A few months back I began using Amazon’s S3 (Simple Storage Service) to store a number of miscellaneous files – predominantly screenshots and files I wanted to share quickly – in the “cloud.” At the time, I had been searching for a robust and cost-effective method for storing such files, and had been looking at a number of solutions. What ultimately lead me to go with Amazon S3 was the fact that they had more or less innovated the cloud storage industry as we know it today, and had a very well-polished product. Amazon’s good name didn’t hurt either.
However, more and more recently have been looking at alternative cloud hosting solutions. Don’t get me wrong; S3 is great and I have yet to have a single issue with it thus far. But S3 is by no stretch of the imagination the only cloud hosting provider on the market today. So, out of curiosity, I recently decided to give a competing product – the RackSpace CloudFiles platform – a whirl.
A CDN (or Content Delivery Network) is a network of servers that delivers cached static content from websites and applications to an end user based on several factors including the geographic locations of the user, the origin of the static content, and a content delivery server. Essentially, what the job of a CDN is to get the content being requested by the user, delivered to the user as quickly as possible.
In order to fulfill this need the CDN utilizes technology standards like Anycast, lighttpd or nginx, and BGP to send the static content files to the network of servers that are dispersed throughout several strategic geographic locations around the world which then cache the contents of the file. Then once a user who visits a website their computer (browser) makes a request to the server to download the content for viewing. Now this is where a CDN comes into the play. If the website is running a CDN, the CDN will use Point of Presence (PoP) technology to deliver the content being requested by the user using the closest server to their location.