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Global content delivery – a consistent experience wherever you access learning

This is a guest post from Catalyst's Joey Murison, who explains how they developed a Custom Content Delivery Network (CDN) for use with Totara LMS enabling a more consistent worldwide content delivery.

More and more these days, our clients need to deliver their learning content globally. The biggest value of the internet is doing exactly this and up to this point, it's been pretty straightforward to achieve. However, as we raise the bar in terms of the richness of content we wish to deliver - moving from basic text and images to rich sound and video media, so we further burden the systems we run on. On top of this, as soon as we introduce regions, countries or even whole continents that present low bandwidth or no connectivity, suddenly our worst fears about slow load times, timeout errors and unhappy end users becomes an all-too-painful reality.

If we all had the budgets and global infrastructure of the big name web giants (Google, Facebook and YouTube) then these kind of challenges are quite easily rectified. In fact, it is exactly the overcoming of these challenges that have seen these household names conquer the internet. Unfortunately, we don't all have the resources on tap that they do… or do we?

Catalyst has developed a highly innovative solution to this problem, leveraging cloud services available as part of Amazon's Web Services (AWS) suite of tools. If you need to deliver content globally, combining the benefits of a cloud solution with AWS's global spread of data centres, Catalyst combine a number of services together to build a customised Content Delivery Network (CDN).

Originally developed on behalf of a customer who faced challenges with delivering learning content to areas encountering natural and humanitarian crises, the Catalyst CDN ensures that end users are able to consume learning materials through Totara LMS via patchy and unreliable fixed internet or 3G mobile internet services. Particularly relevant for those users accessing content in South America, regions of Asia and the African continent is the fact that our custom CDN combines the following services:

  • AWS Nodes
    Using Varnish Cache Accelerator, AWS Route 53 and a global network of nodes hosted on Amazon Web Services infrastructure, the custom CDN caches content within local nodes and delivers content to users from the closest node geographically, providing significant improvements to the user experience.

  • Google Page Speed
    This application renders graphical content on the fly to a resolution suited to the end user's device. In essence, if you are browsing the site on a small-screened device, then pictures are resized before being sent across the network, therefore reducing the size of the data to be sent. This provides further performance increases to the end user in areas of low bandwidth.

Catalyst's inhouse team of system administrators are all experts in the development of innovative hosting and infrastructure solutions. We are all qualified Amazon Web Services Solution Architects and offer our consulting expertise upon request. If you have a global delivery requirement and want to guarantee your user's experience, contact us on [email protected] for more information.

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Catalyst IT

Catalyst IT specialises in free and open source technologies and services, and is one of the founders of Totara Learning Solutions. Since 2010 our e-learning teams in New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom have built up a local and international reputation for high volume, high-availability Totara hosting and support on dedicated, highly secure environments featuring state-of-the-art monitoring and performance. Our in-depth product know-how and extensive LMS project experience make Catalyst the ideal technology partner for implementing, hosting and maintaining complex Totara instances. When required we can develop additional functionality, branded theme designs and integrations with external systems. We understand that by working collaboratively with our clients we can maintain our global reputation for delivering quality tailored solutions and help you make the most of your Totara installation. 

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