Handholding on the journey to CDN implementation

Apr 03,2021 by Nishant Nath
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Since the advent of internet-based technologies more and more businesses are getting IT enabled. With mobile phones getting smarter day-by-day the reliance on internet for doing business has reached a level where its unimaginable to conduct business without it. End users are habituated to the convenience of applications and information available at their finger tip, at the time they want, at the place they want. A classic example being media business. Especially during the pandemic outburst and work-from-home model, user base of applications like Netflix and similar media channels has increased significantly. If internet is the vehicle which brings all the conveniences to end users, it won’t be an exaggeration to say that Content Delivery Network (CDN) is the booster in that vehicle. Let’s highlight on factors which should be planned before getting on the CDN bandwagon. In choosing a CDN, the best decisions result from understanding the properties that are required in addressing challenges and the key metrics that describe those properties. In this article, we will try to address the finer aspects of commonly asked content delivery questions and what to look for while finalizing a CDN service provider.

What are the geographical considerations?

Geography certainly plays a major role in content delivery. Where is the audience located – Global, Regional or Local. It’s important to choose a CDN that has Points of Presence (PoPs) in the areas where audience is located. Each PoP should have adequate outlet capacity to ensure that audience receives the fastest possible experience. The CDN should also have back-to-back agreements with the local Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and last-mile networks that serves the audience, in order to eliminate “last-mile” bottlenecks between the CDN and the user’s internet connection.

Where is the content stored?

Single on-premise location, single location in the cloud or multiple locations in the cloud. When users request content that is not already cached, the CDN must retrieve content from origin storage servers, wherever they are located. To ensure the fastest content delivery, choose a CDN that offers multi-region storage replication and is able to bypass internet congestion that can hamper content retrieval.

What capabilities should be considered?

CDNs offer a wide range of capabilities. Business requirements should drive the capabilities needed. What type of content will be delivered? Web content, file distribution, live video or Video on Demand (VoD). Choose a CDN that is designed to support specific workflow.

What are your content security requirements?

There are various security measures offered by a CDN service provider, viz. TLS/SSL encryption, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection, Web Application Firewall (WAF) protection and Video Digital Rights Management (DRM). To protect content from being intercepted in transit, choose a CDN that fully supports TLS/SSL encryption across its entire network. A CDN with DDoS protection integrated into the same network that is used to deliver traffic will provide the fastest performance when under attack. If video content is being delivered, consider a CDN with integrated DRM and content protection.

What are your video content delivery needs?

Online Video Platform is required to manage video content, live video streaming or VoD transcoding and packaging. If video content management capabilities of an Online Video Platform (OVP) is a requirement, consider choosing a CDN with integrated OVP capabilities to eliminate the complexity of using separate systems to manage and deliver the video content. To reach the maximum number of viewers and simplify the creation of content in multiple streaming formats, look for a CDN with integrated transcoding and transmuxing that can take a single input file and create multiple different output formats and bitrates on demand.

What kind of support mechanism does the CDN provider offer?

Finding a CDN partner who is able to provide the ongoing support and services after content delivery is started can be critical in ensuring maximum uptime and efficient traffic operations, and helping in responding to changing business needs. Avoiding downtime will sometimes require support from CDN provider. What to look for:

  • Does the CDN vendor offer 24/7 support?
  • Is live support available, or are only email and chat support offered?
  • How much does the vendor charge for support?
  • Is support available in multiple regions and in different languages?
  • Does the CDN have a 24/7 Network Operations Centre (NOC) that can ensure efficient traffic delivery?
  • Does the CDN offer an appropriate customer notification system for planned maintenance and service incidents?

How is Configuration and Self-Provisioning done?

To ensure efficient day-to-day operations, we need to routinely update CDN configuration to meet changing requirements. What to look for:

Does the CDN offer a robust set of APIs for self-provisioning and configuration?

Does the CDN offer a web-based GUI that can be used for configuration and management? What capabilities are exposed for self-provisioning?

Ask for a demo of CDN providers’ self-provisioning solutions.

Does the CDN provider offer professional and consulting services?

When implementing new capabilities that allow business to respond to changing requirements, experienced assistance can be vital. Some CDN providers have experts available that can act as an extension of in-house team. What to look for:

  • Does CDN vendor have an expert Professional Services team available to help optimize initial deployment?
  • Does CDN vendor offer specialized support offerings for major events?
  • Can CDN vendor offer workflow consulting and the implementation of best practices?
  • Ask for examples where the CDN has solved similar problems for other customers.

How is deployment done?

Decide the origin from which the CDN fetches the content, and whether we need to deploy the content in more than one storage system. Take into account the process for deploying static content and resources.

How is Versioning & Cache-Control done?

Consider how to update static content and deploy new versions. Understand how the CDN performs caching and time- to-live (TTL).

What kind of Testing should be considered?

It can be difficult to perform local testing of CDN settings when developing and testing an application locally or in a staging environment.

  • Content-specific testing – addressing the needs of whatever type of content the CDN delivers; for example, a network which delivers video content will require testing the quality of the videos, how connectivity affects the user experience, etc.
  • Geolocation testing – e.g. providing or blocking area-specific content, such as loading a global website in different languages depending on the end user’s location.
  • Network simulation – will allow to control bandwidth, latency, jitter, & inject errors when testing the CDN to see how it will handle all of these real-world network conditions.
  • Testing of CDN push vs. CDN pull content – testing various content will often depend on whether users “pull” the content (by make a request to load a specific pages with specific content) or whether the network pushes it at predetermined intervals (such as stock prices being pushed to a financial streamer every second).
  • Data Replication/Caching Scheme Testing – Most CDNs offer lots of configuration options for determining how content will be properly sent, stored, and refreshed, which is likely to be different for different parts of the content. Understanding how the data replication is done throughout the network along with if, when, and where it’s cached is important in designing tests strategies.
  • Content edge delivery/edge delivery testing – verifies how content is delivered to users on the physical edge of a CDN.
  • Content access and protections testing – making sure that content is only accessed by those who have permission to access it – especially important for paid access.
  • Device testing – pretty much any device that can access the internet can accept content from CDN, so part of the testing process is to determine which devices will be supported – besides the usual computers and phones, there are also faceless devices, such as gaming consoles, that will accept streaming content. 

Does the CDN provider ensure Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?

Content such as images and documents are served from a different domain when CDN is used. This can have an effect on SEO for this content.

How is Client Security planned?

Clients might connect from an environment that does not allow access to resources on the CDN. This could be a security-constrained environment that limits access to only a set of known sources, or one that prevents loading of resources from anything other than the page origin. A fallback implementation is required to handle these cases.

CDN implementation goals

Whether to integrate a CDN for the first time, transitioning to a new CDN, or implementing a multi-CDN strategy, a successful implementation requires planning. Delivering content via a CDN has many dimensions, and the learning curve can be steep. Finding a CDN partner who can help craft the right solution and phased deployment strategy is critical for success.

Steps for success:

  • Define an achievable first phase. Start simple and focus on the fundamentals with a short list of content and geography requirements.
  • Identify a set of longer-term phases to help guide decision making.
  • Evaluate CDN candidates based on expertise, service and support offerings, and technical capabilities. The right CDN will be a partner that can help execute one’s vision and transition smoothly from current methods.
  • Weigh the relative merits of working with a CDN partner that offers a turnkey solution with expert assistance vs. utilizing internal resources to design, build, and maintain a custom solution.
  • Multi-CDN or transition to a new CDN
  • Using multiple CDNs and balancing the load among them can provide a range of business benefits. When transitioning from one CDN to another, ensuring uninterrupted service requires an orderly ramp-up of the new CDN and ramp-down of the old one.

Steps to consider:

  • Define the goals. Is performance improvement primary concern, add redundancy, or foster competition? Choose a CDN provider who will help achieve this goal.
  • For multi-CDN deployments, load balancing strategy should be considered. When assigning traffic to multiple CDNs decision must be taken on implementing fixed weightings between CDNs, performance-based balancing, or balance based on factors like region.
  • When implementing a new CDN, impact on existing services should be in mind, like origin storage, DNS, and other key components. Determine which existing components will remain in place and how to successfully migrate to the new components without impacting existing operations.

Deciding factors for CDN Service

Not every website needs a CDN provider. There are ways to determine if a website or platform needs to take advantage of CDN services. A CDN can be a great solution for a business, especially if customers or clients all around the world are served. Here are some examples of businesses that could benefit from a CDN

  • E-commerce sites: if smooth and seamless user experience for customers is required, even during times with heavy traffic, a CDN can be a great option. Not only does the CDN ensure faster loading time, but it also helps provide security and robustness for the site by helping avoid DDoS kinds of attacks helping avoid huge loads on main servers. Thereby, it helps to protect main server from getting overloaded.
  • Financial institutions: banks, credit unions and other finance companies can use a CDN to create a secure, reliable and fast way to transmit sensitive financial information. By helping insure against DDoS attacks, and server overload; it helps financial services companies provide reliable uptime and performance to its users. Security is the critical life blood of financial companies and a reliable CDN service will go a long way in ensuring that.
  • Media or news sites: media and news sites are often content-heavy, and they include a lot of interactive elements to maximize user dwell time, and they tend to be dynamically updated with the latest news. CDNs can help to ensure that the content delivery remains fast and highly responsive, to bring news to end users in real-time.
  • Government: government websites also tend to be very content heavy as they cater to a variety of citizen needs. CDNs can help government agencies provide much faster services to citizens.
  • Mobile apps: a CDN accelerates the load time for mobile applications and increases page responsiveness.
  • SaaS: CDN will help SaaS-based businesses scale easily and serve millions of web users, without causing a dip in the performance from the added user base.

CDN exercise is under taken to enhance service delivery on multiple parameters, however, this has to be a well- planned activity. Above mentioned points will help you take a well-informed decision.

If you are considering to purchase a CDN solution and are not sure where to start, use this document as a checklist. To know how go4hosting can help you with your CDN requirements, check our CDN solutions. For queries and consultation, email us on sales@go4hosting.com. Our team of subject matter experts will assist you achieve your targets in a customised and optimal manner.

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