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Introduction to Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

What are CDN's? How does a CDN work? Who uses a CDN? How does a CDN make my website faster? Who are the CDN players? How much does a CDN cost?
by

Jeff Webb

on 15 July 2015

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Transcript of Introduction to Content Delivery Networks (CDN)

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
Introduction to Content Delivery Networks
What are CDN's?
They are used by online companies such as to host video content for live TV or Video On Demand.
They are also used for serving images and other commonly used content.
They are distributed nationally and internationally.
They charge based on the amount of data that they serve, so the more popular your site, the more you pay.
They are a quick way to grow your website traffic instead of having to spend money on more servers.
How does a CDN work?
In order to make your website faster the CDN has to store a copy of your website content in its caches which are spread around the country, continent and/or the globe.
The CDN will make a decision based on the geographic location of the user. This is important because of the speed of light and distance affects what we call latency.
E.g. Someone in London, UK would access a UK based CDN region whereas someone in New York would access an east coast US region and someone in Australia would access an Asian region all of which are geographically closer to the user.
Who uses a CDN?
CDN's are used by most large Media companies like Sky and the BBC, who need to serve millions of customers every day which would be very expensive and difficult if they had to build it themselves.
Smaller companies and popular blogs can also benefit from using a CDN to improve the performance and customer experience of their site
as its often cheaper to use a CDN and offload your webservers than to buy more hardware and have to manage it yourself.
Several companies offer managed services.
How does a CDN make my website faster?
Typical CDN efficiency averages between 90-99% which means you need fewer servers to handle the same volumes of customer traffic.
If you have a website with personalised content then around 90% should be achievabe.
If you have a static website or blog then the higher numbers should be possible.
Some CDN's also include website optimisation.
Rule of Thumb: The higher the percentage the better off you are.
Faster can also improve search engine results from Google and Others.
Who are the CDN players?
Large Companies:
Akamai, Level3, Limelight, Edgecast.
Small Companies:
Amazon Cloudfront, MaxCDN, CacheFly.
Personal Sites:
Amazon S3 storage, Cloudflare and Yottaa.
How much does a CDN cost?
Most CDN's offer two payment plans.
Contracted: Akamai for example need to have a minimum volume of traffic per month and therefore aimed at the larger companies. These start from $1000+ per month.
Pay as you Go: Provides flexibility for smaller websites and some CDN's allow you to trial their service with up to 1TB of traffic for under $100. This is a great way to get experience and could last several months depending on usage.
Rule of Thumb: CDN's are no longer a luxury but are a necessity for any successful website, so start small, get some experience and your customers will thank you for it :-)
Twitter @cdnperformance
Jeff Webb
With Audio commentary
Full transcript