If you are running your own business online and hosting or providing downloadable content – pictures, videos, applications, and so forth, you will find that to accommodate all of that data and the traffic associated with it requires a considerable amount of performance from whatever server your content is being hosted on.
Optimally, the host of your content will be quick and reliable, as well as being robust enough to cope with spikes in traffic, DoS attacks, and everything else that goes along with online life.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN), at its base level, is a deployment of servers across data centers that provide end-users with high quality and swiftly accessible content. This is beneficial to you if you have large amounts of content and traffic coming to your site/server. CDNs are clearly of great value as they shift the burden of hosting data from the content creator – you, and transfers that on to themselves, leaving you with much less system burden due to hosting data, and more power for creation.
Differences between S3 and CDN
Data warehousing services such as Amazon S3 are a great solution for storage, as they offer lots of space for a very reasonable outlay. Although similar in intent and description, there are important differences between something like S3 and ‘pure’ CDN such as Amazon’s Cloudfront.
S3, for example, is great for hosting data, and is indeed immensely popular, but it is not built from the ground up to have the speed and performance of a CDN. For hosting something like image files for a website, S3 will be a good option, and should satisfy most end users in terms of the speed of delivery. Where you will see a decrease in performance and a rise in price is if the amount of data being pushed through increases. This comes down to how big and how busy you believe your site currently is, and how big you think it will become. A CDN such as Cloudfront is going to offer faster speeds for a busy site and any data that is going to be uploaded and downloaded, whilst S3 will be able to support sites with a smaller user base.
At the simplest level: S3, if overloaded, will slow down and you may incur additional costs. Cloudfront is robust and quick, but will initially cost more.
As well as paid options, there are also free CDNs, which may appeal if you need a relatively minimal amount of storage, but enough that your current solution isn’t powerful enough to cope.
Free CDNs such as CloudFlare offer a good raft of features for no price, such as: implementable IPv6 and co-operation with other CDNs, meaning that you can link it with any other CDNs you may already have, so that you can choose to initially route traffic and data though your free server, saving you money and bandwidth. CloudFlare has tiers above the free option, meaning that you will receive the barebones version of the CDN at the free level. Take some times to look over these other tiers; so that you have an idea of the benefits should you want to expand.
It can be very cheap, even free, as we’ve seen, to find a good CDN. Bear in mind the points brought up above: free is always a great word, but it usually means that you will be using a service that is bereft of certain features that will be available on the paid tiers.
As a solution for server congestion, or just as an answer to an expanding site or business, a CDN is a great, affordable option that provides speed and storage off-site, freeing you up to focus on the creation and growth of your content, and not bogged down by server issues.