13th August, 2013 14 Min read
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Given the fact that performance industry is ever changing, this blog post will use as a Q&A we get from many of our customers wanting to know details and specifics about CDN, cloud and other performance technologies.
Using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) hosting instead of a standard hosting means that you will load some of the traffic to cloud based servers in data centers strategically located in different regions of the world. The servers from a data center closer to the end user will always be triggered, so the content reaches him faster.
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CDNs are basically surrogate web servers distributed across different data centers in different geographical regions to deliver content to end-users, based on proximity of this user. They help global availability of a website, address the latency problems and gain size, i.e. reduce bandwidth.
A CDN hosting system offers a cost-effective solution for an online vendor, or an e-commerce owner, a content provider etc., to keep his customers satisfied at all times no matter how many objects they are downloading from a page, or where they are in the world. It immediately means the faster performance of a hosted website and a better security from hacker attacks.
This is because CDNs maintain multiple Points of Presence, i.e. servers store copies of identical content and and apply a mechanism that provides logs and information to the origin servers. Instead of a standard client-server communication, two communication flows are used. Between client and the surrogate server, and then between the surrogate server and the origin server.
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:
More than 90% of business owners now realize the benefits of using the cloud, the reliability of the cloud and cloud investments keep them on top of the market and safe against competitors. Implementing a CDN to the cloud gives them even more market opportunities, helps them scale their business as much as they need to, and pushes them to keep up with technological revolutions.
There are no general rules to how to implement CDNs since each type of CDN has its own configuration process. What is important is that YSlow recognizes the CDN and for blogs you may even use plug-ins.
The usage of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) is rapidly growing in the era of mobile and app-based internet. The effort to simplify navigation and improve user experience is taken both by vendors and network operators. The speed of a website affects everything, from infrastructure to cost of an e-commerce. With CDNs, the data is served to the end-user from the surrogate server located nearest to him.
A CDN replicates content from the origin server to cache servers, scattered over the globe. Renting such service from a CDN provider has proved to be much simpler and more cost effective than maintaining an on-premise server of your own. Also, the content that the vendors provide is seeking to be highly interactive, and the varying round-trip of the content/data needs to be optimized, the latency minimized.
Of course, the value measured will depend on the type of the service provided, on whether you are a vendor/content owner, or a CDN service provider. For the content owners, basically two questions need to be answered to find where the value of their CDN implementation lies:
There are many different stakeholders in the CDN market, like content providers, content makers, data centre providers, Internet Service providers (ISPs), Internet access providers, Internet backbone providers, CDN providers, advertisers, and so forth. As the market dynamics continue to evolve, so will evolve the profiles, the merging trends, and price strategies of different stakeholders.
A list of CDN providers can be found here.
In 2012, according to StreamingMedia research 317 customers spent less than $100K per year on CDN. For customers spending under $100K per year, Amazon dominates with more than half the contracts, followed by EdgeCast, Limelight, Level 3, Highwinds and those who buy CDN services via third-party resellers. The current trend for prices is that they are in decline.
POPs (also, points of presence, edge caches) are distributed servers where static resources are stashed across a region or worldwide, thereby bringing resources closer to users and reducing round trip time.
The options to make your website faster, split in two major categories:
Below are some tips.
The first rule of e-commerce says that if the customer cannot find your product/service, he cannot buy it. The number of web shoppers in US alone in 2011 was said to be 178,5 million and is to reach 200 million by 2015 (source: eMarketer) which will equal 90% of all internet users in US. Now, to consider the patience of your customers. 1 out of 4 customers is sure to abandon a webpage that takes more than 4 seconds to load.
So, yes, improving performance is absolutely a must for every website except if the content is hosted locally and their users are local, in that case CDN doesn’t make that big of a difference.
Faster websites result in better user experience, better search engine rankings and more conversions. 1 out of 4 visitors won’t wait for the page to load for more than 4 seconds. The ideal is to find balance between neat performance and indulging the end users’ desire for interactivity, delivering script intensive content.
CDNs help with major performance problems on the server-side, mainly latency, availability and bandwidth.
The development of CDN 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. Now, CDNs are a continual trend, with the emergence of cloud computing, improving all the layers of cloud computing:
However, CDNs are not “the cloud” as this is the umbrella term for all the remote computers owned by companies that run applications, store data, offer platforms etc. CDNs are content delivery networks, a worldwide network that stores static files such as video, pictures and pages that don’t change. It’s faster to load such files from somewhere locally which causes the page load improvement.
CDN would require actual server to be placed on different places around the world, and cloud computing would require large amount of hardware resource to provide as service.
Since CDNa 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.
As CDN performance primarily depends on geographical location and the proximity of POPs to end-users, you should locate your users first. Also, you should know who your regular user is, define the type of content you are delivering, your business model and what specific requirements you need in order to become more successful.
Knowledge of your specific needs is crucial as performance fluctuates among CDN providers. With this information you make a request for proposal and go through the feedback the CDN or service provider gives you. It is important that you get an idea of:
Providers of Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) vary in service. Some will perform better in China, some in US, some in Australia. Some will include one feature, but not the other. And you’ll want to be on the right cloud at the right time.
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. Whether you are in e-commerce business, or your website is supposed to deliver various audio, video rich content.
Using multiple CDNs is smarter than using one CDN because:
For for a comparison of CDN providers performance you can check a CDN cloud test that CloudClimate company performed here.
Take an example of Walmart. When they found out they were not the fastest retail site on the internet, compared to EBay, Amazon etc., they have decided to overhaul their site speed.
As a result:
Giants like Amazon, Shopzilla, Yahoo, AoI and mozilla all did the same, and made their results available.
Shopzilla speeded up average page load time from 6 seconds to 1.2 seconds, and increased revenue by 12% and page views by 25%. Amazon increased revenue by 1% for every 100ms of improvement (same as Walmart). Yahoo increased traffic by 9% for every 400ms of improvement. Finally, mozilla got 60 million more Firefox downloads per year, by making their pages 2.2 seconds faster.
Content delivery networks are used for B2B interactions mostly and in serving content to consumers. Today, as more aspects of daily life move on the web, organizations use content delivery network to accelerate static content, dynamic content, mobile content, e-commerce transactions, video, voice, games and more.
Statistics for your uptime, response time, website performance. Plus,historical records of all downtimes and errors and performing speed tests (e.g. with Pingdom) will help you decide whether you need to only improve your CSS files asset, do simple optimizing tricks, or use Content Delivery Network (CDN) hosting which uses servers located at different data centers to deliver content from the server that is closest to the end user.
Bear in mind that 250 milliseconds will make a difference between you and your competitor, nowadays.
CDNs improve overall global availability of a website but the performance depends on the geographical location of a server and of a vendor, as well as the number of vendors that you are hiring. Having more than one is a surest way to avoid downtimes.
To measure CDN performance several methods can be used to get analysis results.
SPDY, pronounced “SPeeDY”, is an application-layer protocol for transporting content over the web, designed specifically for minimal latency.
The SPDY project defines and implements an application-layer protocol for the web which greatly reduces latency. The high-level goals for SPDY are to:
The only changes required to support SPDY are in the client user agent and web server applications.
However, SPDY has not been widely adopted by the content delivery industry and many o not support the protocol.
DDoS attacks are one of the biggest threats to the security on the internet, since the users of controlled computer systems are usually not aware of the attack performed. And since packets are not coming from a single source, they can not be stopped by simply blocking a single IP address.
Not that using one method of prevention alone can actually protect you. However, by using a combination of a few, you have a better chance of defending your business space.
Content delivery networks (CDNs) use servers located at different data centers. Not only one, but many communication channels are used. Since the emergence of cloud computing, CDNs are employed not only as a tool for unclogging the internet, but also as a tool for mitigating (avoiding) DDoS attacks. CDNs will absorb less-sophisticated DDoS attacks, simply with bandwidth. With CDNs, you gain the advantage of – size.
With global CDN market changing and bringing ever more performance technologies and solutions, it is rather complex to describe each and every potential use case. It depends on your overall business goals, strategies and competitive landscape on which performance technologies will you use. Use the comments to ask additional questions on which we’ll try to answer in future blog posts.
EX.CO is a video technology platform that enables publishers to monetize video content on websites.
Justt is a chargeback mitigation startup based in Tel Aviv. Chargebacks, as defined, are demands by a credit card provider for a retailer to reimburse losses on fraudulent or disputed transactions. Justt’s objective is to assist merchants worldwide in combating false chargebacks using its proprietary artificial intelligence technology.
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