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How does CDN work and what exactly is it?

CDN in the context of the Internet world means something completely different than the abbreviation of the phrase “to be continued”. It is a distributed system that enables the delivery of content to users, taking into account their location. It plays a very important role and helps to optimize your websites. Find out what CDN stands for and what benefits it provides.

CDN – what is it?

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network. Otherwise, it is a distributed system that is responsible for delivering website content to users in the shortest possible time, based on their geographic location. Thanks to it, a large amount of content can reach specific people quickly and without any interruptions. CDN is believed to be a very simple solution to speed up the performance of websites. Users don’t have to wait too long for data to load from the site they’ve decided to visit. Such a network of servers is dispersed in many places, and content resources are displayed to specific people from the points closest to them.

Higher page loading speed thanks to the use of the CDN system can be seen especially in the case of those site elements that are considered to be heavier. This, for example, graphics. There is a lot of potential in CDN, which is why it is talked about more and more often, for example in the context of increasing the efficiency of websites or their effective SEO. Thanks to it, the physical distance between the server and the user is reduced.

How does the CDN work?

When opening a website that uses CDN, the request is sent to the server closest to the specific person. Thus, it does not have to wait long for all the data to be loaded. In short, the CDN consists of several elements:
– source server,
– distributed internet infrastructure points,
– routing system.

The process of the CDN system operation is invisible to us, as website viewers. Everything is done in the background. When a user enters the address of a site that uses CDN, the so-called process begins. mapping. The network selects the appropriate server in terms of the user’s location and responds to his request by displaying the previously cached content. POPs, i.e. data centers located all over the world (often referred to as points of presence) play an important role here. Their task is to download, save and store in their cache “copies” of the page content. What if there is a problem with processing data from the server closest to a given person? The network then searches for another nearby point. If the real server becomes unavailable due to a failure or similar factors, the CDN will act as a proxy and display the previously processed content despite the problems.

Due to the specificity of operation, the CDN system is somewhat associated with internet clouds. However, there are some differences between these areas. Thanks to the cloud, the data is stored on the server, not on the computer’s hard drive. It can be compared to an internet flash drive. The user has unlimited access to his files, he can view and download them via various devices from anywhere in the world. CDN is an extensive network of internet infrastructure points. Responsible for the distribution of content from the so-called starting server to others. If necessary, i.e. when sending the request, information is transferred to the user from the CDN server closest to him.

What is the CDN for?

The CDN system is used primarily to increase the efficiency and speed of loading a website. Using it means that the user’s request travels a shorter physical distance than when the content of the site is located on one server. You can illustrate this with a practical example. A person living in the United States wants to open a website based in the UK. If this one doesn’t use CDN, it won’t load fast enough because the request has to travel a very long distance, including the Atlantic Ocean. In the case of a content distribution network, this is faster because the data is sent from a server closer to the person, for example in a specific US state.

You should be aware that nowadays internet traffic is mostly handled by CDN. This solution is used both by the websites of the largest companies in the world (including Amazon) and small enterprises. The content distribution network is very popular, in particular among providers of online streaming services and other multimedia services. It allows for greater comfort of using streaming services and reducing the risk of long buffering of content. The CDN is also used by companies dealing with cloud computing and e-commerce websites. The system in question is willingly implemented also due to the increased security. Due to the fact that most of the traffic is not handled by a hosting provider, but only by CDN servers, the risk of cybercriminals attacks is reduced.

CDN system – advantages

There are several benefits to using a CDN, one of the most important being performance gains. It can be said that thanks to a distributed network of servers, the content of the website is closer to the user. At the moment when he wants to open a website, the content does not have to cover a very long distance (in the physical sense), therefore it is displayed faster on the device screen. This is due not only to faster website loading times. This way you can also minimize packet loss. The CDN system works especially well when the website is visited by people living on different continents.

Reliability of access should also be mentioned. Each time you try to open your site, the request goes to the location closest to the user. Even if one server is temporarily unavailable, it will automatically redirect to another one nearby. In this way, the so-called automatic redundancy. The use of the CDN system makes it possible to guarantee constant network availability, regardless of the operation of the main server and those making up the network. What happens without this solution? Users see an error page on their screen, and this discourages them from revisiting the site. Thus, the CDN allows you to improve UX.

It is also believed that the content distribution network often plays an important role in the SEO process. It shortens the website loading time and prevents unnecessary failures, which affects its position in the search results. In addition, the issue of security must not be forgotten. When using a CDN system, traffic is mostly handled by the servers and not by the hosting provider. As content distribution network providers usually apply additional security, the risk of attacks, especially DDoS blocking access to services using network congestion, is reduced. In addition, many servers offer the option of using an additional SSL protocol.

Big enterprises can find out about what CDN means in one more area, which is costs. The use of a content distribution network is less expensive than rebuilding the entire infrastructure, when it will be necessary to use a larger number of servers.

Is it worth choosing a CDN?

In many cases, the CDN turns out to be a very good solution. Nevertheless, the decision to use a network should always be thought out and carefully analyzed. If the majority of website users live in the same region as the hosting, a CDN system is often not necessary. It even happens that implementing it brings more harm than good. Due to a non-essential connection point between the visitor to the site and a nearby server, performance may be degraded.

However, in a situation where the website is popular among users from different parts of the world, CDN is the right choice. There are many providers of this type of service, including:
– Fastly – a commercial CDN network used, for example, by BuzzFeed, The New York Times and Pinterest. It gives many configuration options, provides a high level of security, and at the same time increases the efficiency of websites.
– Cloudflare – one of the largest global networks with data centers in Europe, the United States and South America, as well as in mainland China and Oceania.
– Akamai – one of the largest enterprises in the world, handles approx. 30% of Internet traffic. His clients include BNP Paribas, Honda, Douglas or Ubisoft.
– KeyCDN – a network suitable especially for beginners without much experience with CDN. Supports 6 continents and ensures easy integration.

Importantly, the use of this type of service does not have to be associated with a very large expense. Some providers give you the opportunity to try their offer first in a demo version, and you can easily find free plans with basic functionality. It is worth thinking about CDN especially if you want to acquire new users from other countries or even continents. Thanks to the content distribution network, it becomes easy to optimize your website in each geographic zone. Its use is recommended in particular:
– online stores,
– services with nationwide coverage,
– large, popular websites and those that store valuable data (due to the increased risk of attacks),
– multilingual websites,
– parties with a pronounced foreign movement.

In fact, any website that, for specific reasons, is to operate faster than before, can decide to implement the CDN system. The content distribution network makes sense not only in the case of foreign traffic. Since it affects the site loading faster, it helps it to gain a higher position. Of course, you have to bear in mind that the CDN requires skilful implementation. Only then can you notice all the advantages of this solution.

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