If you're a global organisation with customers located around the world, it's important to ensure your customers are getting the information they need, when they need it.
This could be support for services, access to your company's products, such as a web-based platform or even to download your latest white paper to help them improve their business practices.
However, if your website is hosted in one territory, you may find it's very slow to ping content across the world, especially rich media. A content delivery network (CDN) can eliminate this problem.
Here, we explain what a CDN is, the benefits to using one and what we consider are the best on the market.
What is a CDN?
A CDN is a network of servers that delivers web pages and other associated content to site visitors according to where they're based, where the content is stored and which content delivery server the company distributing the content is using.
They're normally used by companies that have a high volume of content they need to serve and have a global reach, because having a CDN close to the visitor's location makes it much faster for them to receive content.
A company using CDNs to their full advantage will probably have multiple servers set up, spread equally across all territories they want to reach. The servers located closest to the visitor will be used to deliver them content, making it much more efficient to reach all corners of the world than simply having one server.
A CDN works by copying the pages of a website to the network of servers, so each has a copy of them. When someone accesses that page from that locality, the local, cached version is served, rather than the master copy. This ping time is much faster, meaning the page will load faster.
What benefit is a CDN?
Not only does using a CDN speed up content delivery across the world, ensuring visitors get an instant page render whenever they navigate around the site, but it also ensures there's less downtime because if one server goes down, there are plenty more to push the content to their computer screen.
They're a great solution for delivering large files too that you may otherwise struggle to deliver to the visitor, which is why they're so good for serving up content such as games, video or other large files that would otherwise take a lot longer to deliver across the world.
Another benefit of using a CDN is they often offer more in-depth file usage reports which can supplement your own website analytics.
|Cloudflare||From Free||Over 100 datacentres||Global Anycast, HTTP/2, DDoS protection|
|StackPath||From £20 per month||57 peering partners and 19 Global PoPs||Custom SSL, Real-Time analytics, instant purging|
|Incapsula||Business plans start from $59 per month||30 datacentres worldwide||DDoS scrubbing, PCI-certified web application firewall, advanced bot protection|
|KeyCDN||$0.04 per GB||25 datacentres worldwide||offers HTTP/2, HPACK Compression (Huffman Encoding), GZip compression and Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS|
|Amazon CloudFront||First 10TB per month costs $0.085 per GB||59 edge locations globally||Geo-targeting, device detection, CORS (Cross Origin Resource Sharing), query string parameter, HTTP cookies|
|Microsoft Azure CDN||Starts from $0.087 per GB for the first 10TB per month||44 points of presence in six continents||supports HTTPS, load balancing, DDoS protection, IPv4/IPv6 dual stack, customer domain name support, query string caching, and fast purge.|
Pricing: The free trial includes site performance increases, security protection and visitor stats. The business plan, covering more features, starts at $200 per month.
Locations: Cloudflare has more than a hundred datacentres globally, including more than 20 in China alone.
Features: The service offers both free and paid-for plans. All plans include Global Anycast DNS, which routes your visitors to their nearest datacentre, HTTP/2, Security, and DDoS protection.
It comes with a simple management dashboard to manage a site. Here users can add custom rules and enable or disable features at the click of a button.
StackPath (Formerly MaxCDN)
Website: www.MaxCDN.com and www.stackpath.com
Pricing: From $20 per month (which comes with 200GB of bandwidth).
Locations: Multiple locations over the US, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. It has 19 Global points of presence (PoPs) and 57 peering partners to minimise hops between ISPs, covering over 90 countries around the world.
Features: Custom SSL, Real-Time analytics, instant purging and an initial setup call are all included in the base plan. There is also a free test account option.
It also offers 24/7 support and in intuitive user control panel. It features as security, IP whitelisting, two-step authentication, detailed activity log, hijack session alerts. There is also Instant SSL, Shared SSL and SNI SSL. It also claims to be the only web services platform built on security, with a fortified, machine learning core that aggregates, analyses and syndicates real-time threat data both to and from each of its secure services.
Pricing: Free trial. Business plans start from $59 per site per month.
Locations: The service has a global network of 30 datacentres with over 2Tbps capacity.
Features: With the emphasis on security, Incapsula's software-defined network creates a virtual pool of DDoS scrubbing centres that can call on each other to provide help when needed. Its regional super (PoPs) are located inside internet connectivity hotspots to provide immediate scrubbing power and attack isolation when you get hit by a big attack. PoPs are deployed among top-tier providers that give it direct access to the internet and offer broad peering.
It also offers a PCI-certified web application firewall and advanced bot protection capabilities secure any website against known and emerging threats. Outgoing traffic is both accelerated and optimised by Incapsula’s caching and optimisation techniques, ensuring optimal pass-through speed for welcome visitors.
Pricing: Starts from $0.04 per GB (Free trail also available).
Locations: 25 datacentres around the world spanning four regions.
Features: The service offers pay-as-you-go pricing (meaning no set fee) with full control over your assets using its powerful management dashboard and RESTful API. It offers HTTP/2, HPACK Compression (Huffman Encoding), GZip compression and Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS).
As for its security, the CDN features Hotlink protection (restriction of HTTP referrer), Secure Token (secured URL), Shared SSL (TLS), Custom SSL (TLS), Let's Encrypt SSL (TLS), OCSP stapling, bad bots blocking, and DDoS protection.
Pricing: First 10TB per month costs $0.085 per GB.
Locations: CloudFront integrates with AWS so is available wherever AWS has a region. It has a total of 59 edge locations worldwide.
Features: This Amazon-backed CDN sports detailed usage reporting and optional access logs, online support and premium helpdesk options, developer tools and SDKs, pay-as-you-go pricing with no minimum fee and a free starter account.
It also includes Geo-targeting, device detection, CORS (Cross Origin Resource Sharing), query string parameter, HTTP cookies, and more.
In terms of security, it boasts a private content feature allows customers to manage the users who can download content. The geo restriction feature allows restrictions to specific regions where content can be delivered. HTTPS redirection enables redirecting of HTTP request to HTTPS to secure the delivery of content. Also featured is Perfect Forward Secrecy and Session Tickets.
Microsoft Azure CDN
Pricing: Starts from $0.087 per GB for the first 10TB per month.
Locations: The service boasts 44 points of presence in six continents.
Features: There are three Azure CDN products: Azure CDN Standard from Akamai, Azure CDN Standard from Verizon, and Azure CDN Premium from Verizon.
The CDN service integrates heavily with other services from Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, including storage, web apps, and media services products.
Management is via REST API, .NET, Node.js, or PowerShell. It also supports HTTPS, load balancing, DDoS protection, IPv4/IPv6 dual stack, customer domain name support, query string caching, and fast purge.
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Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.
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