Cisco’s Visual Networking Index report revealed that online video consumption is forecasted to dominate 77 percent of the internet traffic, up from 58 percent back in 2017. With online video on the rise, it is highly likely that you would have heard of over-the-top (OTT) platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and nexGTv. At the backbone of these platforms are Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), – a geographically distributed group of servers which work together to provide fast delivery of web content – which serve to ensure that no stone remains unturned in the delivery of rich media content.
This growing demand for engaging content and its delivery is gradually increasing the importance of CDNs in India. But beyond the OTT landscape, how else can CDNs help shape consumers’ experiences online?
The curious case of content delivery: Is merely reserving more server space enough?
With the advent of digitisation, we have entered into the age of high-speed communications. Speed is now an integral component in ensuring smooth website performance, as consumers are becoming increasingly impatient with slow websites.
In our ‘The State of the User Experience’ report, we found that almost half (49.1 percent) of consumers will abandon a website if it does not load within 5 seconds. Even the slightest of delays could reduce website traffic significantly over time, and the inability to load websites quickly can severely limit business opportunities. This means the more time it takes for the website to load, the more potential customers you will continue to lose.
While the first resolution you think of to increase your website speed might be buying more server space, it can only get you so far. Allocating more server space only ensures that you have enough web space in the cloud for the storage of web applications and relevant media.
However, the biggest challenge faced by a website is in the delivery of its web content and this is where it becomes a bit tricky. Web hosting platforms usually deliver relevant data via the public internet, which is known to have data congestions. This data congestion directly impacts the loading speed of your website irrespective of the server space that you have reserved for your website.
Moreover, consumers visit websites using an array of devices – such as laptops, smartphones and tablets – which have different operating systems, browsers, supported formats, applications, and so on. These factors add complexity to the web infrastructure because each device supports different capabilities. Therefore, website content needs to be delivered in the right format after gauging all such parameters for an optimal performance.
This is equally important in helping to ensure that your website does not fall prey to critical cyberattacks, such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks that target your website with malicious traffic, making it inaccessible to users. Cyberattackers typically attack a website with this botnet to eat away all of the web server space available with the website.
This prevents the legitimate users of the website from accessing the website. But the chances of a website getting affected by a DDoS attack should ideally be low, given the volume of websites online, shouldn’t it? No, every website is equally exposed to DDoS attacks since botnets typically target multiple websites every day. More so every month, making it just a matter of time and odds before a platform gets hit by a DDoS.
Lately, DDoS attacks have also been increasing in scale and intensity. According to a recent report by Kaspersky Labs, they increased by 84% during the first three months of 2019. The study also noted that there has been a dramatic surge in ‘sustatined attacks’ that last longer than an hour.
This is happening when we have already entered an era of terabit-level DDoS attacks, with peak data transfer rate of leading attacks going beyond 1 TBPS. The generic trend indicates that such attacks are only going to further escalate to a data transfer rate of multiple terabits, thereby making the current cybersecurity framework completely redundant against them.
CDNs: The quintessential solution to digital delivery
These are the areas which are easily addressed through the use of CDNs. CDNs can deliver complex web content while dramatically reducing response times, ensuring websites are delivered to consumers with fast page load times. Industry-leading CDNs typically have a network of data centers and proxy servers to store and relay web content.
They transmit it via a proxy server that is as close to the target geography as possible, thereby eliminating content latency that is otherwise experienced in web delivery. Using highly efficient edge-caching technology and the latest protocols, CDNs are also able to determine factors such as the device the website is being accessed from, its operating system, supported formats and the prevailing network conditions.
This enables such CDNs to deliver web content most optimally while reducing the loading time and rebuffer rates considerably. CDNs also offer scalability to meet demand at peak times, offer web acceleration, and several other much-needed features such as rich media integration.
Leading CDNs are also able to absorb all volumetric flood traffic at the two most common DDoS attack vectors, i.e. Layer 3 and Layer 4, for passive attack mitigation. Their superior technological framework also enables them to provide an advanced cybersecurity shield vis-à-vis content delivery with sophisticated DDoS mitigation, Transport Layer Security (TLS), Web Application Firewalling (WAF), and other similar approaches.
This enables businesses to completely secure its digital assets while providing real-time web loading experience to its end users.
What this means for businesses
As much of a challenge that their demands have lately become, this has also come across as an opportunity to extend the most superlative digital experience to your target audience by deploying a CDN. By doing so, you will not only be able to retain the majority of your customers, but will also be able to acquire the ones that your closest competitor might be losing because of a slow-loading website.
The author is director at Limelight Networks, India. Views are personal