How to Build a CDN: Create your Own CDN for Improved Flexibility

May 15, 2021
Ann Oliver

For accelerating your website growth with a high-performance network, there is no better choice than implementing a CDN, a highly distributed assembly of web servers and data centers that optimise your website content delivery and performance by limiting latency. It serves the users with the requested content delivered from their closest server, thus improving loading time. 

You have a handful of options of high-quality CDNs out there, but not everyone's need is the same, neither the budget sometimes allow, right? While you can outsource the entire service, have you ever wondered how to build a CDN to match your specific requirements and enjoy more flexibility and scalability?

To help you throughout the process, I am offering a brief overview of how you can build a CDN.

How Does a CDN Work

Let's describe the working process of CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) in a nutshell. As I have already mentioned, CDNs deliver static content (images, videos, JavaScript, HTML files) (sometimes dynamic) of a website from the server in proximity to a user upon receiving a request.

  • It caches all website content, files, data, and pages before (push CDN) or upon request (pull CDN) reclaiming from the origin server and distributes them among all its edge servers. 
  • Once the CDN gets a content request, it promptly delivers that content from the nearest CDN server available to the requested user. 
  • The origin server hosts the site and delivers content from a single server. So the request has to cross a longer distance than a CDN.
  • The less distance the request has to cross, the less time it takes to deliver content. 
  • Hence it takes less time for the CDN service to deliver content than the origin server. 

When You Need Your Own CDN

Are you wondering whether you should go with commercial CDNs or build your own one? Let's get insight into the circumstances that indicate you need your own CDN:

  • Commercial CDN services can cost you a lot of money. If you are running on a limited budget and still need your website to perform optimally, the most viable solution is to go with a private CDN.
  • Do you require full control over your website content, ensuring top-notch security? Build your own CDN instead of using a traditional one that can induce compliance and security issues. 
  • Creating a private CDN is viable when you want confirmed bandwidth and a permanent cache.
  • You can accelerate your dynamic content delivery with your private CDN system.
  • When you hire a CDN provider, you don't have control over the network configurability. They may fail to serve the visitors of some specific locations as they might not have data centers in your target regions. When you have your own CDN, you can configure the CDN network better and serve the visitors better. 

How to Build a CDN

Now that you have decided to integrate a self-managed private CDN with your website, let's get an in-depth overview of how to build a CDN.

Creating a CDN requires you to follow the following three steps:

  • Use physical machines or cloud instances to build the CDN
  • Employ Isps and routing principles
  • Origin server and PoPs configuration

Let's get into the details:

On-premises or Cloud: Choose the Best One

which would be the most viable solution for deploying your CDN, cloud instances, or physical machines? Don't fret, as you also have the option to use cloud instances for some portion of your private CDN and on-premises for others!

Take the following factors into account and make the best deployment decision:

  • If you intend to go with a cloud infrastructure, evaluate if the provider you are considering has all the required setup, machines, and data centers to serve your content available in your target location. 
  • Analyse which setup will suit your case better, on-premises setup or public cloud?
  • Evaluate which one would be cheaper for you based on your traffic load/second. Would it be viable for you to hire IT professionals to handle the architecture, or can you depend on Logging as a Service (LAAS)?
  • Choose the best setup: hybrid, on-premises, or public cloud, that will make your system more scalable.
  • Count on different security features and vulnerabilities coming with each option.

Pick the Right ISPs and Routing 

Now that you have selected the deployment system, the time has come to implement ISPs and routing principles to point the requests your site receives to the PoPs nearest to the visitors. 

While executing this step, keep an expert eye on the following points:

  • Make sure your ISP(s) cover your target location(s).
  • Ensure your ISP is always available
  • Considering the cost is another significant criterion while selecting your ISP (Internet service provider) as the cost is a variant of multiple factors.  
  • Make sure your ISPs can cope with rapid traffic shifts. 

Origin server and PoPs configuration

While selecting the origin server to host your website, you would choose a provider close to you, right? When it comes to the point of PoPs (Points of Presence), you need to be thoughtful and place them in your target locations based on the following factors:

  • Evaluate in which region you want your website or business to flourish and place the PoPs accordingly.
  • Count on the latency between your site visitors and hosting server while placing the PoPs.
  • Evaluate your website traffic pattern to ensure your users enjoy top-notch browsing, and your infrastructure works optimally. 

Besides these core steps, you must get a quality DNS service and security certificates for all PoPs and ensure a robust content distribution system setup (to ensure all PoPs house the same content).

Benefits of Traditional CDN

Though few, a traditional CDN has some advantages over a private CDN. Some of them are:

  • Commercial CDNs are more effortless to deploy, set up, and integrate with your website than a private one.
  • Unless you opt for cloud instances, you require your own infrastructure to deploy your own CDN (a costly process). On the other hand, a commercial CDN comes with the software and required infrastructure.
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