Website visitors don’t want to wait for content. Digital experiences demand immediate gratification, so if your static website content loads slowly or not at all, you could lose visitors. No one wants that.
Amazon CloudFront service can accelerate static content delivery, among other things, greatly improving the web experience and solving data delivery woes. This content delivery network (CDN) plays a huge role in how all data reaches your online users. Let’s take a look at how it works and some classic use cases for it in this latest installment of AWS 101.
How Does Amazon CloudFront Service Work?
Amazon CloudFront is a web service designed to quickly and securely deliver any web content, static or dynamic without any time delay, or latency. This includes data, videos, static images, applications and APIs.
CloudFront integrates with your AWS infrastructure and delivers content through a backbone of data centers known as edge locations. An edge location is a site that CloudFront uses to cache copies of your content so it is delivered faster to users because of its geographical proximity to the requesting user.
So how exactly does CloudFront speed content delivery? Traditionally, one of your images might be stored and retrieved from a traditional web server. That image would be assigned its own URL to identify it. Users can navigate to this URL by typing it into a web browser if they want to view the image separately from the web page.
Behind the scenes, user requests to view this image are routed across a complex path of interconnected networks until the image is found.
CloudFront hastens this process by routing a content request to the aforementioned edge location in the scalable, globally distributed delivery network. Doing this reduces the number of networks your content moves through to satisfy the user’s request. This improves performance and reduces the amount of time it takes for that first file byte to load.
This CDN also connects seamlessly with other AWS services, including Amazon S3, Lambda and Amazon EC2. As AWS notes, they all are accessible in the AWS Management Console, where you can programmatically configure all CDN features. You also can use APIs to do the same.
How Can I Use the CloudFront Service?
Besides the already discussed static asset caching and delivery, you can put Amazon CloudFront to good use in many other ways. Some uses cases include:
Live and on-demand streaming.
Using the CloudFront service, you can deliver both pre-recorded and live streaming video to users with sustained, high throughput to any device.
For pre-recorded video, you can stream such common formats as MPEG DASH, Apple HLS, Microsoft Smooth Streaming and CMAF. You can cache live stream broadcast media fragments at the edge so that the manifest file can easily organize and combine these fragments in order for appropriate delivery.
Secure content delivery.
HTTPs configured with CloudFront ensures that you get secure end-to-end connections to the origin servers. Additional field-level encryption protects specific data during system processing. This is in addition to standard HTTPs security.
Because you can run serverless code in an edge location, this means you can provide a customized content experience for users, and one with less latency, at that. Examples include pushing custom error messages if origins servers are down for maintenance or another reason specific to your website.
The CloudFront service has numerous other use cases to make content delivery fast, secure and reliable. Content is always available for your users. They get seamless delivery while you get peace of mind.
We want to be sure you understand all that Amazon Web Services has to offer, so be sure to check out other blogs in our AWS 101 series.