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[IPS] Introducing IPS CDN Service

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A Content Delivery Network, or CDN is a distributed system of servers to provide high-availablity and high-performance. For example, rather than serving your CSS, images and Javascript from the same webserver that PHP and the rest of your community runs on, these are loaded from a network of servers, improving performance and reducing load on your server.

Having a CDN can improve your community's quality, reliability and scalability, as well as reduce your hosting costs. By offloading the serving of images, CSS, Javascript, etc. you free up your system resources to serve the real content which makes for a better experience. Some say that there are also SEO advantages to CDN use.

The IPS Community Suite has supported Content Delivery Networks for some time. However, they can be expensive and difficult to set up. Many clients want a CDN but do not know where to go and we hope to help them out.

We are pleased to announce a new service, IPS CDN, which will allow you to quickly, easily and inexpensively start using this important technology on your community.

How does it work?

The IPS CDN service will be supported in IP.Board 3.4. After upgrading, you'll notice a new section of the Admin Control Panel called "Community Enhancements" - one of the options available here is "IPS CDN".

On this page you'll be able to enable the CDN, which will take you to a new page in the client area where you can purchase credits:

Note that the packages shown in this screenshot are examples only.

As you will notice from that screenshot, you can purchase credits for your CDN account as and when you want, and optionally set up your account to automatically top-up as you run low on credit.

Once this is done, your community will automatically start using the CDN service. If you do not set up automatic top-up, we'll send you an email when your account is running low on credit (when you go below 10GB, 5GB and 1GB). If your credit runs out without you topping up, your community will automatically stop using the CDN service - there will be no interruption to the running of your community, it will automatically notice there's no credit remaining and go back to serving resources locally. If you top up again, it will automatically enable itself again.

One problem of using the IPS Community Suite (or indeed any application) with a CDN is that when a resource is changed locally, the CDN needs to be recached to notice the new changes. Unless the CDN is notified of a change it will keep serving the old copy of the file - sometimes for up to 24 hours. This can cause much confusion to you and your visitors.

To remedy that problem: since editing skins and the CSS is done from the Admin CP, the system will automatically call the CDN service to recache resources as and when you change them, so you don't need to worry about this.

You can keep track of your usage in the Admin CP, where you'll be able to see a graph with your usage over the last 7 days. You'll also be able to buy more credits, disable the system, and manually recache.

How much does it cost?

The service will be based on "Pay As You Go" pricing. Meaning there's no minimum sign up fee - you simply purchase credit on your account and that credit is good for an amount of data transferred through the service. As you use the CDN, your credit will decrease and you can top up with more.

The base price for the CDN will be at or around $0.07 per GB of bandwidth served through the CDN and may drop as you reach higher levels. We realize this is rather unspecific right now but we are negotiating with CDN providers to get the best bulk pricing. It will be our goal to pass any volume savings we receive on to our clients as we look at this service is a great way to enhance our client's experience and want to encourage its use.

Everyone will however be offered their first Gigabyte for free to try out the service before purchase.

Of course if you do not want to use the IPS CDN service and want to use another provider you can certainly do that. We believe the click and go setup for the IPS CDN service will encourage usage and benefit all IPS Community Suite users.

Future CDN Integration

Right now the CDN is a basic "pull" implementation whereby it simply pulls data from your live server then serves it via its cache. In the future we hope to implement storage services. This would mean that uploaded files would be stored on the CDN rather than your local computer. This is great to reduce storage costs on your hosting and also means that, other than the actual processing of data, your community's files are geographically distributed. For our power users this would also mean even easier cluster/cloud hosting.

Storage and other CDN integrations will come in future versions of the IPS Community Suite so for now enjoy the current features while we work on even more great additions!

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