What is a CDN – a Content Delivery Network?
A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is a network of servers designed to deliver content to users as quickly as possible. To achieve this, content is distributed and cached on servers worldwide, so that it can be delivered to the user's device as quickly as possible when requested. For example, imagine a company is based in Munich and operates its servers in a data center there. However, the company's customers are located on different continents. If a competing American company could display its content faster in Australia, it would have a competitive advantage. That's where CDNs come in. They ensure that data-intensive content such as videos, photos, graphics, as well as extensive documents and files that are essential components of websites, apps, and more, can be accessed quickly all over the world, depending on the speed of the local network
Competitive Advantage through CDN
If an American competitor could display its content faster in Australia, it would have a competitive advantage. That's why CDNs exist. They ensure that data-intensive content, such as videos, photos, graphics, as well as extensive documents and files that are stable components of websites and apps, can be accessed uniformly quickly all over the world, depending on the speed of the local networks. To achieve this, CDN operators have established servers at strategically important points in the internet, where these contents are mirrored. In our example, the content no longer needs to be transmitted from Munich, through Frankfurt, and many other locations to Sydney. The local CDN PoP server (Point of Presence) in Australia takes care of that. The user's device only needs information that the file is currently available on the CDN PoP server in Australia and can retrieve and use it. This reduces latency – the delay caused by requests from other countries or continents becomes smaller.
Do I Need a Content Delivery Network?
This question is not easy to answer and depends on various factors, including the website or application being operated and its target audience. If the target audience is geographically close and small, and the data to be transmitted is minimal, then a CDN may not be necessary. A restaurant or delicatessen in Munich or Frankfurt may not need a CDN. However, for a globally operating automotive manufacturer or a clothing retailer active on multiple continents, the situation is quite different. Whenever data volumes are significant, there are many users, and the scope of operations spans multiple countries and continents, a CDN is a valuable addition.
A CDN is not just about providing a faster content delivery experience for users. Low latency, or the short period until requested content is displayed, is a critical SEO factor. In simplified terms, the faster the content is displayed in a region, the better it is for search engine optimization, resulting in a higher ranking for the relevant page in that region.
Another aspect, especially important for large enterprises with many customers distributed globally, is data availability through the distributed systems of the CDN. Such companies are popular targets for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. While a CDN cannot prevent such an attack, it can help mitigate its effects because the servers only need to respond to a fraction of the requests from the network itself. For large enterprises, CDNs are part of their security measures in the event of a DDoS attack, making them valuable from this perspective as well.
What is the difference between Cloud Computing and a CDN?
The relationship is straightforward: a CDN is always in the cloud, but not everything that happens in the cloud is a CDN. A Content Delivery Network always has a distributed computing structure in the cloud to enable optimized content delivery for regions across the globe – at least for large parts of it. This typically involves distributing or streaming digital assets.
In contrast, cloud computing in the general sense of the term only requires a computer in an internet-connected data center to run specific applications. It is sufficient if these applications are accessible, for example, in a single country. Additionally, cloud applications do not necessarily need to be designed for high performance, which is a fundamental characteristic of CDNs.
What CDNs are there?
There are several CDNs available, with many of them offered by US-based companies, including internet giants like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft. Reading tests or provider brochures, they all may seem excellent, but their focuses can differ. It's important to note that there are CDNs that offer the technical service itself, while some companies use the term CDN but function as management platforms for the technical service.
In general, the digital assets of a DAM (Digital Asset Management) can be delivered using various CDNs. Particularly popular in Germany are Cloudflare, as well as solutions from Google and Amazon. With the TESSA DAM, you can directly connect to these CDNs.
The following CDNs, in our view, are relevant for German companies to consider:
- Amazon CloudFront
- Google Cloud CDN
- Host Europe
- Level 3 Communications
- Limelight Networks
- Microsoft Azure CDN
- NTT Europe (NTTEO)
- StackPath CDN
- Swiss TXT
It's important to thoroughly assess your specific needs and requirements before selecting a CDN provider.
How are a CDN and a DAM connected?
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) and a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system are closely related in the context of content distribution. A DAM typically stores and manages the most data-intensive components of a website or other internet applications. To ensure that these components appear quickly on users' devices, whether they are videos, podcasts, photos, or graphics, they can be directly provided on the CDN in the required output quality. CDNs serve as a target system for DAMs like TESSA DAM, which means they act as an output channel for their data.
The process works as follows: The DAM serves as a management instance where all the necessary digital assets for a company are collected, such as images from a photography process. The assets are enriched with data by connecting them with a Product Information Management (PIM) system and linking them to the products that need to be presented on the website or app. At the same time, the DAM uploads the assets to the CDN's servers in the quality required by the website or app. This allows the DAM and PIM to have knowledge of the asset's address on the CDN, and they can retrieve it when needed. The CDN, in turn, selects the server from which to transfer the required asset, ensuring the asset is delivered from the server that can provide the fastest access.
How much does a CDN cost?
There are various approaches to calculate the costs of a CDN. In general, CDN costs are typically calculated based on terabytes (TB) of outbound data transfer, along with some secondary factors such as the number of HTTP/HTTPS requests and similar metrics. Additionally, prices may vary depending on the target regions for the requests. For small websites like blogs or static websites of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), this kind of calculation would be overly complicated. For instance, bloggers may get a free account with Cloudflare, while small businesses pay a small monthly flat fee.
For larger companies, especially those involved in extensive streaming, the billing becomes even more detailed. Different access regions come with varying tariffs, with Europe and North America being the least expensive. South America, India, Japan, and Australia incur higher costs, and even higher prices apply to Russia and China.