CDNs evolved to enable businesses to deliver content over the internet to anywhere in the world with less latency, lag, jitters, and time. However, a single CDN is still vulnerable to outages and crashes.
Regardless of your audience, traffic, or content, one CDN will never be as efficient or foolproof as a multi-CDN solution, which is why most modern-day businesses and streaming providers rely on a multi-CDN architecture.
But what are the key factors that make a multi-CDN different from a CDN, and what benefits can you expect with this upgrade? Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about multi-CDNs, including how they work, who needs them, and use cases for opting for a multi-CDN over a CDN.
What Is a Multi-CDN?
Multi-CDNs cache your content across multiple content delivery networks (CDNs) to increase your geographic coverage, improve performance, and reduce vulnerabilities.
However, understanding a multi-CDN is easier once you comprehend CDNs and how they work. A CDN is a network of servers distributed geographically to close the physical distance between content and consumers. Shorter distance gaps lead to faster load times, enhanced website performance, and fewer service disruptions.
A CDN isn’t a web host—it’s just a collection of connected edge servers. Your CDN connects to your web hosting provider to cache content at the network edge, enabling your consumers to request and receive content in less time.
Multi-CDNs combine several CDNs under one extensive global network to:
- Expand geographic availability
- Accelerate transfer speed
- Balance loads
- Provide backups in case a CDN network goes down
- Enhance website security and prevent attacks
A multi-CDN has the flexibility to make intelligent routing decisions based on downtime, location, and performance. When traffic spikes during a holiday and clogs servers, a multi-CDN can balance the load by re-routing requests to another available nearby CDN.
How Is a Multi-CDN Different from a CDN?
Multi-CDNs are a combination of single CDN providers, but that accumulation causes quite a few differences.
Network Points of Presence (POPs)
A single CDN might only have network points of presence in a single country or region, but a multi-CDN solution could have POPs in hundreds of countries.
For example, if you used a US-based CDN to deliver content faster around the country, a new viewer in Spain might experience interruptions or slow download speeds. However, with a multi-CDN solution, your potential customer in Spain would ping a server from a closer CDN rather than all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.
Single CDN servers could become overwhelmed if you experience a massive surge in traffic or streams. While they could re-route traffic to the appropriate servers, there’s a chance the load could cause service disruptions, buffering, and lag.
The multi-CDN architecture ensures content delivery never slows down your business’s growth. Regardless of your size or video streaming requirements, you’ll have a solution you can trust to expand with your audience and content needs.
While a CDN provides more reliability and uptime than a single origin server, they’re still susceptible to outages and crashes. A multi-CDN solution provides failover options so that your viewers and visitors never experience any downtime.
For example, JW Player’s multi-CDN approach has a network of POPs in 130+ countries to provide a 99.99% global delivery uptime. You can’t achieve uptime reliability like that with a single CDN.
Top Benefits of a Multi-CDN Service Provider
When evaluating the pros and cons of a multi-CDN, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages:
- Performance: Multi-CDN setups reduce latency and improve loading times, leading to high-quality streaming and video-on-demand experiences.
- Security: Multi-CDNs provide enhanced protection to prevent DDoS attacks and bot infiltration.
- Scalability: Live stream and host as much video-on-demand content as you’d like without delivery becoming your limiting factor.
- Reliability: Having multiple CDNs ensures your website or application doesn’t crash when there’s a single point of failure.
- Cost-Savings: Multi-CDN providers often let you route to the cheaper option if multiple choices exist. And end-users pinging your edge network servers demand less bandwidth than distant calls to your origin server.
The Biggest Downside to Multi-CDNs
As you’d expect, a multi-CDN solution will almost always cost more than a single CDN provider. Multi-CDN systems must maintain more servers and additional routing complexities, and this increases the bill on your end.
It’s up to you to decide whether the advantages are worth the higher price tag, but the choice becomes a bit easier when you look at the return on investment.
Increasing your site’s loading time by just 1 second can improve your conversion rate by 5%. Faster load times lead to happier customers, fewer bounces, and more people consuming your content, leading to more buyers, subscribers, and viewers.
That’s not to mention the hard-to-determine value of first impressions. A customer might visit your site for the first time, have a great experience, decide to become a customer, and encourage their friends and family to do the same. Another customer might visit your site, struggle with buffering and latency issues, click away disappointed, and recommend a different service to their followers.
How Does a Multi-CDN Work?
Multi-CDNs work by routing traffic to the appropriate CDNs in the network. Systems make routing decisions based on different strategies and variables that your multi-CDN enables. Here are a few multi-CDN strategies:
Users configure static DNS entries for each CDN in the multi-CDN network. The system manager might route all traffic from one application to a certain CDN and traffic from a website to another CDN.
System managers add smarter routing intelligence to a managed DNS service. This solution can usually identify errors and server failures and route traffic to the next best CDN.
Round-robin configurations route requests to each CDN sequentially. The first request would go to CDN 1, the second request would go to CDN 2, and the third request would go to CDN 3—and so on in the pattern. This distributes traffic equally across your servers to balance traffic and reduce congestion on any particular CDN, but it doesn’t necessarily optimize based on performance benefits or cost.
Weighted Round Robin
The weighted round-robin approach lets you choose which CDNs should receive traffic more frequently. For example, you might route more traffic to a stronger CDN or one that’s more centrally located to your primary user base while routing less traffic to your other CDNs.
A geo-based multi-CDN setup chooses the closest CDN to the requestor. This minimizes bandwidth requirements, improves performance, and accelerates loading time. However, certain CDNs can become overwhelmed if traffic in a geographical location spikes.
Multi-CDNs with variable-driven configurations intelligently route traffic based on variables such as location, weights, performance, cost, and more. They use real-time data to account for multiple variables and make the most cost-effective, performance-driven decisions. For example, a load-balancing multi-CDN would look at these factors:
- Performance: The Multi-CDN looks at performance metrics from the player and makes a decision based on the device, location, and user experience to send traffic to the best-fitting CDN.
- Latency: If a CDN’s taking too long to respond, load balancing will switch traffic to another CDN with faster response times.
- Cost: Each CDNs has its own prices to deliver data. Multi-CDN providers can analyze cost and performance to decide whether to send traffic to a lower-costing CDN.
However, these systems can be complex to build and configure.
Typically, the more complex your setup, the higher price you’ll pay. Not every business or streaming service needs a variable-driven multi-CDN, and opting for a static DNS or geo-location-based solution could be a cost-saver.
Who Needs a Multi-CDN Solution?
Any organization that wants to ensure a strong multi-region uptime and top-notch performance will need a multi-CDN solution. Some smaller businesses with limited content needs might get by with a single CDN, but they’re still vulnerable to outages, attacks, and overloaded servers.
The following businesses should use a multi-CDN approach to ensure the best quality for their customers:
- Mobile Applications
- Film and TV
- Fitness Classes
- Game Providers
- Online Course Platforms
- SaaS Companies
Use Cases for Multi-CDN vs. CDN
Can’t decide whether your business needs a CDN or multi-CDN? Let’s look through a few examples and use cases to help you see when you might want to upgrade to a multi-CDN.
- Traffic Increases: CDNs have capacity limitations. If your traffic looks like it will exceed the restrictions, you’ll need multiple CDNs.
- Performance Declines: Notice decreasing performance or an increase in customer complaints? Your current CDN might not be able to handle the demands, and a multi-CDN provider might be your best option.
- Geographic Distribution: Looking to expand your audience beyond country borders? CDNs can get the job done for a single region or country, but we recommend upgrading to a multi-CDN if you want to engage an international audience.
- Security Concerns: Multi-CDNs are better equipped to deal with malicious attacks and outages. If security is a top concern, opt for a multi-CDN solution.
- Cost-Savings: Multi-CDNs typically cost more to set up and implement, but they can help you realize long-term cost savings by efficiently balancing out loads and distributing traffic to lower-cost CDNs when the situation allows.
Choose a Video Platform With a Multi-CDN Solution
Multi-CDN solutions are a modern-day must-have for companies that stream live or on-demand video content. It improves load times, reduces lag, expands availability, and enhances security. Customers no longer ask for these types of benefits—they just expect them.
Are you looking to provide live-streaming content and video on-demand? If your business depends on video, don’t settle for anything less than a multi-CDN solution. You need to ensure your customers can view your content (anytime, anywhere) without worrying about single points of failure.
JW Player’s end-to-end video solution lets you upload, manage, and deliver video at scale. Our multi-CDN approach has a network of POPs in 130+ countries and a 99.99% global delivery uptime. Your viewers get optimized video (up to 4K resolution) regardless of device, location, or bandwidth.
Beyond CDNs, our complete video platform is purpose-built for video companies to connect and engage with their audiences:
- Play: Use our player to deliver beautiful viewing experiences across your websites, mobile apps, or connected TV.
- Stream: Deliver high-quality video experiences without buffering or lag to your audience on any device.
- Monetize: Maximize your fill rate and CPMs so you never leave money on the table.
- Engage: Keep your audience watching by capturing their attention with Article Matching and Recommendations.
Start your 30-day free trial to see the quality and performance that a multi-CDN approach makes possible.