In this era of performance driven web, CDN aka Content Distribution Networks has changed the way the content is delivered. With the increased usage of high-definition images and media, websites are serving more content than ever before. Content Distribution Networks have stepped up to meet the demands of the modern web.
What is a CDN
Content Distribution Networks are also known as Content Delivery Networks or simply CDN. Content Distribution Networks are a group of servers (Edge Servers), which are strategically placed over the globe.
The strategically placed servers are called edge servers. Edge servers are simply proxy caches woking in the same way as the browser cache. Edge servers are placed in multiple geographic locations known as points of presence or POP. In a website using CDN, when a request for an asset is received for the first time, a cached copy of the asset is created in all Edge Servers. All subsequent request for that same asset is routed to the closest PoP.
The image below shows how content is retrieved from a traditional website without CDN. An origin server is the source server hosting the original website.
The image below shows how content is retrieved for the same site using CDN.
What files can a CDN host?
Both free and commercial CDN servers are available. Most noticeable among free CDN servers is probably YouTube and Vimeo, two amazing video hosting services. If you are a web developer, then you can use use the CDN provided by Google to include a number of popular libraries. Another popular free CDN is CloudFlare. CloudFlare offers a single free plan and all other plans are commercial. Limited features are available in the free version of CloudFlare CDN.
Benefits of using a CDN
All websites, from the small ones to enterprise level ones can benefit from a Content Distribution Network. Here’s a list of benefits
1) Improved Website Performance
Probably the most noticeable benefit of using a CDN is the performance gain that it offers. Distance plays a major role in determining how fast a page responds. Content Distribution networks bridge the gap between the visitor and the origin server no matter where they are located.
2) Files may be Precached
If a site is using official CDN hosted copies of popular libraries like jQuery, Bootstrap, then chances are they are already available in the browser cache. That means they won’t be downloaded again.
3) High-performance infrastructure
You may be using the premium plan of your hosting provider, but chances are slim that they will match aginst the ones employed by Google and Microsoft. Quality CDN servers are backed up by world-class hardware and premium data centers that offer high performance and reliability.
4) Multiple domains
Browsers restrict concurrent connections to a domain to prevent the web server from exhausting its resources. Resources hosted on a CDN are on a different domain. So the browser is free to open more parallel connections.
5) Usage analytics
Many commercial CDN servers charge on the usage basis. They have integrated analytics to help you track data usage. You can use it in addition to your own website analytics to get better understand your visitors.
6) DDoS protection
Many CDNs offer enterprise-level DDoS protection. They can easily withstand DDoS attacks clocking 100Gbps. They also offer SSL services for enhanced security.
7) Downtime protection
Static contents account for more than 80% of many websites. A Content Delivery Network will cache and serve all static content on behalf of your origin server. Your origin server will have to work less. This means your website automatically scales up during peak times as the CDN server is handling the enormous load. You won’t have to spend extra cash on purchasing additional hardware resources to meet the demands.
Faster page loads, better security, ability to handle peak traffic and everything else, they all ultimately merge to create a better user experience for your users. For website owners, this means lower bounce rate and more conversion rates.
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