What is CDN? Understanding Content Delivery Network
What is CDN? Understand the use, function, and importance of content delivery networks. Explore valuable resources and learn how to choose a suitable provider.
Written by RamotionJul 3, 202312 min read
Last updated: Aug 22, 2023
Website developers play a crucial role in creating and maintaining digital platforms. Since online presence is essential for businesses to succeed in the modern world, web development has become an important part of the process.
From deciding the nature of the web content to designing the outlook, each step requires minute attention to detail. Businesses carefully curate websites to ensure effective customer outreach and better profits.
Web designers focus on ensuring a user-friendly design and organization of the internet content. While design is vital to the process, the digital content must also be carefully curated. The choice primarily remains between dynamic content and static content. CDN is another aspect of focus for web developers.
In this article, we will introduce you to the concept of CDN. We will elaborate on the importance, functionality, and benefits of CDN. You will also find critical ways to select an appropriate CDN provider and navigate additional resources for further exploration.
Read along to get a deeper insight into the concept of CDN and its importance in the effective use of digital platforms.
Web hosting is an integral part of delivering content from the center of the network to the edge server. Since websites are accessible to a wide range of audiences over a wide geographical area, content delivery networks (CDN) must provide content to the end user.
Multiple CDN edge servers bring web content from the origin server to the end user. It enables the quick transfer of critical assets to load internet content for any user, ranging from images and videos to HTML pages and stylesheets.
What is CDN?
A content delivery network (CDN) is a mesh of geographically distributed servers. It aims to ensure the provision of cached content at the network edge.
CDN services cache the relevant content in proxy servers closer to the edge. A CDN server aims to resolve the issue of network congestion over countless user requests by bringing content closer to the end user. It is not the origin server but is connected to one for better accessibility of content. It is also called a content distribution network.
Importance of a CDN
With the increasing use of the internet, web content has become a significant source of interaction between businesses and their customers. Content owners must rely on edge servers to deliver and display their websites to the end users. In this area, CDN servers provide a globally distributed network that enables web hosts to deliver content away from the origin server efficiently.
Content delivery networks are crucial in maintaining the speed of the internet as we know it today. CDN services ensure a reliable, fast, and consistent experience for the end users. It enables organizations to connect with the market effectively and deliver content accurately. Moreover, a CDN provider also manages the network traffic, creating a balanced distribution of traffic in any network.
Since companies aim to succeed globally in the modern market, CDN edge servers deliver cached content to a broader geographical area. It increases outreach and market size for organizations, improving the scope of their products and services.
It will provide a more comprehensive market base leading to more significant profits and global recognition for businesses.
Thus, CDN services are essential for modern-day businesses to succeed in the competitive global market. The content distribution network creates a reliable infrastructure for enterprises to expand their market share and develop their identity globally.
It also ensures that people have access to more options with internet access. Hence, if you do not opt for a CDN server, your products and services might not reach their true potential.
Functionality of a CDN
Content delivery networks are digital infrastructures that enable the availability of web content away from the origin server. Multiple servers in the network store cached content closer to the geographic locations of user requests. The process is completed through strategically placed data centers known as Points of Presence (PoPs). Each PoP consists of multiple caching servers that deliver content to the users within its location.
A CDN server allows the content to be stored in the local PoPs. A user request connects the web server with one of the edge servers to retrieve site content. The edge server is selected based on proximity from the point of user request.
Multiple caching servers are available within the core network, ensuring the distribution of traffic and server load. The edge server forwards the request to the origin server for the first time requests generated by the users. The received content is not only displayed to the user but also cached locally. All subsequent requests are completed using the cached files.
Hence, the content delivery network servers enable quicker content access to the end user without relying on the origin servers within the network. Thus, The process is completed using multiple operational servers, including the origin server, CDN servers, and edge servers. A CDN server is beneficial in delivering web pages that host dynamic content.
The functionality of the core network infrastructure with CDN services depends on content caching. It is the process of copying the files from the origin server onto the local PoPs for use in the future. The process initiates with the user request for static content of the web pages for the first time.
The origin server provides the relevant data the CDN servers copy into the local PoPs. All future requests are addressed through the stored, cached content until a demand for new web content is initiated. It optimizes the data transfer between network operators and the user end.
Benefits of Using a CDN
Managing website content with increasing internet use has become challenging for businesses. The process has improved with the help of content delivery networks that provide a better user experience when users access websites.
Let’s look at the leading advantages of using a CDN.
What are the benefits of using a CDN?
Some of the significant advantages of using a CDN include:
- Reduce bandwidth consumption
- Enhance web page performance
- Improve website security
- Increase content availability
Reduce bandwidth consumption
Bandwidth costs are a significant expense for web hosting. Web content requires bandwidth to ensure data transfer. A CDN server optimizes the process by caching content. Since files are stored on the local edge server, the bandwidth consumption is fairly reduced due to decreased web traffic. The temporary content storage makes the content more accessible, including static and dynamic content.
While the former refers to content delivered without modification, the latter requires an advanced CDN network to streamline content delivery. Thus, CDN services ensure global load balancing and reduced bandwidth consumption, reducing business expenses while maintaining better outreach into the market.
Enhance web page performance
Latency is a significant factor in getting users off your website. Traffic spikes within the network can lead to poor web performance and large page load times. It can result due to delays in reading files, data processing, and data transfer between nodes within a network.
CDNs deliver the content of high-performance websites with lower load times due to content caching on servers closest to the end users. Hence, optimizing web performance with lowered user-end response times.
Improve website security
Data is one of the most important aspects of modern businesses. It makes security a non-negotiable for enterprises and their customers. Hence, web hosts must ensure website security for their users.
Relying on a single web server makes the network vulnerable to malicious attacks like Distributed Denial of Services attacks (DDoS) that can cause the origin server to crash due to web traffic overload. Since CDN deflects web traffic from web proxies, the primary source becomes invisible to hackers. Hence, ensuring the security of the website users.
Increase content availability
A website becomes a portal of information that helps connect a potential customer with your products and services. It makes content availability and accessibility crucial at all times. While traffic spikes and hardware malfunctions can lead to downtime often, a CDN network helps avoid such occurrences.
A CDN distributes traffic among multiple edge servers to ensure load balancing that leaves a lighter load for the core network infrastructure to carry. Thus, with reduced chances of downtime, content availability increases significantly.
Thus, by including other operational servers into the network with the origin server, CDNs enable better load balancing, reduced load times and bandwidth consumption, improved web performance, and increased content availability for your website files. Thus, website owners can increase their profits while reducing web hosting expenses.
Applications of a CDN
Almost all businesses today maintain an online presence. They need to manage their media files and legitimate website traffic while ensuring the maintenance of their origin servers. As this requires extensive data handling with improved user experience and better network traffic, most businesses today use CDN services.
Let’s look at common areas of business where CDN use is prevalent.
Which business areas use CDN?
CDN application is common in the following types of businesses:
- Video Streaming
E-commerce heavily relies on high-quality user experience and personalized dynamic content. CDN provides a suitable infrastructure with minimum load times and bandwidth costs, enabling e-commerce businesses to maximize profits.
The websites require continuous uptime with top-notch security to reach a wider audience online and maintain better customer retention. Since all factors are supported and delivered by a CDN, it has become a standard tool for e-commerce websites like Safyre Labs.
The gaming sector has highly demanding applications that require real-time interaction with large amounts of data and possible software downloads as scalability. It demands a robust system that is reliable, available, and easily scalable system.
A CDN feature enables gamers to access website resources of online gaming seamlessly. The lowered load times and reduced latency helps run the games better, increasing game performance for its users. Major companies like Microsoft rely on CDNs to ensure their users a high-quality immersive gaming experience.
Developing high-quality video streaming is crucial to success for the players of this category in the digital world. The internet content of the video streaming sites is expected to be of high resolution and without interruptions. It requires diminished load times and constant data exchange with the network edge.
A CDN provides the necessary elements to run a video streaming site successfully. Mux is one example of a website that helps publish high-quality video content with high performance and better user parameter control.
It is a category of businesses that start from a small-scale representation of the global market and rely on easy scalability options for the future. Hence, they must find the right balance between bandwidth costs and high-quality user experience.
CDN provides them with an infrastructure that is scalable without enormous financial burdens. One primary example of a startup relying on CDN is Castos.
Selecting a CDN Provider
CDN providers offer services that ensure your operational network is set up correctly. Below is a list of features that a reliable CDN provider must offer.
- DDoS protection - an additional security layer to prevent network-layer attacks
- Geo-filtering - specify paths on CDN endpoints and enable content restriction based on location
- Push or pull functionality - the ability to decide the caching method for your web content
- HTTP/2 support - supports HTTPS that, is more secure and faster than regular HTTP protocol
- Customizable - allows modification of a CDN as per your needs
- Origin shield - an additional caching layer between the origin server and the CDN edge servers
While you should look for the mentioned features with your CDN provider for your web server, let’s look at some of the best choices available in the market.
It is one of the best choices in the market, with data centers worldwide. It is easy to set up and comes with an intelligent caching system. Its CDN service includes load balancing, DDoS protection, and more. They offer different bundles at discounted rates. However, you can purchase their CDN service at $10 per month.
Its CDN services are popular among bloggers and small businesses. It is one of the best free WordPress CDN providers, with over 180 data centers worldwide. While free, its premium plan can offer additional features, starting from $20 per month.
It uses Google’s global network and has data centers at 90 different locations worldwide. It can easily integrate with the Google Cloud Platform and offers a $300 free trial credit. Moreover, it has ‘pay as you go’ pricing plans.
The CDN provider provided by Amazon Web Services is famous for its speed. It is highly advanced, making it appropriate for developers and professionals. It is integrated with AWS and offers personalized dynamic content. Its pricing varies by location and follows the ‘pay as you go’ structure.
As you begin your journey into content delivery networks, take some time to explore the concept on your own. Following are a few additional resources to assist you in a more profound exploration of CDNs in website servers.
Youtube tutorial - What is a CDN?
A YouTube tutorial by IMB Technology covers the basic concept of CDN. It uses a situational example to elaborate on understanding content delivery networks.
Exploring Content Delivery Networking
A paper published in ieee.org explores CDN peering and its role in the future of the digital world.
Content Delivery Networks: Fundamentals, Design, and Evolution
A book by Dom Robinson dives deep into the concept of CDNs.
The resources can be a good starting point for your journey to understand content delivery networks and evaluate their role in determining your position in the digital world.
Content delivery networks (CDNs) have redefined web hosting by creating an infrastructure of geographically distributed servers. The edge servers cache content locally to ensure faster content delivery to their closest end users. Creating a global outreach for businesses at a lower cost is vital.
Moreover, it offers reduced bandwidth costs and latency, enhancing the user experience accessing websites. The versatility and robustness of the concept have made it popular among various business areas, primarily including e-commerce, gaming, and video streaming. CDN services will have a long-lasting impact on web hosting and digital communication.