What is a CDN? Explained simply with 5 facts

Content delivery network (CDN) is a connection of servers.

CDN

CDN is a network of several servers used in combination and located all over the world. Who benefits from this and what to look out for can be read in this guidebook.

CDN – definition and meaning

The abbreviation stands for Content Delivery Network, more rarely for Content Distribution Network. These are interconnected servers in different geographical locations. If you trade globally and have your target audience spread all over the globe, CDN will save you time and give your users the advantage of fast page retrieval without loading delays.

All static content of the website is stored on the different servers and retrieved where the visitor enters his query in the search engine or in the address bar. Content Delivery Network selects the server that is the shortest distance from the website's retrieval point. In concrete terms, this means that requests are not sent around the globe, but are retrieved in the shortest distance possible. This increases the connection speed, which in turn reduces the loading time and thus avoids tests of patience when accessing a website from abroad.

How does a CDN work?

The Content Delivery Network servers are placed in globally relevant locations. By selecting strategically located sites and measuring traffic at Internet nodes, network operators ensure the best performance. Secure and fast data transmission is the goal of the networks, which are interconnected and technically sophisticated. The visitor of your website only needs to share his geo-information on the PC to benefit from the accelerated transfer. Everything else is done by the CDN on its own, so the user doesn't have to do anything else.

By determining the geographic location of a page request, the website is served from the closest server. You save yourself and your customers waiting times that would occur with page views from other continents. The interconnection of servers is a modern and practical solution in times of global business and real-time transmissions of online content without borders. Nevertheless, the CDN is also limited in its performance and can cause difficulties if you choose wrong – or if the server network is not suitable for your business.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of CDN?

Basically, all website owners should use a CDN if they have high traffic and an international audience. Using the content delivery network avoids long loading times and increases the usability of the website. This, in turn, positively influences Google ranking and is an important factor when it comes to the findability of an offer beyond national borders.

Especially online retailers, streaming services and public authorities as well as global providers of downloads and software benefit from the CDN.

Advantages:

  • Fail-safe performance even during peak loads
  • Reduced data volume through compression, thus shorter loading time
  • bundled requests speed up the delivery of the content
  • Caching via the server closest to the user in the network
  • Reduction of operating costs through bandwidth savings
  • Web content is provided before the actual request is made

Disadvantages:

  • the increased setup effort should not be underestimated
  • Due to hosting on several connected servers, a loss of control over one's own data is unavoidable
  • if a dubious hoster is chosen, legal problems could arise

Whether you need composite servers or whether a single server, perhaps even one operated by you, is sufficient, is a question of traffic and the necessary performance. The more content you provide, the higher you set your reach, and the larger the content provided, the more sense it makes to use a CDN and thus cause a significant reduction in load time.

Do you need a CDN?

To decide correctly, you should weigh the percentage ratio between your domestic and foreign customers. If you are selling more abroad, a CDN is a good choice and can increase your success in the long run.

What matters when choosing a CDN?

Website operators can choose from a variety of CDN offerings. However, not every network connection fits every website. One of the first things to focus on is network security. Here it is to be considered that the DSGVO valid in this country has no validity at other locations in the world. For this, there are other security regulations that you should look at in comparison and choose based on your business and personal needs.

Another key point, whether a CDN brings advantages or disadvantages, is based on the efficient load balancing. Only strong servers that work without failures during peak load should be shortlisted. The third decision criterion is the geographical distribution. Some CDNs are limited to specific countries, while other network affiliates operate globally and are consequently suitable for international page views. In the international space, DSGVO compliance plays an essential role. If you offer services in the Asian region, for example, you need to focus on the legal situation there and adapt the content accordingly.

Dynamic content – CDN yes or no?

You work mainly with dynamic content? Then a CDN could turn out to be a disadvantageous decision. Content in shopping carts, personalized newsletters and other content tailored to the visitor can not be stored in the cache. Some modern CDNs use special techniques here, with which the accelerated data transfer can nevertheless be realized. However, these workarounds are not included in every CDN and must be checked and compared separately.

If you run a web store, you should look for providers that work with modern workarounds and enable accelerated data flow this way without data loss for dynamic content. In most cases, it's worth hiring an experienced agency to handle this concern, thus ruling out the possibility that you'll end up with an offer that doesn't meet your needs and doesn't fit your business concept or your individual data footprint.

Conclusion – CDN is a good choice for companies

Choosing the right CDN will go a long way in determining whether your entrepreneurial concept will work. First and foremost, pay attention to IT data security, which is your responsibility as a business owner and website operator. Stability during power peaks is another criterion that plays an essential role in the selection of the CDN.

Basically, the retrieval of your website via global servers is worthwhile for all companies that operate not only in Germany and Europe, but all over the world. If you take time to compare and check the prerequisites, you can avoid mistakes and increase your sales sustainably. The CDN is an innovative and practical solution to eliminate long loading times and expand your audience across national borders.

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