When trying to decide on a new CDN service for your business or website, there are many different metrics that should factor into your final decision. Everything from the type of CDN, to the location of the CDN’s PoPs to the types of content that CDN is capable of serving should all be part of the final deliberation, but how can you ultimately choose which CDN is right for you and your needs?
An Excess of Choice
While it may seem like a good thing on the surface that there are so many CDN providers to choose from, sometimes picking the one that’s going to fit your business needs best can put you into a state of analysis paralysis.
To simplify things a bit, here’s a list of the top factors you should keep an eye on when evaluating the CDN provider you might want to go with:
- Primary Service Focus
- Feature Set
- PoP Design and Region Spread
- Free Trial Options/Pricing
- Reporting Tools
No one CDN is ever going to have the perfect combination of all these features that lines up perfectly, if only because the speed of a CDN’s network will vary depending on the specific markets you’re trying to serve content to.
Aside from that however, these are general guidelines to look out for when evaluating a potential CDN for your website’s caching service needs. In the end it’s difficult to evaluate on a purely technical basis which CDN is perfect for you because the metrics of that technical performance will change for every region you test it in.
So what can be done to help simplify the process?
Look at the Bigger Picture
Certain aspects of a CDN, like its primary focus of service or the feature set, can better clue you in as to whether or not that service is the one you should go with.
Primary Service Focus
In the case of CDN services, there are several primary service focus types:
- Live streaming CDNs
- Image CDNs
- Dynamic content CDNs (elements rendered in PHP, Ruby, Java, etc)
Each of these CDN focus types require different architectures at the hardware level to make them work, and no one CDN architecture is created alike. This is why you should always carefully evaluate what type of content a CDN can deliver (and where) before taking the plunge on a subscription to the service.
Again, the exact feature set will change pretty drastically depending on the core focus type of their service, so it’s impossible to say any one set of features is inherently “better” than another. That in mind, some broader core features to consider are the level of customer service that a CDN can provide (24/7 support lines are a good place to start), the reporting metrics a CDN offers, and the level of security you can expect your cached content to be protected by.
PoP Design and Region Spread
The design of a Point of Presence’s architecture will tell you a lot about how a CDN operates their services, and will also give you a more accurate picture of what kind of performance you should expect from them throughout your subscription period.
Similarly, the regions which a CDN operates in are obviously going to be a pinch point for whether or not you decide to pull the trigger. Right now there are two main network design types in the world of CDNs:
- Traditional (many largely dispersed smaller PoPs)
- And Mega PoPs, which place large banks of servers near the major Internet Exchange points globally
Both of these approaches have their own benefits and drawbacks, however which is right for you will again come down to your specific use case, the content you’re attempting to serve, and most importantly the region of customers you’re trying to serve it to.
Free Trial Options/Pricing
There’s never going to be a 100% surefire way to know if a CDN is right for you unless you get a chance to kick the tires a bit and take it out for a test drive yourself, right?
This is why it’s vital that the CDN you want to evaluate lets you do exactly that: go through a risk-free evaluation period to test whether their network will be able to handle the demands of your business or not.
Not all CDNs offer free trials, but most of them will generally price their subscriptions on a per-GB or per-TB model, depending on the amount of content you need delivered on a monthly basis. These metrics will shift depending on the features you need, the types of content you’re serving (as well as the amounts of content), but overall you should expect to pay anywhere between $30-$50 TB depending on your exact setup.
One final consideration you should make when choosing a CDN is the level of reporting you can expect back once you’ve got the network set up to serve your content. This isn’t a core requirement, more of just the sprinkles on top of the sundae, but still a nice feature to have if you want to keep a closer eye on the activities and behavior analytics from your userbase.
These can take the form of live reports, real time reports, raw logs of data usage, and more. Again while not a core requirement, extensive reporting tools will only help you to run your business or website better by giving you a more accurate picture of what your customers are up to on a day-to-day basis.
Finding the perfect CDN for your business can be a daunting task, but once you know the specifics of what to look for and at what price, the process gets just a little bit simpler.
The next time you sign up for a CDN, be sure to run through the list of features above before you pull out your credit card and make your final choice!