Ensuring Business Continuity in the Face of CDN Failures

Miguel Fersen Iberia & LATAM Regional Manager @ GlobalDots
5 Min read

In the rush towards ever-faster content delivery, mature organizations have prioritized ultra-low latency over basic brand reliability. CDN providers are perfectly placed to funnel the fastest traffic to the closest user, but it is becoming increasingly clear that eCommerce companies have placed them at the pinnacle of customer experience — without adequate structural support.

Revenue Over Reliability

Customers hate to wait. Walmart recently boosted site loading times by 1%, and netted themselves a 2% increase in conversion rates. Customers nowadays expect a fast, reliable, and content-rich shopping experience.

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CDNs were one of the first acceleration methods for the global internet. By utilizing the provider’s global network of servers, a site user is redirected to their locally-hosted copy of your site’s files. This allows a site to load 10 times faster than itscore-server counterparts.

Offloading this acceleration comes at a cost, however: while your customers expect constant access to your eCommerce site, no CDN provider can guarantee total 100% uptime.. Just 1% of downtime equates to 84 hours of online pandemonium.

CDN Outages: A Costly Toll

A major eCommerce outage is terrifying to behold. In 2018, Amazon was poised for its upcoming biggest-ever Prime Day. Within 15 minutes of the sales starting, however, DevOps looked on in horror as the company’s Sable systems began to fail. Customers were left unable to purchase items and, as the outage began affecting further critical systems, Amazon warehouses were unable to scan and package products. Overall, the cost of outages is more than just financial.

As powerful as CDNs are, they are still intertwined pieces of code and hardware. Take the global Cloudflare outage in June 2022, where human error collided with misconfiguration to create multi-million-dollar downtime. Shopify and JustEat were two major eCommerce companies that suffered; JustEat’s downtime coincided with the lunchtime rush, and hangry customers rushed to complain on Twitter. Fastly also suffered a major outage in June, thanks to a bug that triggered after a single customer integration. In Q2 2022, Canadian users struggled with Cloudflare connectivity after a beaver wreaked havoc on fiber-optic cables.

CDNs are uniquely positioned to cause maximum carnage upon failure. The wide range of outages in 2021 proved that catastrophic downtime is caused by any combination of hardware failures, software misconfigurations, and human error. The ensuing fallout of abandoned carts and increased churn falls to you.

How to Support CDN Failures

CDNs are singularly responsible for huge swathes of the customer experience. This trend is reflected in the wider market: worth $15 billion in 2021, CDN market growth is projected to hit a staggering 23% CAGR until 2030. 

For eCommerce brands, it is vital to recognize the elevated risk introduced by CDNs — and plan accordingly. 

The traditional solution to CDN failure has been to stack providers. As each CDN provider operates a slightly different network of servers, it makes total sense; here at GlobalDots, we’ve helped more than a few companies navigate the complex process of multi-CDN integration

However, we know there’s always more than one solution. This is where the innovation of our partners can be molded into a comprehensive, bullet-proof solution to reliably support your CDN provider.

The primary two components to this backup solution are:

#1. The core architecture to support content caching

#2.  A trigger mechanism

The first component mimics the caches of your CDN provider, guaranteeing your visitors an undisturbed user experience. This edge platform offers a network of servers mapped to your current CDN distribution. When connected to your eCommerce site, 1% of your traffic will be routed via this backup network. This keeps all of your backup caches updated in what’s known as hot-standby mode.

The second component — the ‘trigger’ — is, in fact, two solutions wrapped in a trenchcoat. Every 30 seconds, a service monitor checks the traffic flowing between your eCommerce site and its regional CDN server. If an outage is detected, the DNS director processes this information, and automatically switches 100% of your traffic over to the backup edge platform. This process happens in under 60 seconds.

This is only the beginning; reliability needs to be reflected across every minutiae of your online presence.

Across Content

Your site is a complex mix of static and dynamic content. CDNs were first built in the years of boilerplate HTML; caches are just local copies of your site, an unchanging pool of content to be rapidly recalled. This means that dynamic content — which changes depending on the user — must still make the trek to and from your core server. 

GlobalDots’ solutions can do even better than traditional CDNs. By analyzing user data and behavior, it’s possible to recognize, separate and optimize the delivery of dynamic content. For instance, a solution can determine which content needs to be accelerated through routing — before the user has manually requested it themselves.

Across Platform

Desktop, tablet or mobile, your eCommerce site needs to handle every user with ease. Static images and video are loaded faster when served from the user’s nearest backup cache; but they also need to be appropriately displayed on their device. 

Alongside static acceleration, our image optimization solutions can further offer one of the largest byte-saving performance enhancements for your website. By adaptively scaling to devices, and implementing lazy loading techniques, you can make the most of the 105% engagement increase offered by rapid-loading images. 

Across Network Conditions

Finally, your site needs to stay reliable — no matter the amount of traffic it’s handling. CDNs often include sensing mechanisms that detect when a server is reaching capacity. Funneling more money into your cloud-computing resource provider is the traditional approach to peak seasons, but truly optimizing your provider can be tricky; see here how we helped one eCommerce group cut $1.4 million of cloud overspending

Your backup needs to appropriately scale, without kicking huge amounts of traffic back to your origin server. Thanks to the reserve solution’s hot-standby system, user caches are kept warm and, when switched, the edge platform seamlessly shoulders the increased traffic. This means your origin is protected from traffic spikes throughout even CDN outages in peak seasons. 

Contact GlobatDots to start your journey toward true business continuity today.

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