The Evolution of Content Delivery Networks – and what it means for your site

Time is a wonderful thing. It turns malted barley into beer, grapes into wine and bad memories into funny ones, especially with the help of the aforementioned beer and wine. The maturation process is also majorly beneficial to technology and the people who purchase it.

Not only does the passage of time allow engineers to improve internet technology and make it more effective and efficient, but it also helps the price drop. So if you’ve been waiting for just the right time to improve your page load times, search engine rankings and user experience with a Content Delivery Network (CDN), this third generation of CDNs is it. Keep reading for the details on what a CDN does and the advancements that have been made in this workhorse technology.

CDN Evolution

ABC, 123, CDN

A Content Delivery Network is a network of servers located around the globe that store a website’s content. A CDN automatically redirects users to the server closest to them, since the closer a website user is to a server, the quicker that server will be able to load that user’s requested pages and content. This is the biggest advantage a CDN offers when it comes to a website’s performance, but there are plenty more.

As CDN provider Imperva Incapsula details in their guide to Content Delivery Networks, CDNs also speed up websites by stripping unnecessary characters from source code, compressing CSS, HTML, JavaScript and image files, optimizing network connections and reusing open sessions, and managing a website’s multimedia content resources. They also cache static content for faster delivery, and advanced CDNs can cache dynamic content for the period in which it remains unchanged.

Altogether these traits make a website much faster and more efficient, and they also reduce bandwidth usage which can reduce bills. A boost in page load speed can also have a big positive effect on search engine rankings.

Other benefits provided by a CDN include load balancing, which not only prevents any one of your servers from becoming overwhelmed by traffic, but also provides built-in protection against the malicious traffic swells that stem from DDoS attacks. Advanced CDNs also provide additional protection against DDoS attacks as well as protection against malicious bots including spammers and scrapers.
Of course, these are the characteristics of today’s Content Delivery Network. Previous generations of CDNs were not so comprehensive.

The CDN origin story

CDNs have been around since the ‘90s, and in their early iteration they were known as static CDNs. Their one and only responsibility was improving website performance, and they accomplished this by serving up cached static HTML and downloadable files. These first generation CDNs came with hefty price tags, and as such they were largely reserved for the corporate sector.

CDN: the next generation

The second generation of CDNs were dynamic, able to deliver both static and dynamic content, including rich multimedia content. The other major advancement was the ability to provide load balancing, distributing traffic across the network of servers in order to help guarantee availability.
This new and improved version of CDNs was more affordable than the first generation, but they were still mostly used by the corporate sector and the business sector.

The CDNs of today
While the first generation of CDNs focused on performance and the second generation focused on performance and availability, the current generation of CDNs provide incredible performance, virtually guaranteed availability and advanced security.

As it works with technology – as the quality has gone up, the price has gone down – and a high-quality CDN is now attainable for anyone with a website. Recent studies have stated that over 50% of all traffic is already served by CDNs. And there’s good reason for that. Other studies have shown that 60% of consumers will only wait 5 seconds or less for a page to completely load.

Though CDNs will undoubtedly continue to improve and possibly decrease in price, the time to invest in a CDN is now. And why is that? Because your website has traffic now, users that won’t twiddle their thumbs waiting for a website with subpar performance to load. Take this step for website performance, and toast to your new and improved site with a bottle of malted barley or a glass of fermented grapes.

Featured Image: Network Architecture on Shutterstock

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