In case we have a busy traffic website, we have to consider higher hosting solutions like dedicated server or cloud hosting or other service like content delivery network(CDN). Cloud hosting is scalable but expensive service, unless it's a MUST, we always need more affordable service. Today we're going to compare the CDN and dedicated server solutions and find which is actually better.
CDN is short for Content Delivery Network. The goal of a CDN is to serve content to end-users with high availability and high performance. CDN networks serve almost all web contents like text, urls, videos etc.
How will CDN help with our website?
With CDN service, there're multiple internet nodes configured to share the web contents so once our website is browsed, it will send out data from the nearest datacenter to users. In this way, CDN reduced the latency or failure that's caused by webserver or network etc. Some CDN networks use P2P technology to cache files on as more devices in order to generate best performance.
CDN vs Dedicated server
Since CDN is already so nice, why should we need dedicated server? What would be the CDN weakness comparing to the traditional dedicated server? Well, let's read below.
Logically the CDN be able to ensure 100% uptime since it's served by multiple servers/networks, however it's quite possible to get slowness because of network configurations. With dedicated server, performance will rely on server hardware configurations and datacenter network. Because there's dedicated bandwidth allocation, we won't see too much latency.
There're many CDN service providers on the market, however their service quality varies a lot. A CDN can be setup via 3 or 30 nodes. A decent service have datacenters on multiple locations on the planet like Microsoft azure, however it's not doable for most CDN providers, they just recent some servers from different DCs and don't have too much access to the network stuff.
A Dedicated server is fully handled by our hands with full access to any side configurations. We have full control over resource allocation as well as security updates/protection. In a word, we just play with our wish from dedicated server, but it requires professional management skills or it's easy to product problems.
This could be the most concern for CDN service. Since it will send our website data on multiple servers/locations, it's hard to get everything protected especially when there's sensitive information on website.
On the other hand, a dedicated server will provide us top level security over any data because everything is stored on a single device. As long as the single server is protected properly, we don't have to worry data leaks.
When problem does occur, the CDN support will have to track every nodes for fixing and the process might take a long time depends the complicacy. A dedicated server is actually supported by our own, as long as the server is up and we have access to it. Means, unless it's a MUST, we don't have to bother our server provider for problem fixing.
When should we choose CDN or dedicated server?
Normally, a decent dedicated server is far more expensive than cdn services especially there're more and more free cdn providers like cloudflare. As above comparison, we should have learnt a dedicated server actually performs better than CDN as it's powered by dedicated resource.
When for CDN? If you have limited budget and website visitor locations vary a lot, we could consider a cdn service. If we have a heavy traffic site with sensitive data such as shopping cart, we should consider dedicated solution or at least a decent VPS server.
Who offers best CDN service? Microsoft Azure is probably the best since they have over 24 global DCs to serve. If we need affordable cdn, the cloudflare might be good to try out and they offer free integration for personal sites. If we need affordable and quality dedicated servers, we highly suggest hostgator, they're powered by leading datacenter provider "Softlayer"