Choosing a content delivery network


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When a CDN (Content Delivery Network) is right for you and how to choose one for your needs of getting media onto your website. Via CommonPlaces

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Choosing a content delivery network

  1. 1. Choosing a ContentDelivery NetworkWhen a CDN is Right for You, and How to Choose the RightOne for Your Needs commonplaces Strategy Creativity Technology Inside: What is a Content Delivery Network? ........ 2 The Benefits of a CDN ................................. 3 When You Don’t Need a CDN ..................... 4 How to Choose the Right CDN .................... 5 List of CDN Providers .................................. 7 User Generated Video Sharing ................... 8 Summary .................................................... 9
  2. 2. What is a Content Delivery Network? To understand what a content delivery network (CDN) is, and how one works, let’s first look at how websites work. When you type a URL into your browser, a request is sent to the web server that contains the desired website. When the server receives this request, it sends all of the resources that make up that website back to the requesting machine (a.k.a. your computer). These resources can include HTML, CSS, JavaScript files, images, audio files, and video files. In the case of a text file, this transfer can happen in the blink of an eye. In the case of a video file, however, it can take significantly longer than that. One of the variables that effects download rates is the physical distance between your web server and the requesting computer. Others include the physical bandwidth of your servers, and the number of users trying to access the same resource at the same time. If you are planning a media-rich website that will include video, audio, and other resource-heavy content, a standard hosting solution may not be up to the task. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 2
  3. 3. The Benefits of a CDN Content Delivery Networks excel at delivering rich content to your Web users. CDNs maintain a network of servers in strategic locations around the world. When you upload your content (audio, video, images, etc.), a copy of your files is placed on each of these servers. Now, when a site visitor from Japan visits your site, they will be delivered your video files from a nearby server in Tokyo, dramatically increasing speed. Having your files in multiple locations offers the additional benefit of near 100% uptime. If there is a technical or physical issue at the Tokyo server location (using the example above), the user will perhaps be served data from the server in Hong Kong. Your CDN will handle these dynamic detours automatically, and this insurance is another reason that many websites use a content delivery network for their media content. A third common reason to choose a CDN is if your servers are bogged down with your increasing traffic, or if your hosting solution is charging high rates for the amount of data your website delivers. In some cases, CDNs may be the most cost-effective solution, especially if you are planning for future growth. Lastly, content delivery networks can deliver the power of streaming media to your website. Streaming requires special software that many CDNs have on their servers. This software powers the seamless, view-as-you-download experience that can truly engage your visitors. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 3
  4. 4. When You Don’t Need a CDN So far we’ve covered many of the key benefits of a content delivery network (Faster media delivery, Better uptime, Relieves pressure from your servers, Cost-effectiveness, etc.) This does not mean that a CDN is for everyone, or that it is necessary for online success. Most importantly, it is not the only way to add rich media to your website. If you are looking to add one or two videos from a recent event to your website, you can simply host these files on your own server, or post them on a video site such as YouTube or Vimeo. These third- party sites have an easy upload process, and provide embed code that you can simply copy and paste into your website to display a video player like the one at right. Whether or not you need a CDN depends upon you and your goals. Ask yourself these questions: • How much media content do I have on my site? How much do I want? • How much traffic do I currently have, and how will that change in the future? • Are my visitors located in one region or country, or are they located all around the world? • What are the limits of my current hosting solution? © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 4
  5. 5. How to Choose the Right CDN If you’ve made the decision that a content delivery network is right for your needs, you are now faced with a second, perhaps even more difficult, question: Which CDN is right for me? As you might guess, there are many options out there, all with different features, price structures, and guarantees. Every website is unique, so we cannot offer any hard and fast rules for which solution you should choose. However, we can provide a list of the important criteria you should consider when making your decision. You may find it helpful to print out the next page as a checklist or guide, and use it while you are evaluating different CDN offerings. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 5
  6. 6. How to Choose the Right CDN Planned Delivery Method Reporting and Stats Streaming, or Progressive Download? Does the CDN deliver solid Streaming is more expensive, but delivers statistics on how and when your a truly seamless experience that could take users access your content? This your website to the next level of success. information is invaluable to Are your users willing to wait for content to marketers. download? Availability of Support User Experience How reliable/available is the Is the solution’s video player visually support your CDN offers? Few appealing? Easy to use? Does it fit with people appreciate good support your brand? service until they need it. Technology Compatibility Reliability What software/platforms does your As a rule, CDNs offer excellent website use? Is your CDN compatible? uptime. But for mission-critical Nothing can be more disasterous than applications, you will need to selecting a CDN that is not compatible with ensure that your CDN offers your current solution. guarantees you can rely on. Security Capacity and Reach Does the CDN offer encoding for secure Can the CDN supply the bandwith transfer of content? This is a crucial you need? Does it have an requirement if your content contains international reach, if your private or sensitive information. organization requires one? © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 6
  7. 7. List of CDN Providers Akamai - High-end solution. Akamai regularly delivers between 10% - 20% of all web traffic. Used by high volume sites such as MTV Networks, MySpace, and the Scripps News Networks. Amazon CloudFront - Capable of scaling to high volumes, this service is integrated with other Amazon Web Services. Kaltura - Open source, mid-range solution offering “plug and play” video extensions for WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, MediaWiki, MindTouch, Moodle, TikiWiki, BuddyPress and Elgg, with many others in the works. Limelight - Strong CDN with incredible “ecosystem” of brand name partners such as Adobe, Rackspace, Microsoft, etc. Brightcove - Internet TV service providing a video delivery platform for Sony Music, Discovery Communications, Showtime, and Fox Entertainment, and others Twistage - Highly customizable. Provides an adaptable video platform to fit into any existing workflow and offers a robust toolset of APIs. CDN2 - Cost effective video platform build specifically for Drupal. Vzaar - Specifically designed for e-commerce applications and product demos. Integrates wth Google Analytics, Ebay, and MailChimp, and offers low monthly subscription rates. This is only a few of hundreds of CDNs out there. To help you compare and contrast different solutions, check out, a website that was built to do just that. Simply select the CDNs you are evaluating, and VidCompare will generate a table comparing their features. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 7
  8. 8. User Generated Video Sharing As alluded to on Page 4, there are instances when using existing, free video services to host your content makes the most sense -- and helps to promote your business online. Though there is a clear cost savings, there are also negatives to consider. Many sites place restrictions on the file size, duration, subject matter and format of the uploaded video file. In addition, when a video ends, the video site (for example, YouTube) may display links to other, unrelated videos. Unfortunately you have very little control over what is considered to be a “Related Video.” Here’s a list of a few popular user generated video sites (of literally hundreds of options): YouTube Vimeo Facebook MySpace Photobucket Revver © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 8
  9. 9. Summary Content delivery networks offer a solution to the challenge of delivering video, audio, and other resource-heavy content around the world in a timely fashion. They provide a way to move heavy bandwidth needs away from your server, and offer highly reliable web servers that guarantee near 100% uptime through high bandwidth and redundancy. As we have said, CDNs are not the only way to get media onto your website. But if your goal is to deliver a large amount of content to your users, you have high bandwidth needs, or if you want to be ready for large influxes of Web traffic, a CDN is likely the right choice. We provided a list of questions on Page 4 to help you determine your needs. The next decision that is required is to select the right content delivery network for your specific needs and goals. Use the criteria listed on Page 6 to help you assess potential CDNs and find the one that’s right for you - because there is no one right answer for all applications. If you would like to discuss your specific content delivery needs with the experts at CommonPlaces, feel free to contact us. Lastly, please share this document with others who would like to learn more about the benefits of content delivery networks, and the challenges they can address. © 2010 CommonPlaces e-Solutions, LLC | 9