telecommunications

How CDNlion Built its Content Delivery Network

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Two years ago, Adam Dunovsky had an idea while working at the National Gallery in Prague. He thought it would be amazing to be able to bring some of the gallery’s paintings – his nation’s national treasures – to the public in a high resolution, online gallery.

The problem was that such a site would draw a great deal of visitors from around the world and take up significant resources. The solution was using a content delivery network to distribute content to a variety of servers so that a flood of requests don’t slow down the site. But this raised another problem: that the current CDN offerings were either too complicated to use or too expensive.

Figuring that many other organizations and businesses were faced with the same problem, Dunovsky founded CDNlion, a simple, flexible and affordable CDN that launched in January.

Speaking over the phone from CDNlion’s base of operations in Prague, Dunovsky says it was a longer journey than he had first expected to get CDNlion to its wide release. “We invested a lot of money into development,” he says.

To quickly establish a large, worldwide network, CDNlion used the OnApp cloud platform which has a federated network of 170 global locations, and more than 2,000 clouds available for use. “The OnApp platform is awesome…Suddenly we didn’t have to invest millions of dollars into servers all across the world. We could just join a network of servers and actually pay them for what we use.”

Build a service on it, however, took longer than the couple weeks than Dunovsky had expected.

“You basically get a server from which you control the whole thing, but you have to create your own app to work with their software,” he says. He had originally hired a programmer in the US to connect the customer area with the CDN platform, but he was unable to make it work after two months of programming.

Luckily, Dunovsky was able to recruit a friend of a friend, Lex de Ruijter, to take over development, and he was able to make it work. Still, this was a setback. “It turned out that it took us eight months before we could actually start selling.” There was also two months of beta testing as well as additional time spent optimizing landing pages for conversions.

But in late January, two years after dreaming up this idea, CDNlion has taken shape and is more-or-less what Dunovsky had imagined.

Globally distributed content and a globally distributed team

It’s interesting to note that much like the CDN it offers, CDNlion’s team is globally dispersed including five offices and sales representatives in different countries. The team uses a collaboration tool called Trello to manage projects and keep communication channels open.

Make it different than other OnApp CDNs

The OnApp cloud platform is available to anyone wanting to create a CDN, so differentiating it from other OnApp-based CDNs such as CDN.net, CDNify and CDN77 becomes vital. According to Dunovsky, CDN.net lets users choose individual locations (such as only Osaka) but it tends to cost more, and CDNify and CDN77 have most of their presence in US and Europe rather than Australia and Asia.

In contrast, CDNlion offers the entire OnApp network, and very competitive pricing – pay-as-you-go starting at $25 for 500 GB. Dunovsky also notes that his team’s tech support response times are very quick, and that, as a sign of customer satisfaction, a high percentage of those registering for free trials have opted to become paying customers.

Educating content producers and retailers on the benefits of CDNs

“A lot of companies don’t know that the CDN exists or how it works or what kinds of benefits it brings,” Dunovsky says, noting that just for a few dollars a month, one can have faster page load times which keep visitors on a site and provide a better position in Google search results. It can also provide the additional geographically distributed capacity that could fend off DDoS attacks that flood servers with requests. “We’re constantly thinking about how to educate people,” he says.

The presence of more CDN options has meant that not just large media businesses but small and mid-tier companies are able to reap the benefits of CDNs, and the drop in price has been a huge enabler.

While careful not to go into too much detail, Dunovsky says he hopes to create some sort of service or platform that helps educate people on CDNs, not as a way to drive sales but as a way to promote CDNs as a solution to a common problem many businesses face. He also suggests that a way to compare CDN solutions could make it easier for them to choose one.

CDNlion will continue to accelerate static online content as it has been doing, but the company is also hoping to accelerate dynamic applications, which is something customers have been asking for.

For now, Dunovsky is confident that he and his team can bring things like world-famous galleries and many other things more quickly and reliably to people worldwide.

About the Author

David Hamilton is a Toronto-based technology journalist who has written for the National Post and other news outlets. He has covered the hosting industry internationally for the Web Host Industry Review with particular attention to innovative hosting solutions and the issues facing the industry. David is a graduate of Queen’s University and the Humber College School of Media Studies.

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