What is a CDN? | Content Delivery Networks Explained

what is a cdn

Those running successful websites for clients across the globe know how essential loading times can be for impatient customers. Site visitors leaving before completing a purchase will lead to lower reach and losses in revenue. Luckily, using a CDN can save the day here, as it’s designed to help load your website as quickly as possible.

We did thorough research on the topic to answer the question you’ll inevitably ask: “What is a CDN?” We’ll explain what CDN stands for, how it works, and what its perks are, so that you can decide if using a top-notch CDN provider would be beneficial for your business.

CDN: A Run Down

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network and refers to a geographically distributed platform of servers that reduces the physical distance between servers and their users, thus minimizing loading times and providing users worldwide with the same level of quality and content.

Now that you know what it is, let’s see how a CDN works. Loading HTML pages, stylesheets, JavaScript files, images, and videos would be extremely slow without the use of a CDN; content origin servers would have to respond to numerous user requests coming from vastly differing distances, thus generating heavy traffic load and crashes.

A content delivery network consists of servers located at so-called Internet exchange points (IXPs) between different networks. This allows it to respond to end-user requests as if they come from nearby servers, therefore improving and speeding up the content delivery.

As visitor satisfaction is paramount for business users, most businesses will take advantage of a CDN service to serve quality content swiftly. If you’re looking to find one for yourself and want the answer to “What CDN is a site I like using?” you can use online tools such as CDN Finder.

Simply input the website URL and wait for the software to determine its content delivery network provider.

CDN vs. Web Hosting

First thing first, let’s see what connects a CDN and web hosting services. Both have the same goal: helping companies serve their content to end-users by improving site performance and loading speeds.

However, while a CDN tends to virtually shorten the distance between the content source and those trying to access it by bridging the server gap, web hosting servers actually host the content and provide storage space for a website.

If you’re wondering, “What is a CDN service’s main benefit over web hosting companies?” the answer is in the number of servers. New-generation VPS hosting solutions rely on one server, but CDNs have many, and they span the world, which also helps shorten content loading times.

Because it caches websites on numerous servers worldwide, using a CDN will result in faster content distribution. Nonetheless, you’ll still need to host your website somewhere, and for that, we recommend dedicated server hosting.

The Key Benefits of CDN Systems

As the whole world is turning to online resources, content providers face bigger challenges and harsh competition. “What is a CDN server’s role in that,” you ask? Essentially, CDN providers and their server network form the internet’s backbone for bridging the quality content to end-users swiftly.

  • Faster loading times: Let’s say that your website server is based in London. Sending content to neighbors in Oxford would be a breeze. However, end users in New York would have to wait considerably more for the website or app to load and would likely get frustrated. With a CDN working behind the scenes, the internet delivery would be smooth and at scale, as the traffic would go through servers in different locations called POPs (points of presence) and store a cached version of your platform.
  • Lower bandwidth consumption costs: Once you’re no longer wondering, “How does a CDN work?” you’ll probably ask how much it costs, especially compared to other solutions. Website hosting requires high bandwidth consumption and, therefore, incurs higher costs for companies. On the other hand, as a CDN caches your website in different locations, it requires less data consumption and reduces expenses.
  • Decreased latency and streaming interruptions: Content delivery via a CDN system goes smoothly, as the traffic is distributed evenly via multiple edge servers worldwide. With reduced server load and better resistance to hardware failures, intermittent spikes, server outages, and other high-stress situations, your platform response time will get a huge boost, to your customers’ satisfaction.
  • Cybersecurity protection: What is a CDN without a proper protection shield against cybercriminals? According to daunting cybersecurity statistics, DDoS attacks were 39% more frequent in 2020 than the year before. DoS and DDoS attacks target victim’s servers or networks, flooding them with bot requests, congesting and blocking traffic until the site crashes. Luckily, not only do most CDN companies offer their services bundled with a Web Application Firewall (WAF), but CDNs also improve your website’s ability to handle hardware failures, as they don’t rely on only one hosting server.
  • SEO boost: If you’re tech-savvy, you might already know the answer to “What is a CDN and how does it work?” However, the fact that using a content delivery network might boost your SEO metrics is not as widely known. Namely, Google ranks slow websites lower than those that load quickly, so if you use a CDN to deliver your services to users, expect an SEO boost to boot.

Who Can Benefit from a CDN Service?

what is a cdn and who needs it

Using CDN services can improve the performance of websites in many industries – for example, eCommerce websites require speedy loading at all times. “What is a CDN network that can help banking institutions and financial companies?” you might wonder. The answer is any that offers fast and secure content delivery.

The same goes for media and publishing websites, which need to stay constantly updated with plenty of multimedia content. What’s more, websites tend to have issues scaling to screens of different sizes, so mobile apps should use CDN that guarantees a swift response regardless of device use.

Popular CDN Providers

Before opting for a specific content delivery network, ask yourself: What is a CDN provider that fits your business needs? If you’re on a tight budget or want to try before you buy, there are free CDN providers on the market, and the first name that pops up is a CDN by Cloudflare. “What does Cloudflare do,” you ask?

With this CDN provider, you’ll get Async JavaScript loading with Rocket Loader, basic DDoS protection, static content caching, instant cache purging, and many other features for free.

Amazon’s CDN is another cost-effective solution with its pay-as-you-go pricing tiers. It provides a full-featured API and access to several tools to deploy and configure workloads with Amazon CloudFront’s global network.

If your question is, “What is a CDN that’s most popular among users?” we can tell you that Akamai CDN boasts security features that don’t slow down computing and offers unparalleled performance on a massive scale. The Fastly. Inc CDN is a “real-time CDN” that ensures all changes on your platform happen instantly, and you can set up your account with them just as quickly, without contacting sales reps.

CDN: The Bottom Line

One of the ways businesses can cope with the modern world’s demand for fast and, at the same time, stable delivery of ever-growing content is by investing in state-of-the-art CDN systems. End-users require swift responses, and a CDN with a geographically distributed server web can help with that.

What is the primary way that a CDN improves performance? Basically, servers located at different points of presence (POPs) that store cached website content allow for smooth distribution. The only thing left for you to do is choose which CDN provider suits your professional needs best.

FAQ

Why is a CDN needed?

CDN enables a faster and smoother experience for end users, prevents site crashes, reduces bandwidth costs, protects against DDoS attacks, and boosts your SEO. Instead of using web-hosting services that lean on one server, CDN providers shorten content transit by caching your page on numerous servers worldwide.

What is a CDN, and how does it work?

CDN delivers content swiftly through geographically distributed servers that store the cached versions of a website.

Who uses Akamai CDN?

Akamai is one of the oldest CDN systems on the market, but it’s also the world’s biggest serverless computing platform. Therefore, it’s the trusted choice of thousands of users, including banks, fintech companies, retailers, airlines, etc.

What is the use of a CDN?

CDN networks are widely used to minimize latency and loading delays on websites, thus improving customer satisfaction. When an end user in New York requests content from a web page whose server is located in London, the loading time is slower than the time required to complete the same request from another city in the UK. What is a CDN’s role here? Well, a CDN can bridge these obstacles by reducing the distance between server and user, as it stores cached content on POPs distributed worldwide.

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