compared with other CDNs — though the price depends on your needs. Like most CDNs, Akamai doesn’t offer free trials or money-back guarantees, so if you’re curious about how it works, you’ll have to sign up for the service or contact Akamai for more information.
Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network that makes it possible for you to deliver data, videos, applications, and APIs to your viewers with low latency and high transfer speeds.
CloudFront is integrated with the Amazon Web Services (AWS) global infrastructure. This lets you distribute content to end-users with low latency and high availability. If you use CloudFront to serve an application, it can protect your application from DDoS attacks by using AWS Shield, Amazon S3, Elastic Load Balancing, or Amazon EC2 as a custom origin from which to serve content. It can also run code at the edge of the network with Lambda@Edge.
With CloudFront, you can reduce the load on your origin infrastructure by caching content at endpoints worldwide. Your users benefit from faster page loads and consistently fast performance wherever they are located.
Amazon CloudFront is optimized to work with other Amazon Web Services, like Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), and Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS), and Amazon Route 53. Simply create an Amazon CloudFront distribution, and your content will be delivered from edge locations around the world.
Cloudflare is a popular CDN provider which offers free and paid plans. We’ve used its services in the past, but before it became a serious player in the CDN market. Cloudflare has since developed its network, including over 150 data centers across 90 countries.
The company also protects against DDoS attacks, SSL certificates, and an advanced DNS service. But we’ll discuss those things in the following section. In the meantime, we’re going to offer some pros and cons of Cloudflare’s CDN service:
Easy setup. Registering with Cloudflare is easy, and setting up your site takes just a few minutes. The company manages your DNS records automatically once you create an account.
Good performance for free users. Even if you don’t pay for a plan, you’re likely to see decent results from Cloudflare’s CDN unless you have a massive website.
Free SSL certificate included with every plan. All Cloudflare users automatically receive a free SSL certificate, regardless of their plan type (we’ll talk about this later on). It’s easy to install and configure from within your account settings too.
Its free plan doesn’t support HTTPS/2 or HTTP/3 with QUIC protocol support. To get this feature, you need to upgrade to at least the Pro plan ($20 per month).
Google Cloud CDN is a content delivery network from Google that relies on the same globally distributed edge points of presence used by Google services such as Search, Gmail, and YouTube to accelerate content delivery for websites and applications served out of Google Compute Engine.
Google Cloud CDN offers two pricing models: a pay-as-you-go model with no minimum usage commitments and a sustained use discount model that lowers the cost based on usage.
To get started with Google Cloud CDN, users configure one or more origin servers or storage buckets to host their cached content. Then, they create a cache key for each origin server or storage bucket that they want to cache.
Next, they create one or more load balancers to associate with each cache key and then map the load balancer to a URL pattern. The load balancer sends requests matching the URL pattern to the associated cache key.
When a request is sent to the load balancer, it looks in its cache for a matching response. If a cache hit (a valid response) returns it to the user; otherwise, it forwards the request to the associated origin server or storage bucket and returns its response to the user.
Incapsula is a cloud-based service that provides a content delivery network (CDN), Web application firewall (WAF), and DDoS protection. Its range of services protects websites against threats such as data theft, DDoS attacks, and bot abuse.
Incapsula also offers an array of functionality for optimizing website performance. It can compress website files for faster page loading, and its CDN provides an efficient way to serve static content from servers located close to the end-user.
Incapsula has a friendly interface and offers a good set of features at competitive prices, but it’s missing some advanced capabilities found in other services.
The Incapsula service is sold as a cloud-based system that resides between the customer’s origin server and the Internet. Incapsula’s global network has 24 points of presence (POPs) worldwide. It can deliver content to users from servers much closer than possible with an origin server in a single location.
The Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a service that helps globally deliver high-bandwidth content to users by caching their content at strategically placed locations around the world.
While more and more companies are looking to leverage Microsoft’s cloud platform to host their applications, the reality is that Azure is still fighting an uphill battle against Amazon’s AWS and Google’s GCE.
Azure CDN features
Microsoft’s content delivery network is powered by Verizon, which allows it to cache static content such as images and videos at over 50 locations worldwide, including Europe and Asia.
Azure CDN also supports dynamic content, which means you can use it to deliver streaming media and digitally distributed software updates. You can use it independently or with other Azure services such as Azure Web Apps and Azure Blob Storage.
StackPath was formed in 2015 by the merger of MaxCDN, Highwinds, Server Density, and Fireblade.
This content delivery network (CDN) provider is one of the most popular markets, mostly due to its broad range of features and low-cost pricing. It’s also a great choice for those looking to get started in CDNs.
StackPath has an impressive list of available features even with its entry-level plan. These include:
- Origin Shielding: This feature ensures that your origin server is never overloaded with traffic and remains safe and secure.
- Real-time Analytics: Get detailed reports about your network activity day or night.
- Instant Purging: The automatic cache flushing feature means that you don’t have to wait for your content to be updated, as it will happen immediately.
- IPv6 Support: StackPath supports IPv6 addresses and IPv4 addresses so all users can access your websites easily and quickly.
The main benefit of using StackPath is its very low price tag, which starts at just $10 per month. That said, the basic plan only offers 10GB bandwidth per month.
StackPath has two main pricing plans:
- Standard: The Standard plan costs $10 per month for 100 GB of data transfer. This plan does not include access to the WAF or DDoS protection, but it does come with a full-featured content delivery network and storage system.
- Premium: The Premium plan costs $20 per month for 200 GB of data transfer. It includes everything in the Standard plan, plus access to the WAF and DDoS protection services.
Swarmify is a video delivery network that promises to maintain speed and quality. It uses multiple data centers worldwide, which serve up your videos from the closest possible location to your visitor.
This results in faster load times for your videos, which also helps to improve overall site performance.
Let’s take a look at what Swarmify has to offer:
Video hosting. You can use the Swarmify platform to host all of your videos or seamlessly integrate it with your existing video hosts like YouTube or Vimeo.
HTML5 video player. Every video served through the Swarmify will automatically be displayed using their custom HTML5 video player. You also get full control over how the player looks and behaves, including play, pause, and mute buttons, choosing whether or not you want to hide the controls bar, and enabling or disabling autoplay and looping.
Adaptive streaming. Swarmify uses adaptive streaming technology to ensure each video is delivered in the right format for your visitor’s device and connection speed.
The Verizon Media Delivery Network is a global content delivery network (CDN) that provides fast and reliable access to your data no matter where your users are located. It’s built on a global, intelligent cloud platform with more than 100,000 servers in 75-plus countries.
Verizon Media Delivery Network features
The Verizon Media Delivery Network is designed for high-traffic websites. It has an advanced edge caching technology that allows you to cache both static and dynamic content. The CDN also offers a real-time analytics system to monitor traffic, usage, and performance.
Other notable features of the Verizon Media Delivery Network include:
- Real-time analytics
- Advanced monitoring system
- Global network with more than 100,000 servers in 75-plus countries
- Built-in security against DDoS attacks
- Free SSL certificates for all subdomains
- Support for HTTP/2 and IPv6 protocols
Content Delivery Networks have been around for nearly a decade and have stayed relevant these past few years. The market is saturated with numerous CDN providers that all come with their benefits, and although it’s a bit tricky at first to find the right one, trust us, it’s worth it.
We outlined some key criteria in this article to help you through the process of finding the right Content Delivery Network provider for your business. Plus, we’ll see how they work, why they’re important, and the real benefits you can expect to receive from using one. If you want to know weather a digital agency or a freelancer which one is better for your digital marketing need check out our blog digital agency vs. freelancer: making the best choice for your business.