Five Questions to Ask Before Buying a Content Delivery Network

What is a Content Delivery Network?

Currently, more than 50 percent of the Web’s traffic is being run through Content Delivery Networks. Most CDNs have similar basic features that provide improved website security, performance, and scalability, but some go about this in different ways than others, and some CDNs focus on one specific aspect of web optimization - for example, blocking bots and protecting against attacks. To help you negotiate the CDN landscape, here are five questions we think you should consider before investing in your next CDN.

Question 1 – Why do I need a CDN?

Buying a CDN can be a confusing process. This is often because a CDN is a very technical product that ultimately has a real business benefit. In the long run, there are three core reasons to buy a CDN:

  • Improved scalability so your website doesn’t go down at peak traffic times.

  • Better performance and speed: a faster website means more conversions and more revenue.

  • Protection against security issues, from downtime due to attacks such as DDOS, to exposing confidential user data.

There are around 40 major CDNs available today, some of which have very specific niches. So you must understand your business needs: are you looking for one specific benefit? Or would you like the option to improve scalability, speed, and security through one solution?

Question 2 – What CDN will work for my developers?

This is an important question which is often overlooked. Assessing what CDN is right for your operations and development teams will be important down the line, when you’re looking to get the maximum benefits out of your Content Delivery Network. If you buy a tool that is difficult to set up and work with, it will take hours of development time to get it right, and that often means it won’t be utilized to it’s full potential.

Speak with your technical team about the features they are looking for in a CDN and ask yourselves these questions:

  1. Can the team integrate the CDN into its development workflow? How many hours will it take to set up?

  2. Can the team diagnose caching or firewall issues quickly and effectively?

  3. Can the team identify and fix issues in testing environments before you go to production on your live website?

Question 3 – How do I choose a CDN for my customers?

It’s important to think about who will be accessing your website and from where when you buy a CDN. Legacy CDNs typically have the most servers, or points of presence (POP), spread out across the most locations. Most newer CDNs have taken a different approach, building Super POPs. Super POPs are clusters of servers, or gateways between users and content, which are closer to the Internet backbone (the main routes between major computer networks across the globe).

While more POPs may sounds more attractive, the reality is that each website will have a different number of POP profiles to suit their visitors. Only the very largest websites, with the most customers distributed across the globe, tend to be able to utilize all parts of the largest CDN network. Most sites will perform better with a more concentrated caching tier closer to the Internet backbone.

Question 4 – What CDN is right for my website or application?

Some CDNs offer features that increase their effectiveness for a particular application type. For example, at section.io we have features that are optimized to help websites using the Magento eCommerce platform. Consider what sort of applications you are running and examine your current network requirements, growth rate, and the content you are aiming to optimize. Most of all, make sure your development team can use the CDN to customize its features for your specific application and needs.

Question 5 – How much should a CDN cost?

These days, CDN pricing is a little complicated. There are a myriad of ways CDNs charge for services, and this can vary depending on things like bandwidth, performance, security features, SSL certificates, the number of requests per page, the number of times your team needs to “flush the cache,” and more. Some CDNs publish their pricing broken down by feature, while others will charge you whatever they can.

We suggest you choose the CDN whose pricing mechanism you best understand, and that makes the most sense cost-wise as your business grows.

Let section.io take the guesswork out of CDN buying

section.io is the only CDN on the market that is designed to put you and your developers in control: choose tools to enhance speed, scalability, security, or combine all three, and test features in a development environment before pushing them live. With a flexible pricing model and no long-term agreements, we invite you to see section.io in action for yourself with a free trial, or contact us for a custom demo.

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