Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Content Delivery Network
Left: A standard server setup
Right: A depiction of a Content Delivery Network

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) consists of a large system of servers which are usually located in multiple data centers worldwide.  The point of the CDN is to serve content (hence content delivery) to end-users.  An end-user is, for instance, you!  By reading this webpage you are the intended end-user of this site.

Let’s say you build a website and put it on Server A located in Brookfield Connecticut.  Anyone accessing the website that lives in Connecticut will get very fast page load speeds, but what if you live in Florida?  How about California?  If the server is located across the country you are adding a few seconds onto the page load times just because of the distance the signals need to travel.  A CDN takes the website (or common files from the website) and distributes them across the servers in the network, let’s say this CDN has a server located in California, Server C.  Now when someone from California accesses the website they are able to download the files from Server C and don’t have worry about delay times in transmitting the files across the country.

Now you know what it is, but why have one?

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[pullquote align=”left” width=”100%”]Potentially save money in infrastructure costs[/pullquote]

[pullquote align=”left” width=”100%”]Protection from D0S and DDoS attacks[/pullquote]
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A Content Delivery Network serves several purposes, first and foremost it offers performance and availability increases for hosted content. As you just read, end-users located far from your server location will benefit because they can get the content from servers closer than the main one. Obviously this only works if the Content Delivery Network you choose has servers located across the world! CDN’s help offload some of the traffic served from the main server to the network which could potentially save money in infrastructure costs. Another benefit of using a CDN is protection from Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. Because the website is now hosted on a network infrastructure across the globe the CDN can help absorb the impacts of an attack.

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Sounds great, must be expensive

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Not really! Although that is a subjective opinion.  It depends on the size and popularity of your website.  If you operate a small website that is accessed locally (say only in Connecticut or New York) then you might not even need a CDN or you could try a free CDN (oh yes, there are free ones!).  If you have a nationwide (or global) reach with thousands of customers and hundreds of visits to your website per day or more than your website would absolutely benefit from a paid Content Delivery Network.  There are a TON of options out there as far as paid CDNs go so it’s hard to recommend one.  We’ve been using MaxCDN because they offer competitive pricing and easy setup.