What is a CDN?
A content delivery network (CDN) refers to a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content.
Is a CDN the same as a web host?
While a CDN does not host content and can’t replace the need for proper web hosting, it does help cache content at the network edge, which improves website performance. Many websites struggle to have their performance needs met by traditional hosting services, which is why they opt for CDNs.
By utilizing caching to reduce hosting bandwidth, helping to prevent interruptions in service, and improving security, CDNs are a popular choice to relieve some of the major pain points that come with traditional web hosting.
What are the benefits of using a CDN?
Although the benefits of using a CDN vary depending on the size and needs of an Internet property, the primary benefits for most users can be broken down into 4 different components:
- Improving website load times – By distributing content closer to website visitors by using a nearby CDN server (among other optimizations), visitors experience faster page loading times. As visitors are more inclined to click away from a slow-loading site, a CDN can reduce bounce rates and increase the amount of time that people spend on the site. In other words, a faster a website means more visitors will stay and stick around longer.
- Reducing bandwidth costs – Bandwidth consumption costs for website hosting is a primary expense for websites. Through caching and other optimizations, CDNs are able to reduce the amount of data an origin server must provide, thus reducing hosting costs for website owners.
- Increasing content availability and redundancy – Large amounts of traffic or hardware failures can interrupt normal website function. Thanks to their distributed nature, a CDN can handle more traffic and withstand hardware failure better than many origin servers.
- Improving website security – A CDN may improve security by providing DDoS mitigation, improvements to security certificates, and other optimizations.
How does a CDN work?
At its core, a CDN is a network of servers linked together with the goal of delivering content as quickly, cheaply, reliably, and securely as possible. In order to improve speed and connectivity, a CDN will place servers at the exchange points between different networks.
These Internet exchange points (IXPs) are the primary locations where different Internet providers connect in order to provide each other access to traffic originating on their different networks. By having a connection to these high speed and highly interconnected locations, a CDN provider is able to reduce costs and transit times in high speed data delivery.