Content Delivery Networks – Making the Data Trains Run On Time

Content Delivery Networks

When you order an item from a seller on Amazon.com, the time it takes to arrive on your doorstep will depend on where the item is shipped from and how far it has to travel. That’s why many sellers on Amazon store their products at Amazon Fulfillment Centers located all over the world. Rather than shipping all orders from one single facility in one location, the seller will ship the order from the fulfillment center that’s located closest to where the customer lives. This ensures the fastest possible delivery, reduces shipping costs, and decreases the chances of something going wrong. 

Content delivery networks (CDNs) work much in the same way. A CDN is a geographically distributed network of interconnected servers that provide cached content—such as HTML pages, javascript files, images, videos, stylesheets, etc.—as close to users as possible. Caching content at multiple dispersed locations means you don’t have to haul it over long distances across multiple networks to every end user. This accelerates delivery, lowers costs, and increases bandwidth, security and reliability.   

The majority of web traffic today is served through CDNs, and the need for CDN services is only growing with the proliferation of streaming services, e-commerce, and cloud-based applications that require increasingly high performance. CDN providers operate their own network points of presence (POPs), and cache their content in third party-owned data centers, or a combination of both. When someone views or downloads content from a device, CDN management software will determine which server in the network is closest to the end user, and deliver the cached content from that server. Since very few CDNs have POPs all over the world, companies will use a number of different CDNs to deliver their content to the end users.

Benefits of using a CDN

Site loading time

Site visitors’ patience for slow-loading pages is dwindling rapidly. According to Kissmetrics, even a one second delay in page loading time will decrease customer satisfaction by 16%. Forty percent of users will abandon a webpage altogether if it takes more than three seconds to load, and 79% of online shoppers who are dissatisfied with website performance are less likely to buy from the same site again. Needless to say, slow page loading times can cost an organization a significant amount of revenue while decreasing conversions, engagement, and brand loyalty.

When a company employs a distributed CDN, end users can connect to a local POP instead of having to connect to wherever the website’s origin server is located. The less distance that data has to travel, the faster the service will be, and the faster the content will load and be available. CDNs can also further reduce load times in other ways, such as reducing file sizes through compression and utilizing solid-state hard drives. A faster website means site visitors will spend more time on the site, view more content, buy more products, and be much more likely to visit again.  

Bandwidth costs  

One of the biggest expenses for websites is bandwidth consumption—the amount it costs to transfer data from the internet to a user’s web browser. If a website doesn’t use a CDN, all of the site’s content must come from the origin server, which means the same server is being used to receive all requests and transfer all data out to users. This can get quite costly in terms of bandwidth, because site hosting services charge for the data that is trafficked in and out of that origin server.

 However, when cached in a CDN, content no longer needs to be retrieved from the origin server. The origin server may provide a certain amount of content that isn’t static and not cached in the CDN, but the amount of data to be transferred is still significantly reduced and, therefore, less expensive. 

Availability and redundancy

If a website can’t be seen, does it still exist? No matter what type of website you have, if traffic can’t reach it because the server is down, it is effectively invisible and closed for business. That’s why uptime is one of the most critical components of any website. Hardware malfunctions, sudden increases in internet traffic, and cyber-attacks can cause servers to crash and bring down the website. 

Because CDNs have multiple locations, they can minimize this risk by distributing traffic more evenly across multiple servers. This type of load balancing allows the network to accommodate sudden, unexpected traffic increases. If one or more of the distributed servers go down due to hardware failover or cyber-attack, traffic can easily be redistributed to other servers, ensuring continuous uptime and availability.

Reliability  

When data travels from an origin server to an end user, it can often be like an airline flight with multiple stop-overs. The data packets must hop across multiple routers in different physical locations before arriving at the end user’s device. In addition to the physical distance, infrastructure components (such as fiber optic cables vs. copper wires), network traffic and bottlenecks, and varying server response times can all slow down or impede service altogether.  

CDNs significantly reduce the distance data has to travel, thereby reducing the number of hops required to reach the end user. Like our earlier example of Amazon warehouses located closer to the consumer, the less hops the packets have to make, the less potential obstacles and points of failure will be in the way, and the less chances there are of something going wrong.

Security 

Denial of Service (DoS) attacks are a popular type of cyber-attack designed to target websites and take them offline. They work by sending an overwhelming amount of traffic to the site, exhausting the capacity of the server. CDNs protect against these types of attacks by absorbing the increase in traffic across their multiple POPs. Rather than a single server being overwhelmed by the DoS attack, the onslaught of traffic is distributed so that each server in the network receives a manageable amount. Many CDNs also offer additional security features, such as keeping fresh TLS/SSL certificates to ensure high encryption and authentication standards. 

Netrality is a natural ecosystem partner for CDNs. Our interconnected colocation data centers are located in close proximity to cable, ILEC and cellular networks in major markets. Built-in redundancy and direct on-ramps to the cloud allow CDNs in our ecosystem to reliably deliver services to their customers locally and throughout the U.S. CDNs that connect to the cloud at Netrality’s data centers include Cloudflare and Akamai—which was the very first CDN ever launched, back in 1998. Akamai’s original conception and techniques are the foundation of all CDNs today.

To learn more about providing the best, most worry-free service possible to your customers by joining a first-rate ecosystem of connectivity, contact us

Back to Blog