Content Delivery Networks Q&A

October 25, 2007

How would you define a content delivery network ? What types of content are generally seen on websites these days ?

A content delivery network is a collection (or network) of computers (or servers) on the Internet that are designed to work together to deliver content (files, videos, music, etc.) in the most efficient way to the end user.

Content delivery networks essentially pre-package and keep content (such as frequently accessed videos or data files) close to potential users, so that when a user tries to access a certain file, it will be delivered much more quickly than if it had to be retrieved from a centralized server located far off on the Internet.
Servers in a CDN deliver content based on the proximity to the end user. In many cases, 80-90% of the end-user response time is spent downloading Web page components such as images, videos, graphics, etc. CDNs can deliver these important page components efficiently and fast by selecting the server with the fewest hops or with the quickest response time.

2) Are there particular vertical markets that would require a CDN or could
this be found in a wide variety of companies ?

CDNs can be found across a wide variety of companies–basically any company that has a significant amount of data (whether it’s large files or a large number of files) that a broad number of users need to access in a time efficient manner. Of course CDNs are particularly effective for organizations delivering large, media-intensive applications or Websites, such as news sites, online video sites, etc.

3) Does it ever make sense for a large enterprise to set up and maintain
its own CDN ? Does it ever make sense for a small to medium sized company
to set up and maintain its own CDN ?

In many cases it’s most efficient for organizations to outsource the creation and management of CDNs. The cost of creating an efficient infrastructure and managing it for a CDN can be significant.

What technical and business resources are required to set up and
maintain a CDN ?

You need a sophisticated understanding of the Internet, Web servers, and complex enterprise server technologies. It will also require significant hardware and software investment, as well as technical resources to provision, deploy and manage.

5) What are the benefits of building and maintaining your own CDN ? What
are the drawbacks of building and maintaining your own CDN ?

The benefits of building and maintaining your own CDN come down to greater control and optimization over the network itself–you can turn it specifically for your needs and modify it as those needs change, as well as complete control over the security and management of it.

The drawbacks to building and maintaining your own CDN revolve around costs (it’s expensive), time (it can take time), distraction (unless it’s core to your business, you should not be building a CDN)

6) When should a business seek the services of an outside CDN provider ?
Most organizations should look for an outside CDN provider when they’re getting started. It’s best to start creating a CDN by leveraging expert resources and networks that are already highly tuned and effective.

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