CDN Use Cases and Practical Insights for Streaming (Update)June 23, 2023
In the digital age where content is king, video streaming has become a vital part of our day-to-day lives. From entertainment to education, millions worldwide consume video content on a regular basis. As both demand and the practical need for these videos grow, so too does the importance of seamless video delivery. This is where a video content delivery network (CDN) comes into play. A CDN is a network of servers that delivers content to users based on their geographical location. While CDNs can apply to more than just video streaming, there are an important tool for ensuring video content streams quickly, efficiently, and securely across the globe.
Of course, not every video stream actually relies on a content delivery network. Sometimes the streaming need is such that a CDN isn’t necessary. Sometimes the video stream really needs a CDN and is failing to live up to its potential. It’s not always easy to tell if you need a CDN, nor is it easy to know if the content you’re consuming is using a CDN to reach you. We’ve taken the time to break down CDN use cases by specific goals and highlight common industry applications.
Table of Contents
High Traffic Events
If your website is hosting a high-traffic event or expecting a sudden (or potential) surge in viewership, a CDN can help you handle the load. CDNs can distribute the load of requests from your website to multiple servers, ensuring that your website remains up and running during high traffic times. Additionally, CDNs can cache static content to reduce the burden on your origin server, freeing it up to handle dynamic content.
What does this look like from a practical point of view?
Let’s say you’re selling merchandise via live commerce, and you’re running a flash sale with a limited time offer. You anticipate a substantial influx of traffic to your website during that time. If your streaming solution is not prepared to handle the surge, it could crash your website, leading to loss of sales and potential customers. By using a CDN, you can avoid this problem and ensure that your website runs smoothly during the sale.
Highlight on Live Sports
Of course there are many examples where high volume viewership is planned, as in the case of live sporting events. A CDN enhances the viewing experience by reducing latency, buffering, and packet loss, which are common issues in live streaming. It achieves this by distributing the content across various servers around the globe, thereby allowing viewers to access the content from a server closest to them. This efficient distribution of content also helps in handling sudden traffic surges during popular live sports events, thereby ensuring uninterrupted streaming for all viewers.
If your website caters to a global audience, using a CDN can help you improve the user experience for visitors from different parts of the world. This way, a user in rural Kansas with a poor internet connection can have an equally positive experience as someone in Tokyo because the CDN server closest to them will deliver the same content, reducing latency and improving page load times for both.
For example, streaming news platforms are common CDN use cases. These organizations distribute information about breaking events to people around the globe. Content delivery networks make it possible for news broadcasters and publishers to reach people wherever they are with minimal latency and buffering so viewers can find out exactly what happened and how it affects them.
Highlight on Breaking News
You could be running a news website that’s streaming during a major or unexpected event, making it hard to anticipate how many viewers to expect. There will be a high traffic surge during that time, and using a CDN can help you avoid website crashes and ensure that your website can handle the traffic. Whatever your need to handle regular or unexpected traffic surges, a CDN can help you maintain a secure and reliable stream.
Large Video Files
CDNs are applicable for all kinds of large video files, both live and on demand. Even though you’ve already encoded (compressed) said files, they’re still rather sizable and can take a long time to load on viewers’ devices (especially those with slower connections). A CDN can help you distribute load requests to multiple servers, a process known as load balancing, therefore reducing both the burden on your origin server and the likelihood of causing viewer frustration.
Highlight on High-Volume VOD Platforms
Businesses with expansive video-on-demand (VOD) libraries, for instance, benefit from CDNs even though their content isn’t live as hefty amounts of data still need to travel across the internet. Consider the example of popular streaming services like Netflix or YouTube. These platforms serve millions of viewers worldwide. Without a CDN, delivering high-quality video content to such a vast audience would be a daunting task and rife with service failures. With a CDN, these platforms can ensure fast, reliable, and secure video delivery.
CDNs enhance the performance of interactive streams by reducing the round-trip time (RTT) between the origin server and the end-user devices. This is achieved by breaking down the video file into smaller segments and distributing them across servers located closer to the user for faster delivery. Load balancing and scalability offered by a CDN accommodates sudden surges in traffic, making it ideal for viral content and audiences dispersed globally. Furthermore, a CDN adds an extra layer of security to the streaming process, which we’ll discuss more in a moment, by preventing potential cyber-attacks and data breaches. Therefore, employing a CDN in interactive streaming can significantly improve user experience and service quality.
Highlight on E-Commerce
As CDNs deliver cached versions of website content from the server closest to the user’s location, they can significantly reduce page loading times and buffering. This faster site speed and performance is pivotal to retaining customers in e-commerce. Additionally, load balancing helps e-commerce sites handle higher traffic and peak loads without compromising functionality. CDNs also allow audience segmentation based on user analytics, enabling e-commerce businesses to tailor their offerings more effectively.
Highlight on E-Learning
CDNs ensure that educational content, including videos, images, and interactive modules, is delivered to learners swiftly and smoothly, regardless of their geographical location. This results in a more seamless and engaging learning experience, free from frustrating delays or buffering. CDNs also significantly enhance the platform’s ability to handle high traffic volumes, maintaining performance during peak usage times.
Security and Content Protection
If your website hosts confidential content or information, you might need a CDN. A CDN can provide security features such as SSL/TLS encryption, DDoS protection, and web application firewalls to prevent unauthorized access. Plus, CDN security measures can help protect your data from hotlinking and bandwidth theft, deterring other organizations from using your content or sensitive information without permission.
Highlight on Telehealthcare
CDNs can enhance the delivery of remote healthcare services by providing high-speed data transmission, reducing latency, and ensuring data is delivered to users quickly, regardless of their geographic location. This is particularly beneficial for real-time healthcare services like online consultations, monitoring, and diagnostic services where speed and reliability are paramount. However, CDN security measures are particularly valuable for these providers as protecting sensitive patient data from cyber threats is a legitimate concern. By integrating a CDN, telehealthcare providers can significantly improve user experience, service quality, and especially privacy.
Highlight on Corporate Conferences
By ensuring faster and more efficient content delivery to a wide geographical audience, CDNs can be crucial to global corporate conferences. But in addition to optimizing streaming, reducing latency and buffering issues, during live presentations or webinars, CDNs protect corporate and attendee data. This is essential for any corporation that handles sensitive data, has concerns over corporate espionage, or caters to a wide and varied audience.
CDN Use Cases: Evaluating Business Needs
When it comes to the question, “Do I need a CDN?”, the answer depends on your specific business needs. If your platform serves a global audience, and you aim to provide a seamless viewing experience, then a CDN is a must-have. It not only ensures fast and reliable streaming, but also provides scalability and security.
However, it’s also good to consider when you don’t need a CDN, as many CDN use cases won’t apply to you. A content delivery network may be unnecessary if you have:
- A limited budget that restricts your spending. CDNs can be expensive (though not always, especially when included in a one-stop shop solution), so compare CDN costs to the price of egress before you sign up for a solution you can’t afford.
- A small audience that is centrally located. Content delivery networks are necessary for streaming to viewers around the world, but if your audience is small and local, you likely only need a single server to make sure your content reaches them smoothly.
In these cases, a well-optimized server may suffice. That said, it’s worth noting the benefit of a CDN enabled streaming partner can have when it comes to the need for quick scaling, tightened security, and more. Remember that your ultimate goal is to provide the best possible viewing experience to your audience, and the worst time to realize that you need a CDN is after you’ve already suffered the consequences of not having one.
I’m Ready! Now What Do I Do?
Have you decided you need a content delivery network to optimize your streaming? It’s time to evaluate the pros and cons of streaming partners and their CDNs available to you. Of course: you don’t have to look far if you’re looking for a CDN that is:
- Powerful and flexible.
- Part of an all-in-one solution.
- Available in the cloud or on-premises.
- Able to work alongside WebRTC real-time streaming.
- Highly secure and run by a SOC II Certified organization.