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A content delivery network, or CDN, works behind the scenes to improve the data access experience for web users. It speeds up access to data, such as videos, file downloads and images. It achieves this by storing a copy of data close to where web visitors are located, reducing the time to deliver the data. Even if a user is on the east coast and visits a website that's based on the west coast, the data may be delivered from a CDN copy residing in the east coast.
One of the key benefits of CDN services is the data does not have to travel far to the end user, providing quick and consistent data loading. Still, you might ask yourself, "Do I need a CDN?" Here are some reasons why you do and how enterprises can reap the benefits of CDN services:
1. Some may think a CDN only makes sense for media companies, such as those that stream video or serve up lots of content, like news sites. In practice, however, many nonmedia companies have similar needs -- whether it's for web store catalog images, tutorials or promotional videos. While media may not be the lifeblood of the enterprise, many enterprises act as mini-media firms.
2. Others may be concerned that CDNs add complexity because a CDN provider becomes another vendor to purchase from. For example, are CDNs another technology to integrate and then troubleshoot if content delivery does not work properly?
In reality, CDN services are available from vendors you may already be working with. For example, major network service providers provide CDN services. Cloud service providers also offer CDNs, and they work well with applications that are hosted in the cloud. By integrating CDNs into an existing technology stack, an existing support provider may be able to troubleshoot issues for the enterprise.
3. CDN services aren't hard to manage. For example, there's a perception that a customer must preload the CDN with all the content it ever needs to serve. That's not necessary, as the CDN can fetch data as needed, or in other words "just in time."
4. There's another perception that CDNs only work for static content, such as images, and that CDNs are problematic for dynamic content, like the current weather. That's partially true, for personalized content, like a bank balance. But other dynamic data may be served by modern CDNs.
The proper way to think of whether to get a CDN is to determine how important the user experience is for your web end users. Does increased interaction time result in ditching a shopping cart or not connecting with customers with useful video content? That is the true tradeoff one must consider when weighing the benefits of CDN services.
If customers are not visiting a website as often or abandoning a visit before all the data is displayed, that is a potential loss in business. Using a CDN may be one of the effective ways to improve the end-user experience for your web visitors.
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