Content Delivery Network (CDN)

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a geographically distributed group of servers that work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content. A CDN allows for the fast transfer of data needed for loading Internet content including HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, and videos.

CDNs work through servers nearest to the website visitor respond to the request. The content delivery network copies the pages of a website to a network of servers that are spread out at geographically different locations, caching the contents of the page. When a user requests a webpage that is part of a content delivery network, the CDN will redirect the request from the originating site’s server to a server in the CDN that is closest to the user and deliver the cached content. CDNs will also communicate with the originating server to deliver any content that has not been previously cached. In turn, the speed is improved by distributing content closer to the website visitors by using a nearby CDN server, causing visitors to experience faster page loading times. In simpler terms, for example, instead of a user in London trying to access a server in LA, which can cause slower Internet speeds, the user would be redirected through a CDN that is geographically closest to them (London, Paris, Stockholm, etc). As of today, the majority of web traffic goes through through CDNs, including traffic from major sites like Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon.

Employing a CDN doesn’t only speed up the delivery of Internet content, it helps protect your website against certain forms of cyber attacks, such as Denial of Service attacks. It protects against these threats because CDNs allow for the handling of more traffic and withstanding hardware failure better than many origin servers. 

Source: CloudFlare, Webopedia

Additional Reading: Pantheon’s Advanced Global CDN to Further Enterprise Open Source Adoption

Related Terms: Denial of Service (DoS), Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

What does this mean for an SMB?

CDNs are something that larger companies are more likely to implement. The main reasons why company want to use CDNs are to improve Internet website load speeds, content delivery speeds, and to reduce the likelihood of falling victim to and improve defenses against Distributed Denial of Service attacks (DDoS).
A smaller company probably doesn’t need to improve website load speeds with a CDN as they typically don’t have an overwhelming amount of traffic. A Distributed Denial of Service attack may pose a potential threat against gambling companies or other mid-to-large enterprises such as banks or defense contractors. DDoS attacks are rarely used against SMB’s unless they upset a hacker group. CyberHoot is not saying a denial of service attack won’t happen, but the cost of protection is too much for most SMBs to afford.
CyberHoot’s best advice to an SMB is to know what a CDN is, and at most, establish a relationship with a CDN protection vendor without paying for protection. DDoS protection vendors include: Arbor Networks, AT&T, Verizon, and Akamai.
Mid-to-Large enterprises should have contracts in place to protect themselves in seconds when hit with a DDOS attack. SMB’s should not. Although, if you are looking to employ a CDN; Akamai, Cloudflare and Arbor Networks all operate CDN’s in addition to DDOS solutions.

To learn more about CDNs, watch this short 5 minute video:

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