Why you should be using a CDN

Most websites and applications that people interact with every day are run out of one physical location, but content on the site or application (like images, text, and video) still needs to travel over wires to the entire world.

It works like this: if a website’s servers are based in New York City, people in Boston will get the content faster than people in San Francisco or Tokyo. The farther away customers are from a company’s data center, the slower the website or application loads — creating an inconsistent and frustrating user experience.

Lag times of any length frustrate web and mobile users accustomed to real-time digital experiences. According to LoadStorm:

  • 25% of users will abandon a website that takes longer than four seconds to load.
  • 74% of users will abandon a mobile site that takes longer than five seconds to load.
  • 46% of users won’t return to a poorly performing website.

This problem can be fixed with a content delivery network (CDN).

The benefits of CDNs are more emphasized by examining its usage in a few real-time application areas. Some common application areas include,

  • E-Commerce: E-commerce companies make use of CDNs to improve their site performance and making their products available online. According to Computer World, CDN provides 100% uptime of e-commerce sites and this leads to improved global website performance. With continuous uptime companies are able to retain existing customers, leverage new customers with their products and explore new markets, to maximize their business outcomes.
  • Media and Advertising: In media, CDNs enhance the performance of streaming content to a large degree by delivering the latest content to end users quickly. We can easily see today, there is a growing demand for online video, and real-time audio/video and other media streaming applications. This demand is leveraged by media, advertising, and digital content service providers by delivering high-quality content efficiently for users. CDNs accelerate streaming media content such as breaking news, movies, music, online games and multimedia games in different formats. The content is made available from the data center which is nearest to the users’ location.
  • Business Websites: CDNs accelerate the interaction between users and websites, this acceleration is highly essential for corporate businesses. In websites, speed is one important metric and a ranking factor. If a user is far away from a website the web pages will load slowly. Content delivery networks overcome this problem by sending the requested content to the user from the nearest server in CDN to give the best possible load times, thus speeding the delivery process.
  • Education: In the area of online education CDNs offer many advantages. Many educational institutes offer online courses that require streaming video/audio lectures, presentations, images and distribution systems. In online courses, students from around the world can participate in the same course. CDN ensures that when a student logs into a course, the content is served from the nearest datacenter to the student’s location. CDNs support educational institutes by steering content to regions where most of the students reside.

In the internet, closer is always better to overcome problems in latency and performance, CDNs are seen as an ideal solution in such situations. Since CDNs share digital assets between nodes and servers in different geographical locations, this significantly improves client response times for content delivery. CDN nodes or servers deployed at multiple locations in data centers also take care of optimizing the delivery process with users. However, the CDN services and the cost are worked out in SLAs with the data center service provider.

Benefits of Using a CDN

Almost any site can reap the benefits provided by rolling out a CDN, but generally, the core reasons for implementing one are to offload bandwidth from your origin servers onto the CDN servers and to reduce latency for geographically distributed users.

We’ll go through these and several of the other major advantages afforded by using a CDN below.

Origin Offload

If you’re nearing bandwidth capacity on your servers, offloading static assets like images, videos, CSS and JavaScript files will drastically reduce your servers’ bandwidth usage. Content delivery networks are designed and optimized for serving static content, and client requests for this content will be routed to and served by edge CDN servers. This has the added benefit of reducing the load on your origin servers, as they then serve this data at a much lower frequency.

Lower Latency for Improved User Experience

If your user base is geographically dispersed, and a non-trivial portion of your traffic comes from a distant geographical area, a CDN can decrease latency by caching static assets on edge servers closer to your users. By reducing the distance between your users and static content, you can more quickly deliver content to your users and improve their experience by boosting page load speeds.

These benefits are compounded for websites serving primarily bandwidth-intensive video content, where high latencies and slow loading times more directly impact user experience and content engagement.

Manage Traffic Spikes and Avoid Downtime

CDNs allow you to handle large traffic spikes and bursts by load balancing requests across a large, distributed network of edge servers. By offloading and caching static content on a delivery network, you can accommodate a larger number of simultaneous users with your existing infrastructure.

For websites using a single origin server, these large traffic spikes can often overwhelm the system, causing unplanned outages and downtime. Shifting traffic onto highly available and redundant CDN infrastructure, designed to handle variable levels of web traffic, can increase the availability of your assets and content.

Reduce Costs

As serving static content usually makes up the majority of your bandwidth usage, offloading these assets onto a content delivery network can drastically reduce your monthly infrastructure spend. In addition to reducing bandwidth costs, a CDN can decrease server costs by reducing the load on the origin servers, enabling your existing infrastructure to scale. Finally, some CDN providers offer fixed-price monthly billing, allowing you to transform your variable monthly bandwidth usage into a stable, predictable recurring spend.

Increase Security

Another common use case for CDNs is DDoS attack mitigation. Many CDN providers include features to monitor and filter requests to edge servers. These services analyze web traffic for suspicious patterns, blocking malicious attack traffic while continuing to allow reputable user traffic through. CDN providers usually offer a variety of DDoS mitigation services, from common attack protection at the infrastructure level (OSI layers 3 and 4), to more advanced mitigation services and rate limiting.

In addition, most CDNs let you configure full SSL so that you can encrypt traffic between the CDN and the end user, as well as traffic between the CDN and your origin servers, using either CDN-provided or custom SSL certificates.

 

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