How to Select a Suitable CDN?

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You’ve noticed that your website loads slowly? Videos keep buffering all the time? Downtime and blank stretches drive users mad? It may be high time to consider a CDN (content delivery network) to transfer your content across the Internet, no matter where your visitors are. Many large websites, or small ones planning to grow need a CDN to guarantee fast and safe content delivery.

A CDN will definitely provide you with service your IT department can’t (if you have any at all). This is a system of distributed servers that deliver content worldwide to your users. The servers are spread over different geographical locations to cache content from the origin server and deliver content in the fastest and most reliable way possible. CDN has a well-developed infrastructure and is supported by whole teams to manage predictable and unpredictable traffic spikes. In other words, a CDN system takes performance of your website to the next level.

However, choosing the right CDN for your business can be more challenging than you think, especially if you only start your website. Here are some tips for sorting CDN solutions out and finding the one that’s tailored to your needs.

Define your own needs

Before typing “the best CDN” into the search bar in Google, take a closer look at your website and identify its peculiarities. State your future goals. CDNs are not equally useful for this or that website, and it’s important to pick one or several that will meet your specific demands. In fact, you can use different CDNs at one, if no single provider can satisfy your needs.

Consider this example. You have an E-commerce website that must ensure fast and secure checkout, which means your needs are different from a website delivering live and long-form videos. You should also consider what your target audience is: regional or global? Might you expand in the future? Finally, think whether you want to deal with a one-size-fits-all CDN, or work with several narrow-expertise CDN players? Find a CDN that’s not just good, but great.

But what makes a CDN great? There are several aspects that matter.

Speed and reliability

There are three important metrics to evaluate the quality and reliability of CDN: response time, latency and throughput. Response time is the time required for the server to answer to process and answer a browser request by sending a CSS file, an image, etc. You don’t want your visitors to look at a slowly loading page when they try to navigate your website, so be careful about response times.

When a user requests a page the speed will depend on the number of objects to be delivered, which will affect response times. For instance, if your webpage contains 300 objects including HTML, videos and images, and every object has latency about 100 milliseconds (latency under 100 is optimal), you will have response time of several seconds.

Throughput shows how steadily the content is being delivered. If your visitors experience slowdowns and interruptions trying to watch a video or get some other content, you need a CDN: during peak times, these problems can be dramatic. Throughput is an important measure of reliability.

Collaboration and partnership

A decent CDN isn’t just a provider – it’s your partner. Look for a company that collaborates with clients actively and not only helps to solve problems, but faces them even before they happen. While your website grows, a CDN should also grow with you offering pieces of advice on how to boost capacity and deliver content smoothly and quickly to all users.

Besides, a CDN should have outstanding tech support. Even in 4 AM you can call the support service and have your questions answered by an experienced engineer who’ll start working on your issue right away. You won’t have to talk to a call-center employee repeating the same useless answers over and over again like a robot. A good tech support hotline won’t refer you to blog posts for help: instead, they’ll answer questions themselves.

Pricing policy should be transparent, too. Many CDNs require customers to sign agreements that mention extra fees for anything beyond basic tech support requests, but this information is often written in fine text. A worthy CDN partner won’t restrict your relationships by that: it aims and long-term sincere partnership.

Strong security protocols

The last but not the least is being backed up by your CDN, which is truly important. Search for a CDN that allows sending data securely over the Net with the help of TLS (Transport Layer Security) certificates that help to create secure HTTP connections. If you serve video, you need a solution that offers protected HTTP streaming video support. Make sure that you also protect the data transferred from visitors to CDN: advanced authentication options are a must, like token-based authentication or two-step authentication login process.

Yes, there are many aspects to consider, but as soon as you implement an appropriate CDN solution into your project, you’ll start reaping endless benefits and see your website thrive.

Vadim Kolchev

52 publications

Vadim has graduated from Moscow Institute of Entrepreneurship and Law as finance and credit specialist. Prior to starting to work in hosting business directly, he occupied various roles in several companies, including but not limited to banking sphere and sports. As of 2015 he works for INXY Holding, with SpaceCDN being a vital part of the hosting branch of its business. Being tech enthusiast, he has started writing articles about dedicated servers, CDN, storage solutions and other hosting services long ago, and since then accumulated a lot of experience and knowledge in the field. Building hosting sales and support departments from scratch has added even more experience and knowledge and allowed to see the business from the inside and build required expertise. Now Vadim is CPO and COO of a successful hosting business. Having several important interviews and publications at platforms such as Hosting Journalist and Forbes, he continues to share knowledge about this branch of technology that has become not only his job but also a passion.

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