Difference between cloud computing and CDN

By Srikanth
6 Min Read
Difference between cloud computing and CDN

Twenty years ago, Bill Gates proclaimed “content is king.” Even he couldn’t have predicted back then just how much content people would consume each day in 2021 – or the seemingly impossible task of delivering applications and content to growing global audiences.


Performance and scalability are the main challenges. The two most powerful tools to solve these problems are content delivery networks (CDN) and cloud computing. The differences between the two are obvious, but how do you know which one will suit you the best?

An initial comparison between a CDN and cloud infrastructure may appear analogous. However, they serve quite different purposes. In this article, we’ll examine what a CDN is, compare it to the cloud, and evaluate the two technologies. 

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

CDNs are simply networks of servers that deliver content. This is how it works: There are one or more origin servers, as well as “cache” servers situated throughout the world. To geographically proximate end users, these caches are strategically positioned. When necessary, source media is sent from origin servers to cache servers.

The CDN URL is converted into an IP address by the Domain Name Service (DNS) to call the resource or content from a server located closer to the user than the origin server. Having the information travel a shorter distance and reducing latency will improve the delivery of content to end-users. Distributing the load across several servers reduces stress on the main server(s).

CDN Use Cases

Video, music, and images are commonly delivered using a CDN. Streaming media is also increasingly being delivered through them. CDNs might be useful for organizations distributing streaming video to users in multiple states weekly, for instance. In contrast, your favorite video streaming service also makes use of CDN technology. Depending on factors such as the user’s distance from the server, the user experience will vary.

  • A higher latency might cause slower video loading times for those accessing the stream from different parts of the country. 
  • Should the central server run into user connection limits or suffer other resource consumption issues, all users might experience delivery issues. 
  • With CDNs, streaming media is distributed to local servers instead of the origin server, reducing the load on the server, thus lowering the likelihood of overburdening and ensuring lower latency.

Cloud Computing

Utilizing otherwise unused computing resources, cloud computing enables application and content delivery at a reduced price. Despite having a modest number of users, the majority of computers sit idle. A server can be virtualized by harnessing its resources (processor, memory, and storage) to create many virtual machines (VM), each serving its application and data.

In the wake of the advent of the cloud, hypervisor technology – which controls virtualized servers – has greatly advanced, enabling us to manage clusters of hosts with multiple virtual machines that share resources even if one of the hosts is malfunctioning. VM technologies and cloud technologies, by abstracting applications from underlying physical hardware, provide applications with performance resiliency and reliability. AWS and Azure offer hyper-scale public cloud services, as well as custom-designed private clouds.

Cloud Computing Use Cases

Although cloud computing is primarily used to manage more efficiently the resources on hosts and networks, this technology can also be used to deploy server images easily to a particular host or cluster. So it can be easily used by developers to distribute content across multiple geographies, much like a CDN.

  • The application can also include disaster recovery strategies, such as turning it into a hot standby or replicating the application environment to a different location very quickly. 
  • Using a cloud computing environment to share resources among several virtual machines means an organization can lower its hardware expenditures. 
  • If several physical hosts are necessary, each host can be devoted to a different application function (e.g., databases, GUI, etc.). If the number of users increases, the organization can simply spin up new virtual hosts.

Now, the differences 

The answer to this question depends on your business requirements, which can be challenging on the best of days. It is not uncommon for a startup to grow much faster than expected. In that case, it has to scale. Rather than the differences pointed out, you have two options on your plate. An effective technology must:

  • Increasing the number of servers to distribute the workload
  • Make sure you have a dedicated server for the database
  • Every server should be upgraded with more memory
  • Servers should have more RAM
  • Invest in a more powerful CPU instead of the current one
  • A small business or individual maintaining their own servers would have a lot of responsibilities and resources to devote to this.

Using the cloud, you can upgrade your system for a fraction of what it would cost if you had to do it yourself. You have many options when you’re unhappy with a client. For most businesses, however? A CDN is ideal. Having said that, select the best one that suits our business logic and needs.

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