Maybe not to anyone’s surprise, here at eBEYONDS one of the familiar questions we get from our clients is ‘Why should we Use a CDN on our website?’. While there are many reasons to set up a Content Delivery Network, let’s first understand the function of a CDN and its role in the perfect functioning of a website.
A content Delivery Network or a CDN is a network of interconnected servers distributed geographically. The concept of CDNs was introduced in the late ’90s.
Website servers were located in one geographical location in a pre-CDN world and the distance between the users caused slow load time or connection issues.
Websites contain large files and data which are stored in Web hosting servers. Due to many users trying to access the website at the same time and the physical distance between the user and the website server usually causes delays in website downloading.
However, with the introduction of a Content Delivery Network (CDN), which is a collection of Point Of Presence(POPs) which are deployed across the world, users were able to receive faster content, no matter where they are situated.
A point of presence (POP) of a CDN is an edge server which contains copies of the content of web pages. When a user requests content from a website, the CDN automatically redirects the request to the nearest edge server which includes a copy of the content. The closer the edge servers are the faster the user gets access to the website content.
Not only does this make the content delivery process faster as CDNs reduce the distance between the users and web servants and the load on a website's origin server it can also help to improve website performance and reduce the risk of downtime during periods of high traffic.
The combination of Code simplification and file compression done by using a CDN is also crucial in solving the problem of slow websites. Code simplification is reducing the length of code by not making any changes to its logic and File compression is mostly done by the GZip method.
With the introduction of CDNs to the digital landscape, interactions between websites and their users have become more convenient and fast, allowing websites to fearlessly integrate videos and similar heavy content to the websites.
Metaphorically speaking imagine you are an experienced teacher(webserver) owning an education company, headquartered in The United States. You have alumni of students who are now teachers(edge servers) in different countries(POP servers) around the world. Assume they teach the subject exactly as you did. When a student registers their personal information will be stored in the administration in the Headquarters. Despite being limited only to students in the United States, the exact knowledge can be distributed globally with intermediaries of the teachers with the same teaching style without any differences.
A CDN reduces the physical distance between the client and the web server which contains the data and the files of a website. More users will rely on the website when the website loads faster. The shorter the distance between the client and the web server the faster the website will load to the user.
Imagine a client in Melbourne needs to access a website which is hosted on a server in Canada. Assume the distance between the two nations is 10x and the total time to transmit for the web page to load is in the 60s
Now with the deployment of the edge server in Sydney, the transmit time for the web page reduces to 30s. The edge server in Sydney will cache the static content of a web page from the origin server in Canada.
Websites crawlers prefer fast-loading websites. Websites will load faster because edge servers contain copies of content from the origin server. The Faster the site is, the higher the search rankings will be. Faster websites result in lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates. This is vital in guaranteeing a user’s first impression.
A CDN uses load balancing to equally distribute network traffic across the edge servers deployed by the CDN provider. Load balancing allows the origin servers to utilize their capacity resulting in an increment in their processing speed. Spikes in traffic caused by DDoS attacks can be mitigated efficiently when load balancing is done right.
Anycast routing technique is routing traffic to the nearest accessible server. Multiple servers are configured with the same IP address, and the router forwards incoming traffic to the nearest server based on the routing protocol. This creates redundancy to ensure less downtime and increases the reliability of websites.
A CDN consists of several edge servers providing the same purpose. This means if one server stops functionality due to hardware failures a backup server is guaranteed. This is called Failover. Failover is used to avoid the loss of traffic to malfunctions. Traffic is rerouted to a functioning server to offer services without disruption.
Distributed Denial-Of-Service attacks are a type of cyber attack where the attacker attempts to make the services (provided by the hosted network) unavailable to the user.DDoS attacks cost organizations large losses in revenue, increased downtime and destroy their reputation
POPs are located in different parts of the world which makes it difficult for attackers to target a single server as the website traffic has been distributed into many locations. CDNs are programmed using algorithms which can filter and detect attacks before it reaches the targeted system. By mitigating DDoS attacks with the implementation of CDNs, clients can ensure the safety of their websites.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption is a security protocol that encrypts data between a user's browser and a website's server. This ensures that sensitive information such as login credentials, payment details, and personal information is transmitted securely.
When a website uses SSL encryption, all data transmitted between the user's browser and the website's server is encrypted. However, if the website is using a CDN, the CDN server may not have an SSL certificate installed, which can result in mixed content warnings from the browser.
To avoid this issue, CDN providers offer SSL/TLS encryption as an added layer of security for content delivery, which encrypts the data between the CDN server and the user's browser.
The benefits of SLS encryption are as below
Implementing Firewalls is a cybersecurity mechanism that controls and filters network traffic based on predefined rules. They can be used to block unauthorized access by hackers, malware and viruses to the network. Network firewalls are designed to protect web servers by filtering incoming and outgoing traffic based on IP addresses, protocols and posts. Web Application Firewalls(WAF) are a type of CDN firewall which filters incoming traffic based on application-based rules. SQL injections, cross-site scripting and file inclusion attacks can be blocked by implementing WAFs.
Cloudflare as a CDN provider, holds rights for edge servers deployed across 200 countries on 6 continents. Cloudflare servers have more traffic than popular social media channels, search engines and Wikipedia combined. “An average user touches us more than 500 times every week,” states Cloudflare. One of Cloudflare’s best unique selling points is its inbuilt tool named Agro smart routing. Its task is to detect networks getting overloaded and direct traffic to the fastest path. The free version offers features like CDN and DDoS protection. If a firewall is needed users should pay a monthly subscription of $20.
Amazon CloudFront is offered by Amazon Web Services and has over 275000 servers across 135 countries. Amazon CloudFront is best used for any scale of business. CloudFront can be integrated with AWS services like Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, and AWS Lambda. Furthermore, CloudFront allows integration with CloudFlare for even greater performance and security. Cloudfront has 2 pricing models. The Pay-as-you-go model charges for the amount of data transferred measured in GB.
StackPath is a versatile and powerful CDN offering features including dynamic content caching, real-time analytics and SSL acceleration to optimize websites so that users receive better performance. In addition, StackPath CDN offers a range of cloud services such as Web Application Firewall, DNS management and edge computing. This ensures protection against cyber threats. StackPath can be purchased as a standalone product or as a part of a suite. StackPath CDN offers a range of pricing based on the users' requirements.
Google Cloud CDNs are used by mid-sized to large enterprises. When integrated with Google Cloud services like Google Compute Engine, Google Kubernetes Engine and Google Cloud Storage helps to manage their services easier. Google Edge servers are spread in 200 locations over 30 countries. Google Cloud CDN offers DDoS protection and SSL/TLS certification to ensure security and reliability. Pricing is based on the amount of data transferred and user requirements. Google allows new customers to spend an amount of $300 to spend on Cloud CDN.
Akamai CDN is the most used CDN having the most number of users and services. Akamai is mostly used by mid-market businesses yet used by enterprise-level businesses as well. Akamai CDN expands over 275000 servers across 135 countries. Akamai offers services like API performance optimization, stress test websites, enhancing visual media, capturing user experience data, delivering high quality on a massive scale, media analytics and many more. Pricing is based on individual performances.