You’re in the market for a content delivery network (CDN) for your business but where do you start? There are many important aspects to evaluate but what are some of the basics you should know when choosing a CDN?

Knowing the basics can help ensure a fair rate to deliver your content, and most importantly, help you choose the right CDN provider.

Here are five things to consider when choosing a CDN:

Measuring throughput and response time (more details below in Importance of Testing) are great ways to evaluate the strength of your CDN. Digging deeper, you’ll want a robust analytics platform complete with multiple reports designed with the ability for you to segment data in a business-meaningful way.

Choosing a CDN

The platform should be customized so that you can define the granularity of your reports from per-domain or per-CDN protocol reporting to full global metrics. This level of granularity will keep all key stakeholders both happy and informed.

CDNs offer numerous reports, some of which include:

  • Total bandwidth, GB transferred
  • Total number of requests
  • Average end-user transfer rate
  • Cache hit/miss ratio percentage
  • Completion ratio
  • Completion ratio percentage
  • Total delivery by data center
  • Total requests by data center
  • Top hosts
  • Hits per second
  • Bandwidth 95/5 Mbps or AGTR (aggregate global transfer rate)
  • Transfer miss ratio
  • Request miss ratio
  • Origin transfer
  • Origin request rate (RPS)
  • End–user transfer
  • User throughput

An extremely useful reporting tool is the Traffic Analyzer. A number of detailed charts are included to help you analyze different aspects of the delivery, and filters can be applied to make comparisons based on region, traffic segments (account level and specific hosts), and timeframe.

Choosing a CDN

Charts include the core metrics of bandwidth, requests, end-user transfer, completion ratio, total GB delivered, and average response size for your HTTP traffic. Look for the flexibility to select other detailed charts, filter for any timeframe desired up to 24 months back, and filter based on your account, subaccounts, hosts, and regions of delivery.

Importance of Testing
There are many factors to evaluate when looking at choosing a CDN. Two of the most important metrics are response time and throughput.

Response time is how long it takes for a server to respond to a browser request. Even if your pages are optimized, slow response time = slow page load which = unhappy customers.

Throughput defined: in communication networks, such as Ethernet or packet radio, throughput or network throughput is the rate of successful message delivery over a communication channel.

To simplify, throughput is how strong or consistent the connection is maintained during the session. Consider water pipes in your home. When you turn the faucet, response time is how long it takes for the water to start flowing, and throughput is how strong and steady the water flows when you leave it turned on.

There are obviously many more variables to consider when testing a CDN. But the most important thing is simple, TEST! Be sure the CDN meets your needs and passes your tests. Look for a free trial.

APIs offer CDN users more flexibility, improved security, added features, and much more. Leveraging APIs can help with account management and with creating user profiles, configurations, hosts, analytics, origins, etc.

Choosing a CDN

Media operations can be integrated into your workflows, dashboards, and automated processes.

Look for open documentation from your CDN partner on their CDN support portal, website, or blog.

CDN Pricing
Pricing is one of the first questions many CDN prospective customers ask and for good reason. When you are delivering  a large amount of bits and bytes the costs can really add up. When you get pricing quotes, be sure to understand that your needs are just that, yours.

A CDN should work closely with you to understand the amount of traffic you’ll deliver on day one as well as what you might deliver down the road. Note that in addition to the actual price, be sure to understand the different pricing models (pay as you go, annual contract, 95/5, etc.), and the rates for additional services (some are free, some are recurring, some are just for getting set up).  Be sure to look for custom pricing options.

Customer Testimonials
Last but certainly not least, do your homework. Talk to your peers, friends, and businesses who are currently implementing CDN technologies. Find out what they like best, find out what they want improved and most importantly, read testimonials.

“GIPHY has grown beyond our expectations this year and this would not have been possible without the support of our partners at Highwinds. Highwinds not only has allowed GIPHY to scale at more than affordable costs, especially for a startup, but also has offered beyond excellent support every step of the way. As GIPHY continues to grow and expand internationally we will rely and trust Highwinds to be our partner throughout this journey together.”
Alex Chung, Founder and CEO, GIPHY

Choosing a CDN

CDNs should be happy to show you who their current clients are and have testimonials from said clients for you to review. Any CDN can claim to be the best, fastest, and so on; but as we said above, do your homework, read the reviews, and by all means, put them to the test.

Choosing a CDN doesn’t have to be difficult. I’m happy to answer any additional questions you might have about CDN technologies.

I’d also encourage you to take me up on your own free CDN trial for your business.

Kraig Koelsch

By Kraig Koelsch, Marketing Manager, Highwinds