What is a CDN?

When starting a blog or online business, you might purchase monthly web hosting from one company, which handles your page traffic using one server location. However, this approach can backfire if your customer base spans multiple countries, or your product becomes so popular that the demand crashes your server. This is where a CDN  comes in handy. Below, we've outlined what is a CDN, why most online companies are using this smart delivery strategy, and how to utilize a CDN for your own small business.  

What is a CDN? 

Short for "Content Delivery Network", a CDN stores your website data on multiple servers around the globe, instead of just keeping it in one place. When a user tries to visit your website, they will gain access from the server that is closest to their location. For example, if your main server is based in New York, but a client visits your website from Santa Barbara, California, they might be redirected through a server in Los Angeles. This helps to reduce page load times, especially if your page contains a lot of images, videos, and interactive content. The closer you are to the server, the faster a site will load. 

With a variety of servers at your disposal, you also reduce the risk of crashing. Instead of all web traffic going through a dedicated server, it is spread geographically, so this minimizes the strain on any one server in the network. By distributing the workload, your site will be faster, more stable, and rank higher in SEO as a result. You'll also be less vulnerable to DoS (denial-of-service) attacks from hackers, since the network can shift to other servers if it experiences an attack.  

Where can I sign up for a CDN?     

Typically, CDNs are offered as an on-demand online service, separate from normal web hosting like Hostwinds or Bluehost. Some telecom companies have also created their own CDNs, since they can direct web traffic more efficiently than an independent company, and they know exactly how their network is designed. Finally, peer-to-peer clients like Bittorrent use the CDN concept in a more democratic sense, with each user downloading pieces of a file from other users located around the world.

Here are a few of the most popular CDN services: 

  • MaxCDN
  • Incapsula
  • Cloudflare
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • Akamai
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