The CDN question

The past few years have seen an explosion in content.

Mindful of the adage “content is king”, marketers and businesses are producing unprecedented amounts of blogs, articles, videos, and infographics. These are being consumed on all manner of devices. Then there are innovations such as 4k, which require more infrastructure and bandwidth.

Imagine you stream independent films from your server in France. Suddenly your content starts getting interest from North America. Your content has got further to travel, and you start getting complaints from customers who experience buffering.

How to satisfy this demand for more content, delivered faster, and at higher quality?

Moving up a gear

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) shortens the distance between your content and your user.

Instead of hosting your content on your server, you cache and distribute across a worldwide network, deployed in multiple data centres. That means users can access the content via a nearer server, eliminating buffering. And if you’re distributing content, the CDN enables your audience to view or download faster, with shorter latency. With so much content marketing competition for eyeballs, this sort of tweak can put you ahead of your competitors.

A CDN can also help your business get up the search engine results; speed is a factor in determining where a website ranks. Also, if your website operates slowly, users tend to spend less time there. And that sends a signal to Google, Bing, and the rest, that your page isn’t giving users what they want.

The CDN checklist

Choosing a CDN depends on many factors. So here are some questions to ask:

  • Reach
    Decide on your regions, and then check the CDN can give you performance data to make sure you can reach your users. And if you’re planning to expand your geographical reach, check that the CDN would be able to scale.
  • Media
    Streaming video asks different workload questions to uploading content. Check to see how the CDN responds to different workloads. And find out what form of load balancing is in place.
  • SLA
    The “5 nines” may be a standard promise for uptime these days. However, different CDN providers have different definitions. Does it mean the server stays up? Does it mean your content stays online? Find out what happens when there is an outage.
  • Performance
    Get details on how performance is measured. Is it based on speed? Customer service? Something else?
  • Security
    How will your content be protected? What level of encryption? Accessing content over https is fast becoming a standard across the internet. Find out what form of SSL is enabled, and make sure there’s no impact on delivery speed.
  • Fees
    If you want to store data on the CDN, how are the charges worked out? Will you have to pay extra for exceeding bandwidth? It’s also important to make sure there are no penalties for early exit fees. After all, you may need to scale quicker than your CDN can, or you may wish to change provider if you’re not getting the service you need.

The other main question is around where the CDN is deployed. A modern data centre is a prerequisite, capable of incorporating future-proofed networks into its infrastructure. For organisations delivering content, the right CDN could mean the difference between becoming a market leader or an also-ran.


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