Protecting Your Game Performance with a CDN

What would happen if a game developer had issues with an ISP or lost a server during maintenance? Failover is always necessary for an online gaming developer, but it’s not as easy to ensure that no downtime happens even with the right disaster recovery plan. Gaming developers rely on persistent uptime without any performance issues or server crashes. Although it’s possible to have an internal policy that reduces effects from an unforeseen incident, having a CDN adds to performance, reliability, scalability and even security.

Gaming Content Size Continues to Increase, Affecting Download Performance

In the 1990s, a game could fit on a few floppy disks. Today, a game download can be 30GB or more. This is a huge increase from even just a decade ago. With slow Internet speeds, it can take too long for a user to download large files.

In addition to an initial 30GB or larger downloads, additional content is common for gaming developers to keep gamers interested. Gaming developers add downloadable content (DLC) to extend a games storyline. This content is usually an additional cost where users purchase the content and then download it to their computer. Even console gaming developers use this method to extend a console game, and users must download the content to their consoles.

Gaming developers can’t control a gaming customer’s ISP or internal network performance. They can’t control the speed of the computer where the content is downloaded to, but they can control their end of the downloadable content performance. A CDN resolves performance issues using internal infrastructure and location of data centers.

CDNs and Reliability and Cyber Security

Most gaming developers investigate a content delivery network due to performance issues, but a CDN provides several other benefits aside from faster speeds. Reliability is one of the best benefits of a CDN, and it can mean the difference between losing customers due to downtime and keeping gaming customers happy while IT administrators work to solve server and network issues.

Reliability in a CDN is based on data centers that cache content downloaded from the game developer’s origin server. Should the origin server crash, the game developer network is still reliable and delivers content to players from cached edge server content. This process is completely invisible to the user who won’t know where content is delivered from.

Another aspect of a CDN is protecting from distributed denial-of-service attacks (DDoS). These attacks can crush performance and stop legitimate users from connecting to a server that provides gaming content. These attacks come from hundreds (sometimes thousands) of different IoT devices or desktop computers hacked with an attacker’s malware. This malware gives an attacker the ability to tell a device to flood traffic to a target. Because most origin servers are unable to handle the massive amount of traffic, a DDoS can interrupt service and crash the server.

Reliability and security are benefits to gaming developers who are also concerned about performance. These three benefits are some of the best for gaming developers who need a performance boost, a service that never fails, and protection from common security pitfalls.

 

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Why Online Gaming Companies are Choosing CDNs More and More

Online gaming companies have the unique challenge of keeping global users happy with fast downloads and rich, high quality graphics. These companies have it harder than, for instance, a console gaming distributor that just needs to provide updates when they are needed. Online gaming companies deliver dynamic content constantly as the gamer plays in an online world, so they need a way to send content faster than any other local application.

Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) games support millions of users at a time. Companies such as Blizzard often had performance issues and outright server crashes when they initially launched games. Warcraft users knew that patch day or release of a new expansion meant that logging into any Blizzard server would be possibly an hour (or longer) wait. Once you were able to log in, the game would download slowly, and gameplay would be patchy. Images wouldn’t render well, and gameplay had terrible performance issues. During some expansion launches, gamers would be disconnected from a server without warning and thrown back into the wait queue.

How a CDN Reduces Gameplay Delays and Expansion Download Times

When you have millions of users connecting to one location, it’s inevitable that users will see performance issues. Nothing frustrates gamers more than experiencing crashes while trying to download an expansion or major patch.

A CDN reduces the overhead on a game developers origin server by spreading content across data centers strategically placed across each continent. When a game developer chooses a CDN provider, one aspect of a good CDN is a presence in locations where the developer has a majority of gaming customers. This will ensure that most gamers will experience fast download times and limited performance issues.

The way a CDN delivers content is the foundation for its ability to provide fast downloads.  Each data center has edge servers that pull content from the game developer’s origin server. The content transfer speed from the origin server to the data center is dependent on the game developer’s server resources and bandwidth, but once the content gets to the edge server, it’s cached and stored for delivery. When users request content from the gaming developer network, they are redirected to the closest CDN edge server where cached content is transferred to the user.

Boxed Games Can Also Leverage CDN Resources

Even though MMO gaming developers can benefit the most from a CDN, boxed game developers can also improve user experiences during patch days. Boxed developers often release patches including console games installed on a PS4, Xbox or Switch. Downloads delivered to consoles can take hours, but boxed game developers can increase transfer speed of these downloads by providing more server resources and bandwidth physically closer to some users.

Any game developer that delivers content to users should add a CDN to infrastructure. It’s an affordable, faster way to transfer large files that would otherwise take some users hours to receive. It’s one way a game developer can instantly provide faster service to users and gaming enthusiasts.

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Using a Dynamic CDN to Cut Down on Gaming Lag

As gamer computers get faster, gamers look for gaming platforms that provide fast, dynamic content. Although a gaming developer can’t control a customer’s computer resources, network speed and ISP, a developer can provide everything within a gaming environment that gives gamers the speed that they’re looking for. One way to accomplish fast online gaming speed is to incorporate a dynamic CDN into internal infrastructure.

Shortest Path with Lowest Latency

Gaming data is notoriously large files, and even fast Internet and large bandwidth usage isn’t enough for a smooth gaming performance. These large files must be transferred using the shortest path with the lowest latency. A dynamic CDN can help with data transfers.

Finding the shortest path is common on the Internet. Large capacity routers determine the right path for data and transfer it accordingly. The shortest path, however, might not be the best path for data to take. The shortest path could have more latency from congestion. Although more hops could take a longer amount of time, a few more hops could speed up data transfers by avoiding high-traffic paths.

When a gaming developer requires fast file transfers, the best option is a combination of finding the shortest path with the lowest latency. A CDN uses infrastructure that determines the best path using calculations on high-end technology routers and servers. This technology is usually much more efficient than traditional infrastructure that you find with on-premise hosting an upstream ISP.

Better Performance Attracts More Gamers

For a gaming developer, high latency and choppy gameplay are the death of any online game. Using a dynamic CDN, a gaming developer can reduce online game latency by 60%. This is significant for a gaming developer that relies on fast speeds delivered to gamers who will quickly stop playing (and paying) for a game that can’t offer a good experience. Losing a character’s life to gaming lag is the most frustrating experience for an online gamer.

When a game gets laggy and gamers get frustrated, the first thing a gaming developer does is look at what can change within code and internal infrastructure. However, unless the developer has the IT personnel, resources and budget, providing better infrastructure isn’t feasible. With a CDN, the developer has a low-cost, scalable option. This option harnesses the power of data centers located around the globe.

A CDN has data centers across the globe with edge servers. These edge servers pull data from the origin server (the developer’s infrastructure) and cache the data locally. With data cached on a server closer to the gamer, delivery happens much faster. Combine cached, geographically close servers with routers that better determine the shortest path with the lowest latency, a gaming developer instantly improves performance for users as well as their experience.

Gamers buy online games mainly through word-of-mouth from friends and online reviews. Better reviews mean more gamers will flock to a fast, fun game. A CDN can help with performance and make lower latency an affordable option for any game.

 

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Avoid Gaming Lag By Using a CDN

Game lag is a scourge for any developer. Whether it’s an MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game, an MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), or an FPS (First Person Shooter) lag is one of the most frustrating issues for a gamer. No one wants to lose at every game, and lag can mean the difference between a win or a loss for an online gamer. Developers should understand their gaming client frustrations to avoid adding them to content, and one way to avoid gamer dissatisfaction is to add a CDN to infrastructure to speed up performance.

Latency Should Be Low

Low latency increases perceived performance in-game. Latency is the term given to the time it takes between sending input to the game and the game’s response. Low latency is especially important in FPS games or any one-on-one battles where gamers are up against other players. PVP combat requires fast response times, and a CDN can reduce latency by serving content geographically closer to the player.

Low Ping Times

The term “ping” is a general networking term that describes the time it takes for data packets to travel to a server and back again. Each operating system has a ping command that tests the time it takes for a small packet to reach a server. Some games provide ping statistics to users, so they can see if their ping time is too high for a good gaming experience. With a CDN, servers are located closer to the player, so the round-trip distance is reduced and so is the player’s ping time.

Rubber Banding is an Effect from High Latency

Most gamers have suffered from “rubber banding.” Rubber banding happens when high latency slows down traffic from the gaming server. A player’s character in-game will lag and jump from one location to another. As the gaming server corrects the location, the player’s character moves back to the correct position. This back and forth behavior in-game is called rubber banding, and this issue makes it impossible to enjoy a game. Since a CDN is closer to the player’s location, the chance of rubber banding is reduced.

Faster Tick Rates

Players can’t control tick rates, but the faster the tick rate, the smoother the game play for the gamer. Tick rate determines how fast a server is updated including the data sent back to players updating character locations and environment variables. This factor is measured in hertz, and the very minimum a developer should aim for is a 64-tick server.

Tick time is affected by server resources but also network speed. CDNs leverage data centers and fast servers that can’t be found in most traditional hosting environments.

CDN Implementation is a Solution

Gaming developers incorporate lag compensation by tweaking and code and testing the environment before launch time. Lag compensation is built into a gaming application to reduce perceived performance issues, but a CDN can speed up any online game considerably.

A CDN caches data on edge servers across the globe, so the gamer has quick access to a low latency, fast ping, no rubber banding experience. Even better, it’s a low-cost solution to current infrastructure.

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Data Transfer Performance and CDNs

For any developer, a massive amount of data must be transferred during deployment of an application. It’s not uncommon for developers to fight for bandwidth during large data transfers with other users both customers and co-workers. Poor transfer speeds can stem from several issues including poor infrastructure, low bandwidth or insufficient server resources. Adding a content delivery network (CDN) can alleviate congestion and free up resources during deployments and large file transfers.

Big Data Transfers

For large applications, a deployment can require several gigabytes of data transferred to a hosting server. FTP and HTTP are both used to transfer this data, but most hosting services throttle bandwidth accessibility based on the plan chosen during contractual signup.

If deployments are done during busy peak hours, the bandwidth used can severely slow speeds for customers trying to browse the organization’s site or download from a repository. In addition to slow speeds, large data transfers add to the monthly hosting cost for customers that pay based on the amount of data used.

These big data transfers are a necessity, and some organizations work day and night, so transferring data during off-peak hours isn’t an option. For businesses that need to ensure fast speeds at all hours of the day, even weekends, the only option is to increase bandwidth, pay for expensive infrastructure resources, or adding a CDN to the mix can improve performance without the expensive upgrades.

CDNs and Big Data Transfer Support

Transfer speeds are measured in bits per second (bps), and bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transferred in a given amount of time. More bandwidth just means that the organization can transfer more data in a smaller amount of time. Transfer speeds can be measured in terabytes, gigabytes and megabytes for older infrastructure with slow capacity.

For organizations that have bot internal and external file downloads, a CDN can alleviate congestion by moving traffic from customer downloads to CDN servers. CDNs have data centers located across the globe in several strategic geographic locations. These data centers have edge servers that pull data from an organization’s main server and cache it on the local server. When users make a request to download a file, they contact the closest edge server where content is cached. Cached content is served faster, and the organization’s main bandwidth isn’t being used.

By adding a CDN into infrastructure, customers no longer contact one location. Customers closer to a data center use CDN resources and download from a different location than the origin server, which frees up server and bandwidth for the organization.

The cost for new CDN service is measured by the amount of data that you use, and it’s only a few cents per gigabyte. This service is great for businesses that use big data and transfer large files across the Internet. It’s also beneficial for customers that request large files such as software or gaming patches, version upgrades or application distribution. Even with the added cost, the reduction in data use can greatly lower an IT bill for bandwidth use.

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Why Game Developers Prefer CDNs Over Traditional Hosting

Speed is one of the main factors in a successful game. Whether you develop a desktop or mobile game, gamers expect downloads and dynamic content to load quickly. Lag and high ping times could be the death of a game even if its storyline and presentation are top notch. Developers can control speed by making optimized code that runs on the local machine, but download speed is controlled by bandwidth and the hosting server. A CDN can remove all performance issues from traditional hosting and provide fast speeds even for large files in the gaming world.

Game Developers and File Downloads

With higher end graphics and images, game files have increased exponentially and outpaced speed for server resources and Internet bandwidth. A gaming developer must be able to delivery fast content, but these large files pose a problem when users are located globally.

Traditionally, gaming developers had to find infrastructure that could support large file transfers and locations where data centers could support global users. With a CDN, developers just need to sign up for service rather than worry about the infrastructure and hardware resources in each location.

When you research “caching,” you see that several hosting companies offer server caching, but a CDN offers this technique with its service regardless of the type of service that you have. CDNs cache data on its edge servers located at strategic geographic locations. These servers are ready for a spike in traffic and have the resources to handle any activity whether it’s large file downloads or dynamic content that gamers rely on for a good gaming experience.

Implementing a CDN into gaming infrastructure takes a lot of the planning, design and tedious details away from the developer so they can concentrate on doing what they do best – creating great gaming content that users love. By placing the infrastructure on a CDN, game developers leverage operations, security and optimization efforts from experts.

Even Boxed Games are Affected

Before you think a boxed game has no use for a CDN, remember that boxed games usually have patches and updates released after the initial game launch. Boxed games have the advantage of being stored on media that can handle large files, but eventually any patches must be downloaded should the game expand with new releases and versions.

With a CDN, patches can be delivered to users quickly without the fear of lag and server crashes. Instead of relying on a server farm in one location, a CDN pulls data directly from the gaming server and cache it locally. When patches are released, users download these files from a location closest to their Internet connection. This alleviates any issues of traffic spikes when games with millions of users have updates released during specific times each week or each month.

Whether your game targets mobile or desktop users, a CDN takes care of any bandwidth and server resource issues when it comes to file downloads and delivery. Gamers have little patience for slow, laggy games and ignoring performance can cost you thousands in revenue from angry gamers. With a CDN, you ensure that game delivery is fast and efficient.

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Working with a Content Delivery Network Strategy

For any online business having performance issues, adding a CDN into the mix of server resources and fast hosting will speed up applications immediately. You can’t just add a CDN to infrastructure without a plan. It’s also good to identify performance issues and audit speed after changes are made to infrastructure to see the value of a CDN to your overall metrics.

Distance Always Affects Speed

Data over fiber travels at the speed of light, but even this speed is affected by distance. A user on the other side of the globe will see a performance difference compared to a user in the same geographic area as your hosted server.

Years ago, this issue wasn’t a problem for most applications, because many online stores catered to a local market. Now, businesses can ship orders to anyone in any country around the globe, so they need an application that’s fast regardless of a user’s location. This is where a CDN is helpful and can improve performance without requiring any expensive server resources.

A CDN has data centers at locations where a majority of users are located in different geographic areas. By hosting content on a CDN, you move data from a location thousands of miles away from potential customers to a data center within a few hundred miles. The difference is noticeable immediately buy users accessing your application.

Additional CDN Benefits

What’s often left out of CDN deployment plans are the two additional benefits that a CDN brings. The first one is SSL termination that protects from some cyber security attacks. For some content, the CDN does not cache the information but instead passes requests from a data center directly to the client’s origin server. This “middle man” activity protects he origin server from some malicious attacks such as DDoS.

Scalability is usually an unforeseen benefit but it’s one of the best advantages of using a CDN. With traditional hosting, you must constantly watch for any traffic spikes. Even if you consistently monitor traffic levels, it takes time to implement additional resources and roll out changes. You then pay for additional resources when traffic drops during slow seasons. A CDN remedies high spikes as well as scales down when traffic drops.

CDNs can handle a large spike in traffic that would otherwise stall a traditionally hosted server. Site crashes can ruin a launch for a new application or game, but with a CDN your bandwidth and speed stay consistent without the performance lag from high traffic days.

Adding a CDN to Your Infrastructure

Most site owners think the cost to add a CDN to infrastructure is expensive, but you can pay as you go or pay a monthly payment to cover your traffic needs. Configuring a CDN doesn’t take much technology know-how, and it can be done by your administrator or a site owner that handles server management themselves.

Because a CDN scales with traffic, the pay as you go plan is the best for startups. It’s a small price to have some security protection and faster speeds for customers.

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Where Does a CDN Fit Into Your Application Design?

When performance issues impact your bottom line, there are several ways you can speed up an application. Code optimization, better server resources, and even moving off of shared hosting can help speed up an application. What many organizations fail to realize is that the addition of a CDN can speed up an application more than several other optional changes. The addition of a CDN can do much more for speed than additional server resources or code optimization. While these infrastructure changes do help, a CDN will do much more.

Many businesses struggling to fight performance issues see a CDN as an expensive unnecessary option, but you can pay as you go at a low price per gigabyte of use. In addition to seeing a CDN as an expensive addition, most businesses don’t see the advantages. Here are just a few.

Acceleration of web pages. CDNs cache content on its edge servers, so your customers get content delivery from a data center closest to their location. Instead of only having one server to represent your company pages, you now have dozens located around the globe.

Improved video streaming and file downloads.  Not every application embeds YouTube or Vimeo content. Developers that build their own streaming solution will find that using a CDN greatly improves video quality. With faster delivery, users can download large files including video at a faster rate, and a CDN reduces the skipping and poor quality from slower connections.

Lower costs than added server resources. Server hardware costs thousands upfront. Even if you decide to host in the cloud, the more resources that you add to your host the more money you spend each month. The alternative is to add a CDN to your infrastructure and pay a scalable cost that increases only as traffic and revenue increase as well. Small businesses don’t have to worry about expensive equipment and hosting. Instead, their servers perform at the same speed as a large competitor site application.

Reliability and consistent uptime. With any addition to infrastructure, the first thought is if the new addition will cause any downtime. A CDN offers better reliability than traditional hosting, because data center servers pull content from the origin server and cache it. Although it should not be the only solution for reliability, a CDN can provide support and consistency for content delivery and mitigate downtime.

Flexibility with budget and hosting. A CDN can work with any hosting solution and budget. Since a CDN’s cost scale with traffic, costs only go up when traffic and sales increase. You still maintain the same host, but a CDN offers the flexibility of adding performance without the hassle of moving your hosting solution to a faster service.

In addition to the many benefits of a CDN, configuring service to work with an organization’s hosting is simplified so that an IT administrator or small business owner can implement service. If you’re fighting performance issues, instead of fighting costs and resources, add a CDN to your application’s infrastructure and you will immediately see results in addition to the several other benefits.

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How a CDN Offers Fast, Secure Performance at Affordable Rates

Any Internet service that uses traditional web hosting isn’t getting the most out of their bandwidth. A CDN can improve speed regardless of the size of downloadable files, spike in user traffic, and the type of content served to users. Before you implement a CDN, you might wonder how a CDN offers fast performance. Here are a few items a CDN support for better performance and security.

SSL/TLS Support

Web users are more concerned with privacy than they were a decade ago. It’s important that a CDN offers encryption support using SSL or TLS for your public-facing applications. CDNs support SSL/TLS to keep user data secure. Supporting web encryption also protects end users from man-in-the-middle attacks (MitM) attacks.

Support for HTTP/2

Hypertext Transport Protocol (HTTP) is the protocol for transferring data from a web server to a user’s browser. HTTP/2 is the latest version of this protocol that allows SSL and non-HTTPS sites to transfer data. The improvements in HTTP provide better performance and faster transfer of data. CDNs that support this new protocol version offer the fastest speeds available to users and origin servers.

Several Network Locations and Data Centers

A CDN’s Point of Presence (POP) provides the application with several cached instances on edge servers located at a data center. These edge servers deliver content based on the requestor’s location. Instead of having one origin server deliver content from one location, a CDN delivers content from several locations based on the recipients geographic location.

The CDN you choose should have several POPs for faster speeds.  Not only can you leverage a data center’s advanced technology, but by using a CDN you also use PoPs for proximity to your users. By providing users with a content delivery system close to their location, it’s delivered much faster. Should one server crash or be unavailable due to network issues, a CDN will deliver content from the next closest location. CDNs provide constant content delivery without the worry of crashed servers or downtime due to broken equipment.

Analytics and Performance

Most traditional hosts don’t offer traffic analytics. You can get analytics using applications embedded on a website, but these applications are mainly for SEO and traffic. A CDN can give you resource usage statistics and performance that gives insight to server performance. These statistics help application developers and site owners detect when resources must be upgraded. CDNs also provide usage statistics on your application as a whole rather than statistics based on user traffic as they access specific pages.

Content Purging

CDNs speed up content delivery by caching static content from an origin server. This content is cached on every edge server across each PoP. When content is old and must be updated after a new deployment, a CDN provides tools to purge this outdated content and force the edge server to download the most recent information. This provides application owners with the ability to ensure that customers receive the latest content from the origin server.

Overall, a CDN speeds up any application regardless of the speed of a traditional origin server. These services are better for security, reliability, integrity of the application, and performance.

 

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How a CDN Can Speed Up Your Video Content

Most people have watched at least one  YouTube video, and streaming from this site is never slow. Users expect streaming from any site to be as fast as YouTube browsing, and it can be done with the right infrastructure setup including a CDN implementation.

On-Demand Video Streaming

Deployed video content comes in several different formats. You should decide which one is right for you, and any format that you choose will be compatible with a CDN setup.

The first format is a direct download. This isn’t the most common, because the user must be able to download the video and run it on a local desktop. Short video files aren’t too large, but longer video requires a few gigabytes. A CDN will cache this data and deliver downloads faster than forcing users to connect directly to one origin server.

Progressive downloads are much more popular. When a user requests a progressive download video, the server sends content bit-by-bit. Users are able to view content within seconds of accessing the video page. As the user watches the video, the video is downloaded in the background. If you’ve ever lost an Internet connection while streaming video, you’ll notice that you can continue watching for a few more seconds even after losing connectivity. This is progressive downloading at work.

HTTP streaming is similar to progressive downloads, except this format determines the speed of the recipient’s video player. When resources and Internet speed are low, the player downgrades the size of the download. The content transferred requires fewer bits, and the user can still watch content even with a slower Internet connection. If you’ve ever watched a Netflix video, quality of video reduces when your Internet connection slows down.

With all three off these options, a CDN can help speed up transfer of data. Users connect to a CDN’s edge server that’s closest geographically to the viewer. Using cached content and CDN servers closer to the user will speed up delivery and create high-quality output regardless of the type of video content that you deploy.

Live Video Content

With live video, you won’t be able to cache content but you can still integrate a CDN. Using a CDN, you can increase bandwidth and transfer speeds. The biggest problem with live video is the spikes in traffic to view the content, and you stream direct from your location to the user. Users experience. With a CDN, you can add more bandwidth to the user’s connection and transfer video content at optimal speeds regardless of the amount of traffic that requests live stream video.

Remember that you still need enough server resources on your origin server to store and deliver content to the CDN, but overall implementing CDN resources can increase performance on video content.

Any website owner that wants to host content should use a CDN, and before you think it’s an expensive part of site infrastructure, it’s actually an affordable way to speed up web content including video streaming to your viewers.

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