We’ve all been there: Surfing the internet for, well everything, and then BOOM! The website you land on serves up text, but the static and dynamic images fail to appear, leaving nothing but blank, barren real estate and feelings of frustration.  Or perhaps you’ve been trying to download the la episode of Game of Thrones only to be thwarted by delivery speeds that make Tyrion’s journey to Volantis seem like it was taken aboard the Concord.

I never really stopped to consider—or appreciate—the technology that delivers consumer-facing web content like images, media, games and software downloads, until recently. I’ve been taking for granted, like most of consumers, that the content I am searching for just appears (like magic) with a single click of a mouse and rapid load of a browser.

What Are CDNs?

Content Delivery Networks (CDN)s have been around since the birth of the internet. They are the key technology that enables websites to deliver content to consumers and give content owners and publishers the ability to scale to meet increasing global demand from consumers using multiple devices and a variety of platforms.

How Do CDNs Work?

In order to achieve optimal delivery performance and accuracy, CDNs maintain a large network of globally distributed servers that are connected to the internet and store or connect to local copies of the customer’s content.  By caching the content to the closest end user, it improves the experience by decreasing the amount of time needed to deliver the content to the user’s device.

Why CDNs are Important

As we discussed in our previous post about websites and web hosting, your website is one of the most visible and valuable ways of communicating with your current and potential customers.  While there are several ways your business can benefit from building and hosting its website in the cloud, one key benefit is increased performance. A benefit that is realized when your customers receive the information they want, when they want it: With little to no latency and high data transfer speeds.

Most websites contain a mix if static and dynamic content.  Static content includes images or style sheets while dynamic or application-generated content includes elements of your site that are personalized to each view.  Previously, developers who wanted to improve the performance and reliability of their dynamic content had limited options, as the solutions offered by traditional CDNs are expensive, hard to configure and difficult to manage.

Public cloud services like Amazon CloudFront are a perfect example of how successful consumer-facing websites like PBS are achieving optimal content delivery speeds that delight visitors and improve the overall customer experience.

In terms of enterprise-related benefits, Amazon CloudFront allows developers to get started in minutes and without long term commitments for use, monthly platform fees or additional costs to deliver dynamic content to your end users.

.It works seamlessly with dynamic web applications running in Amazon EC2 or your origin running outside of AWS (example: on-premises data center) without any custom coding or proprietary configurations.  This makes Amazon CloudFront easy to deploy and manage.  Plus, you can use one, single Amazon CloudFront distribution to deliver your entire website, allowing you to use a single domain name for your entire website without the need to separate your static and dynamic content or manage multiple domain names on your website.

An AWS-sponsored whitepaper by Frost & Sullivan that compared CDN Performance of four ed CDNs discusses the benefits for enterprises:

“For enterprise companies in particular, Amazon CloudFront allows them to deliver large volumes of content with reliable performance to a global audience at a fraction of the cost of trying to deliver the content themselves using their own in-house infrastructure. Instead of a content owner having to buy their own servers, rent co-location space, buy bandwidth, enter into long-term contracts with a variety of vendors or worry about traffic spikes and delivery performance, the content owner can use Amazon CloudFront. By using Amazon CloudFront, the content owner can focus their time and resources on their core product and services, not infrastructure.”

The whitepaper also presents its findings from multiple comparison s that included top CDNs: Amazon CloudFront, Akamai, Level 3 and Limelight.  The results show that Amazon CloudFront is, on average, seven percent faster than the next closest CDN and 51 percent faster than the third CDN ed.

There are many kinds of CDNs that deliver everything from small objects like images on websites, to larger pieces of content like software and media downloads.  While the type of content can vary, the main goal (and central benefit) of a CDN remains the same: Improving end-user experience by more rapidly and accurately delivering content.

Migrating to Amazon CloudFront

For enterprises, choosing the best CDN partner for their business can be challenging. At 2nd Watch, our digital marketing capabilities are flexible, highly scalable, elastic and enable you to deliver valuable marketing content to your growing customer base—without the need for upfront investments or long-term contracts.  It’s a low cost solution that allows you to manage your digital marketing assets (from static and dynamic content to live streaming video and gaming) with ease and agility.  Whether you’re migrating your CDN from Akamai or Limelight to Amazon CloudFront, 2nd Watch’s public cloud environments enable you to focus on delivering relevant content that your current and potential customers want, when they want it. Contact us to get started.

-Katie Ellis, Marketing