To succeed, organizations need a CDN partner that can support their needs with ease and agility – but how do you select the right one, given that technical and business requirements are constantly changing?
Choosing a CDN that stays ahead of the continual advances in web and mobile technologies as well as the evolving threat landscape – will enable you to consistently offer your customers the best possible online experiences while minimizing operational complexity and overhead costs.
But the question arises: what is the best CDN?
The only answer to this question is: best CDN depends on your use case.
Choosing a CDN (content delivery network) can be a daunting task. There are a range of available solutions out there, and at first glance they can appear similar.
However, once you get into the details you will find that there are some striking differences between the CDNs.
1) Your organization's needs
This may sound obvious, but it’s important to note. Before you start comparing and analyzing various CDN providers, you must first take stock of your own needs and requirements.
What kind of a website do you have? Are you running an ecommerce shop? Where are your users located? What kind of media do you serve your users the most (text, video, etc.)? What’s your budget?
You have to answer lal these questions first so you can formulate a general idea about what do you need from your CDN provider. Different CDNs can have different specialties, and it’s important to pick one, or several, that will meet your specific needs.
2) User geography
Geography plays a major role in content delivery.
You need to know where your audience is located. Is it local, regional, or global?
It’s important to choose a CDN that has Points of Presence (PoPs) in the areas where your audience is located. Each PoP should have adequate egress capacity to ensure your audience receives the fastest possible experience. The CDN should also have peering agreements with the local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and last-mile networks that serve your audience, in order to eliminate “last-mile” bottlenecks between the CDN and the user’s internet connection.
If you’re planning to only deliver content to a local audience, you don’t need a global CDN, you’re probably better off with a local one.
Also, some CDN providers specialize in specific geographic areas. For example, if you want to deliver your content to China from, let’s say, US, you’re not only facing geographical distance – you also need to take into account additional requirements that Chinese government imposes.
3) Speed and reliability
One of the crucial factors in your decision will most likely be the speed and reliability of a CDN. The three most important ways to measure speed and reliability are:
- Response time -the metric of how long it takes for a server to answer a browser request
- Latency -the amount of time it takes the host server to receive and process a request for an object, like a CSS file or an image. When a visitor clicks on your page, the number of objects that need to load will affect the total response time.
- Throughput - how steadily the content is delivered.
The CDN service provider you select should have a large network. Simply put, the more servers you have, the faster and more reliably content you can deliver your content. More servers equals less buffering, greater redundancy, more scalability, and so on.
Since end users are connecting to your site via a CDN, you need to ensure maximum uptime and availability. Assess CDNs on their ability to be held accountable to an SLA.
4) Cost and pricing models
It’s very important to prioritize both cost and performance before selecting a CDN.
You need to understand how a few milliseconds of latency might affect your user’s experience. If you are running a mission-critical website or application where a few hundred milliseconds makes a big impact to your business, you might want to choose a CDN that has the best possible performance.
However, perhaps your website or application is not mission critical, and those few hundred milliseconds are invisible or inconsequential to your users. In that case, you could choose a CDN that costs less and has almost as good a performance against the best performing CDN.
Security is a serious consideration when choosing a CDN. Features such as encryption, DDoS mitigation, and compliance all play a key role in selecting a vendor. Encryption ensures that your customers’ identities, transactions, and the integrity of your website are protected in transit between an endpoint and the CDN’s edge.
DDoS attacks are certainly a pervasive force and something that cloud vendors fight on a frequent basis; ensure that the vendor has the requisite strength to fend off these attacks so that your content is always able to be served. Finally, compliance plays a key role in vendor selection if the content you are serving from a CDN requires an extra bit of care (eg. sensitive medical information, financial data, etc.).
Every good CDN provider should offer you assistance whenever you need it.
The quality of a CDN’s support and services staff directly reflects the quality of the CDN. The right CDN offers teams with a depth of expertise and breadth of experience – teams who have helped design the Internet’s most innovative sites, deliver its biggest events,and mitigate its largest attacks. They should be able to provide expertly managed delivery, broadcast, and security services with 24/7,proactive, round-the-globe monitoring and support – giving their customers access to top-flight specialists in web, mobile, streaming,and security whenever and wherever they need it.