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Carl Levine
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Carl Levine on
February 13, 2017

Choosing a CDN Provider

Continuing on the theme of building a strong, distributed infrastructure for your application or platform, let’s take a look at Content Delivery Networks. For the uninitiated, the concept of a CDN is simple - it’s a globally distributed network that stores and serves static content that is used by your application. The advantage to this is that the application gets to run asynchronously from the associated bits of static content like images, fonts, style sheets and such, which speeds along the application and puts the things that change less frequently in closer geographic proximity to the end user.

Much like choosing a cloud provider to host your application, or a SaaS provider to run your business’ mission-critical productivity software, there are some basic steps to making an informed CDN choice as well.

Will It Scale?

CDNs are intrinsically built to scale with your business needs. It’s important to consider scale in the context of how your business is planning to scale. Does your CDN choice have a point of presence near the part of the world where you’re looking to expand? Also make sure that the plan you select with your vendor is within the scope of the sort of data throughput you’re expecting, nobody likes paying overages.

Is It Secure?

Security is fresh on the mind of all technologists these days, and it’s a serious consideration when choosing a CDN. Features such as encryption, DDoS mitigation, and compliance all play a key role in selecting a vendor. Encryption ensures that your customers’ identities, transactions, and the integrity of your website are protected in transit between an endpoint and the CDN’s edge. DDoS attacks are certainly a pervasive force and something that cloud vendors fight on a frequent basis; ensure that the vendor has the requisite strength to fend off these attacks so that your content is always able to be served. Finally, compliance plays a key role in vendor selection if the content you are serving from a CDN requires an extra bit of care (eg. sensitive medical information, financial data, etc.).

Is It Reliable?

How many 9s is the CDN vendor willing to put on the line? No provider can offer a true 100% Service Level Agreement (SLA), but they can come pretty darn close. The industry recognizes 99.999% (five nines) as the most reliable level of service available. A best-of-breed CDN provider will be able to guarantee their services with this SLA and should be considered first among others with lesser guarantees. Also consider the redundancy strategies that the vendor leverages. We at NS1 keep beating the proverbial drum on the concept of leveraging Dual Redundant DNS to ensure that your online estate is less susceptible to an outage during an attack - as such, we recommend you make sure that any upstream providers and vendors follow suit.

Is It Cost Efficient?

Sure, you could go out and build a CDN on your own. Therein lies the risk vs. reward discussion again - is it worth spending the time, energy, manpower, and most critically, money, to build one of your own? Consider the herculean task of maintaining a CDN along with the rest of your stack, and keep a rough figure in the back of your mind when choosing a vendor for your CDN. The value, expertise, and support that come bundled with a CDN vendor’s offering may be far more financially sound than rolling your own.

Ecosystems Are “One-Stop-Shops” in Disguise - Watch Out!

As we’ve highlighted in other articles in this series, a lot of vendors try to bundle as many services along with their baseline offering as they can to get a nice share of the market. While capitalism is certainly the machine that keeps all of us doing what we do, diversification of your Highlighting The Need For Redundancy vendors to ensure that you aren’t setting up single points of failure remains paramount to your overall success. Many of the CDN providers out there do have additional offerings, such as DNS thinly disguised as DDoS mitigation. While some of these DNS offerings are widely distributed and leverage the resources of the CDN to absorb attacks, this isn’t necessarily their bailiwick.

DNS Party Trick: Using NS1’s Pulsar To Choose The Fastest CDN

Did you know that NS1 keeps a keen eye on what’s going on with CDNs around the world in real time? It’s true, and it’s something we call Pulsar. While Pulsar exists to route traffic based on eyeball telemetry based on custom parameters, we also monitor a vast array of CDNs around the world from our own vantage points to understand what typical latency figures look like for users in a given ISP’s IP prefix or autonomous system number. The measurement of overall latency can be a make-or-break factor when choosing a CDN, so if this is something of interest to you as an NS1 customer, speak to your friendly account representative about setting up a demo.

Some Closing Thoughts

Whether your organization is undergoing digital transformation or you’re a greenfield cloud-native team building the next big thing, ensuring that the technology that underpins your production and development environments is widely distributed, scalable, secure and reliable is key to your overall success. NS1 has the technology to make your CDN deployment and management a frictionless and easily managed affair.

For a deeper dive on these ideas and some best practices for getting the job done, check out our White Paper on the subject, entitled "Migrating To The Cloud? What You Should Consider". As always, our team is happy to talk shop around making a CDN solution work for you, so don't hesitate to reach out.