What is a content delivery network? Why should you use it?

If you are into blogging and online marketing, you might have heard about the CDN and the big content delivery networks like edgecast CDN. There are a number of companies that are providing the services. However, yet many bloggers and online marketers are unaware of the fact that what it is, and whether they should invest in it or not. In this article, you will get an answer to all your questions.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

There are a number of geographically dispersed servers. These servers are joined together to form a network that is known as the CDN. Each node, also referred to as the Edge Servers, caches the content of the site. It is static information and includes the images, CSS, and JS files. Moreover, other structural components of a website might also be included while caching. When a person comes to your site, most of the time spent in loading the site is because these files are being retrieved. Therefore, collecting them on a number of server nodes makes sense. It helps in distribution throughout the world.

How does it work?

When the user sends a request to your site, the closest CDN server, or the node, delivers the static content stored. Therefore, the data travel distance is decreased and as the cached files are already being sent to the user, the load time is decreased which allows for a faster user experience.

Why should you use CDN?

There are a number of reasons why you should consider the use of CDN. These include the following.

Multiple Domain Advantage

If you happen to download multiple large files from a single domain, you will see that there is a certain limitation. The browser allows only four active concurrent connections to a domain. In case that you consider the fifth download, it will block the user until one of the previous page or file is completely retrieved. While you go for the CDN, these files are hosted on a different domain. Therefore, you can download additional four files along with the ones that are permitted by your domain making it 8 in total.

Pre-caching of files

As stated above, the CDN networks cache files from different sites and store it in nodes. You may have a version of jQuery script which is linked to the online storage at google CDN. It is often used and there is hardly a website without it. Thus, there is a big chance that user might have already visited a site where same jQuery file was included. Therefore, it has already been cached in the browser and when he comes to your site, the browser will not send the request again and again in order to retrieve the file. On that pre-cached file, the site will work making its response time faster.

High Capacity infrastructure

People may argue at this point as they might be using some strong hosting sites and platforms. However, compare whatever hosting or platform that you have with the CDN of Google, Microsoft or Yahoo, well, it surely cannot match these giants. Therefore, the scalability, flexibility and higher availability these good CDNs offer is just amazing. It leads to lower network latency and lower packet loss.

Data centers

Let’s say that you have the main server in Texas and the user is browsing from Germany or China i.e. Europe or Asia. It will have to take a number of electronic hops as it is transferred from one continent to another. However, as the data is stored on CDN, they are distributed throughout the world. When a user will try to access your website, the data stored on the node which is closest to the user will come into action. The data will be sent to the user through that node thus no electronic hops will come into play. Also, the data transfer distance will be low and speed will be maximized which allows for faster downloads and better browsing experience.

Conclusion

In short, the CDN networks allow you flexibility and scalability and aid you in improving the user experience of your site. There are companies like edgecast CDN and a few others that are playing an important role. But before you make your choice, make sure that you understand your needs and the choice you are making is fulfilling it all.

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