10 Amazon CloudFront Best Practices

Amazon CloudFront is a powerful content delivery network (CDN) service that can be used to improve the performance and security of your website or web application. In this article, we'll share 10 best practices for using CloudFront.

Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) that helps you deliver content quickly and securely to users around the world. It’s a great way to improve the performance of your website and reduce latency.

However, setting up and managing CloudFront can be complicated. To make sure you get the most out of your CloudFront setup, here are 10 best practices to follow. We’ll cover topics such as caching, security, and cost optimization.

1. Use HTTP/2 for improved performance

HTTP/2 is a major revision of the HTTP protocol, which was first introduced in 1999. It offers several advantages over its predecessor, including improved performance and security.

The most significant improvement that HTTP/2 brings to Amazon CloudFront is increased speed. This is achieved by reducing the number of round trips required for each request, as well as allowing multiple requests to be sent at once. Additionally, it supports server push, which allows the server to send resources to the client before they are requested. This can reduce latency and improve page load times.

HTTP/2 also provides better security than HTTP 1.1. It uses TLS encryption to protect data from being intercepted or modified during transmission. This helps ensure that sensitive information remains secure while in transit.

Using HTTP/2 with Amazon CloudFront is easy. All you need to do is enable the feature in your distribution settings. Once enabled, all requests will automatically use HTTP/2 instead of HTTP 1.1. You can also configure specific behaviors such as whether to allow server push or not.

2. Enable gzip compression of responses

Gzip compression is a method of compressing files (such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) into a smaller size so they can be transferred from the server to the user’s browser faster. When enabled on CloudFront, gzip compression reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent over the network, resulting in improved performance for end users. This is especially important when serving content to mobile devices, which often have slower connection speeds than desktop computers.

Enabling gzip compression on Amazon CloudFront is easy. All you need to do is add an Origin Custom Header with the name “Accept-Encoding” and value “gzip” to your distribution settings. Once this header is added, CloudFront will automatically compress any responses it sends back to the user. It’s also possible to configure CloudFront to only compress certain types of files, such as HTML or JavaScript, by adding additional headers.

It’s important to note that not all browsers support gzip compression, so it’s best to test your site after enabling it to make sure everything works correctly. Additionally, some older browsers may not be able to handle compressed files, so it’s important to ensure that these users are still able to access your content.

3. Configure caching behavior to optimize delivery

Caching is a key component of Amazon CloudFront’s content delivery network (CDN) service. It helps to reduce latency and improve performance by storing copies of frequently requested objects closer to the end user, so that they can be delivered faster. By configuring caching behavior, you can control how long an object remains in the cache before it expires and needs to be re-fetched from the origin server. This ensures that users always get the most up-to-date version of your content.

To configure caching behavior, you need to set up one or more cache behaviors for each distribution. Each cache behavior defines the following parameters:

• Object Path Pattern – The path pattern used to match requests for which this cache behavior will be applied.
• TTL (Time To Live) – The amount of time (in seconds) that an object will remain in the cache before it expires and needs to be re-fetched from the origin server.
• Compress Objects Automatically – Whether or not to compress objects automatically when delivering them to the end user.
• Forward Headers – Which headers should be forwarded to the origin server when fetching an object.
• Allowed HTTP Methods – Which HTTP methods are allowed for requests matching this cache behavior.
• Cached HTTP Methods – Which HTTP methods should be cached.

These settings allow you to fine-tune the caching behavior for different types of content. For example, if you have static content such as images or videos that rarely change, you can set a longer TTL to ensure that they stay in the cache for longer periods of time. On the other hand, if you have dynamic content that changes often, you can set a shorter TTL to make sure that users always get the latest version. You can also use the forward headers setting to pass additional information to the origin server, allowing you to customize the response based on the request.

4. Use AWS WAF for enhanced security

AWS WAF (Web Application Firewall) is a web application firewall service that helps protect your applications from common web exploits. It provides protection against malicious requests, such as SQL injection and cross-site scripting attacks, by allowing you to create rules that block or allow specific types of traffic based on conditions you define. AWS WAF also allows you to monitor the HTTP and HTTPS requests that are forwarded to Amazon CloudFront distributions, giving you visibility into who is accessing your content and what type of requests they are making.

When using AWS WAF with Amazon CloudFront, you can create custom rules to control access to your content. For example, you can use AWS WAF to block requests from certain IP addresses or countries, or to only allow requests from known user agents. You can also set up rate-based rules to limit the number of requests per second from a single source. This helps prevent denial of service (DoS) attacks, which can overwhelm your servers and cause them to become unavailable.

Using AWS WAF with Amazon CloudFront also gives you the ability to inspect incoming requests for malicious payloads. With AWS WAF, you can create rules to detect and block requests containing malicious code, such as SQL injection attempts or cross-site scripting attacks. This helps protect your applications from being compromised by attackers.

5. Utilize signed URLs and cookies for secure content delivery

Signed URLs are used to grant access to content that is stored in an Amazon S3 bucket and served through CloudFront. They provide a secure way of granting temporary access to private content without having to make the content publicly available. Signed URLs contain a unique signature that is generated using a secret key known only by the user who created the URL, which ensures that the URL cannot be modified or tampered with. This makes it much more difficult for malicious actors to gain access to the content.

Cookies can also be used to securely deliver content via CloudFront. Cookies are small pieces of data that are sent from a web server to a browser and stored on the user’s computer. When a user requests content from CloudFront, they will send along any cookies associated with the domain. CloudFront can then use this information to determine if the user has permission to view the requested content. If the user does not have permission, CloudFront will deny the request. This provides an additional layer of security since it requires users to authenticate themselves before being granted access to the content.

6. Minimize origin latency by using regional edge locations

When using Amazon CloudFront, the origin latency is the time it takes for a request to travel from the user’s device to the origin server. This can be affected by many factors such as network congestion and geographic distance between the user and the origin server. To reduce this latency, Amazon CloudFront uses regional edge locations which are located closer to users than the origin server.

Using regional edge locations helps minimize origin latency in two ways. Firstly, they provide an additional layer of caching that reduces the amount of data that needs to be sent back and forth between the user and the origin server. Secondly, they allow requests to be routed through shorter paths with fewer hops, resulting in faster response times.

To take advantage of these benefits, Amazon CloudFront allows customers to configure their distributions to use regional edge locations. When configuring a distribution, customers can specify the regions where they want their content to be cached. By selecting multiple regions, customers can ensure that their content is available to users around the world. Additionally, customers can also set up custom origins so that their content is served directly from the closest edge location.

7. Leverage CloudFront’s custom error pages feature

When using Amazon CloudFront, it is important to have a way of handling errors that occur when requests are made for content. This is where custom error pages come in. Custom error pages allow you to customize the response that is sent back to the user when an error occurs. This can be used to provide helpful information about why the request failed and what steps they should take next.

Custom error pages also help improve the user experience by providing a more consistent look and feel across all of your webpages. By having a unified design, users will not be confused or frustrated when they encounter an error page. Additionally, custom error pages can be tailored to match the branding of your website, which helps create a better overall impression.

The process of setting up custom error pages with Amazon CloudFront is relatively straightforward. You simply need to create an HTML file containing the desired content and then upload it to an S3 bucket. Once uploaded, you can configure CloudFront to use this file as the default error page for any requests that fail.

You can also specify different error pages for specific HTTP status codes. For example, if you want to display a different page for 404 Not Found errors than for 500 Internal Server Errors, you can do so by specifying the appropriate status code in the CloudFront configuration.

8. Monitor your usage with Amazon CloudWatch metrics

CloudWatch is a monitoring service that provides visibility into resource utilization, application performance, and operational health. It allows you to set alarms for when certain thresholds are met or exceeded, so you can take action before an issue arises. CloudWatch also stores log files from your applications and services, which can be used for debugging and troubleshooting.

When using Amazon CloudFront, it’s important to monitor usage with CloudWatch metrics in order to ensure optimal performance and cost efficiency. CloudFront offers several metrics that provide insight into the performance of your content delivery network (CDN). These include request counts, latency, error rates, data transfer costs, and more. By tracking these metrics over time, you can identify trends and potential issues before they become problems.

You can use CloudWatch to create custom dashboards that display all of your CloudFront metrics in one place. This makes it easy to quickly spot any anomalies or changes in performance. You can also set up alarms to notify you if any of your metrics exceed a certain threshold. This way, you can take immediate action to address any issues before they affect your users.

Additionally, CloudWatch can be used to track the cost of your CloudFront usage. The Cost Explorer feature allows you to view detailed reports on your CDN expenses, including total costs, usage by region, and more. This helps you stay within budget and optimize your spending.

9. Take advantage of Lambda@Edge functions for dynamic content delivery

Lambda@Edge functions are serverless compute services that allow developers to run code in response to CloudFront events without provisioning or managing servers. This makes it easy to customize content delivery for each user, as the Lambda@Edge function can be triggered when a request is made to CloudFront and modify the response before it is sent back to the viewer.

For example, if you wanted to deliver different versions of an image based on the device type making the request, you could use a Lambda@Edge function to detect the device type from the request headers and then serve up the appropriate version of the image. You could also use a Lambda@Edge function to add custom HTTP headers to responses, such as adding security headers like Content-Security-Policy or X-XSS-Protection.

Using Lambda@Edge functions also allows you to reduce latency by running your code closer to the edge locations where requests are being served. Since the code runs at the edge location, there is no need to make additional requests to origin servers, which reduces the time it takes to respond to requests.

10. Create multiple origins for failover scenarios

When using Amazon CloudFront, it is important to create multiple origins for failover scenarios in order to ensure that content is always available. This is because if one origin fails or becomes unavailable, the other origins can take over and serve the content instead.

Creating multiple origins involves setting up two or more different origins (e.g., an S3 bucket, an EC2 instance, etc.) with identical content. Then, when configuring a distribution in CloudFront, you specify all of these origins as “origin servers”. When a request comes in, CloudFront will check each origin server in turn until it finds one that is available. If none of the origins are available, then CloudFront will return an error.

It is also possible to configure CloudFront to use weighted routing so that requests are sent to certain origins more often than others. For example, if one origin is faster than another, you could set up CloudFront to send most requests to the faster origin. This ensures that users get the best performance possible.


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