Accelerate Content Delivery with a CDN


Life is too short to wait for pages, images and other content to download.  A Content Delivery Network exists for the sole purpose of maximizing the speed in which you can deliver content to as large an audience as possible. If you’re delivering content across the country or world you need to familiarize yourself with CDN’s.

A CDN sits in the middle of your content and your end users. When the end user requests a piece of content the CDN checks to see if it has the content in it’s cache. When it does it feeds it to the end user. When it doesn’t it takes the quickest route it can to the content then streams it to the user.

The CDN  has different nodes all around the world so the end user talks to the node closest to it and the CDN talks to the host.

This comes in handy when your end user is in Washington and your content is in Miami. Less data has to travel across the country so the end user experience is as fast as it can be.

They allow you to do things like push files prematurely to servers and configure what content types can be cached. If your working with streaming video or audio they have packages designed to handle that and it will give you the same type of experience you get on something like nbc.com or netflix.

The biggest benefit you get on the web is caching of javascript, css, and image files. You might have 20 to 80 of these on any given page. The CNN homepage has  150 objects, yahoo.com has 40, google.com has 4. All but 1 or 2 of these objects should be cachable at the CDN.  In the course of three page clicks you can be speeding up the delivery of 200 to 400 objects.

My experience with using a CDN is limited to Akamai. I never went through the process of selecting a CDN and I haven’t even seen a demo of another CDN system. I’ll be honest with you I haven’t been to Akamai training either so my knowledge around CDN selection and what your looking for is limited. I’m still only 30 and they don’t seem to be going anywhere so I’ll see where I’m at with that in a few years.

The other thing you’ll need is some type of website monitoring tool that allows you to monitor performance from multiple locations. You can get a free trial at http://www.gomez.com/resources/instant-test-center/.

Check your website out with that tool. How does it look from the different locations? If it’s not so good, get a second opinion. If you think you have a problem and the system runs fast locally, get a CDN.

About Kevin Buckley
.Net web developer with a lot of experience in CMS. Currently working at Sitecore as Solutions Engineer.

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