We all hope that the website or websites that we host on our dedicated servers will one day reach millions of people per month, per week, or even per day. But how many are really prepared for such a day if and when it occurs? What technology will you use to ensure your server does not weaken and buckle under the enormous weight of so many visitors?
One tool to consider using is a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Most of the bandwidth-heavy data that websites send across the Internet consists of images, videos, large documents, media streams, and other forms of downloads. HTML text loads quickly and does not take up much space, but images can add up rather quickly. Add videos or even larger downloads, such as software, and you have the makings of a content-heavy server that will put your network strength, CPU power, and memory capcity to the test.
Content delivery networks act as extra media distributors that operate in the cloud. Rather than hosting all of your media on a central server, a CDN service will host copies of your media and distribute them from various geographical locations. For example, a user in China will not have to download your images from your server in Canada, but rather a closer server in Singapore. This reduces server load and makes delivery of the content faster and more efficient.
There are both commercial CDNs, available at a price, such as Amazon CloudFront and Akami, as well as free CDNs, many of which rely on peer-to-peer file sharing to increase efficiency and distribution.