A content delivery network (CDN) consists of groups of servers spread out over a large geographic area (usually on different continents) that work together to speed up the delivery of large files to end users across the globe. It is a high-end solution for high-volume Web sites that transmit large amounts of data — usually media files or images — and serve customers who are spread out geographically.
There are two major advantages to using a CDN over a regular server. First, the network has connections to more routes along the Internet than a single server, so it is less sensitive to outages and slow-downs. Second, because it uses locations spread over a large area, it sends the data using the shortest route, cutting transmission times.
Who Uses a CDN?
Larger, complex Web sites can provide a better user experience by using a CDN, but not everyone needs one. In fact, most standard Web sites are small enough to load relatively quickly without any extra help. This is especially true if the server that houses the Web site is located near the people who use it most.
CDNs are typically used by:
- Media-heavy Web sites. Web sites that include video and audio files can dramatically speed up their page load times by using a CDN. Ecommerce Web sites with thousands of product pictures can provide a better customer experience using a CDN.
- Gaming Web sites. Gaming Web sites must deliver content seamlessly to give players all over the world the best playing experience. A CDN can eliminate players' frustration due to long download times for new games and patches.
- Downloadable software. According to a Gartner study, 80% of all consumer software and 50% of enterprise software will be delivered via online download by 2008. People are more likely to purchase and recommend a software product that downloads quickly.
In today's online world, speed is not an option. Consumers and businesses expect short load times, and they're not willing to settle for anything less. A CDN is one way Web sites with vast amounts of data can deliver the high-quality user experience customers expect.