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What really is a CDN?

As defined, Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a collection of the group of computers or servers or hardware components that are virtually connected and distributed on a global network. 

It is a transparent backbone of the Internet with an ultimate goal to deliver content with high availability and performance. CDNs are everywhere and used by everyone on daily basis; while reading articles on websites, watching videos on YouTube channels, and reading news feeds from social media networks. It is an effective system in speeding up the process of delivering content to the website of global reach with high traffic. 

History of CDN

CDNs were established in the 1990s just as an integral part of any website hosting. It was very expensive and accessible only to larger companies. Sooner or later, the advancements in technology have changed everything and some of the hosting providers offer CDN services as an add-on tool. 

Earlier CDNs were used for B2C or B2B interactions and delivering content to consumers. Today, CDNs are used in almost all the aspects of life from every single character or text to every image pixel, and every single frame that is delivered to the PCs and laptops, while downloading and watching a movie online.

The primary aspect of using CDNs is to solve the issue known as ‘Latency’, that occurs from the moment a request to load a webpage is submitted to the moment the content appears on-screen. This delay or interval is caused by many factors mainly due to high traffic or it can be specific to a webpage. In some cases, delay in fetching the data from a hosted server is due to the physical distance between a visitor and the website’s server.  

CDNs can virtually decrease the physical distance, and improve the speed and performance of a website. 

Benefits of Implementing CDN 

Half of the internet traffic is already being handled by CDNs and the numbers are rapidly trending upwards each year. Most of the websites tend to operate on a large scale make CDN as their popular choice in the following sectors like Advertising, Media & Entertainment, Online Gaming, Educational Institutions, Government sectors, E-commerce, Online Gaming, and Healthcare.

  • Easily handle high traffic speeds
  • Increase page load speed

  • Easy to filter unwanted emails, blocking spammers, and other bot-messages

  • Improve the local coverage without any extra cost

  • Protect websites from security attacks

  • Save bandwidth costs and improve performance

  • Run web applications on high-speed network

Content delivering companies like media companies and e-commerce vendors highly invest in CDN systems to deliver content to their end-users and hosting servers in their data centers. 

Emergence of CDN in Telecommunications

Due to the rampant increase in streaming video traffic, website owners have to use large capital expenditures by broadband providers to meet the demands of customers and deliver a good quality experience. 

In order to overcome this challenge, the telecommunications service providers started building their own content delivery networks to reduce the investments in network backbone and infrastructure. In another instance, deployment of CDNs has helped them to control the utilization of their resources, provide a better quality of service and end-user experience.

A content delivery network (CDN) is a system of distributed servers that deliver pages and other Web content to a user. It is the transparent backbone of the internet in charge of content delivery, which works based on the geographic locations of the user, the origin of the webpage and the content delivery server. CDN helps remove the delay that happens in between a request to load a web page and the time the content actually appears onscreen.

The delay generally happens due to the physical distance between the user and the website's hosting server. A CDN virtually shortens the physical distance, improving the site rendering speed and performance. It stores a cached version of its content in multiple geographical locations known as PoP. Each PoP contains a number of caching servers responsible for content delivery to visitors within its proximity.

CDNs reduce latency when delivering websites to a global audience, which accelerates site load times, reduces bandwidth consumption, secures applications and blocks data scrappers and other forms of spammers hitting the server. CDN is generally used for B2B interactions and in serving content to consumers.

Peer-to-peer (P2P) CDNs are becoming more popular, with major corporations using the technology to send large amounts of data. P2P distributes the load evenly, making it easier to deliver content like streaming HD video. BitTorrent, Pando, and AT&T are some of the commercial CDNs that use P2P technology.

Akamai, Amazon CloudFront, Internap, Limelight Networks, CacheFly, and Windows Azure are some of the popular commercial CDNs. One can also use the free CDNs available such as Coral Content Distribution Network, FreeCast, PPLive, QQLive, and PPStream.

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