The Evolution of CDNs: 7 Start-ups Shaking Up The CDN Space

A CDN is a network of geographically located servers and related infrastructure that facilitates users by bringing the content closer to their location, ensuring speedy delivery of web content. You might be familiar with the caching process where data centres store relevant files for easy access. CDNs work on the same principle by caching rich content like web pages, graphics, videos, etc. in one of their physical servers near your location.

Regardless of the type of content, CDNs are capable of effectively streamlining the content flow, and producing effective results. Read on to explore the world of CDN startups that are making waves in the industry and revolutionizing the way we utilize this tech for content delivery.

Understanding CDNs

The development of CDNs started around 20 years ago. During those times, the use CDNs promised to accelerate web content, improve the speed of delivery, and effectively route incoming traffic while facing constraints like limited bandwidth. The main focus of CDNs is to speed up the delivery of web content like pictures, graphics, and videos while tackling network congestion.

The CDN market of today is estimated to be worth several billion and is expected to grow further in the coming years. The CDNs used nowadays have massively evolved and are used to include scripts, text, graphics, documents, media files, software, and much more. Live streaming and video streaming media are some recent additions to these sophisticated content delivery networks.

Features To Look For

Before we start exploring some popular CDN startups, here are a few key features that every content delivery network should provide.

Network Outreach 

The more extensive the network, the better the results. Several CDN companies have grown massively by increasing their servers. Either a CDN company will use their own data centres, use virtual machines, or partner with a carrier or data centre to expand the network.

Security

In this age of cyberattacks, malware, and related threats, the CDN must have unbreachable security protocols. HTTPS, threat identifiers, security firewalls, and security analytics are some security enhancements crucial for CDNs.

Pull Zones

Conventionally, CDNs are designed to streamline the flow of content to the end user. However, in some cases, the data needs to be pushed to the CDN server and back to the client for processing. You should look for this feature if you want to maintain two-way traffic.

Storing Files

Most CDNs work similar to cloud storage, allowing safe data storage and decreasing the need for in-house IT infrastructure. It’s an excellent choice to offload static files.

Image Optimization

While JPEG and GIF files look visually appealing, they can cause several issues. High-resolution images have very large file sizes, making it impractical to use the same images on different devices. A high-resolution image can easily load on a PC with fast internet connectivity, whereas the same idea could use up a lot of cellular data and might not even load properly. Most CDNs use image optimization techniques to reduce the file size of the image and in some cases, make low-resolution copies of the same image that are compatible on different mobile devices.

Besides the features mentioned above, there are tons of other features like geoblocking, ad-block neutralization, digital right management, purging stale content, DDoS protection, application load balancing, and the list goes on. Different features of CDN cater to different niches and industries, When choosing a CDN, you might need all the features provided with the CDN except a few. Knowing your requirements and then choosing a CDN can surely produce fruitful results. Without further ado, let’s start digging deep into some interesting startups in the CDN space.

CloudFare

This startup is one of the most popular among CDN service providers. Most small businesses and content creators rely on the services CloudFare offers. They offer a free plan with no bandwidth limitation, making it a feasible choice for many websites. CloudFare has around 180 data centres, ensuring content delivery with the best performance and security, and you can easily incorporate the service with websites running on WordPress.

The resources can be easily cached, refreshed, and purged when required. However, one major disadvantage of using CloudFare is that its free plan does not provide security features. You’d need to upgrade to their premium plan if you want to use the provided security features.

CloudFare is relatively easy to set up and has a simple user interface. The control panel gives you content delivery controls and allows you to monitor performance. They also provide REST API that allows developers to tweak the services according to their requirements. There are a few downsides that are outlined below.

The free plan of CloudFare does not include a lot of features except for no cap on bandwidth. Purchasing a premium plan is necessary if you want to use all features provided by the CDN service. Chat and phone support are also exclusive to the premium plan. As mentioned earlier, CloudFare does not provide security facilities with a free plan, making it difficult to deliver secure content without encountering malware, DDoS, or spamming attacks.

KeyCDN

This dedicated CDN service has a massive network of edge servers, securing a spot at the top with a few other CDN services when it comes to speed. KeyCDN allows caching of content, but it still would need a few lines of code to control the caching and refreshing of content. Content purging is another available feature and can be done with just a few clicks. KeyCDN offers a caching plugin that can be used to tweak caching options and achieve the desired results.

The best feature of KeyCDN is its super fast delivery speeds, all thanks to its edge servers and more than 30 data centres. KeyCDN has built-in DDoS protection, making it a good choice over other CDNs. Cloud storage is also provided at very affordable rates. The downside of keyCDN is that it is based on a subscription model, so you need to pay a monthly base fee. You will also be charged a fee according to your bandwidth usage.

CDN77

It’s one of the best image-delivering CDNs out there. CDN77 has some amazing features when it comes to image optimization and delivery of content. Quality image optimization is one key feature every image CDN should include. CDN77 also offers a range of other features, unprecedented performance, and price flexibility, making it an excellent choice when looking for image content delivery networks. The service offers DDoS protection, HTTP/2 features, and a free SSL certificate.

The DDoS protection of CDN77 is top-notch. It can easily detect real-time DDoS attacks. When an imminent threat is identified, the abnormal traffic is rerouted and scrambled to multiple data centres, minimizing the chances of an attack. CDN77 can easily be integrated with other content management systems, allowing easy integration. Regarding pricing, you can either choose a monthly plan or pay for the services only when you use them. There is a bandwidth cap, but additional storage can be bought at very reasonable prices.

Imperva

Imperva is a data security platform that offers CDN services, has over 40 data centres, and is powered by edge servers. Caching features offered can deliver dynamic as well as static content without compromising the latency. The caching options are also simplified to a few commands which you can execute and achieve the desired results. Custom caching can be set up for certain URLs.

Content purging options can also be set to automatic purging or manual purging. The Imperva CDN is sophisticated enough to compress files automatically.

Developers can use the provided framework to set content delivery rules and redirect them based on certain parameters. This ensures bad bots won’t bother you anymore. The URLs used can be tweaked on the frontend, making it appealing for the users who see the web address. WAF, DDoS protection, and bot protection are the main features that make Imperva thrive in the face of stiff competition.

Google Cloud CDN

Powered by Google’s global network, Google CDN is a relatively affordable option when you want global outreach at a lower price. They offer a free SSL certificate with no additional costs and allow easy integration to their cloud services. They even offer a 3-month free trial credit that you can use to test out their features before making a purchase.

Google, no doubt, has its network scattered throughout the globe, provides SSL certificates, and is an affordable option, but there is a downside, especially for individuals still exploring the CDN industry. The configuration of Google’s CDN is not simple. You might require a developer to configure your content delivery protocols accordingly. Furthermore, tech support is only provided when you pay for the services.

CacheFly

CacheFly is a low-latency CDN that mainly focuses on providing super-fast content delivery. CacheFly is quite popular in the gaming and video streaming industry. This CDN ensures the delivery of rich content without waiting for content optimization and delivery. The company has already established a strong foothold in several continents ranging from South Africa to Asia. It is an excellent choice for businesses and companies wanting to target regions where other content delivery entities cannot provide service.

CacheFly was the pioneer that introduced TCP Anycast to the CDN space and is continuing its legacy by incorporating the latest tech protocols for the best results. They offer a storage system like most CDNs, route traffic at ultra-high speeds, and allow smart image optimization. There are several plans you can choose from with each having a unique set of features. The plans also have varying levels of support, bandwidth cap, and features. Therefore, do spend some time comparing different plans while keeping in mind your requirements. This will aid you in choosing the right plan.

Fastly

Fastly has many physical locations supported by edge servers. It is a cloud CDN and focuses on providing fast speed and content delivery on a global scale. The company uses powerful PoPs that keep the cached data for longer periods without requiring a refresh. Static content can also be cached, but it is not as impressive as its competitors. Purging of content is also made easier as you can select specific content that should be purged and what should be left behind.

Fastly offers a feature of soft purging where you can label a URL as stale, ensuring the page and its content don’t get purged. Soft purging can help retain pages that, when purged, can affect the user experience. However, how long content should be cached is decided by feeding a few lines of code into the CDN.

Fastly is a powerful image optimization system that can optimize images on its servers, making the optimization of content a breeze. Bot mitigation, DDoS protection, and WAF are a few key features offered by Fastly. The service has sophisticated servers that easily maintain the balance on their network by rerouting the data through the fastest possible locations. The service has a fixed price that you need to pay per month and bandwidth usage is also charged accordingly.

CDNs are an essential tool when you want to deliver content at fast speeds. The users visiting your website will not have to wait for the files to load or experience too much latency. Providing better loading speed makes for a better user experience. CDNs naturally aid in improving web traffic due to the provision of quality services. Caching and optimization of data also reduce the bandwidth costs as fewer requests will be made to the origin server.

Besides providing top-notch security against cyberattacks, DDoS attacks, and malware, these systems are also reliable. Regardless of how much traffic comes in or whether there is a malfunction in your IT infrastructure, using a CDN service ensures your services and websites are up and running without any interruption.

CDNs have indeed revolutionized the content delivery space, especially with the incorporation of cutting-edge technologies like edge servers. The CDN industry is ever-growing and is always open to embracing new technologies that can further improve service standards and set the bar higher. We hope the information we shared can assist in better understanding CDNs and their usage.

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