What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) and why do I need it?
Written by Brendan WrightJul 16, 20
Content delivery networks (CDNs) are groups of servers spread across different locations that work together to load your website and other content more efficiently than a single server.
If your website pages sometimes load slowly, crash or you've been attacked by hackers, switching to a CDN can be a cost-effective way to enhance the user experience for your website visitors and increase transactions.
CDNs aren't a new idea. In fact, most successful websites use CDNs to help them serve their customers, manage high traffic volumes and protect their data. Small business websites benefit from CDN too, with services being scalable to your needs as your business grows.
iST Digital helps local businesses across Australia to set up and maintain reliable websites using world-leading Content Delivery Network (CDN) Amazon CloudFront. Read more about how CDN works and how it can benefit your business in practical terms.
How does CDN work?
CDNs are networks of multiple servers housed in data centres in different locations. By locating servers strategically at internet exchange points (IXPs) where different service providers connect, CDN providers are able to offer faster speeds at reduced costs to the greatest number of users.
When a user accesses your website or other online content, and you use a CDN, data will be sent from the server closest to their location or the nearest route that isn't busy or blocked. Servers also keep cached copies of your website data so they don't have to access it fresh each time. Both of these features shorten data transmission times and speed up page loading times, improving the user experience.
Content delivery networks cover all types of online content, including:
What are the benefits of a CDN?
If you're not already using a CDN for your website and other online content, you could be dealing with problems you don't have to. The advantages of CDN include:
- faster loading times
- guaranteed up-time
- enhanced data security
- lower hosting costs
Read more about each of these areas below.
Faster loading times
Page speed is a major part of the user experience. If your website takes too long to load or to display assets such as images and video, visitors aren't going to hang around when there are other options to choose from.
CDN help businesses to optimise their loading times in several ways. First, having multiple servers enables the network to choose the fastest route for your traffic, whether that's the closest server geographically or avoiding servers that are already busy.
Some CDNs also use more advanced methods such as compressing data to reducing file sizes, static asset caching to avoid having to access resources from your website every time and solid state hard drives for faster processing.
Amazon CloudFront has 216 points of presence worldwide and uses Amazon's robust backbone network for optimal performance and availability.
When you rely on a single server, your website may be prone to crashing if it receives too much traffic during peak times or if the server experiences a hardware failure.
Using a CDN with multiple servers in multiple data centres spreads this risk to the point that you'll effectively never have to worry about downtime again.
Some CDNs use load balancing to manage traffic across several servers in a data centre at once, so connections won't be interrupted if one or more of these servers goes down. Even if a problem affects the entire data centre, your CDN will automatically choose the next available location.
Enhanced data security
Following the spate of malicious cyberattacks in recent years, information security is a top priority for many businesses and their customers.
A CDN with built-in security tools can help to secure your website, applications and data against ransomware and DDoS attacks by blocking suspicious traffic or restricting access.
Amazon CloudFront includes AWS Shield Standard security features at no extra cost. Users can also create and manage custom SSL certificates using AWS Certificate Manager to strengthen website security.
Lower hosting costs
CDNs such as Amazon CloudFront use a pay-as-you-go pricing model that only charges users based on the services they use. As well as keeping prices affordable, upgrading your network to a CDN could even save you money in the area of bandwidth costs.
Bandwidth is used each time data is sent or received through a server. CDNs use caching and data compression to reduce the amount of data sent, which could mean you use less bandwidth and won't be charged as much.
Do I need a CDN?
Using a content delivery network isn't mandatory, but businesses of all sizes can benefit from CDNs to optimise their traffic and protect their websites against attacks and outages.
Beyond the direct benefits already discussed, CDN can also have many knock-on benefits for SMBs, including:
- SEO (search engine optimisation) – Google's search algorithm takes page loading times into account when deciding how to rank your website
- Increasing conversions and sales – improving the user experience and avoiding frustrations such as slow loading times and crashes will improve the rate of transactions on your website
- Video streaming – if you host video content on your website, a CDN will improve streaming speeds and reduce buffering
By helping you save on bandwidth costs and improving conversion rates, CDN is a small investment that can cover its own costs for some businesses.
About Amazon CloudFront
Amazon CloudFront is one of the leading content delivery networks, offering fast transfer speeds and low latency for websites as well as built-in security through integration with Amazon Web Services (AWS).
User-friendly controls make it simple to get started in minutes, especially if you've used other AWS services before. Our team will guide you through the system to help you get set up.
Hassle-free website hosting in Perth
If you want to upgrade your website hosting with a CDN or you need a new website, iST Digital is here to help. Our specialists can manage as much or as little of your hosting as you need, using Amazon CloudFront CDN, local Australian servers and custom SSL certificates to guarantee fast speeds, 99.9% uptime and secure encryption for your websites.