What’s a CDN, I hear you ask? And why are CDNs all over the news right now?
A content delivery network is a kind of shortcut to the giant websites we all take for granted. We live in a society where immediate access to everything is pretty much expected, 24/7, at full speed and efficiency, and if it disappears, well, there’s all kinds of hell to pay.
CDN operators provide servers and local file hosting to many of the largest website operators in business, backing up their primary sites and servers by providing faster, more efficient local connections in various other placements across the globe.
For example, you live in London, but you love to keep up with the latest news in the New York Times. Instead of connecting to their server in the US, where it’s already managing vast numbers of Americans seeking out the latest news and gossip, you connect to an alternative server, far nearer home, that caches the important information to its local data centres. This ensures that NY Times visitors achieve the most efficient and enjoyable experience, especially where speed is essential—for example, streaming video articles and interviews.
Are all of our Internet eggs sat in a few great big server baskets?
So far, it all sounds ideal. Super quick connections and access provided by piggybacking ‘content HQ’. But here’s the problem. Because there are a small handful of major CDNs handling almost all of the biggest providers, when they fall, everyone else does too.
And that’s what happened to a major CDN operator recently, and along with it, Amazon, eBay, StackOverflow, Reddit, PayPal, Shopify, Github, Twitch, HMRC, and almost all of the news organisations you can think of.
Now, they weren’t going to stay down forever; most engineers working for these big businesses will turn the problem around as fast as they can, but for the retailers involved, it can never be quick enough.
From the minute your website is offline, you’re losing income.
The Guardian reported a few figures supplied by SEO agency Reboot, estimating that Amazon could likely have lost around $32m in sales during a recent CDN provider dropout. Their research suggests that the retail giant takes well over $6k/second, and being offline for almost an hour will soon add up to significant losses.
That’s a $32m ouch!
At another CDN provider that also went down one month later, they wrote on their blog "Many of the approximately 500 customers using this service were automatically rerouted, which restored operations within a few minutes…the large majority of the remaining customers manually rerouted shortly thereafter."
However, it took between 30 minutes and a couple of hours for the big banks' services to be fully restored.
Let’s get back to those ‘glued together door locks’
So, the CDN provider went down, and everyone’s virtual door locks got glued together. The message ‘Error 503 service unavailable’ flashed up in front of millions of users eyes leaving them confused and disorientated. After continuously hitting their refresh buttons until they’d worn out the skin on their thumbs or the glass on their phone screens, they likely gave up and ventured elsewhere.
Safeguarding against server and any such outages
Imagine if you could tell your customers that some prankster had glued all of your door locks together instead of watching them drift past (or about that bug in the CDN operator's code that controls your server delivery) and that everything would be back on track within the hour?
Even better, that you’d save their place in the queue for them; how many do you think would still go and shop somewhere else?
That’s what Queue-Fair does for you.
Such outages shouldn’t happen—even the CDN operator concerned said they were disappointed and surprised that the bug hadn’t been picked up earlier, that such an error could slip through their net, and that it caused so many issues for their customers. They issued the appropriate apologies and went back to business as usual.
Sadly, such errors will happen from time to time, and next time could have implications far worse than those of the recent CDN fallouts.
That isn’t what any of us in business wants to hear. We want protection.
Keeping hold of your customers and protecting your income
Queue-Fair offers precisely that protection.
When the Internet suffers any sort of outage (and that could be a supplier’s servers or your own), then your customers are redirected into a virtual queue—a holding page where you can keep them all informed of what’s going on, when things will return to normal, and that they’ll be fed back into the site they planned on visiting fairly and squarely.
You’ll keep far more of your customers than if you just let them drift off, confused and uneducated, into cyberspace, limiting how much of your income you’d be set to lose.
Big enough to cope, small enough to care
We’re all in when it comes to opting for best-bet options, especially if that’s where the value is, yet sometimes heading for the biggest of businesses isn’t always the way to go.
In our experience, we’ve found that it’s the smaller operations that deliver the most personal and effective service. Their staff know your business, your systems, so tend to be far more efficient when making upgrades, managing new ideas, and dealing with your people.
We don’t employ hundreds of people; we don’t need to. Any business like ours that does, we’d love to know what they do all day long, and we’d worry what the customer is getting for their money. All those extra wages are ultimately going to bump up the price of the product, after all.
Strength in our systems
Our frameworks are as strong as anyone’s. We don’t use CDNs provided by either of the major providers that have recently gone down, we use Google’s, and even if Google’s servers suffered such a breakdown, we’re uniquely positioned to redirect and queue our domains away from them and towards our core servers.
Also, one of the biggest strains on your servers after an outage is when they re-initialise. Not only have they got to manage all the number-crunching involved in re-starting their systems, but they’re also under huge additional loads managing the backed-up requests of your customers. After an outage, there are far more waiting in the wings than normal, all eager to access your services, and your servers are already under the strain of re-connecting your databases and filling their caches.
With a Queue-Fair waiting room in place, all of that strain is taken away, and your customers fed back into your pages at a rate they are designed to manage.
It’s by being a small and specialised operation that allows us to keep you covered at all times.
Is bigger better, or just bigger?
Our final point is how many of those seemingly bigger businesses are only bigger because of the way they’ve been funded.
Many SaaS (software as a service) startups need an injection of funds to get up and running. Enter the venture capitalists with their whopping pot of funds. With a big chunk of VC investment, these new businesses can create vast teams of specialists and house them in the most impressive office spaces—all before they’ve made a penny. They need to look like a big business to attract other big businesses, after all; that’s how the system works, so that’s where the money goes.
The more the VCs invest, the better their return, and the more the SaaS startup spends, the more expensive the product has to be to cover its repayments.
Sometimes bigger is just bigger.
Competent, compact, and commercially aware
Queue-Fair still operates under its original inventor. 100%. No investors, no unnecessary additional staff, and no nonsense. We’re a sensibly sized, supportive team that knows its customers and is always on hand and ready to help.