Role & Importance Of CDN

Aditya Krishnan
4 min readJun 15, 2021


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Last week , several international websites, including Financial Times, New York Times, Bloomberg etc faced hour-long downtimes . Users were getting a server 503 error on their browsers while accessing these sites . The outage which brought down the internet for millions of users was on account of a technical glitch on one of the CDN based service provider called Fastly .

It results in a bad user experience when major sites suddenly become unavailable across the globe . Why many firms were affected at one go ? To understand this we need to decipher the details specific to a CDN and why they play a crucial role in the digital ecosystem .

What is a CDN

CDN essentially stands for content delivery network . It is a service that allows websites to keep page copies closer to customers .

It comprises of distributed platform of servers that helps to decrease the page loading time by reducing the physical distance between the server and the users . All visitors irrespective of their locale can access high quality content with minimum page load time .

Let us decode this with a simple example : suppose your main server is based out of US , you have clients in the UK while the internet is capable of transferring the web page from the US to UK, there is a potential delay of the loading the pages on the browser owing to which the end users may get frustrated .

The experience for the user can be several times quicker if a copy of the page can be held in UK and delivered on a need basis .

As per the normal convention , whenever a page is requested for the first time the call goes to the main server , from the second instance page is rendered via the cache facilitated by the nearest CDN server . Thus the load gets shifted to the CDN servers distributed across locales .

Advantages of using a CDN

Why do sites prefer to serve web content via CDN rather than having their own infrastructure ? Following points would answer this question

  • Better response times and performance
  • Saves money , lowers the infra cost
  • Ubiquitous service across the globe
  • Decrease load on the main server
  • Improves page loading time and user experience
  • Boosts SEO owing to enhanced page experience for the users
  • Can cater to many users across different locales at any given point of time
  • Protection from DDoS attacks

Debriefing of last week’s global outage incident

As stated earlier CDN service provider will have data centers around the world, holding copies of content to deliver in every region .

Fastly is a cloud computing company that provides CDN services. Last week, sites across the world suddenly went offline as requests for the CDN-hosted content on Fastly were not serviced. It showcases our reliance and dependency on technology in the digital era .

Despite the global outage, it was resolved within an hour. Outages in general are short-lived .

It seemed to be a short-term defect in Fastly’s infrastructure, or a misconfiguration that cascaded through its internal systems.

Interesting Facts On CDN from an emerging market

The “Great Firewall” can cause a latency based issue for sites hosted outside China resulting in a delay in loading times as well as performance (Assumption is if it is not blocked ).

Baidu the Chinese search engine will not index a page if the load speed is very slow ( including Ads) . Thus it becomes imperative for companies to use a Content delivery network (CDN) so that the content is served to the users with faster page load times and in a reliable manner .

It is important to note that Quantil, CDNetworks, Akamai, and Amazon Cloudfront are the only global CDN’s that work in China.

To conclude one can say content delivery networks are here to stay and will continue to play a key role in powering digital transformation across all sectors with huge dependencies .

About The Author :

Aditya Krishnan is a Digital Strategist & Consultant with 10+ years of experience across different sectors and practices . He has led and managed business transformation engagements ranging from setting up digital platforms , designing marketing strategies to leading conversion optimization, analytics projects . An active contributor and participant in the Webmasters , SEO , digital marketing, analytics professional groups/forums including trends on cyber security . He has authored several publications on various topics across portals and shares his views regularly on latest trends in the digital /technology and marketing space . In addition to it he is also a reputed author , poet and an avid researcher .

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Aditya Krishnan

Sr Digital Strategist & speaker on trends in marketing, technology . Author of the book " A String Of Pearls" .