What is the Difference Between CDN and Nginx? AWS Cloudfront vs Nginx Comparison - ByteScout
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What is the Difference Between CDN and Nginx? AWS Cloudfront vs Nginx Comparison

Nginx is the server app that you can run on your own server. It is optimized to serve static content from your server and is used by high load apps like Facebook. Nginx server works faster than other servers but it does not mean it can work without CPU, RAM, or hard-drive space at all. The common scenario 10 years ago was that you run and manage your own server (for example, with WordPress) and you install a so-called “reverse” proxy to use Nginx when static files like images, CSS, JS, PDF are requested from your server.

Then CDN services got their foot in the door. For example, Amazon AWS CloudFront is the scalable content delivery network (CDN) that can cache static files from your server and deliver them faster. Moreover, it also utilizes dozens of servers worldwide so your files are actually downloaded from the nearest server to your user:

Amazon AWS CloudFront servers - (from https://aws.amazon.com/cloudfront/features/)
Amazon AWS CloudFront servers – (from https://aws.amazon.com/cloudfront/features/)

When to use CDN like Amazon AWS Cloudfront

    • You run your app on a platform like Heroku where you don’t have a bare-bones server but just some scalable virtual hosting with no access to config files;
    • You have users worldwide and want to provide them all with the fastest download speed for your files or media.

For example, your website runs on hosting in the United States but you want to have your video files to download as fast as possible from both San Francisco and Mumbai.

  • You don’t want to manage your own servers. In most cases you just pointing your users to links from CDN and CDN caches your files automatically.
  • You have variable demand for your static files. One month you have 100 downloads, another month you can have 1M downloads. With CDN services like AWS Cloudfront, you pay only for the actual traffic and storage consumed.
  • You don’t have billions of users (like YouTube or Facebook) so the cost of running files through CDN will be cheaper than keeping your own servers and managing them.


When to use Nginx

  • You have your own server(s) that you pay for monthly / yearly and you want to optimize how static content is served from your server. For example, you run Ruby on Rails application or WordPress and you want to make images, CSS, JS files to load faster from your server;
  • You are proficient in managing servers and proxy servers, you can track and keep up to date configuration for your server and apps on it;
  • You run your own data centers with servers that you build and set up on your own and paying for them (like Facebook, Google or YouTube);
  • You have high traffic and a lot of cheap servers that you want to use to deliver static files;

Other popular CDN Services and AWS Cloudfront alternatives worth checking:

  • Cloudflare
  • Microsoft Azure CDN.
  • Google Cloud CDN.
  • KeyCDN
  • Akamai

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