CDNs? Multi-CDNs? How Are They Different and Which is Right for You?

Blog 1 min read | Apr 10, 2024 | Francesco Montesanto


Content delivery networks (CDN) do just as the name suggests—they deliver cached internet content from local server locations to accelerate sending. The farther a visitor is from where your site is hosted, the longer it takes for the data to reach them.

Every second counts.

Sites with a 1-second load time have a conversion rate 3x higher than a site that loads in 5 seconds and 5x higher than a site that takes 10 seconds. You could increase your conversion rate by about 5% by just making your site load 1 second faster.

CDN services aren’t new. They were first built in the 90s out of a need to maintain internet speed and high performance. At first, they could only handle static content such as audio files, video, and software downloads. Today, they’ve become more sophisticated and complex. They can store and deliver dynamic content, such as personalized experiences and live streams.

And then there’s Multi-CDNs, which are patchworks of several CDNs that work together to ensure that content is capable of being stored, cached, and delivered over a wider range.

Some businesses can rely on a singular CDN, and some require the global presence of a multi-CDN to accelerate content delivery.

Below, we’ll take a look under the hood and explore both and dig into what CDN model best fits your needs.

What is a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

A content delivery network (CDN) is a distributed network of servers designed to deliver content quickly to your visitors. By placing servers in strategic geographic locations, a CDN closes the gap between content and consumers, leading to the following:

  • Faster content transfers
  • Enhanced website performance
  • Reduced hosting bandwidth
  • Improved security
  • Fewer service disruptions
  • Limitless scalability

Think of a CDN as a distribution center. When you purchase a product from an ecommerce store, you could receive your item the next day or in a week—it all depends on the location of their nearest warehouse.

The same goes for a CDN. When a visitor opens your website or application, it might load in 1 second or 5 seconds—it all depends on the location of the nearest network server.

How Does a CDN Work?

CDN providers work by placing servers where internet service providers (ISP) connect at locations known as internet exchange points (IXPs). This allows the ISPs to pull data from the nearby CDN server rather than the site or application’s origin server. Shorter travel times lead to quicker service.

Despite the similarities, a CDN doesn’t act as a traditional web host—you’ll still need a web hosting provider for your website or application. Instead, CDNs cache content at the network edge, making it faster for servers to retrieve and deliver the necessary data.

Beyond speed, CDNs work to improve your uptime and enhance security, helping your site survive malicious attacks, connection errors, and standard internet congestion. If there was a power outage or internet attack on your origin server, customers could still access the website content cached on your CDN edge servers. CDNs also use minification and compression to reduce file size, meaning smaller transfer sizes and faster page load times.

What Do Solid CDNs Provide?

Quicker Load Times

Nearby CDN servers reduce the physical distance, leading to faster load times and reduced bounce rates and latency. More people reaching your site (and staying there) means improved conversion rates and a better bottom line for your business.

Reduced Bandwidth Costs

CDNs reduce file sizes with minification and file compression. Smaller files lead to less bandwidth consumption. Additionally, visitors use bandwidth whenever they ping your origin server with a user request. Cached content in your CDN servers means fewer pings for your host server, and that means lower costs for you.

Enhanced Website Security

CDNs offer services like bot TLS/SSL certification, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection, bot mitigation, and web application firewalls (WAFs) to protect you and your customers’ information.

Improved Availability and Uptime

Network failure, web traffic spikes, and power outages can crash a web server and stop users from accessing your content. CDNs intelligently redistribute content when a server goes down, ensuring your customers never skip a beat when browsing your application or consuming content.

Optimized Performance

CDNs use load balancing and solid-state hard drives to efficiently optimize traffic during high traffic spikes. You can see how this would be a game-changer during busy shopping holidays like Cyber Monday or for a network video streaming the Super Bowl to 100 million distributed fans.

Which Organizations Need a CDN (Use Cases and Examples)

We believe that any organization with a website, mobile application, or content repository needs a CDN. However, they’re essential for the following:

  • Websites: Even something as simple as a blog could benefit from a CDN, especially if it has high traffic or large fluctuations.
  • Mobile Applications: Users expect mobile applications to perform quickly. CDNs can deliver dynamic location-based content to users, meaning everyone gets personalized content and experiences quickly.
  • Broadcasters: CDNs help your live streaming content reach your end-users as close as possible to real-time. They also reduce buffer times and redistribute traffic during spikes.
  • Film and TV: Users can better stream live and on-demand content when it’s served by a CDN. The video content will load faster, and users (regardless of where they are) won’t have to watch the loading circle keep spinning.
  • Online Course Platforms: Most online courses rely heavily on video content. This is better served to consumers by nearby CDN servers, especially for high-trafficked courses with many users simultaneously taking the class.
  • Fitness Classes: You don’t want your stream to start lagging when your students are stuck in down dog. CDNs keep the user experience streamlined and immersive, as well as expand your potential audience base.
  • SaaS Companies: A CDN can help balance web requests when your API gets called millions or billions of times per day.
  • Ecommerce: You can’t afford for your online store to crash during Black Friday or holiday sales. Ensure every customer can watch your product videos, browse images, and complete checkout—even when the traffic reaches new all-time highs.

CDNs evolved to enable businesses to deliver content over the internet to anywhere in the world with less latency, lag, jitters, and time. However, a single CDN is still vulnerable to outages and crashes.

Regardless of your audience, traffic, or content, one CDN will never be as efficient or foolproof as a multi-CDN solution, which is why most modern-day businesses and streaming providers rely on a multi-CDN architecture.

But what are the key factors that make a multi-CDN different from a CDN, and what benefits can you expect with this upgrade? Below, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about multi-CDNs, including how they work, who needs them, and use cases for opting for a multi-CDN over a CDN.

What is a Multi-CDN?

Multi-CDNs cache your content across multiple content delivery networks (CDNs) to increase your geographic coverage, improve performance, and reduce vulnerabilities.

Multi-CDNs combine several CDNs under one extensive global network to:

  • Expand geographic availability
  • Accelerate transfer speed
  • Balance loads
  • Provide backups in case a CDN network goes down
  • Enhance website security and prevent attacks

A multi-CDN has the flexibility to make intelligent routing decisions based on downtime, location, and performance. When traffic spikes during a holiday and clogs servers, a multi-CDN can balance the load by re-routing requests to another available nearby CDN.

How is a Multi-CDN Different from a CDN?

Multi-CDNs are a combination of single CDN providers, but that accumulation causes quite a few differences.

Network Points of Presence (POPs)

A single CDN might only have network points of presence in a single country or region, but a multi-CDN solution could have POPs in hundreds of countries.

For example, if you used a US-based CDN to deliver content faster around the country, a new viewer in Spain might experience interruptions or slow download speeds. However, with a multi-CDN solution, your potential customer in Spain would ping a server from a closer CDN rather than all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.


Single CDN servers could become overwhelmed if you experience a massive surge in traffic or streams. While they could re-route traffic to the appropriate servers, there’s a chance the load could cause service disruptions, buffering, and lag.

The multi-CDN architecture ensures content delivery never slows down your business’s growth. Regardless of your size or video streaming requirements, you’ll have a solution you can trust to expand with your audience and content needs.

Backup Plan

While a CDN provides more reliability and uptime than a single origin server, they’re still susceptible to outages and crashes. A multi-CDN solution provides failover options so that your viewers and visitors never experience any downtime.

For example, JW Player’s multi-CDN approach has a network of POPs in 130+ countries to provide a 99.99% global delivery uptime. You can’t achieve uptime reliability like that with a single CDN.

What Does a Solid Multi-CDN Provide?

  • Performance: Multi-CDN setups reduce latency and improve loading times, leading to high-quality streaming and video-on-demand experiences.
  • Security: Multi-CDNs provide enhanced protection to prevent DDoS attacks and bot infiltration.
  • Scalability: Live stream and host as much video-on-demand content as you’d like without delivery becoming your limiting factor.
  • Reliability: Having multiple CDNs ensures your website or application doesn’t crash when there’s a single point of failure.
  • Cost-Savings: Multi-CDN providers often let you route to the cheaper option if multiple choices exist. And end-users pinging your edge network servers demand less bandwidth than distant calls to your origin server.

The Biggest Downside to Multi-CDNs

As you’d expect, a multi-CDN solution will almost always cost more than a single CDN provider. Multi-CDN systems must maintain more servers and additional routing complexities, and this increases the bill on your end.

It’s up to you to decide whether the advantages are worth the higher price tag, but the choice becomes a bit easier when you look at the return on investment.

Increasing your site’s loading time by just 1 second can improve your conversion rate by 5%. Faster load times lead to happier customers, fewer bounces, and more people consuming your content, leading to more buyers, subscribers, and viewers.

That’s not to mention the hard-to-determine value of first impressions. A customer might visit your site for the first time, have a great experience, decide to become a customer, and encourage their friends and family to do the same. Another customer might visit your site, struggle with buffering and latency issues, click away disappointed, and recommend a different service to their followers.

How Does a Multi-CDN Work?

Multi-CDNs work by routing traffic to the appropriate CDNs in the network. Systems make routing decisions based on different strategies and variables that your multi-CDN enables. Here are a few multi-CDN strategies:

Static DNS

Users configure static DNS entries for each CDN in the multi-CDN network. The system manager might route all traffic from one application to a certain CDN and traffic from a website to another CDN.

Managed DNS

System managers add smarter routing intelligence to a managed DNS service. This solution can usually identify errors and server failures and route traffic to the next best CDN.

Round Robin

Round-robin configurations route requests to each CDN sequentially. The first request would go to CDN 1, the second request would go to CDN 2, and the third request would go to CDN 3—and so on in the pattern. This distributes traffic equally across your servers to balance traffic and reduce congestion on any particular CDN, but it doesn’t necessarily optimize based on performance benefits or cost.

Weighted Round Robin

The weighted round-robin approach lets you choose which CDNs should receive traffic more frequently. For example, you might route more traffic to a stronger CDN or one that’s more centrally located to your primary user base while routing less traffic to your other CDNs.


A geo-based multi-CDN setup chooses the closest CDN to the requestor. This minimizes bandwidth requirements, improves performance, and accelerates loading time. However, certain CDNs can become overwhelmed if traffic in a geographical location spikes.

Variable Driven

Multi-CDNs with variable-driven configurations intelligently route traffic based on variables such as location, weights, performance, cost, and more. They use real-time data to account for multiple variables and make the most cost-effective, performance-driven decisions. For example, a load-balancing multi-CDN would look at these factors:

  • Performance: The Multi-CDN looks at performance metrics from the player and makes a decision based on the device, location, and user experience to send traffic to the best-fitting CDN.
  • Latency: If a CDN’s taking too long to respond, load balancing will switch traffic to another CDN with faster response times.
  • Cost: Each CDNs has its own prices to deliver data. Multi-CDN providers can analyze cost and performance to decide whether to send traffic to a lower-costing CDN.

However, these systems can be complex to build and configure.

Typically, the more complex your setup, the higher price you’ll pay. Not every business or streaming service needs a variable-driven multi-CDN, and opting for a static DNS or geo-location-based solution could be a cost-saver.

Use Cases for Multi-CDN vs. CDN

Can’t decide whether your business needs a CDN or multi-CDN? Let’s look through a few examples and use cases to help you see when you might want to upgrade to a multi-CDN.

  • Traffic Increases: CDNs have capacity limitations. If your traffic looks like it will exceed the restrictions, you’ll need multiple CDNs.
  • Performance Declines: Notice decreasing performance or an increase in customer complaints? Your current CDN might not be able to handle the demands, and a multi-CDN provider might be your best option.
  • Geographic Distribution: Looking to expand your audience beyond country borders? CDNs can get the job done for a single region or country, but we recommend upgrading to a multi-CDN if you want to engage an international audience.
  • Security Concerns: Multi-CDNs are better equipped to deal with malicious attacks and outages. If security is a top concern, opt for a multi-CDN solution.
  • Cost-Savings: Multi-CDNs typically cost more to set up and implement, but they can help you realize long-term cost savings by efficiently balancing out loads and distributing traffic to lower-cost CDNs when the situation allows.

Choose a Video Platform With a Multi-CDN Solution

Multi-CDN solutions are a modern-day must-have for companies that stream live or on-demand video content. It improves load times, reduces lag, expands availability, and enhances security. Customers no longer ask for these types of benefits—they just expect them.

Are you looking to provide live-streaming content and video on-demand? If your business depends on video, don’t settle for anything less than a multi-CDN solution. You need to ensure your customers can view your content (anytime, anywhere) without worrying about single points of failure.

JW Player’s end-to-end video solution lets you upload, manage, and deliver video at scale. Our multi-CDN approach has a network of POPs in 130+ countries and a 99.99% global delivery uptime. Your viewers get optimized video (up to 4K resolution) regardless of device, location, or bandwidth.

Contact us today to see the quality and performance that a multi-CDN approach makes possible.