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Tech companies need to optimize software delivery and downloads: How CDNs can help

The halcyon days where software programs were delivered on compact discs and DVD media are gradually fading away—remember the floppy disk? However, despite this evolution, software is not actually getting any smaller. Embedded video, audio, and other media content are making the install size of most programs increase at an almost exponential rate.

Tech companies that provide software to customers are faced with a dilemma. They need to provide web-based delivery of their software programs, as well as any updates, while maintaining the file size for this software. Only the best content delivery networks (CDN) solve this dilemma.

Leveraging a CDN for fast web-based software delivery

Tech companies that offer online software to their customers need to ensure that clients are able to download the software in a timely manner. Slow or interrupted downloads are an easy way to make a customer unhappy, and you can be sure that word of these issues will spread quickly and discourage potential customers.

Leveraging a CDN for software delivery is a more practical way to improve download performance at a minimal cost than trying to make on-premise technology investments at your own company. Letting the experts in the field work their magic allows your firm to concentrate on writing great software.

What a CDN provides to software companies

In addition to 10 times the improved download times, CDNs also offer other tangible benefits to software providers. Unlimited scalability ensures that as your customer base grows, your download performance doesn’t suffer—no matter the size of your software. Security is handled easily using URL/referrer blocking as well as tight control to subscription-based content.

It is vital for tech companies to put their best foot forward when offering online downloads. Partnering with a quality CDN like CacheFly is a smart move to ensure your customer base remains happy and continues to grow.

Sign up for a free test drive and see why thousands of software providers trust CacheFly for faster downloads.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Measuring Throughput Performance: DNS vs. TCP Anycast Routing

Since 2002, when we pioneered the first TCP-anycast CDN, CacheFly has always used throughput and availability as the two metrics that drive us as a company.

Many CDNs rely on DNS-based routing methods; however, there are several differences between the two , which directly translates to throughput, the real indicator of a CDN’s performance as well as availability.  Since customers frequently ask us what the differences are between the technologies, here’s a quick overview discussing the benefits of TCP-anycast routing over DNS.

Cedexis-Graph

Cedexis measures highest average CDN throughput performance of a 100kb file in the U.S. in April, 2014.


Traditional DNS CDN

DNS-based routing is known as the ‘traditional’, or old-school way of doing global traffic management. DNS routing works by locating the customer’s DNS server and trying to make an informed decision on where the DNS server is located, and which CDN location is closest to that DNS server, and returns that IP address. This operated under the assumption that the physical location, as well as network topology, of the DNS server is a good approximation of both of those values for the actual client behind the DNS server. This is a big leap of faith* (especially in the age of services like OpenDNS and Google Public carrying a significant amount of the worlds DNS traffic).  As an example, a certain DSL providers maintains their DNS infrastructure in Atlanta, yet almost 60% of their subscribers are in Southern California – this results in 100% of the traffic behind those DNS servers being served from Atlanta. Not good.

* The edns-client-subnet extension (which CacheFly supports and uses with OpenDNS and Google, among others) ‘fixes’ this problem, however, the DNS based CDNs are struggling with the transition as their systems were designed to map nameservers to POPs, and the edns-client-subnet solution effectively requires them to now be able to map the entire routing table, which is a much bigger challenge to properly monitor performance/availability on a prefix-by-prefix basis in real-time.

More importantly, availability and failover is a large challenge when using a DNS solution, as the TTL of the response must be reached to change locations, and even then, some clients cache the first response and users have to actually restart their browser or client to get a new IP if a POP goes offline (assuming the CDN is even aware that it became unreachable). This can be mitigated by choosing a low TTL which many providers do; however, in turn, this delays performance as resolvers must frequently re-request the same DNS record, delaying the first connection for hostnames that should be in the resolvers cache.

TCP-Anycast CDN

Our TCP-anycast method leverages the best of both worlds – using both DNS and the actual core routing table of the Internet (BGP) to intelligently take client requests and serve from where the *client* is located on the Internet and lets the providers internal metrics find the topographically closest CDN server. This is a huge win for both performance and availability. With anycast, the actual IP address of endpoints never changes, which means we can use a high TTL to ensure a great end-user experience by letting resolvers cache a response. In the event of a provider outage, or if we need to take a POP offline for maintenance, traffic is seamlessly routed to the next best location, without requiring a browser restart, and with a rapid convergence time that’s simply not possible with DNS solutions.

Evaluating CDNs? Look for throughput.

Many of our customers use CacheFly to deliver larger files: videos, apps, games, software downloads; our throughput performance makes it a no brainer to use CacheFly.  What most people don’t realize, is throughput is *as important* for small object/web page delivery.  When researching web performance it’s easy to be convinced that response time or time-to-first-byte (TTFB) is the metric that you need to optimize for.  Those same articles and so-called experts will also tell you it’s extremely important to enable browser side caching, so that your clients don’t have to make a 304 request back to the CDN.

Here’s the thing.. measuring ‘response time’ or TTFB, is simply measuring the performance of 304 responses (headers without content).  These are the very requests you just eliminated with client-side browser caching!

So, if you’re not re-requesting content from the CDN, you want that first request (200 response) to complete as fast as possible.  That’s time-to-last byte (TTLB) – That’s throughput!

 

Start optimizing your static objects for time-to-last-byte and your site will load faster, period.

 

So..Why do people still focus on response time?

First, it’s still a huge factor in loading dynamic, server-generated content where the payload is small and the client spends most of the time waiting for the response to be generated.

However, for large, static content, the TTFB is a small percentage of the overall request – the client spends most of the time actually downloading the object.

Using latency or response time to estimate TTLB/throughput is a pretty good idea – when you don’t have a way to measure throughput.  And for most of the 2000’s, people didn’t have a way to measure this in the real world, so TTFB was as good a metric as any.

However, with the advent of RUM (real user monitoring) measurements from companies like New Relic of page render time, and companies like Cedexis and CloudHarmony actually measuring and reporting on real-world throughput, there’s no reason to use TTFB to makes guesses as to how fast the page will load, you can actually choose the fastest provider based on throughput.

Whether you’re looking for a CDN or are already using one, make sure you’re optimizing for throughput. I encourage you to take advantage of our free test account and experience the CacheFly difference for yourself.

CacheFly Now Using Authy Two-Factor Authentication

To protect our customers against fraudulent data breaches, we have taken account security to the next level by integrating Two-Factor Authentication (2FA).  We evaluated several of the 2FA solutions on the market, and Authy gave us the easiest implementation, a great mobile client, and great customer support. If your organization is looking for a two-factor authentication solution, we highly recommend Authy!

What is two-factor authentication?
Two-factor authentication is the second level of authentication to an account login, where 2-3 types of credentials are requested to provide login access. These include either something you know (e.g. PIN, password, etc.), something you have (e.g. ATM card, token, etc.), or something you are (e.g. fingerprints, voice prints, iris patterns, etc.). With 2FA, the user must correctly enter two of these three factors to successfully login.

To enable two-factor authentication, follow the steps below.  

step1

Step 1: Login

To setup two-factor authentication, simply login as usual, then click on “manage two factor auth.”

Step 2: Settings

Step 2: Settings

Enter your email and mobile phone number to receive a link to download the Authy app.

authy-mobile

Step 3: Retrieve your unique token

After downloading the Authy app onto your phone, it will ask you to register your phone and text you a unique token number.

step4

Step 4: Add your Authy token

Enter your unique token into your account portal and click “finish.” You’re done!

Step 5: Login

Step 5: Login

You will then see a confirmation, stating “This account is protected by two-factor authentication.” Next time you log in, you will be asked for your token code as the second level of authentication.

Are you using two-factor authentication for your business yet? Find out more information on Authy’s two-factor authentication by visiting authy.com.

Make a lasting impression with a business website makeover

Today’s guest post is written by SocialMonsters, a strategic content creation and publishing team based in Phoenix, AZ.

When potential customers visit your website, that first impression is significant. How a potential customer views your brand starts as soon as they land on your homepage. Thus, it is vital to make that first impression a lasting one. Makeover your business website with these simple tips and watch your sales take off!

Dust Off the Ol’ Website

Put it on your calendar, it’s time to revamp your website again! Nothing turns potential customers away faster than a dated website that shouts 2008. Enhancing your website on a regular basis will show visitors you are up to date on current content and trends and will also improve your site’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) rankings if done right.

But where to start? First, decide if your website needs a bit of spring cleaning, a thorough makeover or a complete overhaul. Then, make sure all of your business information is current. Next, make all the trendy social media links easily accessible. Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest are just a few linkable sites that should be added. Social media links are a fantastic way for your customers to help you promote your business for free by sharing your products, ideas and tips to others.

Make It Jazzy

One key component of a good website is visual stimulation. Visit any movie website, like “The LEGO Movie,” and you’ll get an idea of just how interactive and visually stimulating a website can be. However, your small business obviously isn’t going to have a budget for such a vivid site. Use these sites to brainstorm for ideas.

Sixty-five percent of people who visit your site are visual learners, according to Webdam.com. Thus, photos and videos pump up interest immediately. Adding images and video clips to your site doesn’t have to be expensive. You can either upload your own photos and videos or use stock videos provided by sites like Shutterstock. These are top-of-the-line professional stock videos that are clear, vivid and attractive!

Increase the Speed

One caution in adding more to your website is making sure its page speed is up to snuff. A slow-loading website will not only frustrate viewers, but now Google has made it known that slow-loading websites may have their search rankings affected, according to Moz. Keep your widgets and plugins to a minimum and avoid huge graphics and ad overload. Plugging your website into a CDN (content delivery network) technology can also boost your page speed. Simply put, CDN technology speeds up your page by sharing multiple copies of content on several servers, which is called content replication. With the use of several servers and copied material, any high volume of viewers coming to your site won’t bog down the page speed.

Give it a Personal Touch

Adding a blog to your site offers several advantages. It boosts your SEO ranking, allows you to pull in new viewers, gives you an excellent marketing tool to talk about your brand, and perhaps most importantly, gets you connected to customers on a personal level. With a blog, you’re not only creating a larger network of friends and followers, you’re creating a solid circle of returning customers who trust and believe in what you have to say. Don’t make it all about your brand. Bring in your own voice and let people know you yourself are trustworthy.

How frequently you should blog is a delicate balancing act. Too much or too little can put viewers off forever. Study your website traffic as best as you can. Using analytic tools, like Google Analytics, can help you understand the traffic you’re attracting (or not attracting). This will not only help you decide how often to blog, but also what kind of features your newly upgraded blog should focus on.

Stay tuned for CacheFly’s new redesigned website, set to launch in October!

Author Credit: SocialMonsters.org

Digital media makes splash in creative interactive advertising

digital media image

Interactive digital media touchscreens may be replacing storefront windows, creating a 24-hour shopping experience for customers.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, digital media is being utilized by advertisers to connect with customers in more creative ways. Many companies are joining the trend, but the best ones are coming up with ways to combine their digital signage technology with interactive marketing. Here are some ways companies are using digital media to take interactive advertising to the next level to engage their customers:

Reacting to real-time events

A digital subway ad in Sweden promoted hair care products with an interactive display that changed a model’s hair from normal to windswept as trains entered and left the station. Another digital billboard above London’s Heathrow Airport displayed a seated child standing up and pointing directly to passing British Airways planes as they took off. The fitting hashtag #lookup was placed in the bottom corner, and flight numbers and destinations appeared for each flight as it passed by.

Putting the customer at the center of the action

BMW won the Content Award of the Year at the Digital Signage Expo for its interactive display in New York City. “BMW i: A Window Into the Near Future” used digital projection and motion-sensing technologies to transform passing cars into BMW electric and hybrid vehicles in real time. Drivers and pedestrians could look through BMW’s “window” to see BMWs mirrored back instead of the cars driving by on the street.

A shopping center in Brisbane, Australia put customers in virtual action against pirates and lions in an interactive digital display during school holidays, delighting kids and increasing shopper engagement.

Creating customized advertising experiences

Coca-Cola created a particularity impressive digital advertising experience for Valentine’s Day this year. A virtual vending machine hidden in a wall would light up with colorful graphics and music as couples walked by, inviting them to input their names. The couples were then treated to Coke cans imprinted with their names.

Turning storefronts into 24-hour shopping experiences

eBay has rented out storefronts in a San Francisco mall and turned them into giant touchscreens for shoppers. Customers can browse through items they would like to buy using the screens and their smartphones. Adidas has also turned a storefront in Nuremberg, Germany into a digital shop window, allowing customers to evaluate and purchase merchandise even when the store is closed.

With live-action advertisements becoming a popular way to engage consumers, more companies are turning to performance-enhancing content delivery networks (CDNs) to be sure their customers get the most out of these creative digital media projects. CDNs help deliver the rich media content used in interactive digital signage without downtime caused by lack of bandwidth, allowing for a faster and more reliable audience experience. Their on-demand, instantly scalable bandwidth makes it easy to implement in these fluctuating projects or for longer digital media campaigns.

Because these digital campaigns only have a couple of seconds to dazzle and wow consumers, they must always be performing optimally and cannot afford any lagging or downtime.

Image source: Flickr