Like their name implies, content delivery networks (CDNs) are purpose-built to deliver content. But over many years, they’ve evolved from simply caching static content closer to users to distributing rich media, streaming video, delivering software, balancing traffic loads, accelerating application delivering and supporting SSL.
What is a CDN?
Simply put, a CDN is a system of distributed servers in locations or points of presence (PoPs) around the world. A CDN delivers media, such as streaming video, audio, applications, web pages, etc., to users from the nearest server to reduce latency and loading time. It’s ideal for content that’s requested by multiple users simultaneously.
How does a CDN work?
The CDN server checks your static content (e.g., a web page) for freshness and then delivers it to the user. Users can stream your video files directly from the CDN server, without burdening your servers or network. In fact, by offloading data storage and delivery to a third-party CDN operator, you can reduce the burden on your own IT infrastructure, potentially reducing your capex and opex costs.
What types of companies use CDNs?
In the early days, primarily content generators — media companies and software distributors — leveraged CDNs. But today there is huge demand for CDNs from companies of all sizes and vertical industries.
Research from Transparency Market Research identifies top buyers coming from advertising, media and entertainment, online gaming, e-commerce, education, government, health care, banking and financial services, insurance, IT, and travel and hospitality.
All told, the research firm expects the market to grow at a CAGR of 25.5 percent from 2017 to 2025 and reach more than $18.5 billion in 2025.
What is driving the increasing use of CDNs?
In a word – video. Our collective appetite for video has grown exponentially, not only for entertainment but to deliver information to customers. You might be using video for demos or training, for example. Of course, your video files are much larger than your other web files like photos and PDFs, so they demand more bandwidth to deliver properly. That, in turn, is driving interest in CDNs.
Cloud-based computing also is prompting more businesses to consider CDNs. As your company embraces IT systems outside of your data centers, you still want your applications and data to run like they’re in-house. That’s what CDNs do.
What are the benefits of CDNs?
As noted earlier, there are two primary benefits of using a CDN:
- Improved user experience by reducing latency and accelerating deliver of your content
- Reduced costs from offloading to third-party infrastructure and bandwidth
But there are also several other key benefits of using a CDN, including:
- Greater scale by offloading traffic from your core data center to a third-party network
- Greater uptime by managing spikes in traffic that can overwhelm your system, causing outages and downtime
- Enhanced security by analyzing web traffic for suspicious activity, blocking malicious traffic and mitigating DDOS attacks
- Optimized website by analyzing real-time data on traffic, page visits, popular assets, etc., which can improve conversion rates
- Improved SEO by speeding load times, which search engines algorithms regard favorably
- Increased reliability by routing traffic to the nearest server that’s available to process the request (even if your origin server is down)
- Global reach with points of presence around the world
Should your company use a CDN?
You should consider using a CDN if …
- Your website gets a lot of traffic or experience big spikes in traffic
- Your content includes lots of video, audio and images
- You’re serving global users
- You’re already having performance issues
- Downtime will interrupt your revenue streams
- You want to delay or avoid buying more infrastructure by offloading traffic
- You want to guard against cyberattacks
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