Fifteen Logo

What is a content delivery network (CDN)?

May 30, 2024

A content delivery network, or content distribution network (CDN) is an essential component of every modern website or programme. It essentially carries the content you see on your phone, tablet or laptop, whether it’s on a website, an app, videos or images, or any other kind of content. But what is a CDN and how can it benefit your business?

In this blog post, we break down the ins and outs of CDNs to help give you a better understanding of their importance in optimising your website’s performance. From faster page loading times to improved user experience, implementing a CDN can take your online presence to the next level. 

What is a content delivery network (CDN)?

A CDN boosts the speed, stability, and reliability of your website. It accomplishes this by getting online content closer to a user’s current position. In other words, a content delivery network is a geographically dispersed network of servers and data centres that aid in the rapid delivery of web content to users.

When a user requests content from a website or an app, the CDN serves that content from the server closest to the user’s location, which improves loading speeds. This not only enhances user experience, but also helps websites handle high traffic loads without slowing down or crashing. For example, CDNs are particularly beneficial to large companies such as Netflix, Facebook and Instagram and Amazon to distribute their content to end-users.

CDNs have been the invisible backbone of the internet for over two decades, providing web services for shopping, banking, healthcare, and other industries to end users all over the world at high speeds and size. Whether you realise it or not, you’ve almost certainly gained from a CDN when you’ve done almost anything online.

What are the benefits of using a CDN server?

Businesses that depend on selling content to consumers all over the world use CDNs and they reap the multiple benefits of using a content delivery network as we outline below:

They can improve your website’s security

Websites that often experience high volumes of traffic leave themselves vulnerable to Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which can result in server failure and even server downtime. By using a CDN server, not only can they help with managing massive volumes of web traffic, but they can also defend against DDoS attacks by dispersing malicious requests across the network through techniques like HTTP load balancing which can help to deter and track attacks.

CDNs can also provide new TLS/SSL certificates too which helps to keep websites authenticated, encrypted and most of all, trustworthy. They also ensure content is widely available to all consumers, as in the event a server goes offline, others can pick up the content requests made by the end-user.

They help maximise bandwidth and latency

One of the most significant advantages of using CDNs are bandwidth and latency reduction. The time it takes for web pages to load is referred to as latency. CDNs aid in reducing page load times and enhance the overall browsing experience by moving and holding website content closer to users.

CDNs are a simple way to boost a website’s performance while still lowering latency. The spatial disparity between a web server and the end-user makes a significant difference in the consumer getting the content they are looking for. Therefore a content delivery network is critical for delivering information to consumers worldwide in a timely, effective, and safe manner.

They assist with controlling access to various regions

If your business has customers located around the world, you’ll need to be able to allow them access to your content. CDN servers can help with this as your tech teams can use a content distribution network to grant or deny access to your content for certain regions.

This allows online businesses to strategically and effectively distribute their content across multiple servers located in different geographic areas. As well as this, it also helps to improve overall performance of a website and allows for better control over who can access the content based on their location.

They prefetch content for faster delivery

If your website contains static content such as images and media files, CDNs have the ability to prefetch this content, resulting in faster delivery for users. It can also prefetch some real time, dynamic content such as a WebSocket programme that is triggered by server events. For example, this might include live chats, in-app notifications or location tracking. However, for this to be successful there must be a solid integration between the content delivery network and the WebSocket programme.

They’re not limited to just website content

The beauty of CDNs is that they’re not limited to delivering just website content. They can deliver other content such as 4K and HD-quality video, audio streams, video games and operating system updates. 

When consumers demand content whether it’s to buy, chat, learn or play, online businesses can face numerous problems. For example, this may include delivering various forms of content, adapting that content for different devices, and protecting their users data. With the intrinsic advantages of a content distribution network, CDN servers are best suited to help companies overcome these various obstacles.

Is a content distribution network right for you?

The value of a content distribution network has become undeniable as almost every company today relies on digital content to entice consumers. However, a CDN may not be the right option for you. Businesses that offer video streaming services, ecommerce products and online video games are just some of organisations that benefit the most from a CDN. 

If your website is localised with minimal media content and you don’t offer content on a large scale basis (i.e. worldwide), the benefits of a CDN may not outweigh the cost and actually harm your user experience. You should consider your website’s specific needs and goals to determine if implementing a CDN is the right choice for you.

Speak to us today for more information

As we’ve highlighted, a content delivery network can provide a plethora of benefits for businesses that need to serve content to a large user base in numerous locations. If you’re not sure whether a CDN is right for you, or you’d like more information, contact us today. Our web development specialists can work with you to understand your goals and objectives and provide expert advice to ensure your business thrives online.




Stay on top of your digital game with our blog updates.

More posts