What Is a CDN and How Can It Benefit Your Business?
You probably don’t think twice about where the content you click on is actually coming from. But, just as it takes longer for a car to get to LA from NYC than it does from San Diego, web content traveling from greater distances takes longer to get to its destination. That means the customers close to your origin server may have a different user experience than those further away. That’s where CDNs, or content delivery networks, come in. Here are some answers to questions you may have about CDNs and how they can benefit your business.
What is a CDN?
A CDN is a network made up of servers distributed near users’ geographic locations. The purpose of a CDN is to bring your company’s web content closer to current and potential customers. CDNs reduce latency, increase loading times, and provide a better overall experience for the people accessing your content.
How does a CDN work?
Variables, like where the data is stored and where you access it from, contribute to the time it takes you to find what you’re looking for. CDNs solve for that by using existing nodes around the world to store, or cache, data so it can be delivered in a timely manner to users nearby.
For example, let’s say you see an ad for a ladder on TV from your home in Orlando. You look it up online to find out more, and click on a video clip. If the video is hosted in California, it—as well as any other content from the ladder company—may load and play slowly because of the physical distance it has to travel to get to you.
By using a network of proxy servers placed near its users—a CDN—the ladder company could get content to its customers faster. That way they might prevent you from deciding on a different product just because you got bored waiting for their content to load.
What are some potential benefits of using a CDN?
Imagine that you run a multi-unit business with sites across the country and your website is hosted out of a data center in Los Angeles where your corporate HQ resides. As explained above, when people log in to your website and want to view or download content, those outside of LA will have a different experience than those nearby.
That’s because your data has to traverse the internet, encountering user variables like geographic location, the strength of their network, the medium they’re using to connect, and so on. You want to improve your digital interaction with these visitors so you can have happier existing customers and identify potential customers, too. How can using a CDN help you do that? Take a look at some of the potential benefits of using a CDN below.
Improve user experience by providing more content, faster.
Establishing a CDN helps you leverage the existing infrastructure of a CDN host—like Limelight, CenturyLink, Akamai Technologies, AT&T. Verizon, Cloudfare, and others—and cache data at each of their sites around the world. Now when people search for your products in San Antonio, they are accessing it out of a CDN hop hosted in San Antonio, so their speed is lightning fast, and they are accessing significantly more content.
The bottom line is that using a CDN helps you bring content closer to your consumers so they can enjoy seamless access, improving your marketing potential.
Improve marketing relevance.
Let’s say you want to interact with your customers as they peruse your store aisles. Can relevant content be pushed that fast? Absolutely! In fact, many businesses today are leveraging hosted CDN to interact with customers while they shop their brick-and-mortar stores. CDNs even allow companies to monitor customer shopping experiences and push coupon alerts to their phones for specific products as they enter the aisle where the product is located.
Using this technology, you can influence your customers to try new products and capture real-time savings in the process. You can also capture shopping patterns and other data analytics that can help improve the overall shopping experience while also making your marketing efforts more impactful.
Provide real-time response.
Imagine you run an online betting app and you want to bring the digital betting experience to the next level across the world. In this scenario, it’s critical to get the content to the user as fast as possible. Want to create a real-time bet on whether or not the quarterback calls a run play or a pass play next? Want to create a real-time bet on whether or not the kicker puts the punt within the 5-yard line? With a great CDN you can. Set up a virtual cache at all the venues where your Sportsbook is, and you can provide real-time responses and create a market where it didn’t exist before. Very cool stuff!
Another “for instance” is a fast food franchise. If you’re a franchise owner, you’re probably already pushing notifications and coupons to customers on their mobile devices. But can you push relevant coupons to customers enticing them to try new things when they walk into your stores? What about the other technology in your business? You can improve the content pushed to your digital menus and kiosks as well, and you can do it in real time if you have a reliable CDN.
Keep your business network updated.
How many times have you had your local networks go down because something happened at the corporate data center? A CDN can help prevent that entirely because everything is cached at your site. That means local customers will not be impacted. You can send updates from corporate to reside in local caches until the optimal time to perform, which can help prevent business interruptions.
When would I not use a CDN?
Typically a CDN is best for businesses with multiple sites around the country, or around the world. If you have a local business catering to a local market, you don’t really need a CDN. For example, if you have a pool cleaning business with a limited service area, your customers are already near the data center. That means they can already access relevant content efficiently.