What Is a CDN and How Does it Work? [All You Need to Know]

Daniel Wabuge
Daniel Wabuge

Updated · Oct 16, 2022


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What is a CDN, you ask?

It’s a technology that does a great job of accelerating web applications. Think websites, smartphone apps, and streaming services. 

Thanks to CDN networks, web pages nowadays take seconds to load. CDNs bring content closer to you. They also reduce interruptions by providing superb uptime.   

But that’s hardly a good enough explanation.

Here’s what more you need to know:

What Is a CDN?

First, what does CDN stand for? It means Content Delivery Network. The technology comprises a system of highly distributed servers globally. They work together to accelerate content delivery across the internet. 

The tech acts as a bridge between the origin server and the end-user. As a result, it reduces the physical distance during data transfers. So, you get faster delivery of services to all corners of the earth. 

All in all, accessing content online would be a bad experience without CDNs. That’s because each click on the web requires hundreds of processes to fulfill. These travel through multiple networks before reaching the final destination. From here, the process repeats itself for you to get feedback.  

CDN platforms reduce all that trouble by handling requests closer to the visitors. But that’s not all. They also eliminate points of failure in content delivery. The outcome - a butter-smooth online experience to the end-users.

At present, there are many providers. Some of the best ones include Cloudflare, Stackpath, KeyCDN, and others. They provide a wide range of products for speeding online applications. 


What is a CDN and how does it work?

How Does a CDN Work?

A CDN network is comprised interlinked edge servers. These are also known as point-of-presence (POP). In short, they help to reduce the distance between origin web servers and end-users. A good example is Akamai that has over 250,000 POPs globally. The purpose is to increase the availability of services.

Here’s how:

Such a setup helps to slow latency - the time it takes to connect a server online. Let’s say you’re in the US and want to access a UK-based website, for example. Any request that you make has to travel all that distance. A POP, however, reduces the delays by processing requests closer to you. 

The next thing a CDN service does is boost content delivery. It works by caching an origin server’s assets across its entire network. Some include images, videos, website scripts, and so on. Likewise, it stores most of it in a compressed format. That reduces the overall size of files by up to 70%. The outcome - a lag-free experience for the users. 

But there’s more! 

POPs are a broader part of internet exchange points (IXPs). It helps create multiple channels for transferring data efficiently. As a result, it enables companies to deliver reliable services. The case is the same for your end-users also. They get to enjoy faster speeds when using your web applications.  

Superior reliability is the icing of the cake. Whenever a POP goes down, the rest do keep tasks running. That also works during periods of high traffic. It redirects visitors to less busy servers across the network. Such a configuration reduces the chances of downtimes from occurring. 

Is CDN the Same as a Web Host?

A web host and CDN technology are different. The former provides hosting services for online applications. For example websites, mobile apps, streaming platforms, and more. You can access such a service from multiple providers on the market. 

Shared hosts are a great way to start. They offer cheap products for beginners. VPS servers, on the other hand, provide robust resources for running complex sites. It’s available on both Windows and Linux platforms. Regardless of your choice, you’re bound to enjoy an excellent experience throughout. 

A point to note - web hosting uses a single server. Your site will most likely go offline when it goes down. You’ll need multiple web servers for load balancing to help improve uptime. But the process can be costly to maintain in-house. 

On the other hand, CDN networks are a caching service. Unlike hosts, they store files temporarily for delivery to end-users. They rely on a network of POPs to deliver services. As said earlier, this helps boost service availability. When one POP fails, the rest will keep working to minimize interruptions.      

You also can’t use CDNs to host websites. They only work as proxy servers for accelerating content delivery. Web hosts don’t provide this out-of-box.   

The good thing is you can combine a web host with a CDN service. That helps to mirror your application across the CDN’s network. That way, your services will keep running whenever your web server fails. 

Other benefits of content delivery networks include: 

  • Cost advantage: CDNs do a great job of reducing bandwidth costs. As mentioned earlier, they apply data compression during caching. That helps reduce the size of files transferable over a network. The outcome of it is low web hosting costs for high traffic applications.  
  • Performance: Bringing content close to the user improves performance. It makes web pages load fast regardless of the visitor’s location. Best of all – it speeds up the delivery of on-demand services, such as media streaming, gaming, and downloads.  
  • Reliability: CDNs increase service availability by using multiple servers. This helps minimize points of failure within the network. It also enhances connections by routing traffic to less busy POPs.
  • Security: A CDN does a great job of protecting your applications from intruders. It uses complex algorithms that can stop DDoS attacks. Apart from that, it offers defense against spam, bad bots, and malicious visitors.
  • Support: CDN providers offer excellent support round the clock. You can reach them via chat, email, and phone. Some even do provide dedicated account managers. They ensure you receive a speedy response to avoid service disruptions. 

CDN Security

CDNs handle sensitive information. So, as you have probably guessed, they’re targets for hackers. Content delivery network services, however, use complex configurations to safeguard files. Such a setup helps protect you from unwanted breaches

Here’s the breakdown: 

Service providers use SSLs to encrypt data. The process encodes info during transfer to and from the end-user. That helps prevent any bit of it from being accessed by malicious visitors. 

A web application firewall (WAF) is in place to shield you. This CDN security feature adds an extra layer of protection to your applications. It constantly works round the clock to block harmful traffic. Some examples include bad bots, spam, malware, and more. 

Database management also deserves your attention. This provides a secure location for storing your data. To do that, it uses sophisticated software to encrypt all information. The approach reduces the chances of it landing in the wrong hands. Even if it does, no one will be able to decrypt it. 

Wrap Up

CDN technology definitely makes life easier. For example, you can use it to speed up your website. That enables far-away visitors to experience a smooth browsing experience. 

Apart from that, it also works well with high-demand applications. Regardless of your needs, you’ll benefit from excellent performance. 

Superior security is the cherry on top. It acts as a shield that safeguards you from intruders. As a result, it gives you the surety of handling sensitive data with confidence. 

Still wondering what is a CDN? You can check out the


What is CDN and how does it work?

A content delivery network (CDN) is a technology for accelerating online content. It comprises hundreds of interlinked servers that work simultaneously. These are distributed strategically to deliver services globally.  So, how does a CDN work CDNs move digital services close to the users by caching content across multiple web servers. The configuration helps to fulfill a users’ request from the nearest servers.  With that in mind, a CDN helps to speed up applications. These can range from websites, smartphone apps, and streaming services. The outcome - a faster experience for the end-user.

What is CDN in Web hosting?

A content delivery network (CDN) is a technology for accelerating web hosting services. That’s because traditional hosts depend on a single web server. Whenever it goes down, all its apps go offline as well.  And that’s where a CDN provider comes into the picture. It provides greater reliability and uptime. The service relies on multiple servers to store files. When one fails, the rest continue to power applications.  Another advantage is it brings content closer to the visitors. It improves latency which is a significant cause of lag across networks. The result - faster speeds for the users. Furthermore, the consumers get to enjoy a smooth experience on the web.

What is a CDN and what is the benefit of using one?

So, what is a CDN It stands for content delivery network. The technology is a service that helps speed web applications.  Here are the benefits of using one: 
  • Faster performance of websites and applications
  • Enhanced data security
  • Superior uptime of services
  • Low cost of operations


Daniel Wabuge

Daniel Wabuge

Daniel is a curious thinker that loves everything about tech. If he spots something interesting, rest assured that he’ll reverse-engineer it. Apart from being an internet addict, he loves building web servers from scratch. Well, it’s not his profession per se. But it’s a passion he picked up after a series of unfortunate events involving terrible hosts. He’s the “hosting guy”.

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