Whether you’re a small business owner, a corporate web master, or the leader of a multi-million dollar institution, it’s likely that—at some point during your tenure as head of the Internet front-end for your business—you’ll need a content delivery network. There’s simply no better way to ensure the integrity of your media and your website across the entire globe, and if you’re looking to expand into international markets, a CDN is really your only option. However, it would be a tremendous lie to say that all content delivery providers are made the same.
With such a wide variety in features, promises, and performance, finding the appropriate network for your media can be one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make. That being said, finding the perfect match doesn’t have to be an impossible task. To do so, you’ll simply need to understand a few things, most of which we’ve outlined below.
What is a Content Delivery Network?
Before going any further, we feel we should at least mention what a content delivery network is. A content delivery system (or CDN as it’s commonly abbreviated) is a complex chain of typically globe-spanning servers designed to cache, store, and distribute your media. This corrects an issue of displacement: Let’s say you have a server that houses your whole site located in San Antonio, Texas. Should one of your end-users in Dubai request this content, it will take a bloody long time for what’s stored in the Southern US to arrive halfway around the world in India. A content delivery network provides a solution for this latency by placing your content at a point-of-presence connection near the final user, allowing the data to flow across a shorter distance, and arrive more swiftly than before.
What You May (Or May Not) Need In A Content Delivery Network
Now that we’ve got a basic understanding of what a CDN is, what will you be requiring from one? A good place to start is with the media you trade, which ultimately leads us straight to:
How worried are you about keeping your site exactly as it is, without changing a single line of code? If this is of the utmost importance to you, be sure you select a content delivery provider that can accommodate your coding infrastructures, as well as your media filetypes. Certain companies may request that your technical professionals modify your media to match their network, and though this may be a fit for some, if you’d rather not have the hassle we suggest you look elsewhere. A company that’s willing to tailor their services to where you are content-wise is guaranteed to be out there: You just have to look a bit harder.
Another area that may concern your business is that of support for streaming media. If you’re a media-rich institution that features boatloads of high-quality video, you will need to find a content delivery provider with the skills and hardware to match your requirements. Not all CDNs are capable of maintaining high-definition video during a global transfer, however there are plenty out there that can. The trick is to look for integration with services like Adobe Flash, or Microsoft Silverlight. A company that offers tight-knit support for these clients will also likely guarantee a loss-less transfer, regardless of the market your media expands into. If all else fails, simply ask one of the technical assistants at the content delivery network about their support for streaming media. If they don’t know, it’s a fair bet you’ll want to take your money elsewhere.
And finally, exactly how much market presence are you looking for, and exactly where? Talk to your board, and if your company wants a truly global experience for its end-users, you’ll want a content delivery network with edge connections on every continent. However, if you’re only looking for a secure presence in, say, Europe, there are CDNs more capable of providing such a service. Look at the provider’s network spread, and if you’re aiming for a specific Internet market, be sure to pick a solution that matches your goals.