We’ve all been there: Surfing the internet for, well everything, and then BOOM! The website you land on serves up text, but the static and dynamic images fail to appear, leaving nothing but blank, barren real estate and feelings of frustration. Or perhaps you’ve been trying to download the la episode of Game of Thrones only to be thwarted by delivery speeds that make Tyrion’s journey to Volantis seem like it was taken aboard the Concord.
I never really stopped to consider—or appreciate—the technology that delivers consumer-facing web content like images, media, games and software downloads, until recently. I’ve been taking for granted, like most of consumers, that the content I am searching for just appears (like magic) with a single click of a mouse and rapid load of a browser.
What Are CDNs?
Content Delivery Networks (CDN)s have been around since the birth of the internet. They are the key technology that enables websites to deliver content to consumers and give content owners and publishers the ability to scale to meet increasing global demand from consumers using multiple devices and a variety of platforms.
How Do CDNs Work?
In order to achieve optimal delivery performance and accuracy, CDNs maintain a large network of globally distributed servers that are connected to the internet and store or connect to local copies of the customer’s content. By caching the content to the closest end user, it improves the experience by decreasing the amount of time needed to deliver the content to the user’s device.
Why CDNs are Important
As we discussed in our previous post about websites and web hosting, your website is one of the most visible and valuable ways of communicating with your current and potential customers. While there are several ways your business can benefit from building and hosting its website in the cloud, one key benefit is increased performance. A benefit that is realized when your customers receive the information they want, when they want it: With little to no latency and high data transfer speeds.
Most websites contain a mix if static and dynamic content. Static content includes images or style sheets while dynamic or application-generated content includes elements of your site that are personalized to each view. Previously, developers who wanted to improve the performance and reliability of their dynamic content had limited options, as the solutions offered by traditional CDNs are expensive, hard to configure and difficult to manage.
Public cloud services like Amazon CloudFront are a perfect example of how successful consumer-facing websites like PBS are achieving optimal content delivery speeds that delight visitors and improve the overall customer experience.
In terms of enterprise-related benefits, Amazon CloudFront allows developers to get started in minutes and without long term commitments for use, monthly platform fees or additional costs to deliver dynamic content to your end users. It works seamlessly with dynamic web applications running in Amazon EC2 or your origin running outside of AWS (example: on-premises data center) without any custom coding or proprietary configurations. This makes Amazon CloudFront easy to deploy and manage. Plus, you can use one, single Amazon CloudFront distribution to deliver your entire website, allowing you to use a single domain name for your entire website without the need to separate your static and dynamic content or manage multiple domain names on your website.
An AWS-sponsored whitepaper by Frost & Sullivan that compared CDN Performance of four ed CDNs discusses the benefits for enterprises:
“For enterprise companies in particular, Amazon CloudFront allows them to deliver large volumes of content with reliable performance to a global audience at a fraction of the cost of trying to deliver the content themselves using their own in-house infrastructure. Instead of a content owner having to buy their own servers, rent co-location space, buy bandwidth, enter into long-term contracts with a variety of vendors or worry about traffic spikes and delivery performance, the content owner can use Amazon CloudFront. By using Amazon CloudFront, the content owner can focus their time and resources on their core product and services, not infrastructure.”
The whitepaper also presents its findings from multiple comparison s that included top CDNs: Amazon CloudFront, Akamai, Level 3 and Limelight. The results show that Amazon CloudFront is, on average, seven percent faster than the next closest CDN and 51 percent faster than the third CDN ed.
There are many kinds of CDNs that deliver everything from small objects like images on websites, to larger pieces of content like software and media downloads. While the type of content can vary, the main goal (and central benefit) of a CDN remains the same: Improving end-user experience by more rapidly and accurately delivering content.
Migrating to Amazon CloudFront
For enterprises, choosing the best CDN partner for their business can be challenging. At 2nd Watch, our digital marketing capabilities are flexible, highly scalable, elastic and enable you to deliver valuable marketing content to your growing customer base—without the need for upfront investments or long-term contracts. It’s a low cost solution that allows you to manage your digital marketing assets (from static and dynamic content to live streaming video and gaming) with ease and agility. Whether you’re migrating your CDN from Akamai or Limelight to Amazon CloudFront, 2nd Watch’s public cloud environments enable you to focus on delivering relevant content that your current and potential customers want, when they want it. Contact us to get started.
-Katie Ellis, Marketing
In previous posts, we’ve introduced the overall concept of the Digital Enterprise, characteristics of today’s digital businesses, key challenges that many companies face when adopting a cloud strategy and the steps that these organizations can take to help speed their transition to the public cloud.
Our recent white paper, “The Digital Enterprise: Transforming Business in the Cloud”, defines digital businesses as companies with 100% digital IT and business processes that, for the most part and as much as possible, are hosted in the public cloud. Additional characteristics of a digital enterprise include:
- The ability to easily scale computing resources and advanced features in order to meet demand.
- Faster time-to-market when launching new services, websites and web applications in support of business initiatives and market changes.
- The ability to innovate, , fail, and repeat at speeds that far exceed those of their competitors that still maintain traditional, workload management solutions.
- Management of systems is unified in the public cloud via a single management interface, which eliminates the complexities of multiple management systems and delivers higher cross-application reliability.
- Ease-of-interoperability due to open architecture that supports multiple software and hardware technologies.
- The focus of the IT department becomes innovation rather than required maintenance.
Companies like Coca-Cola and Yamaha have already begun their transformation to becoming Digital Enterprises by migrating critical applications and workloads to the public cloud. Core workloads and applications include short term, large scale batch computing and data analysis workloads, on-premises business applications (ERP systems, marketing, collaboration, sales, and accounting tools), application and development environments and applications which are built to be inherently “cloud” or “cloud native”.
As companies seek to streamline their core workloads and applications through digital migration, they quickly realize that central IT isn’t the only department that can benefit from the use of cloud technology. It’s no surprise that with today’s digital culture (and our need for instant gratification and expectations for wicked-fast responses, feedback and communication), marketing is a key sector that stands to benefit drastically from the capabilities of the cloud. Specifically, the drastic change in the ways in which enterprises can now reach and engage their audience and furthermore, scale globally to support thousands of websites and web apps as well as store, analyze and distribute mission-critical data, efficiently and securely.
I began my career as a high tech marketer more than a decade ago and have had the privilege of working for some of the biggest names in the industry. It all began at PeopleSoft as a Direct Response Campaign Manager, driving direct mail campaigns for the ERP powerhouse. Over the last fourteen years, my role as a marketer has transformed along with the methodologies that have emerged, changing the game as we know it.
It wasn’t much more than a decade ago that traditional “snail mail” was the norm for getting your business’ messaging into market and a standard campaign was a bit of a mathematical equation that resembled something like this:
The result? A sluggish response to market changes and data capture/analysis was manual (at best) and provided very little insight into campaign performance and ROI when compared to today’s digital marketing capabilities. The good news, however, was that competition followed the same methodologies and invested in the traditional, tried and true mediums of marketing and advertising.
I still remember the day that I launched my first, purely digital, email campaign. Within minutes we began seeing audience responses trickle in, and in the back of my mind I couldn’t help but think, “Whoa! Game changer!” It wasn’t long before newer methods of digital marketing emerged and traditional direct mail became a dinosaur on the verge of extinction.
Today, investments in digital marketing are a key component to a digital enterprise’s competitive advantage. The convergence of technology and marketing has never before been so tightly coupled, thus having a profound impact on overall marketing strategies. In fact, a 2013 U.S. Digital Marketing Spending Survey by Gartner reports that two-thirds of marketers have a capital expenditure budget that they are using to acquire marketing software licenses and infrastructure.
Marketers are looking for an easier, lower cost way to get the capacity they need to develop digital marketing campaigns when and where they need it.
Delivering engaging experiences requires real time, high performing architectures that provide marketers the ability to measure and improve the performance of their websites or campaigns and tie them more closely to overall corporate goals. The insights garnered from the massive amounts of data collected can then be used to dynamically adjust creative execution or content for optimal performance.
The secret to success when shifting your digital marketing efforts to the public cloud is to enable digital operations that drive real-time action plans to better serve your customers. Additionally, it is important to recognize that digital marketing campaign management isn’t the only area where digital enterprises are reaping the benefits of the public cloud.
Over the next few weeks, we will explore how businesses like Adobe, DVF and Magento are benefiting from an increased flexibility and agility to quickly respond to changes in the marketplace and scale their marketing operations globally—at a much lower cost than traditional methods—by running the following digital marketing efforts in the public cloud:
- Websites & Web Applications
- Dev & Test Environments
- Content Delivery
In today’s world, consumer habits change fast and marketing decisions need to be made within seconds, not days. Shifting your marketing operations to the public cloud enables you to deliver marketing content and campaigns with the levels of availability, performance, and personalization that your customers expect while lowering your costs and driving preferred business outcomes.