One of the biggest problems that content delivery networks, or CDNs, solve is latency. Latency refers to the amount of time for a request from a client to be received, processed, and delivered by a server. If the server and client are close to one another, latency is not generally a problem. On the other hand, if they are separated by large distances — such as across an ocean from one another, then latency become a major concern.
Why does latency matter? Users are impatient. You have about 3 seconds for content to load before most users will abandon the website! If your website can’t deliver, they’ll find one that can.
In a nutshell, CDNs solve latency due to geographic distances by creating global “points of presence” (PoP) networks. Each node on the network caches content and serves as a local server. Instead of accessing the content on a server located halfway around the world, the end-user accesses a local version on a server much closer to home.
If you have a globally distributed workforce or user base, selecting a CDN provider can reduce the latency associated with remote servers as well as improve a few other problems such as bandwidth usage global availability. However, not all CDN providers are created equal. Use the tips below to select a CDN provider.
- Match the CDN with the type of content you typically provide. According to Aryaka, “The need determines the right solution. While CDNs are quite mainstream, different use cases require different solutions. Depending on the nature of the content, your preferred vendor list during the evaluation process should be quite different.” For example, if your servers deliver video content, choosing a CDN provider that excels at caching video content is the obvious choice (Source: Aryaka CDN Solutions). However, that same provider may not be adept at accelerating dynamic, personalized content. Web applications and customer portals will need a more specialized CDN, one that’s optimized for Web and IP applications (Source: Web Performance Today).
- Determine where your users are located. This is crucial. For example, let’s say that your servers are in the United States but your end-users are located in India. If the CDN provider does not have PoPs in or near India, then latency could still be a major problem. Likewise, if your users are located all around the globe, you’ll need a CDN provider with PoPs located on all six populated continents.
- Check the CDN provider’s availability guarantee. It should be within a fraction of a point of 100 percent.
- Find a responsive CDN provider. In addition to ensuring that the CDN provider has PoPs where you need them, provides reliable and guaranteed service, and is capable of delivering the type of content you provide in the most expedient manner possible, you’ll also want to make sure that the CDN provider offers the level of service and support your company deserves. What type of support does the company offer? How responsive is the CDN provider to your pre-sales inquiries? What do current customers have to say?
Selecting a CDN provider requires doing your research to ensure a good fit. Start with matching the CDN provider with the type of content you deliver and make sure that PoPs are located where you need them. From there, check into reliability and support.