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Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) are a crucial part of any internet business strategy. At GlobalDots we analyze, implement and maintain CDNs for variety of companies, from Fortune 500 to startups and small-to-medium enterprises. Since the topic is broad and many of our customers ask very specific questions, we decided to put together this resource page for everyone to learn more about CDNs. We hope you’ll enjoy this article – feel free to share it with your colleagues or ask our specialists anything you want to know about CDNs.

 

Chapter 1: Content Delivery Network Explained

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a globally distributed network of web servers whose purpose is to provide faster delivery, and highly available content. The content is replicated throughout the CDN so it exists in many places all at once. A client accesses a copy of the data near to the client, as opposed to all clients accessing the same central server, in order to avoid bottlenecks near that server.

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To put it more simply, the purpose of a CDN is to improve user experience and provide it with a more efficient network resource utilization. Content providers such as media companies and e-commerce vendors pay CDN operators to deliver their content to their audience, that is, end-users. In turn, a CDN pays ISPs, carriers and network operators for hosting servers in their data centers. There are two key mechanisms that explain how CDN functions:

  1. Keep important content distributed  to multiple, globally distributed data centers so it is closer to end users, and thus faster to download.
  2. Use server optimizations based on content type to get that content to the user most efficiently.

Other than better performance, CDNs also offload the traffic served directly from the content provider’s origin infrastructure, resulting in possible cost savings for the content provider. They are also effective against DDoS attacks, since they provide their own large distributed server infrastructure to absorb the volume of the attack, but we’ll explain that later.

Location is a big deal. And the traditional problem is that all content is in one location, meaning that the further away the end user is from the server with the content, the lesser the user experience will be. If a content from a certain website is stored in a server located in New York, for example, end users from China will have a  significantly lesser user experience and a longer page load than the end users in Philadelphia. Due to the laws of physics,  the content will simply take longer to get there.

Most CDN architectures are constructed from a number of key components:

  • Delivery Nodes – primary purpose is delivery of data to consumers. It contains caches running one or more delivery applications; these tend to be deployed as close to the edge (near the consumers) as possible.
  • Storage Nodes – primary purpose is providing data to caches, these can be deployed in a hierarchical model to allow tiered caching and protection to any origin servers. These nodes can also be used where pre-publishing of content is required rather than content being acquired on demand from origin servers.
  • Origin Nodes – these are the master sources for content and can be deployed within the operator’s network (on-net) or more commonly within a content owner’s infrastructure. A number of origins will be provided for scale and resilience.
  • Control Node – primary purpose is to host the management, routing and monitoring components of a CDN. This will be typically the integration point into any OSS/BSS systems and Network Operations Centres.

CDN nodes are usually deployed in multiple locations, often over multiple backbones. Benefits include reducing bandwidth costs, improving page load times, or increasing the global availability of the content. The number of nodes and servers making up a CDN varies, depending on the architecture, with some reaching thousands of nodes with ten thousands of servers on many remote points of presence (PoPs). Others build a global network and have a small number of geographical PoPs.

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There are 3 primary types of content:

  • Dynamic content: content generated on the fly by the web server using any of several common web programming languages such as php, ruby or java.
  • Static content: content that typically does not change very often and does not require generation. Images, CSS, and JavaScript, etc.
  • Streaming content: videos or audio files that are played via a web browser control.

Each of these varies in size. How long it takes for individual bytes of data to travel from the server at the point of origin to the end user is known as “latency”, measured in ms (milliseconds). Fast web content means low latency. The latency factor is even a bigger deal when it comes to mobile web browsing. Mobile content delivery requires a much better and a more aggressive optimization strategy. There have been a number of studies from Yahoo, Google and others that show that as much as a 10% drop in conversion rates per each additional second of page load time; loses time and time is money. CDN’s were developed to help solve both of the above mentioned issues. Latency is greatly reduced, and content is delivered in a more optimal fashion.

Tweet this: CCDNs distribute content faster throughout globally placed datacenters so it’s closer to end users

Tweet this: Reading about #CDN key components: Delivery, Storage, Origin & Control nodes

Tweet this: There are three types of content: Dynamic, Static & Streaming content

 

Chapter 2: Web Performance Optimization Explained

A great user experience is everything when it comes to running a website. At one hand, the user expectations are huge; the site should provide interactivity, media and info, but on the other hand, the Internet is growing, making it harder and harder to provide a great user-friendly website.

Web performance or website optimization simply means optimization of the speed of web elements (pages, images, other file formats etc.) which are downloaded or displayed on the user’s web browser.

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Performance has a direct impact on your website revenue, metrics influence brand perception, loyalty and visitor engagement. In a mobile-first world, where according to RadWare research, 26% of total ecommerce sales by 2017 will be done via smartphones, one cannot ignore performance issues. Consider the patience of your customers; the majority of Americans are said to wait in line (in a real shop) for no longer than 15 minutes. However, on the web, 1 out of 4 customers will abandon a webpage that takes more than 4 seconds to load.

Walmart reported huge improvements in revenue and conversion rates by applying web performance principles, as pictured below.

Rate speed

Tweet this: For every 1 second of improvement WalMart experienced up to a 2% increase in conversions

Tweet this: For every 100 ms of improvement, WalMart grew incremental revenue by up to 1%

There are so many benefits of user performance but here are the top 3 reasons why you should care about maximum performance and top speed:

  1. User satisfaction
    Long load time equals high bouncing rates. The bounce rate is an important factor that any website owner should ALWAYS take into account. In simpler terms, it’s when a user visits your website and rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site, leaves. It is considered as one of the most important measures of effectiveness for a website.
    Considering the improved technology of today, a website with simple content should completely load within 2 seconds. Loading time is crucial since it directly affects the satisfaction or dissatisfaction levels of your visitors, and therefore your page revenue. In other words, time is of the essence!
  2. Improved search rankings
    Since April 2010, Google started to take load time into account when ranking sites. Of course, Google’s algorithm uses much more factors that determine how to rank search engine results, but the page load speed is taken into account and should be a priority. Improving your page load time is an effective way to help visitors get where they are going faster, and it helps you stay on top of the search results which is the best way to get spotted by potential users. Page speed matters now, more than ever. Whether your customers are there for a pretty interface, clear privacy policies, for the best bargain, or simply because they have found exactly what they were looking for, they had to get there in the first place, and quickly. If you could cut that path to your website even shorter, and this is a matter of milliseconds, you could convert more visits to actual orders.
  3. Mobile users
    Mobile users are more patient than computer users, main reason being is that they’re used to having slower internet speed. But considering today’s connection speeds, loading time for mobile is an important factor. As you may presume, things are different for mobile devices (including tablets) even though fixed connections are enough to not cause too many problems for website loading time. Mobile page optimization is more important than ever, since web browsing is now mainly done via mobile devices.

In fact, here are three crucial points to Google’s mobile customer experience swing:

Tweet this: 93% of users who research a product or service on mobile device actually buy products.

Tweet this: 66% of e-mails are opened on mobile devices.

Tweet this: The amount of shoppers who made a purchase on a mobile device increased 2.5x from 2009-2014.

An advantage of 250 milliseconds of page load time, according to recent research, is what keeps your customer from going to a competitor. By choosing CDN over standard hosting, you ensure that the content is delivered from a server located closest to the end user. This will also save you money on buying additional hardware and software for the server.

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Here are some other amazing performance optimizations done by other web giants:

Tweet this: Shopzilla speeded up average page load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds, & increased revenue +12% & page views +25%.

Tweet this: Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400ms of improvement.

Tweet this: Mozilla got 60 million more Firefox downloads/year, by making their pages 2.2 seconds faster.

Tweet this: Advantage of 250ms of a page load time keeps your customer from going to your competitor. 

Tweet this: Amazon and Walmart increased revenue by 1% for every 100ms of better page load time.

 

Chapter 3: History of Content Delivery Networks

The Internet is a constantly-changing mechanism, and new forms of data and content are constantly being created. Soon after it was made commercially available, the problem of pushing massive amounts of data to the end user as fast as possible had to be solved. Enter CDNs.

The roots of CDNs were created almost twenty years ago and continue to be the driving force of content delivery. Since its creation, there have been significant research efforts directed toward this technology by academia and commercial developers. CDNs could easily be considered as one of the top emerging technologies that impact our web experience.

Since the introduction of CDNs, the market has seen a significant boost in the delivery of broadband content and the streaming of audio, video and associated data over across the Internet. In short, this is the life cycle of CDNs so far:

  1. Pre-formation Period
    The first period gave rise to server farms, hierarchical caching, improvements in Web servers and caching proxy deployment. The first big step was infrastructure development, mirroring, caching and multihoming. These technologies created a perfect starting point for CDNs to be made and to grow along.
  2. The first generation
    The first gen CDNs focused primarily on dynamic and static content delivery, as these were the only two content types on the web. The principle mechanism of the first gen was the creation and the implementation of replicas, intelligent routing and edge computing methods. Apps and info were split across the servers.
  3. Second generation
    The second generation of CDNs was mainly focused on Video-on-Demand, know also as VoD, which is streaming video and audio content amongst users and news services.The second generation of CDNs cleared a path for delivering content to mobile users, at the time it was truly revolutionary. The second gen CDNs are also credited with the usage of P2P, cloud computing techniques to delivery and maintain content. It was still in a stage of infancy, though.
  4. Third generation
    The third generation of CDNs is upcoming and is expected to be modelled for community, meaning that the systems will be driven by average users and regular individuals. Self-configuring is expected to be the new technological mechanism, as well as self-managing and autonomic content delivery. Quality of experience is expected to be in the focus.

CDNs have a decade-long history with roots spanning from the late 90’s and have always adapted to the changing technologies and other user requirements. After all, change is one of the basic principles that drives the web. However, it is difficult to predict what’s next for the CDN market, as there is so much research and development to be done. The development of content delivery networks sought to deal with extreme bandwidth pressures, first as video streaming was growing in demand as well as the number of content providers. That was in the past. With the emergence of cloud computing, CDNs have become a continual trend involving all layers of cloud computing:

  1. SaaS (Software as a service), e.g. Google Docs
  2. IaaS (Infrastructure as a service), e.g. Amazon
  3. PaaS (Platform as a service) e.g. Google App Engine
  4. BPaaS (Business Process as a service) e.g. advertisements, payments

Read more about cloud computing here and here.

 

Chapter 4: Benefits of Content Delivery Networks

Times of mobile and app-based internet, force more and more content providers, content makers, and online vendors to simplify navigation and improve user experience, primarily the page load time of their website. Just one second of delay can cause up to 7% loss in customer conversions, which is more than harmful. This is where a content delivery network (CDN) comes in as essential for those interested in global Internet connectivity.

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Implementing a CDN affects everything, from your internal architecture to the cost of your IT staff, performance management and more. True power of a content delivery network is yet to be revealed in future decades, as it soars by 20% each year, but so far, the major advantages of using one are:

  1. It enables global reach
    Over 34% of the world’s population is online and global Internet use has increased exponentially over the past decade, which has created an opportunity for businesses to invest in the benefits of a CDN to enhance global content delivery.  CDNs provide solutions to the latency issues through cloud acceleration with local points of presence (POPs) across the globe. This global reach will open business to all corners of the world by eliminating any issue that may be interrupting long-distance online transactions and affecting sales, which means securing the first step of being in an Internet driven business.
  2. Less latency
    Since CDNs place servers at popular locations across the globe and feature duplicate content, the latency is significantly lowered because users are almost always close to one of those servers. In other words, the lower the latency the faster the packets of information are sent and received.
  3. Distributed data centers
    If your main web server is based in Dallas, users from Europe or Asia must make a number of trans-continental electronic hops when they access your files. Many CDNs provide localized data centers which are closer to the user and result in faster downloads.
  4. Lower Network Load
    The lower the network loads the higher the performance. Network loads are typically higher during peak times due to the number of visitors on a server consuming resources and thus decreasing performance for all others. Redirecting visitors to edge servers means balancing network load. Less network disruption means better user experience and more conversion.
  5. Increased reliability
    A content viewed through a CDN is more likely to be more reliable in regards to operators delivering HD quality videos while maintaining a high quality of service. The goal of a CDN is to make everything faster by utilizing acceleration technology which further increases the performance and reliability of all content within that system, resulting in better customer satisfaction.
  6. CDNs provide data analytics
    Many commercial CDNs provide file usage reports since they generally charge per byte. Those reports can supplement your own website analytics and, in some cases, may offer a better impression of video views and downloads. In other words, you know where every cent of your money is going and you can use the analytics to dissect into your performance metrics and improve even more. Valuable analytical information tends to discover trends that could lead to advertising sales.
  7. Cost savings
    CDNs means reduced overhead costs. A global CDN will reduce costs by eliminating the need to pay for high-priced foreign hosting. A global CDN offers a single platform that will work across regions at a reasonable price, which works perfectly for small web based companies with tight budgets. It’s a cost-effective way to enhance web performance across the globe in one simple platform. Also, the loading of all traffic is not placed on a single backbone, but it is distributed to edge servers to evenly distribute the load. As a result, you can cut your content delivery costs.
  8. CDNs provide protection against DDoS
    The impact of DDoS attacks is much more than it meets the eye. Not only can these attacks inflict huge economic losses, they can also have a serious impact on the reputation and image of the victimized company or organization. A CDN will take on the traffic and keep your website up and running. Cloud solutions are designed to stop an attack before it ever reaches your data center. This means you need not be concerned about DDoS attacks impacting your data center. We’ll cover this area more closely afterwards.

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Other than the top 8 things, here’s a short list of some other benefits that a CDN can provide to a website which can greatly improve site performance and user experience:

  • Increased revenue by 1% for every 100 ms of improvement to your page load time
  • Retaining more customers (they are more satisfied)
  • More manageable traffic
  • Maximum availability of your product
  • Easy delivery of video, audio rich content
  • Build more interactive website at no cost of losing visitors due to latencies
  • Reaching mobile customers with ease
  • Setting your own criteria to enable the best possible performance for your website
  • More scalability to your business, you can grow it as much as you want to

Tweet this: Just one second of delay can cause up to 7% loss in customer conversions.

Tweet this: CDN future looks bright, with around 20% growth YoY.

Tweet this: CDNs can provide basic protection against DDoS attacks.

 

Chapter 5: Content Delivery Network Companies

The industry has grown significantly in the recent years, as the importance of a CDN has also grown. The Internet is always evolving and so is the need for faster websites and better user experience. Nowadays, there are more and more CDN providers, but here is a quick list of the top 12:

1. Akamai

AkamaiAkamai is known globally to speed up networks and connections. They have a strong infrastructure to speed up sites and make things better for online users. Of course, this company works with big brands and large businesses in general. It’s not commonly used by bloggers, but by customers with a huge page traffic and very well established brands.

2. MaxCDN

MaxCDNMaxCDN was founded in 2009 and is based in Los Angeles, California. MaxCDN has fast servers and a big community of users, and also, webmasters from around the World. They have one of the fastest response time and flexible pricing models available. Their CDN is almost always used for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, OpenCart, PrestaShop, and all the other applications and it utilizes Anycast stateless routing for one-to-nearest content delivery over multiple 10 Gbit/s connections. It’s mainly used for websites, blogs and gaming platforms.

3. Incapsula

IncapsulaIncapsula Inc. is a Cloud-based application delivery platform. It uses a global content delivery network to provide website security, DDoS protection, load balancing and failover services to clients. It’s stationed in Redwood Shores, CA. They offer CDNs paired with Web Security combined with smart balancer technology that handle the traffic between servers. The company works with popular sites like Moz, Wix, SIEMENS and others.

4. Rackspace

RackspaceFounded back in 1998, Rackspace Inc. is a cloud computing company based in Windcrest, Texas. Rackspace is unique for it’s cloud file storage and their “pay as you go” business model. It’s a secure environment to host a large file and static websites. It’s a well protected infrastructure, with almost two decades of experience, customer trust and brand awareness.

5. Cloudflare

CloudflareCloudFlare, Inc. is a U.S. company that provides a content delivery network and distributed domain name server services, sitting between the visitor and the CloudFlare user’s hosting provider, acting as a reverse proxy for websites. Located in San Francisco, Cloudflare is basically known to be a free CDN provider and is recommended for users that can’t afford to go premium. This makes Cloudflare great for small blogs that have just started.

6. Amazon’s AWS

Amazon_AWSAmazon Web Services (AWS), is a collection of cloud computing services, also called web services, that make up a cloud-computing platform offered by Amazon.com. These services operate from 12 geographical regions across the world. They offer a large scale of cloud services, such as DDoS protection, CDN, storage, analytics and online database services. They offer to compete at minimal prices.

7. EdgeCast/Verizon

VerizonVerizon Communications is an American broadband and telecommunications company, the largest U.S. wireless communications service provider. Verizon provides wireline phone service, Internet access, and television to residences and small businesses, via either copper wire or fiber optic cable. In 2013, Verizon has acquired EdgeCast Networks. The EdgeCast content delivery network helps companies accelerate and deliver static and dynamic content to end users around the world. Major customers include Yahoo!, Tumblr, WordPress, and Imgur. The company carries about 5% of the world’s internet traffic.

8. Fastly

FastlyFastly is a Content Delivery Network provider, founded in 2011 in San Francisco. Fastly’s global network is built with 10Gb Ethernet, multi-core CPUs, and all Solid State Drives (SSDs). They also offer access to real-time performance analytics, and the ability to cache frequently changing content at the edge.

9. Hibernia

HiberniaHibernia Networks is a privately held, US-owned, provider of global capacity telecommunication services. Hibernia Networks owns and operates a global network connecting North America, Europe and Asia. Hibernia offers over 120 network Points of Presence (PoPs) on over 24,000 kilometers of fiber. Hibernia’s network provides service, from 2.5 Gbit/s to 100 Gbit/s wavelengths and Ethernet from 10 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s. They are currently headquartered in Dublin, Ireland.

10. Limelight

LimelightLimelight Networks owns and manages a global, private Content Delivery Network, enabling  publishers to deliver their digital content (videos, operating system updates, online games, etc.) on any device, anywhere in the world. As of December 2014, the company’s network has over 80 points-of-presence and 11 Terabits per second of egress capacity across the globe. The company is based in Tempe, Arizona, U.S.A., with offices all over the globe.

11. Level 3

Level 3Level 3 Communications is an American multinational telecommunications and Internet service provider company headquartered in Colorado. It operates a Tier 1 network. The company provides core transport, IP, voice, video, and content delivery for medium-to-large Internet carriers in North America, Latin America, Europe, and selected cities in Asia.bLevel 3 is also the largest competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) and the 3rd largest provider of fiber optic internet access (based on coverage area) in the United States. Currently, Level 3 has over 13500 employees.

12. Highwinds

HighwindsHighwinds Network Group, Inc. is a IP service provider offering CDN, cloud storage, IP transit, transport and colocation services. The company headquarters are located in Winter Park, Florida. The Highwinds network consists of more than 70 points of presence. They also provide video streaming services to media companies including Blip.TV and Hudl, and deliver online games for publishers such as Valve Software.

13. OnApp

OnAppOnApp is a company that develops cloud management, CDN and storage software for service providers and enterprises. Using OnApp Cloud, a company can create its own cloud, presenting heterogeneous server and storage devices as a single pool of resources that can be provisioned on demand to clients or end users. OnApp has more than 800 customers in 87 countries. An estimated 1 in 3 of the world’s public clouds run on OnApp. Its headquarters are in London, UK.

14. aiScaler

aiScaleraiScaler Ltd. is a multinational software company founded in 2008. It develops application delivery controllers designed to allow dynamic web pages to scale content by intelligently caching frequently requested content. aiScaler can be implemented at the customers datacenter, in a hosted environment, or through a CDN. The company maintains offices in the United States, Europe and China.  They are currently stationed in Dublin.

15. Internap

InternapInternap Corporation is an Internet infrastructure provider that offers cloud hosting, colocation, IP services, data center and Content Delivery Network services. Internap delivers its Performance IP, hosting, cloud, colocation and hybrid infrastructure services through Private Network Access Points  in North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Australia. Their hybrid infrastructure delivers high performance backed by 24/7 customer support. Internap specializes in  in the online retail, online gaming, SaaS, financial and business services industries.

 

Chapter 6: Content Delivery Network Market Trends

Swift expansion of Internet-based services such as online video, streaming media, online music, online games have increased the need for expansion of the web, as well as the demand for better Quality of Service (QoS). CDNs have emerged as an ideal solution to meet all these problems and to meet the demand of delivering better quality content to users. The CDN market  is driving on the growth of high implementation rate of CDN solutions in the U.S., Europe (EU), and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions.

The Content Delivery Networks (CDN) Market is estimated to grow to $12.16 billion by 2019, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 26.3% from 2014 to 2019. In terms of regions, NA is expected to be the biggest market in terms of revenue contribution while Asia Pacific (APAC) is expected to experience increased market traction with high CAGRs, in due course.

There are several new trends that helped increase the growth rate and the adoption rate of CDNs:

  1. Expanded Internet usage and reach
    Over the course of the last decade, the number of internet users worldwide has tripled from 1 billion in 2005 to 3 billion in 2015. Smartphones helped out as well, as 2 out of 3 adults in USA owns a smartphone. Worldwide, smartphones will make up roughly 50 percent of mobile phone users by 2017. Traditional solutions, like an accelerated WAN, can’t keep up with the pace of change and the amount of dynamic content and diverse access points.
  2. Mobile
    As users become more sophisticated – and 3G and 4G networks more prevalent – expectations for website speed and performance, no matter the device, are higher, as mobile users expect similar web experience to desktop. Google started the mobile friendly search initiative, which, in  other words, means that mobile-optimized website (design, performance and speed) could offer a competitive advantage in search results. This made way for dynamic mobile optimized CDNs.
  3. Global eCommerce
    Global B2C ecommerce sales are expected to reach $1.92 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. In the first quarter of 2015, retail ecommerce sites had more than $80 billion in sales, compared to $26.5 billion in the first quarter of 2006. CDNs became an imperative for smooth eCommerce websites.
  4. Video streaming
    More than 6 billion videos are viewed on YouTube’s platform each day. Facebook reported its users watch about 4 billion videos every day, 75 percent of them on a mobile phone.  A CDN reduces latency for high bandwidth content like streaming video.
  5. Internet security
    Whenever customers type in their credit card numbers to make a purchase online, they are placing their trust in that business. DDoS attacks are on the rise and new ways of Internet security  are being developed; all of which have helped increase the growth of CDNs, as cloud security adds another layer of security. CDNs can greatly improve the security of a website.

As viewers consume more video, more often, for longer periods of time, at higher quality, and on more devices, the content delivery market is as hot as it has ever been. It’s also important to note that the two major things that have marked the evolution of internet are mobile technology and social media. Additionally, growing IP video traffic is expected to boost the CDN market. Today, video consumption over mobile devices and internet is growing at unparalleled rate. As network operators become aware of advantages of CDN, numerous cable operators and telcos in Europe and North America have launched CDN initiatives.

Numerous industry verticals that use CDN include advertising industry, media and entertainment, gaming, government, educational and healthcare, online music retailers, consumer electronics, mobile operators, and internet service providers among others, launching a perfect background for CDN to grow.

Tweet this: The Content Delivery Networks (#CDN) Market is estimated to grow to $12.16 billion by 2019.

Tweet this: In 10 years the number of internet users has grown from 1 billion to 3 billion in 2015.

 

Chapter 7: Content Delivery Networks and Security

The impact of DDoS attacks is much more than meets the eye. Not only can these attacks inflict huge economic losses, they can also have a serious impact on the reputation and the image of the victimized company or organization. Research has shown that it takes at least 10 hours before a company can begin to resolve an attack, while it takes 4.5. hours on average before the attack even gets detected and an additional 4.9 hours before mitigation can begin. The average cost of an attack is $100,000 per hour, meaning that a DDoS attack can cost 1$ million before an Internet-reliant firm even starts to mitigate the attack.

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In order to protect your company, you need a mitigation protection in place, to keep both your brand reputation and IT infrastructure out of the harm’s way. Any web solution must fit the business requirements. Defending against DoS attacks occurring at the network layer requires a network architecture that can absorb large bursts of traffic and that filters all traffic so that only web traffic is permitted onto the network. Every business is different and requires a different approach.

These are the key questions to ask when it comes to choosing a DDoS mitigation solution:

  • Does it offer positive protection?
    Many DDoS attacks at the network level can be stopped by only allowing legitimate HTTP traffic onto the network. The solution should drop all other non-application traffic or UDP packets without application payloads.
  • Does the solution absorb all attack traffic?
    Not all attacks target web applications or services. Attacks sometimes attempt to sneak in through FTP or non-web ports; so you need to look for a solution that can evaluate all of your traffic in order to protect the site more effectively.
  • Does the solution stop attacks before they reach your data center?
    Cloud solutions are designed to stop an attack before it ever reaches your data center. This means you need not be concerned about DDoS attacks impacting your data center. On-premises devices protect you once the attack reaches the device, which means the attack will invade your data center.
  • Does the solution impact performance?
    Ecommerce and media streaming applications demand excellent performance. The more traffic and the more attack types, the more rules you need and the more hardware is necessary; look for a solution that’s architected for both performance and security.

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  • What is the total cost of ownership?
    Many security managers look at the price of a solution but not at the total cost of ownership. Consider the cost of the device, the cost of the redundant systems needed, and the expense of data breach compared with the effectiveness of the solution. Traditional solutions on which many companies have relied, oversize the bandwidth and adopt complex hardware such as firewalls and load balancers. This approach is considered by many experts costly and in many cases ineffective. Bots still outnumber humans online, accounting for 56% of Internet traffic versus humans at 44%. And bad or malicious bots account for more traffic than good bots, with 29% of a site’s traffic. Good bots represent 27% of site visits. Advertisers are losing $6.3 billion to $10 billion per year of ad revenue to fraud, thanks to the epidemic of phony ad traffic perpetrated by bots. Cloud-based services live outside of a company’s data center in order to secure traffic before it reaches company infrastructure. There are two primary types of Cloud-based anti-DoS/DDoS services: those that route suspicious traffic to a centralized location where malicious traffic is filtered out, and Website Protection Services that utilize CDN to absorb and inspect malicious traffic across a distributed network of servers to shield company websites and applications. Another advantage of this choice is the sensible reduction of investment in equipment and infrastructure and of course the reduction of the costs of management typical of hardware solutions.
  • Does CDN solve security issues?
    Since CDNs use surrogate servers located across different data centers in different regions around the globe, this scattered infrastructure provides a more secure network.CDNs are known to absorb less-sophisticated DDoS attacks, simply with bandwidth. With CDNs, you gain the advantage of – size. The overload caused by DDoS attack is processed on different PoPs according to their origin, which helps to prevent server saturation. Many CDN providers will also block threats and limit abusive bots and crawlers from wasting your bandwidth and server resources. This will result in the decrease of spam and hack attacks. Again, this depends of a service that your CDN provider is offering.

Tweet this: CDNs can prevent website security issues including DDoS attacks.

Tweet this: The average cost of a DDoS attack is $100,000 per hour.

Tweet this: On average, it takes 10 hours for a company to begin resolving a DDoS attack

 

Chapter 8: Content Delivery Networks for specific verticals

Content Delivery Networks for Streaming

Video streaming is one of the largest mega-trends today. It’s a whole new way of consuming content, involving specific technologies and challenges.

Some general-purpose CDNs also provide CDN services for on-demand video content. The general opinion is that video content is just a large file, like a game or large application download, so the serving of video content should not be much different than other content.

Jubany - CAI 2009 © Marcelo Mammana www.marcelomammana.com mmammana@yahoo.com
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You can broadcast live streams through a Content Delivery Network (CDN) such as Akamai, through the KMC. The encoding software installed (such as FMLE) encodes your real-time camera signal and sends it out through a secure RTMP connection to the CDN. Then, using a Kaltura Player, you can embed the live broadcast in your websites. You can set the live stream entry metadata and specify broadcasting settings in the KMC in the same way VOD content is managed. By using a CDN for live streaming, you guarantee a better experience for your viewers worldwide.

Despite the advent of ABR and HTTP streaming, there still is a need for live video delivery, since live video can’t be cached like the content that has been previously recorded. Progressive downloads are the favourable option, in contrast to direct downloads where the entire video clip needed to be downloaded to a viewer’s computer before it could be viewed. While this is acceptable for downloading a game or computer application, the tolerance level of viewers waiting for content to download—especially something such as a movie, which could be over 1GB in size, was low.

The first huge notable website that relied on progressive downloads was YouTube. the CDN begins delivering the download, but a viewer can begin watching content within the first 3-5 seconds, on the assumption that the viewer’s fast internet connection will continue to download the video clip at a fast enough pace to avoid running out of viewable content.  As the speed of the internet connections outpaced the bitrates used for standard-definition content, many viewers would have the entire video clip downloaded before they were even halfway through viewing the content.

The best solution so far is called HTTP streaming, and it is coupled very tightly with adaptive bitrate (ABR) encoding and delivery. HTTP streaming uses generic HTTP servers (often based on Apache or Windows Server) to deliver on-demand video files the same way that other HTTP website content—such as images and text files—is delivered. Adaptive bitrate is added to a CDN, which converts a video stream into fragments or chunks, often 2-10 seconds in length. ABR creates discrete streams at various bitrates and then uses feedback from the internet user’s video player to dynamically detect the optimum network speed for delivery of the video clip.

Streaming servers deliver the content at the time of a request, but only deliver the bits requested rather than the entire length of the video clip. This was helpful for the content owner who was paying the CDN for delivery by the bit, since a viewer choosing to abandon viewing of a clip halfway through its duration would not have downloaded the entire clip, regardless of the viewer’s internet connection speed.

One of the latest trends in technology, the 4K Ultra HD is about to get much bigger. The impact of 4K is growing month by month. The new resolution format itself is slowly starting to remake perceptions of where the entire visual media industry will be going over the next few years. Consumers want high quality and resolution, and broadcasters want their ultra HD recordings and their live casts available everywhere. Mobile browsing is the largest growing and the most adopted megatrend so far. It’s taking over desktop and getting bigger every day. The first mobile phones with 4K screen displays are virtually guaranteed to go on sale in 2015 and should be able to render UHD video in its native resolution of 3840 x 2160 pixels.

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A fast high-speed Internet connectivity is crucial to the wider proliferation of 4K. The data loads that 4K streams is truly massive and content broadcasters are painfully aware of this. Faster connectivity is a major issue that 4K providers are tirelessly working on. An expansion in the number of homes that can enjoy access to internet speeds that at least consistently cover the minimum of 25Mbps necessary for reliable ultra HD streams. With the fast expansion of 4K and high resolution streaming, the adoption of CDNs is only expected to grow.

Tweet this: With growing 4K and high-res streaming, the adoption of CDNs is expected to continue to grow.

 

CDN for Emerging Markets

An emerging market is a country that has some characteristics of a developed market, but does not meet standards to be a developed market. This includes countries that may be developed markets in the future or were in the past. The term “frontier market” is used for developing countries with slower economies than “emerging”, where the economies of China and India are considered to be the largest.  Iran is also considered an emerging market.

India’s e-commerce market was worth about $2.5 billion in 2009, it went up to $6.3 billion in 2011 and to $14 billion in 2012. About 75% of this is travel related (airline tickets, railway tickets, hotel bookings, online mobile recharge etc.). Online Retailing comprises about 12.5% ($300 Million as of 2009). India has close to 10 million online shoppers and is growing at an estimated 30%. India has an internet user base of about 250.2 million as of June 2014. The mobile eCommerce for emerging markets is an opportunity. While mobile transactions as a percentage of total online transactions was in the single digits 12 to 18 months ago, several companies have recently reported 40% to 50% of their transactions coming from mobile. Of the total 206 million Indian online users in 2013, nearly half are mobile-only Internet users. This number will only increase in the future as more people in rural India experience Internet through their mobile devices first. Of all Indian online users, just 14% currently purchase online.

The Brazilian content delivery network market is estimated to grow from $88.25 million in 2013 to $192.4 million by 2019, at a CAGR of 13.9% during the forecast period. The rapid growth of Internet-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets are the major factors driving the Brazilian content delivery network market. The demand in the content delivery market in Brazil is growing rapidly because of the increased internet consumption in the country. The increasing trend of utilizing internet in almost every walk of life has been on a steep rise in the Brazil market due to which the internet traffic has been continuously increasing, thus increasing the need for an effective CDN solutions market.

With more than 550 million users, China has the world’s largest online population, representing more than 1 out of every 5 online users globally. And with only 44% of China’s population on the internet today, that growth will continue. Delivering online content into China presents numerous challenges, including a unique internet infrastructure and an increasingly mobile user base. Deploying a CDN meets the unique challenges that China presents, helping global enterprises accelerate website and media delivery, and business application responsiveness. A CDN eliminates the need to invest in expensive local infrastructure, which reduces operational strain on your organization.

There are 5 key factors to China’s online revenue growth potential:

  • China added 54 million Internet users 2 years ago, for a total of 618 million
  • China Etail will soon account for 10-16% of total online consumption
  • Q3 2012: China’s Internet economy reached $109B Chinese Yuan—US$16B
  • Over 60% of average Chinese consumers browse products on smartphones
  • Mobile commerce will make up 8% of ecommerce sales, growing 5-fold from 2012 $7.8B to $41.4B in 2015

The Middle East and Africa content delivery network (CDN) market is estimated to grow from $0.18 billion in 2013 to $0.45 billion by 2019, at a CAGR of 15.6% during the forecast period. This market is driven by the rise of Internet consumption and the increasing number of smartphone users. The growth of the CDN market in the Middle East and Africa can be attributed to the limitations in perceived quality service while accessing content over web. It’s safe to say that the adoption of CDNs only expands markets.

The content delivery network market is growing; the info shown above shows the great potential that CDNs hold for emerging markets. Content delivery networks allow access to various servers that provide web data and web content, which are great to deliver the best content available to countries with not so well developed IT infrastructure, while providing maximum user experience, from source server to end-user in a reliable and timely manner.

Tweet this: CDNs hold great potential for emerging markets like China (674M users).

Tweet this: India has an internet user base of about 375 million as of Nov 2015.

 

Chapter 9: How to Choose A Content Delivery Network

If your website visitors reside in multiple countries or even multiple continents, there is a good chance using a CDN makes sense. And you don’t need millions of visitors a day for a CDN to pay off.

The CDN market has grown a lot recently and is only expected to become bigger and bigger. There are more CDN providers than ever nowadays and it’s getting harder to choose the right one for a business, since it’s hard to narrow down your options and list the needs for your business. It all depends on exactly what your use case is and, without knowing more details, no one can really provide any helpful guidance. This is especially true in the small and medium business (SMB) market where many don’t have robust IT departments, aren’t as up to speed on the technology, don’t know what services cost, or simply need help knowing where to start. Before you talk to any service provider, you need to have a very clear outline of what it is that you are looking for.

There are 4 categories that need to be considered when choosing a right CDN:

  • Functionality
  • Performance
  • Costs
  • Service

Let’s start with functionality and here we have two major questions:

  1. What should the CDN be able to do?
    Some things can be considered basic functionality, like Origin-Pull and Gzip compression. Other things are not so common, like a custom CNAME for secure web pages.
  2. What should you, as a user of the CDN service, be able to do?
    These may be on your requirements list, amongst others:
  • View (real-time) statistics on CDN usage
  • Upload files via FTP
  • Do a Purge-All via an API
  • Override the browser caching headers your origin server sends

Defining the needs and the requirements of a business is the first step when it comes to picking up a CDN provider. The next stop is performance:

Speed is the key. You will want to know how fast the CDN servers will be delivering the files to your end users. The KPIs to look at are: latency (in ms) and throughput (in kbit/s). For each KPI you should get the min, max, median and average for a long-enough period and preferably during normal and/or peak traffic hours. Besides latency, the ‘power’ of the servers is also very important. Your servers may be close to the visitors but they can still be slow, for a number of reasons, including:

  1. The servers cannot handle the number of concurrent connections from visitors’ browsers (resulting in a queue)
  2. The hard drives are old and slow
  3. The servers are behind a under-capacity load balancer
  4. The servers have a small pipe to the internet

You can expect the CDN servers to be tuned for performance (e.g SSD hard drives) and are able to respond to requests quickly and send those bytes out fast. Here are a few more notable tips:

  • Do a trial or proof of concept with one or more Content Delivery Networks in the geographical regions that are most important to you
  • Have solid performance monitoring in place during this test phase in order to get real data about the CDN performance
  • Interpret the data in the right way and compare the results of the different CDNs

Costs

Money is always a factor when it comes to running a business. Prices tend to differ a lot between CDNs and gathering pricing info is key in this step. Custom price plans are quite common in the CDN market, so engaging a provider of interest and asking about a custom price plan is always recommended. The budget number helps a lot as it enables vendors to define the size of your company. While that may seem irrelevant, it’s very important as some vendors tailor their solutions towards specific sized companies and verticals. Customer service/support is the next item on our list:

Many CDN providers offer 24/7/365 support via email and phone and that is great. Besides customer support availability, there are other important things to consider:

  • Friendliness and knowledge level of customer support reps
  • How fast do problems get solved?
  • Account management quality and availability
  • Do they really work with you as a partner, or are you ‘just another customer’?

It’s important to approach a CDN provider and go into much details as possible to see how a potential business relationship feels. This is the final step and is equally important as the previous ones.

Tweet this: I just read about what questions to ask when choosing a CDN.

Tweet this: One of the questions for choosing a CDN provider: Are you their partner or just another costumer?

 

Chapter 10: Multi CDN

CDNs are known to provide a more secure network, reduced loading time of your page, manageable traffic, maximum availability, and so on. An irreplaceable tool that will improve the entire technological infrastructure that backs up your business. But why trust it with  only one CDN provider?

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What if you could hop from one CDN provider to another, at all times by redirecting user requests to the optimal content source based according to your business needs. This is known as Multiple Content Delivery Network, or multi-CDN.  As you can see, if you’re a growing video streaming company or social platform, it’s advisable to use a multi-CDN strategy.

Multi-CDN describes the practice of using more than one CDN provider in order to further improve latency and uptime on a global scale. While one CDN may be enough in a certain locality, a site owner may choose to implement further CDNs that have data centers in geographical areas where the main supplier isn’t highly represented.

Such diversification of your CDN providers is known to be less risky. And you can easily balance availability and performance of your website by loading various servers on the cloud, differently.

Using multiple CDNs is smarter than using one CDN because:

  • CDN providers perform differently in different geographical regions
  • Not all CDN providers are reliable as others
  • Not all CDN providers include same features and strategies as others
  • You don’t need to switch CDN providers as this process becomes automated
  • It’s the next big thing in e-commerce

There are also several direct advantages that need to be mentioned:

  1. You can branch out to new regions, new markets
    By using different locations of the whole network of servers located at different data centers, you can reach all web users promptly regardless of their geographical location. By always switching to a better performing CDN, you can manage more growth to your business, more users, more content to deliver.
  2. You’ll gain more revenue due to a better performance
    That speed affects conversion rates is a well known fact, as an advantage of 250 milliseconds of a page load time, according to recent research, it is what keeps your customer from going to your competitor. Using multiple Content Delivery Networks (multi-CDN) means even more performance and less latency. Take an example of a giant such as Amazon. The increased revenue was by 1% for every 100ms of improvement to their page load time. Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a number one advice when it comes to best practices in overhauling your site speed. Using multiple Content Delivery Networks (multi-CDN) is even better.
  3. Your cloud will never crash
    A downtime to a website is a severe damage to an e-commerce business. 1 out of 4 customers will leave, never to come back again. The rest are highly unlikely to trust you again. If you still trust a single cloud provider with your CDN, you are to face an outage at a certain point. For a shorter while, or longer. The risk is to be disregarded only if you choose two or more CDN providers to operate with. This is perhaps the best reason for a multi-CDN practice. In other terms; more security and less risk.
  4. You gain more control of your business
    By orchestrating the multiple CDN providers, you can set exact criteria, e.g. time of the day, to ensure that your customer always finds the content he seeks. And faster. You don’t lose important data by choosing one provider over the other. Multi-CDNs automatically switch to which ever CDN provider enables the best possible performance for your website at any given time/place.
  5. You don’t need to hold back your business
    You don’t need to be that cautious while adding rich multimedia to your website while using multi-CDNs. You can keep your design both attractive and instantly available to your customers. By orchestrating different CDN providers, you will be able to manage all traffic peaks. Also, to beat off bandwidth pressures and all the memory-intensive content.

Tweet this: Why use one CDN provider when you can use multi CDN providers!

Tweet this: With Multi CDN you don’t need to switch providers – the process is already automated.

Tweet this: With Multi CDN your Cloud will never crash.

Chapter 11: CDN and DNS

If you’re not familiar with that last classic pairing, you should be. Pairing a managed DNS solution with your CDN provides your website with extra performance, reliability, and flexibility.

The Domain Name System (DNS) is a hierarchical distributed naming system for computers, services, or any resource connected to the Internet, or a private network. It associates various information with domain names assigned to each of the participating entities. It basically serves as the phone book for the Internet by translating human-friendly computer hostnames into IP addresses, but unlike a phone book, it can be quickly updated.

DNS keeps you connected to your customers.

Every first user interaction with a website starts with a DNS, but if it goes down, the site can’t be accessed. With a managed DNS solution, the probability of a total network outage is decreased because DNS providers build their networks 100% reliable. Having an “indie” DNS provider, as opposed to a combined professional CDN/DNS provider is a smarter bet because if your combined provider’s network goes down you lose both ways.

A combined DNS/CDN solution ensures the maximum performance of the website, quickly delivering the content to ensure the highest user experience possible, giving the flexibility when it comes to updating the website. Pairing a CDN with DNS allows you to:

  • Swap to new CDN
  • Add additional CDN’s
  • Load balance between Endpoints
  • Negotiate with coming providers

Every user’s first interaction with a website begins with a DNS query. When a user lands on a page, dozens of distinct DNS queries are issued to identify the correct source for all content. DNS resolution can account for as much as 29% of initial page load time. Poor DNS means slow page loads, leading to dissatisfied users and ultimately the loss of business. You can basically distribute traffic across multiple CDNs and endpoints to optimize the performance of your website, ensuring your content is always available, even if a CDN is down.

According to a study done by Amazon and Google, you suffer a 7% decrease in sales if your website doesn’t load in under 3 second.

As your business grows, your DNS follows your steps. Managed DNS allows you to add services and features and it’s simple to update. Managed DNS services can help you boost revenues, reduce website abandonment, and improve customer satisfaction by quickly connecting users to the resources they need. A good first impression starts with DNS.

These are the key advantages of a paired DNS/CDN solution:

  1. Performance – the distribution of traffic across multiple CDN’s and endpoints optimizes the performance and levels CDN outages.
  2. Reliability – even if a CDN goes down the provider’s network often supports CDN’s with automated failover, giving the content availability at all time.
  3. Availability – independent DNS service lets you pick CDN providers based on geography, price, features and such. There’s always the option of swapping CDN providers without disrupting the service.

Most CDN providers implement and manage their own DNS infrastructure. Some CDN providers have productized their internal DNS networks to supplement their core service revenues, but a CDN provider can’t match the flexibility, performance, and scalability of an independent service provider that focuses on DNS. As a perfect complement to a CDN, managed DNS solutions are specifically designed to extend website performance and reliability. Managed DNS services are ideal for companies and brands of all sizes. They offer global footprints and use advanced load balancing and routing techniques to minimize latency, maximize availability, and minimize costs. DNS is the first part of the lookup process. It is essentially what separates online brands from their consumers. If your DNS fails then your brand may as well not exist. Latency or Resolution Time has been a widely acknowledged consideration for e-retailers focused on end-user experience.

Internet Performance solutions are responsible for the delivery of a brand’s content and end-user experience. Understanding customer demographics is key to positive user experience and good business. The advantages of pairing CDN with DNS are, virtually, infinite.

These are some additional features that a paired DNS/CDN solution provides:

  • Disaster preparedness (outsourcing DNS is part of a sound disaster prevention strategy)
  • Security
  • DNS Reporting
  • API Integration

Tweet this: Pairing a DNS solution with your CDN provides extra performance, reliability, and flexibility

Tweet this: You suffer a 7% decrease in sales if your website doesn’t load in under 3 second

 

Chapter 12: CDN and Web Performance Monitoring

It is widely accepted that content delivery networks are a great way to increase a website’s performance, as providing advanced acceleration services that can improve end user experience dramatically. However, with so many CDN providers entering the crowded and competitive market every year, organisations looking to boost their online performance are facing ever greater dilemmas – which CDN provider is best, how should you measure content delivery network performance and which do you select to accelerate your data?

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There are several methods that can be used when analysing the performance of a specific content delivery network provider. The most important benchmarks include:

Server side performance monitoring:

This method of testing simulates end user data requests, and then measures how quickly a web page responds to the request. Whilst this is useful for determining response speeds, it isn’t perfect. This is because it often only measures the time it takes for the initial document files to be delivered, neglecting files such as images, CSS files and JavaScript. This type of measurement is therefore highly unreliable, and can in many cases be seconds faster than loading speeds are in reality.

Synthetic transaction monitoring:

To overcome these server side monitoring drawbacks, a second, more accurate method can be used. Synthetic transaction monitoring incorporates emulators and real world browsers to test predefined data requests from many different locations. Whilst this is supposedly as close a method to measuring real world end user performance as possible, it can also be plagued with inaccuracies. This is because it does not accurately source requests from the exact locations that your specific customers are based.

Measuring the performance of a few users:

This method is a more accurate way of measuring website performance, especially when compared to the previous options. By taking a selection of your end users and measuring how long it takes for them to access your pages, you can use the averages of these results to make generalisations about the speed of your content delivery network.

Measuring the performance of every end user:

This is the most accurate method of measuring the performance of your website. By measuring all actual transaction times across a network and from all users, you can record response times from a server, network and application perspective. This, however, can be very expensive and difficult to administer. Real end-user experience and CDN performance can be measured using Last mile testing. Despite shortcomings, Last mile measurements are more realistic as they measure how quickly your content is delivered from CDN servers to end-user device. Because it incorporates last leg of connectivity service required to deliver content, Last mile testing provides more accurate picture on end-user experience.

In addition to these benchmarks, there are certain aspects of a CDN’s network configuration that can also be considered, depending on your exact requirements:

  1. Number of POPs
    The more points of presence a content delivery network provider has, the more bandwidth and customers it can potentially handle.
  2. Network reach
    If you’re looking to provide your online service to either a specific continent or around the world, ensure the network has server location in your target markets.
  3. Current customers
    This fairly unscientific method is based upon the fact that you can base your CDN provider decisions on which provider similar sized organisations to yours they are using. Furthermore, larger, more reputable organisations with high data acceleration tend to use faster, more efficient networks. These are both good things to look out for.

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Monitoring cloud performance means measuring the level of service that the customer is acquiring from the entire cloud environment, usually from a cloud service provider, and measuring how well a service the provider is offering. To understand how all of the components (back end, front end) are attributing to utilize the full potential of such remote IT infrastructure, for both end user and a service provider. Cloud performance management should thus both be performed by the service provider as well as the cloud consumer (companies, organizations, commerces), and they will differ in reporting.

Moving your system to the cloud is not enough without adequate monitoring, and cloud performance management strategy will be critical for vendors entering the cloud computing market. Many cloud monitoring tools can be acquired from third parties, and it is best to use more of them in a combo.

Taking the time to consider these factors will help make sure that you get the most out of your online acceleration services.

Tweet this: Moving your system to the cloud is not enough without adequate monitoring.

Tweet this: Many cloud monitoring tools can be acquired from third parties, and it is best to use more of them in a combo.

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 web community has evolved to a point of realisation – that the user experience and customer satisfaction is the ultimate brand value.

The CDN was designed with that purpose and we’re only beginning to understand the value and the potential that the CDN market holds, both for the largest and the emerging markets. People want top quality and CDNs are here to deliver. The age of streaming has already begun and customers expect flawless video images and fast processing speeds.

Let’s shortly summarize which sites would benefit the most from a CDN:

  • Sites with large audience
  • Sites streaming large video files
  • Sites which consist of mainly large media files like image sites, keen on delivering rich content
  • Sites which have known heavy traffic from different locations

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, so there really is no point in second guessing. Site performance and mobile friendliness is everything nowadays, so the only choice is to either join the ride or get left behind.

Luckily, GlobalDots can help to deliver the content to your end users. Even with the most complex and sophisticated setups, GlobalDots can provide you with the technology stack that ensures that the most important aspects of your site are always up&running: deliverability, speed, availability, failover and web security (including web application protection, bot protection, DDoS protection and mitigation). Customers like Lufthansa, Bayer, Avast, Lamborghini and other leading brands and small-medium enterprises rely on GlobalDots services to keep their sites and applications fast & secure. Contact us today to help you out with your performance and security needs.

 

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