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What Is a Content Delivery Network?

Content delivery networks use multiple servers in many geographic locations that improve deliveries of static and streaming content. Global content requests automatically get routed to the closest servers, speeding up page loads, maximizing bandwidth and providing identical content regardless of Internet- or site-traffic spikes. Depending on traffic and number of nodes, the network's algorithms select the best routing options to deliver optimum performance and avoid bottlenecks.

Users with high-speed connections often experience choppiness, loading lags and poor quality, especially when viewing live events or if they are located far from the hosting servers. CDNs minimize latency issues that cause image jitters, optimize delivery speeds and maximize available bandwidth for each viewer.

Content Delivery Networks Improve Search Engine Rankings

Search engines now penalize sites that load too slowly, and broadband penetration has created unprecedented traffic jams. Fast connection times do little good for viewers if the content delivers slowly. Customer attention spans become increasingly short because people spend good money on their connections and equipment, expecting the fastest page loads and highest quality videos and live-streaming events.

CDN technology provides redundancy for fail-safe protection during partial Internet malfunctions. Duplication of content also protects against loss of data and image degradation.

Benefits of CDNs

Business owners face increasing storage needs for all kinds of content, but they must deliver these materials quickly. CDNs facilitate faster page loads and offer other important benefits including the following advantages:

  • Eliminate Pauses and Accommodate Heavy Traffic

    Video streaming often results in jitters and pauses due to lags in transmission times, but CDNs help to deliver better user experiences when downloading video and audio content.

  • Minimize Packet Loss

    Users get improved streaming quality.

  • Faster Loading

    Internet speeds improve, but people expect nearly instantaneous page loads. Faster load times increase sales according to many studies and a vast body of anecdotal evidence.

  • File Mirroring

    File mirroring protects data if natural disasters affect certain areas of the Internet. Hurricanes and earthquakes could cause significant disruptions to services in key geographical areas.

  • Optimize Live Delivery

    The success of YouTube and social media sharing has made video extremely popular, and most businesses should consider adding video elements to their content.

    • Live events help to generate increased traffic.
    • Small organizations and schools can broadcast live events to strengthen SEO efforts.
    • Anyone can broadcast live networks of material as part of a marketing strategy.
  • Enable Linear Networks

    Companies can broadcast in the same way that major networks do, creating their own program schedules for 24-hour CDN deliveries around the world.

  • Support Video on Demand

    Organizations can enhance their online presence with video libraries, how-to videos, training programs and other marketing tools.

  • Scalability

    New technology and advanced mobile applications place increasingly greater demands on servers, but large CDNs can handle new material as companies expand their online presences.

Disadvantages of CDNs

Disadvantages include additional costs, but large companies often save money by delivering their content along shorter routes. Some drawbacks include the following trouble spots:

  • New Points of Failure

    CDNs create new points of potential failures along the delivery chains.

  • Sharing Resources

    Delivery networks have many clients, and response times could vary due to the volume of website traffic of other CDN customers.

  • Geographical Choice Considerations

    Website owners need to research their clients and choose the CDNs that offer the most convenient server locations near where they get the most business. If a website gets most of its customers from North America, then server locations in Europe and Asia would offer fewer benefits.

  • Content Management Problems

    Companies might need to consider using content management systems to manage and update content throughout the networks. Some customers might need special widgets, content players or specific applications. Customer interactions could have different requirements in certain regions.

  • Lack of Direct Control

    Changes to content must be made through CDN providers instead of directly, which could pose problems for editors and developers.

Choosing a Content Delivery Network

Websites owners face questions about which type of network to choose. Customers can choose from Internet-based or private networks, and some networks integrate with Online Video Platform, enabling features that enhance video distribution. Other factors customers should study include the following:

  • High definition video has become increasingly popular, but not all networks support it.
  • Transcoding changes code to make videos compatible on certain players like Silverlight, Flash, Quicktime and iDevice. Clients need to choose compatible players for their content.
  • Mobile delivery has become very important to consumers, so website owners need to know if their network supports mobile delivery.
  • Licensed or protected material, such as Pay-Per-View, requires Digital Rights Management.
  • Analytics capabilities of content delivery networks become important in real-time for many applications, so owners need to assess potential networks for their analytic and reporting abilities.

Samples of Popular Content Delivery Networks

Free content delivery networks include Coral Content Distribution Network, FreeCast, CloudFare and Incapsula. Popular commercial content delivery networks include the following companies:

Conclusion

Website owners can speed up delivery times of images, files and other media, improve their search rankings and increase customer loyalty by contracting CDN services. The service costs more than single-server hosting, but the advantages outnumber the drawbacks. Customers expect flawless video images and fast processing speeds. Companies that want to stay competitive need the benefits of delivering lots of content globally without delays.

Search engines penalize sites that take too long to load, so optimizing deliveries by geographic locations not only offers faster loading speeds but also gives viewers better quality and protects website owners from service disruptions. Content delivery networks deliver content through hundreds of strategic servers, determining the best routes according to geographic distance and Internet traffic. Secure SSL certificates offer military-grade security to protect customers' financial information.

Website owners often wonder why customers abandon shopping carts without completing sales, and slow-loading speeds often influence these decisions to quit sales in the middle of checkouts. Frustrated shoppers have poor user experiences, and the major search engines take these facts into account when returning lists to keyword queries. Faster loading times benefit companies by finding more customers and keeping them on the websites until they finish buying products and services.

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