The growth of online content delivery isn’t slowing down. In fact, internet traffic is projected to nearly triple in the next five years, with mobile growing twice as fast as the fixed internet. At the same time, expectations for quality are higher than ever, with a recent survey revealing that more than 60% of people will abandon a video that rebuffers twice, with similar abandon rates for other types of content.
Businesses know that a top-notch customer experience depends on their ability to effectively deliver online videos, websites, and downloads; but accomplishing this is easier said than done and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to quality digital experiences. There are, however, a list of common challenges businesses face when looking to bolster their online content.
Challenge #1: Growth and Scale
As companies grow, so do their audiences and stakeholders. While many businesses struggle to manage their digital properties throughout various stages of growth, the stakes for providing high-quality experiences are high. According to the State of the User Experience report, nearly half of visitors will leave a website that takes more than five seconds to load, and 43% of people will leave a website and purchase a product elsewhere if they feel the site is too slow.
In the early stages when audiences are small, basic web or video hosting may be sufficient. But as companies expand and their traffic grows, they reach a point where basic hosting fails to deliver the required performance and scalability.
To sustain growth and momentum, companies must look beyond the public internet for hosting their properties. By instead using a private network with global capacity, businesses will see dramatic improvements for growth and scale. For example, instead of overwhelming one origin source, a content delivery network (CDN) replicates popular content in many locations near the edges of the network. These locations, called Points of Presence (PoPs), are data centers with high-performance servers that can cache content. This means that when a user requests a piece of content, the network looks for that specific content in cache in a nearby PoP, retrieves it and forwards it to the user’s last-mile provider for faster delivery.
Challenge #2: Performance
Providing a high-quality experience to end users is critical to businesses. The meaning of quality of experience varies depending on the application. In streaming video, “high quality” generally means a fast start of video playback, consistently high image quality and frame rate, and no rebuffers. A satisfying web experience includes fast page loads, responsive interactions, and smooth playback of any embedded videos and animations.
Relying on a public network to deliver these quality factors can be a big challenge because you never know what kind of traffic or bandwidth the network will be managing at any given time. For high-quality video and web experiences, businesses should layer their network infrastructure to support the fast delivery of static and dynamic content. With a strong CDN in place, web pages respond and load more quickly, videos start playing sooner and sustain higher quality, and file downloads are much more reliable.
Challenge #3: Delivery to Any Device
Today more than half (55%) of people expect equally fast load times regardless of the internet connected device they use. However, different devices require different formats, and access bandwidth can limit content bit-rate. To reach the largest possible audience, businesses need to make content available on every device.
Video is a great example. Suppose two consumers are watching the same video, one on a smart TV connected via high-speed internet access, and the other on a smartphone connected to a wireless network. The network must deliver two different formats based on screen size, supported formats, and available access bandwidth. Since this optimization needs to be transparent to the user, the network must first detect the device and bandwidth, choose the best format, then retrieve or create that format and deliver it—all automatically.
To support a seamless delivery to any device, businesses should look to work with a network that provides device-specific benefits on a user-by-user, session-by-session basis. The key here will be in first detecting the type of device and the network access speed of the session. Once this information is known, the network can optimize the media format and data rate for the user.
Challenge #4: Geographical Reach
In terms of geography, the wider the market reach, the bigger the challenges. A company that serves a local region has different requirements than one that needs to reach markets across a continent or globally. Quality of experience declines with the distance the content travels. If parts of your audience are halfway around the world from your content, they may have an unsatisfactory experience. Network conditions and the need to traverse multiple networks can also wreak havoc, even if the distances are moderate.
Global businesses should look to work with global middle-mile networks that have invested in worldwide infrastructure to solve these geographical challenges. High-performance PoPs within the target region are critical to sustaining high-quality content egress during peak demand. Some private networks provide high-speed connectivity between PoPs using dedicated fiber that bypasses public internet congestion, ensuring high-quality, low latency delivery over longer distances. Direct peering access to last-mile ISPs in the targeted regions speeds up the last-mile delivery, while origin storage replicated within major regions accelerates delivery on cache miss in every region.
Challenge #5: Internal Resource Constraints
At a higher level, access to talent is the number one issue standing in the way of CIOs achieving their objectives. There simply never seems to be enough person-hours or people with the right skills, and the backlog always seems to be growing. Meanwhile, high-priority projects can’t wait.
Successfully managing this terrain is often a matter of focusing in-house talent to deliver the highest-value results and partnering for the rest.
For most organizations, using the services of an established platform can provide much faster time-to-market. To solve online content challenges, a full-service CDN can provide origin storage, security, video platform, and other services to flesh out the solution and free up in-house resources for higher priority projects.
Today’s businesses know that a solid customer experience requires delivering the content end-users want quickly and reliably with better quality, wherever they’re located. Highly-satisfied customers mean the organization can build customer loyalty and increase revenue. To solve content delivery challenges and, therefore, be successful in 2018 and beyond, businesses operating online will need to implement a stronger network that provides top-notch scale, reach and performance.