When’s the last time you heard someone say they wished that their content had taken longer to load? Or that their application was working too quickly? Probably never. That’s because users are impressed with fast performance. In fact, content distribution networks, or content delivery networks (CDNs), are built for the explicit purpose of improving network performance. Just in the year 2020, users consumed more than 23,000 years of video content. Considering that video is only a single type of content, it’s easy to see why businesses are interested in improving their content delivery methods. Content distribution networks are a proven way of lowering latency and lowering the probability of server failure. What does a CDN look like?
The Infrastructure That Makes up a CDNContent distribution networks help you deliver content more efficiently, improve performance, and protect your network. They do this by placing content closer to users, especially those in high-demand areas. CDNs also protect your network by distributing and layering your network’s attack surface. So, how does a CDN work? Let’s look at three of its main components:
- Origin servers. Origin servers are home to the original versions of web pages and media. When a user opens a web page or requests to play media, the origin server is pinged to retrieve the content. This request takes longer depending on the size and type of content and the user’s distance from the server. Origin servers are located in the business’s data centers and have limited locations due to their cost.
- Edge Points of Presence (POPs). Edge POPs are a group of telecommunications equipment located in a specific geographic location that help users access the internet. This equipment includes routers, servers, network switches, base stations, etc. A provider’s edge POP coverage is a strong indicator of its geographic coverage abilities.
- Edge Nodes. Edge nodes, or servers, keep cached copies of popular content to respond to user requests quickly. This alleviates demand on the origin servers and improves content delivery performance. However, edge servers are evolving and are now capable of much more. For example, in edge AI, servers can run ML and AI algorithms at the edge — further alleviating the strain on more centralized servers.
How CDNs Benefit Your UsersCDN technology is an investment. Thankfully, the ROI is well worth it. The CDN architecture can provide many benefits for your organization, including the ability to:
- Optimize performance. Content is located at the regional or even local level, depending on user demand in the area. This proximity provides major performance gains, cutting latency by three-fourths or more.
- Balance your infrastructure. Servers, edge POPS, and edge nodes all work together to handle content requests. During spikes in traffic, neighboring servers can leverage the resources of one another to balance traffic, extending the time between infrastructure upgrades.
- Improve security. The distributed attack surface of a CDN makes it inherently more secure than a direct server with similar security in place. However, many CDN providers enhance security through certificates, hotlink protection, and secure tokens.
- Scale with ease. Data centers are expensive. When demand increases in a certain region, it’s more economical to allocate edge resources to that area instead of building new data centers to serve customers.
- Convert and retain customers. The speed and responsiveness of your website impact whether customers will stay on your site and how long they’ll stay there. A CDN ensures that site response times stay within acceptable limits and even delight users.