Ever wonder how content is served to your device, and how quickly you can access and view the content? The answer is the content is served from either a CDN or an eCDN. A CDN serves public-facing content while an eCDN serves video and live-streaming events to employees within a corporation’s LAN. This article looks at the differences between these two types of networks, how they work, the benefits of each, and when to use one over the other.
What is a CDN and What is an eCDN?
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is used to host static web pages, so end users can experience faster downloads when browsing websites, apps, videos, gaming, etc. A CDN consists of servers around the world that provide static, or cached, content to users in diverse geographic locations and serve content to a public-facing audience. CDNs help reduce latency and improve page load times by serving content from a server located closer to a user’s location.
An Enterprise Content Delivery Network (eCDN) is similar to a CDN but is specifically designed for enterprises to share content (video streaming, conferencing, websites) across an intranet, or internally, to enterprise employees and associates. Like CDNS, eCDNs can serve content to diverse geographic locations, as long as those accessing the content have the right to view the content or participate in live conferencing and streaming live events served by the corporation.
How Do They Work?
CDNs and eCDNs work differently from one another. A CDN is a network of servers that are linked together. A CDN’s servers are placed in various geographic locations around the world. These geographic locations are referred to as Internet exchange points (IXPs), between different networks, and improve speed and connectivity.
Here’s how an IXP works. Both a CDN and an Internet Service Provider (ISP) connect to an IXP. Then content can be delivered from the CDN to the ISP resulting in increased speed and reliability. CDNs also use a combination of strategies in addition to IXPs such as optimizing content routing and caching content. In caching, data is stored to make it faster to retrieve.
Instead of using IXPs, eCDNs use a combination of software and hardware at each location, or sometimes referred to as on-premises, within a corporation’s network. When a user is requesting a video or live stream, the eCDN hardware closest to the user serves the content, thereby reducing the amount of traffic transmitted over a corporate network. Content delivered from eCDNs is not public-facing and belongs to the organization hosting the content, often within their own data center, cloud instance, Local Area Network (LAN) for greater speed, or a Wide Area Network (WAN) depending on where users are geographically located. Like CDNs, eCDNs use caching technology to help reduce bandwidth while increasing speed.
The Benefits of Using a CDN vs an eCDN
CDNs and eCDNS offer benefits specific to their intended use. Before getting into the benefits of each type of CDN, let’s explore the benefits shared by both types of CDNs. Both CDNs offer scalability, enhanced security, advanced analytics, increased content availability, and most importantly, improved content delivery performance. Now let’s discuss the benefits exclusive to each type of CDN.
CDN benefits include:
- Increased reliability by distributing content across multiple servers so content is available even if one server fails.
- Faster website load times and performance by delivering content from a server closest to the end user.
- Support for larger volumes of traffic and sudden spikes in traffic by ensuring websites remain accessible.
- Reduced bandwidth costs by caching content from edge servers in addition to using techniques such as compression and minification to reduce the amount of data being transferred.
- Improved website security to protect websites from DDoS attacks and malicious cyber-attacks.
- Advanced analytics to monitor traffic and improve performance.
- eCDN benefits include:
- Increased security as content is delivered behind a firewall with no inbound connections, and all traffic is sent through HTTPS protocols.
- Reduced network congestion by distributing video content from an origin server to eCDN servers located on a corporation’s LAN instead of overloading the corporation’s WAN.
- Improved video quality for high-quality-uninterrupted video playback by reducing buffering and latency through caching.
- Better control and analytics by allowing administrators to monitor and manage video content.
- Reduced bandwidth costs by using multicast technology, where a single stream of data can be sent to multiple recipients at the same time on the same LAN, in addition to caching frequently accessed content locally.
While there are benefits to using one over the other, let’s explore when you should use each one.
When to Use a CDN vs When to Use an eCDN
When deciding whether to use a CDN or an eCDN, consider the type of content you plan to deliver and where your end users are located. If your content is meant to be shared publicly and on a global scale, and you want to serve websites, videos, images, and other content, a CDN is the best option. However, if you want to serve video and live-streaming events to employees with strict access to the content, and serve it from behind a corporate firewall, an eCDN is the best option.
With a CDN, you don’t own the infrastructure. It’s often as easy as signing up for a CDN service, adding your website address and DNS information, turning the CDN on, and waiting 24 hours for the content to propagate. Propagate means the content starts appearing for your users through the CDN and typically takes 24-48 hours. However, with newer CDN technologies, propagation can be done in just a few hours.
In contrast, when you implement an eCDN, you own the infrastructure, including the hardware and software. This means the eCDN hardware sits in your data center, behind your firewall, and you control the security and configuration of how your eCDN performs. Also note that since an eCDN serves content from behind a corporate firewall, it is typically served over the LAN for faster delivery. The benefit of this is not to overwhelm the WAN and is beneficial when serving content to thousands of employees.
Comparison of the Two Types of Networks
When comparing CDNs and eCDNs, one of the major differences is the level of control administrators have over the content being served. Since content served from a CDN is public-facing, anyone with Internet access can view the content served. However, with an eCDN, administrators can monitor and manage the traffic and usage of a video stream in addition to who has access to the stream while limiting access to authorized users only.
When it comes to pricing, CDNs typically charge for the amount of data transferred, while eCDNS have a fixed cost regardless of the data transferred. This is beneficial to organizations that are serving a large amount of internal video or live streaming to employees as the cost remains the same. eCDNs may sometimes offer customized pricing based on the number of users accessing the content, whereas CDNs typically offer a standardized pricing model.
You should now have enough information to help you decide whether you need a CDN or an eCDN. Essentially it comes down to what type of content you want to serve, who you want to serve it to, where your users are located, and whether you want your content to be public-facing or viewable by authorized users only.
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