There are approximately 8.8 million websites that make use of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). This figure also includes 48.3% of the top 10,000 global websites. Whether you are reading news or scrolling through your social media feed – An internet user regularly interacts with CDNs almost daily. 
The popularity of Content Delivery Networks gives rise to the question –

What is CDN? How does it work? 

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)? 

Content Delivery Network, or CDN, forms the backbone of internet content delivery. It is a system of interconnected servers, distributed across the globe, that exploit geographical proximity for delivering cached web content and web pages to end-users. 

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Given that the user will receive the web content from the closest server, it expedites the entire process of content delivery, making your website faster and more responsive. Thus, websites that witness high traffic, especially on the global front, should make use of CDNs for enhanced user experience. 

Key Benefits of Using CDN 

The primary benefit of CDN is obvious – optimizing website loading speed and responsiveness. Furthermore, depending on the size and requirements of the webmaster, CDN also offers the following benefits: 

  1. Reduction in Bounce Rates 

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Through the connection of end-users with the nearest CDN server, websites will load faster. The importance of fast loading websites can be highlighted by the fact that 57% of internet users will abandon a webpage if it fails to load within 3 seconds.  

Moreover, 80% of these users will not return to the website. This loss of traffic translates to an annual loss of USD 1.6 billion for major online merchants! These numbers speak for themselves. 

  1. Cutting Down Bandwidth Costs 

The bandwidth consumption costs eat into a significant share of the website hosting budget. Hence, through website optimization and web caches, CDN can reduce the volume of data transfer from the origin server. As a result, the costs of content delivery, hosting, and bandwidth are reduced considerably. 

  1. Enhancing Website Security 

CDN offers DDoS mitigation, updated security certificates, and other website optimizations, which improve website security. Due to the distributed nature of CDN, threats are identified and neutralized before they reach the origin server. 

  1. Increasing Content Availability 

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The sudden influx of traffic could result in website failures leading to downtime. Through CDN, resources are distributed more efficiently, which prevents server overload. Several edge servers can handle traffic and hardware failure in a better manner than origin servers.  

How Does a Content Delivery Network (CDN) Work? 

As we have seen earlier, latency negatively affects the website. Let’s take a look at how CDN operates: 

Building Blocks of CDN 

  • Points of Presence (PoPs): These are data centers placed strategically based on the geography-based traffic volume. PoPs interact with online users active in its vicinity. Their primary purpose is to reduce the data round trip time.
  • Caching Servers: These servers are responsible for the storage and delivery of cached data. Its primary purpose is to reduce bandwidth consumption and speed up website load time.
  • SSD/HDD & RAM: The cached files and media are stored on storage devices like SSD (solid-state drive), HDD (hard disk drive), or RAM (random access memory). Given the dynamic and responsive nature of RAM, it is highly preferred.

CDN Technology 

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The PoPs store cached static content of your website at various geographical locations, thereby reducing the geographical distance between server and user. The servers and nodes that constitute a single PoP may be connected to multiple other servers and nodes that offer data and content access to end-users. Hence, this interconnected network of nodes, servers, and PoPs allow efficient content distribution.

Thus, when a user attempts to access your website, the Internet Service Provider makes a request to the DNS server. The CDN redirects this request to the closest PoP. The edge server promptly provides the static content, thus offering better user experience and reduced latency. 

How Can CDN Facilitate Faster Video Streaming? 

Upon the quick perusal of the benefits of CDN, one can understand how this technology perfectly complements video streaming services. Video On-Demand service providers are making use of CDN to overcome issues of choppy and slow videos. 

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The content is broken down into smaller 10-second sections to ensure faster video streaming. These video bits are stored by the PoP and cache servers. Further, based on the available bandwidth, CDN automatically increases or decreases the quality of the video. Thus, it also offers website owners the ability to scale up their operations as more media gets published, and the user traffic increases. 

As a result, the faster video streaming rate, content availability, higher reliability, and optimization offers a seamless viewing experience for the user. 

Parting Thoughts 

Clearly, implementing a CDN can significantly improve your website’s user-friendliness and resultant revenue. However, the cost and complexity involved with the adoption of CDN can be quite a deterrent. 

Finally, do bear in mind that third-parties often operate content Distribution Networks. Hence, be mindful while choosing your CDN provider.