How CDNs Work: Learn About Content Delivery Networks

Mar 2022

how-cdns-workIf you or your business manage a website, you may have heard of the term “CDN.” Otherwise known as content delivery networks, CDNs are the foundation of content delivery for most websites and internet-based applications. Whether you’re scrolling through the New York Times, adding items to your cart on Amazon, or binging YouTube videos late into the night, you’re interacting with a CDN.

There are two core functions of content delivery networks: lowering the latency of your website and keeping it secure via its “on-edge” position. Learn more about how CDNs work, as well as why they’re a modern necessity in a world of increased cyberattacks.


CDN, Defined

Before diving into how CDNs work towards lower latency and higher security, it’s important to gain some context. 

A content delivery network, or a CDN, is a group of virtual servers that are spread across multiple geographical locations. This allows for faster web content delivery to your site visitors since load times rely on geographic proximity. CDNs have gained recent popularity for their rapid delivery of content such as images, videos, javascript files, and HTML pages, making for an improved user experience. 

Today, most web traffic is delivered through content delivery networks – especially amongst big players such as Facebook, Amazon, and Netflix. On top of its benefits to webpage load times, a CDN can also add a layer of security to your website for protection against common cyberattacks. Though perhaps its most popular function is lowering the latency of your website for a more polished UX.


How CDNs Work To Lower Latency

The ultimate goal of a content delivery network (CDN) is to reduce the distance between web visitors and the website’s server, resulting in lower latency – delays in the delivery of your users’ desired data – and quicker load times. To do this, a CDN stores its content as a virtual cached version in multiple geographic locations. These locations are known as “points of presence,” or PoPs for short, with each PoP containing a handful of caching servers that deliver content to visitors within its range. 

Put in simpler terms, a CDN places your content in multiple virtual locations so that you’re closer in proximity to your users, which serves to lower latency. Take this example: If someone in Dublin visits your US-hosted website, it’s done through a local Ireland PoP. This is exponentially quicker than receiving and responding to visitor requests from your U.S.-based server location. 


Secure Your Site With a CDN

Another key benefit to employing a CDN is the added security to your website. Thanks to reverse proxy technology, which places the CDN on the “edge” of your network and guards web traffic routing, CDNs are able to serve as secure blockades for attacks on your website and any content within it. Since CDNs are deployed on the edge of your network, they effectively manage external access and block any cyber threats before a breach occurs. This is known as an “on-edge” position and renders CDNs an ideal choice to prevent threats such as DDoS attacks

If you or your company currently manage a website, a CDN is a modern necessity. Along with their benefits for web page and content loading times, they’re an ideal cybersecurity option for small and midsize businesses with vulnerable networks. This is especially true for 2022. With ransomware attacks increasing year-over-year and smaller U.S. companies becoming targets for Russian hacking efforts, it’s more important now than ever to secure your company’s digital assets with a suitable content delivery network. 

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