In our previous post we covered talked about what is a content delivery network (CDN) and how they increase the speed of a website, without having to alter a server’s hardware. The ease of deployment and cost effective pricing is enough to entice any website owner to take advantage of a CDN. The speed increase enhances user experience, plays a major role in user retention and is a measure that Google has stated helps them rank websites. While the benefits greatly outweigh the costs of a CDN, there are also many features that different providers offer. Some of these features are only vital to large businesses, but most of them are aimed at helping website owners make the most out of their content delivery.
While there are hundreds of content delivery networks, there are some that are at the forefront of the industry. Big names like Akamai have been around for many years and control a large portion of the Internet’s traffic. CloudFlare, on the other hand, is a newer company that broke into the market by offering unique features for free and enhanced features for a minimal price. The following providers have found a way to offer unique features and make the Internet a much faster place to share information.
Akamai is the most widely used CDN in the world and was started by a group of people from MIT in 1998. Estimates state that 15 – 30 percent of all Internet traffic goes through Akamai’s servers. First quarter results from 2012 state that Akamai has over 108, 507 servers deployed worldwide. This allows them to accommodate many of the world’s biggest websites including Facebook, Adobe and Twitter.
- Caching: Items being fetched are cached on a server close to the user’s proximity. This allows subsequent users close to the server to enjoy fast download speeds.
- Compression: Compression is utilized to enhance download speeds between servers and users.
- Route and Connection Optimization: When a visitor visits a website, Akamai will automatically search for the nearest available server containing a site’s content. This allows the fetching procedure to be much faster and more reliable.
- Pre-Fetching: When files are in high demand, pre-fetching can be done. This would allow files to be spread across many data centers to ensure faster download speeds.
- Security: Items can be given access control, which allows only certain users to download content. If SSL is required, Akamai will route traffic through their secure platforms.
- Service Level Agreement: Quality performance and service is one of the main reasons behind Akamai’s massive growth. Performance and availability agreements are in place to ensure quality service at all times.
Akamai states that their Dynamic Site Accelerator can boost a site’s performance up to five times faster than what your typical server could provide. This speed increase would greatly enhance user experience and is the backbone for many of the world’s most visited websites.
Amazon Web Services first offered their CDN in 2008. Their pay-as-you-go model has allowed them to not only compete with Akamai and some of the bigger CDNs, but also gives smaller websites access to features that were out of their expense range. CloudFront has edge location in the United States, Europe, Asia and South America.
- Access Logs: Logs are utilized to allow owners to determine what is being downloaded most and where visitors are coming from.
- Cost Effective: The pay-as-you-go model allows users to only pay for what they use. If no data is transferred, the only cost incurred is for the amount of data stored on their servers.
- CNAMEs: CNAMEs allow a website to use their own subdomain as a way to access their data. Frequently, websites will store all of their data in cdn.sitename.com.
- Invalidation: Objects uploaded to CloudFront can be easily invalidated across their servers. This is beneficial for sudden changes that need to be distributed immediately.
- Simple API: A robust API allows scripts to access CloudFront to create, modify and delete objects.
- Simple Integration With Other Amazon Web Services: For those who use various Amazon Web Services, CloudFront is integrated into all services, allowing easy data transfers.
Speed tests performed by Coding Horror show that CloudFront increased their download speed by 83 – 324 percent. While these numbers were lower than the other CDN providers tested, CloudFront offers the best pricing model for all websites.
CloudFlare was created in 2009 with the ambition to revolutionize the content delivery network market. This was done through their extremely easy to use service and free service tier. While they do not have as many data centers as the bigger providers, they do have 14 data center around the world. This allows them to offer a quality service for free and an even better service for those willing to pay a little more.
- Always Online: Static features of a website are always accessible even if a website’s server goes down.
- Analytics: Detailed analytics are included that allow users to track their most popular data. The free tier has a 24 hour delay and the subsequent tiers have a 15 minute delay.
- Ease of Use: Websites can easily use their CDN by signing up for their service and changing their DNS. This is a very easy procedure that CloudFlare has outlined.
- Free Bandwidth: If a site sees an influx in traffic, bandwidth charges are not incurred. This is because CloudFlare plans only charge websites for the features of their service, not their bandwidth.
- Free Tier: CloudFlare allows everyone to try their service for free. In fact, you get to use it for free for as long as you want. This reduces server costs and enables small sites to incorporate a CDN into their business.
- Security: Standard and advanced security features are present and allow a wide range of protection against: comment spam, content scraping and even blocks known threats from accessing your site.
CloudFlare states that by using their service, websites will load twice as fast for all users. Beyond the speed increase, 65 percent less requests are made to a site’s server and 60 percent of a site’s bandwidth is routed through CloudFlare.
MaxCDN was founded in 2009 to offer a more affordable CDN to website owners. Their service has followed this model and offers one of the most competitive pricing models in the market. Their initial fee covers the use of 1 TB of data over a 12 month period. If data usage exceeds this amount, a pay-as-you-go pricing model is set. This allows most website owners to pay one low fee and receive outstanding speed increases for their website or application.
- Cache Override: Files that need to be changed frequently can have their caches overridden. This allows files to be modified throughout the CDN appropriately.
- Compression: All files are ran through gzip compression. This further reduces download times and file sizes.
- Low Initial Cost: The initial fee offers 1 TB of bandwidth to be used over a one year period. This is typically more than most small to medium websites will use.
- Real-time Reporting: Reports on data usage is updated in real-time. This allows website owners to see what files of theirs are being downloaded and how often.
The team behind wpbeginner.com posted that they saw a 350 percent increase in site loading time by using MaxCDN. This is a major increase in loading time, which comes at a very modest cost.
Utilizing a content delivery network has become very easy in recent years. While major companies have trusted their content with Akamai and many others, the industry is being reshaped by providers like Amazon CloudFront, CloudFlare and MaxCDN. This allows content to be downloaded all across the web at much faster speeds than ever before.