Content Delivery Network (CDN) – The Beginners Guide

By Team Writer - Published on May 21, 2020
Content Delivery Network Guide

According to Google, about 54% of users who access the internet with their mobile phones, end up bouncing if a particular web page does not load within 1 to 10 seconds on average(1). This is why we will be explaining all you need to know about content delivery network.

What exactly is a CDN?

The term “CDN” is an acronym for Content Delivery Network. It refers to a connection of servers positioned in different locations. They help to store important contents such as CSS files, HTML pages, JavaScript files, and visual/audiovisual files.

Which Firms use a CDN?

In the real sense, anyone who runs a business online, whether fully or partially, should most likely be using a CDN. This is even more so when a lot of providers offer cost free services.

Therefore, a CDN is mostly used by Tech firms, big industries, businesses and a lot of websites that prefer to work on a bigger platform. Therefore content delivery network is mostly used by firms in the following fields:

  • Healthcare
  • E-commerce
  • Media and entertainment
  • Higher education
  • Government agencies
  • Advertising
  • Online gaming
  • Mobile

Particularly, Tech firms that specialize in online gaming have witnessed a significant level of CDN penetration. In fact, there are statistical backings to this. Cisco’s visual networking has reported that CDN penetration will cause IP video to have 79% of online traffic in 2018.

Online gaming and game development tech companies largely use CDN because of the advantage of faster game downloads by their users, patches, installed, downloadable content or in-game content, as well as demos. Usually, these files tend to be very large and can take a lot of time to receive from the origin server than from a server that is nearer to the end users.

In addition, firms in the media and entertainment industry leverage more on the bigger benefits they stand to gain from employing CDNs. This is because their users engage in activities such as file downloads, and/or continuous media streaming.

Furthermore, software-related firms are popular for using CDNs. This is because they also gain from quicker exchange of files. This helps them to give their users a satisfactory multimedia experience.

According to Statista.com, the global content delivery network internet traffic from 2017 to 2022 has been forecasted to be on the increase as more software and tech-related firms are using CDNs. In 2017, the data volume of content delivery network internet traffic in exabytes per month was just 54. The figures have grown geometrically as CDN penetrated more firms.

In 2018 and 2019, it saw a forecasted increase of 75 and 105 exabytes per month, respectively. By the end of this year, 2020, the numbers are expected to increase to 140 exabytes. Future forecasts have shown that through 2021 and 2022, the total exabytes per month would still be on the rise at 190 and 252 exabytes, respectively.

How did CDNs Evolve?

The emergence of content delivery network can be traced back to the late 1990s. Then it was used as a solution for curbing the performance bottlenecks of the Internet, even though the Internet was already becoming an essential tool for businesses and individuals. Ever since that time, CDNs have developed to function in a large proportion of the Internet content in the current age.

CDNs now serve Internet contents such as applications, social media sites, graphics, scripts, documents, software, on-demand streaming media, downloadable media files, and live streaming media among a whole lot more.

In essence, the evolution of CDN has increased the umbrella of CDN to encompass a vast range of internet services. It has therefore been forecasted that through 2020, CDN will have a 34% CAGR.

Why should I use a CDN?

  1. Increase Performance

    Indubitably, enhanced performance is one of the foremost reasons for the utilization of a CDN. This is because content is cached in POPs all over the world. This therefore brings the content closer to the user.

  1. Enhance Reliability

    In the absence of a CDN, user demands will frequently be channeled to the closest accessible location. Hence, in the case of the inaccessibility of one edge server, demands are automatically routed to the next accessible edge server.

    This therefore helps to enable automatic redundancy that assists in making sure that contents are always available and accessible. Otherwise, the site users may be welcomed by an error notification. Of course, this will have a huge effect on the possibility of them ever returning to that website.

  1. Effortless Scaling

    Routing traffic to a CDN will make it less stressful to manage traffic spikes and scale up or down within a short time frame. The implication of this is that there will be less work for an origin server. This will also help to reduce any downtime.

    Usually, a normal website is composed of almost 80% permanent content. Therefore, a CDN will help to deliver an important part of web assets in a quicker and more efficient manner.

  1. Improve Security

    Whenever a content delivery network security is implemented, most of the traffic does not come from the origin server anymore. Instead it is the CDN edge servers that are serving the larger proportion of traffic.

    This automatically causes DDoS attacks to be countered by the CDN. In order to increase security, SSL certificates can be optimized on most CDN platforms. This will enable the encryption of all traffic.

    In addition, most CDNs have their personal security measures such as secure tokens and hotlink protection. These help to prevent third-party or unauthorized accessibility.

  1. Reduction In Costs

    Content delivery network helps to nullify the extra costs that would have otherwise been spent on the management of infrastructures. This means no money is required to be spent on upfront investments and maintenance costs.

    In addition, since the CDN edge servers deliver the content, this helps to limit the costs of the origin server bandwidth.

    Thanks to the cached content on the CDN’s edge servers, there would be no need for you to upgrade to a higher hosting plan. This is because it will be serving less traffic. This also helps to save productive time.

  1. Higher Conversions

    To a very defendable extent, it has been demonstrated that conversions can be increased as a result of the overall speed of a game, website, or any digital content. The major reason for this is because the user experience is enhanced.

    In fact, it has been reported according to LoadStorm that just a 1-second delay in loading time will on average lead to a 7% loss in conversions. Therefore, it is evident that conversion rates can be increased to record higher sales by using a CDN.

  1. Lower Abandonment Rate

    A lot of websites experience high bounce rates as a result of factors such as complexity in usability, navigation, and appearance.

    In addition, slow web loading time is another factor that causes visitors to abandon a site. This is why it is necessary to use a CDN to increase your user engagement and reduce abandonment rates.

    An additional benefit of this is that your site will rank higher in search engines. This will consequently increase conversion or sales rates, as well as enhancing the general user experience.

How does a CDN Operate?

As stated earlier, a content delivery network is a vast connection of different servers situated in several geographical locations. The POPs are positioned close to areas with higher populations in countries all around the globe. The larger the country, the more the POPs.

Security and Privacy of CDNs – How do CDNs protect data?

Data protection is an essential aspect of CDNs. CDNs help to secure data by utilizing TLS/SSL certificates in order to guarantee a high standard of encryption, authentication, and integrity. This helps to make sure that data contents are securely delivered throughout the network of CDN servers.

What is the structure of a CDN?

Typically, content delivery network architecture is composed of two important components and they are: points of presence (POP) and edge servers.

  • Points of presence

    This is commonly shortened as POP. A point of presence simply refers to a single geographical location where a network of CDN edge servers are positioned. However, points of presence, which is commonly known as POPs, refers to several geographical locations that when combined together make up the whole network. The entire number of POPs that constitute a CDN as well as each location has a significant effect on the global coverage.

  • Edge Servers

    An edge server is a server that is situated between two networks and it is positioned at each POP. Edge servers are simple proxy caches that operate in a similar manner to a web browser cache. You should understand that the edge servers are not responsible for the generation of website content, rather, they only store a duplication of the content in the cache. It is good to keep in mind that the overall number of edge servers situated at each POP will be different from each content delivery network providers.

Types of CDNs

There are primarily two types of CDNs, and they include:

  1. Content-oriented CDNs

    When CDNs first evolved, they were used for just static content such as HTML, CSS, and JS. They were not aware that they had to update their cache with your content. Hence you had to push content to them as you created or uploaded it. Over time, they began to feature origin pulling which made the processes more automatic.

    This means that whenever a user requested the CDN’s URL, the content delivery network automatically requested the origin website’s URL and cached whatever information it received. Nowadays, a lot of CDNs now cache a website’s “last live” state. This is to ensure that the users are able to access CDN generated contents even if the origin site crashes. This type of CDNs create the illusion of normalcy until the situation is resolved.

  1. Security-oriented CDNs

    On another hand, this is the second layer of CDNs, and it features DDoS and bot protection. Since a CDN is the outermost layer of a website’s infrastructure, it is the first point of contact of traffic. This means that it can quickly and easily detect DDoS attacks and block them with special DDoS servers that are called scrubbers.

    By doing this, the origin server is saved from crashing. In addition, a CDN can use knowledge crowdsourced from its numerous users to learn about suspicious botters, IPs, spammers, and their patterns of behavior.

    This means that, for instance, a scraper that works on site 1 will stop working on site 2 the moment it has been detected, especially if the second site is protected by the same CDN. This is because the content delivery network traffic filter will recognize a pattern it has encountered previously.

How do I choose the right CDNs?

In choosing the most suitable CDN for your website, it is necessary for you to consider some specific features such as:

  1. Performance

    Always keep in mind that the foremost duty of a content delivery network is to enhance the performance of your website by increasing the web loading speed. It is therefore important that before you select just any CDN provider, you need to ascertain that that provider can effectively manage your large bandwidth demands. Do not forget that speed is vital! Do not choose a CDN that does not guarantee a fast response time.

  1. Security

    What is the use of a fast loading website if it can easily be hacked? This is why a secure content delivery network should have the capacity to defend your site from attacks, spams, and invasive bots.

  1. Customer Service/Support

    Let us assume that something goes wrong unexpectedly with your site’s performance and you are unable to get in touch with your CDN provider on time. You wouldn’t want that, right? This is why a good CDN provider should be always available to attend to customer care issues whenever the need arises.

  1. Cost

    It is important that you choose a CDN provider whose cost is commensurate with your traffic volume. If you are just launching your website, then it is actually recommended to employ free CDNs. You should however bear in mind that the more your website progresses, the more you would have to pay for advanced CDN providers.

  1. Management

    When you want to choose the right content delivery network providers for your website, it is necessary to make sure that the CDN operator will manage the servers adequately. This would mean updating the servers consistently through proper patches and making sure that your network does not experience any form of disruption, not even for a split second.

  1. Location of the Servers

    This may as well be the most important factor to consider when searching for the right content delivery network providers. It is necessary that you do not overlook the significance of server locations. This is because the farther the servers are from your users, then the higher the chances of experiencing low latency, downtime, service distortions, and a general reduction in the performance level of your site.

    This is why it is important that you confirm the locations of all the servers of a particular CDN provider before you choose it as the best option for you.

    In choosing the right content delivery network, you may also need to consider picking between Free Public CDN Services (such as Microsoft CDN, Google CDN, jQuery CDN, cdnjs CDN, jsDelivr CDN etc.) or Popular Paid CDN Services (such as Amazon CloudFront, Limelight, Incapsula, CDN 77, Max CDN, CacheFly, CDNetworks, Akamai etc.).

How can I implement CDN?

Generally, the process of implementing content delivery network services is relatively simple. But this will be determined by the size and complexity of your website. The process of implementing a CDN involves selecting which static resources you would be giving to the CDN provider to manage. Then, you would have to configure your website to send requests to those contents to the CDN. You can also implement a CDN by changing your domain name and modifying DNS records.

Techniques for Content Networking

There are three basic content networking techniques and they are:

  1. Content Service Protocols: these are designed to enable accessibility to several content services across a content network.
  1. Peer-to-peer CDNs: this helps to reduce the installation and operating costs by allowing clients to provide resources and also use them.
  1. Private CDNs: this is a personal CDN that serves only the contents of its owner.

Top Content Delivery Network Providers of 2020

  • StackPath
  • Sucuri
  • Cloudflare
  • KeyCDN
  • Google Cloud CDN
  • Rackspace
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • MaxCDN

If you want to know more read out these Top CDN Providers in details.

Merits and Demerits of CDN

Merits of CDN:

  1. It improves the website loading time
  2. It reduces bandwidth costs
  3. It increases content availability and redundancy
  4. It enhances better website security

Demerits of CDN:

  1. There may be unavailability of customer support in case anything goes wrong
  2. Since it involves third-party networks, this increases the costs for installing the networks.
  3. The CDN providers may not have servers dispersed in your country.

Frequently Asked Questions about Content Delivery Network

Q. What is the primary purpose of a content delivery network?       

A. It is to grow your website with successful traffic influx by increasing the loading time and enhancing the site performance to give a better user experience.

Q. How does a CDN reduce bandwidth costs? 

A. Web hosting services will usually charge for the data that is transferred to or from the origin server (this is the bandwidth). A content delivery network reduces bandwidth costs because it is positioned between the users and the origin servers.

Since bandwidth is consumed every time an origin server responds to request, it therefore cuts down the traffic between the hosting servers and the rest of the internet. With the utilization of a CDN, very little data would have to be transferred in and out of the origin server. This would therefore help to reduce the bandwidth costs.

Q. Which types of solutions provided by CDNs

A. These are the types of solutions:

  • Security solutions
  • Web performance
  • Media delivery
  • Network operator solutions
  • Cloud cost optimization
  • Log analysis
  • Services developers solutions etc.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, as the world continues to increasingly depend on the internet, the efficiency, security of network infrastructures, and connectivity speed are nonnegotiable. The existence of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) has provided successful websites with the adequate tools needed to be aligned with the ever-increasing demands of the users. For the world’s data distribution to keep pace with the development of new technologies, content delivery network has to be fully optimized.

Team Writer

Team Writer | TechFunnel.com is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicated to sharing unbiased information, research, and expert commentary that helps executives and professionals stay on top of the rapidly evolving marketplace, leverage technology for productivity, and add value to their knowledge base.

Team Writer

Team Writer | TechFunnel.com is an ambitious publication dedicated to the evolving landscape of marketing and technology in business and in life. We are dedicate...

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