Other network services

Natasha Ong
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4 min read

In a nutshell:

When you see a website load immediately on your computer, thank services like Route 53 and CloudFront for making the magic happen! 🪄✨
DNS is like the phone book of the internet, translating domain names (like www.example.com) into IP addresses (like
When you enter a web address, your browser contacts a DNS service like Amazon Route 53 to find the IP address of the website you want to visit.
Amazon CloudFront is a delivery service for the internet, making photos, GIFs, video, data and apps load quickly for people all around the world.
Global Accelerator creates a fast, direct path for users from anywhere in the world, actively managing the route to ensure the quickest journey.
VPNs create secure, encrypted connections over the internet, allowing users or networks to access a private network remotely.

Amazon Route 53

If you have a website hosted at AWS, customers usually enter your website into their browser (e.g. you type nextwork.org in Google Chrome), hit Enter, some magic happens, and the site opens up.

But how does this magic work?

Let's meet the magician making this happen behind the scenes - Amazon Route 53. Route 53 is AWS's domain name service.

What is a domain name?

You might be familiar with domain names already, because they're the names of websites!

For example, nextwork.org is a domain name, and facebook.com is a domain name.

Domain names are addresses that lets people access websites and online services. Otherwise, your computer wouldn't know what website to take you to!

Wait, but what about IP addresses?

Previously, we learnt that an IP address is a unique label assigned to every device that connects to a network. Hmm, well websites are not physical devices, so why would they have IP addresses?

It might not be super obvious straight away, but websites and online services are hosted on servers - this gives them a physical presence somewhere!

Every server in the world has an IP address that identifies their location on the internet. So when you access a website by entering its domain name (e.g., www.example.com) into your web browser, the domain name gets translated into the IP address of the web server hosting that website. Your computer then communicates with that IP address to retrieve the web page.

How does a domain name turn into an IP address?

Domain names on the internet are organised in a structured way called the Domain Name System (DNS).  Think of DNS as a translation service. But instead of translating between languages, it translates website names into IP addresses.

Now with the foundations set up, let's get back to Route 53.

Amazon Route 53

Amazon Route 53 is AWS' DNS web service. It gives you a reliable way to route users to your apps hosted in AWS.

  • For example, when you enter a website address into your browser, the browser asks Route 53 to get the IP address of the site (e.g., then it takes your computer to that address.
  • If we go further, Route 53 can direct traffic to different endpoints using different routing policies* based on DNS information, such as latency-based routing and geolocation DNS.
*Policies in Route 53 = rules for how traffic is directed to different endpoints.
  • Latency-based routing: directing traffic to the endpoint with the lowest network latency*, so users are connected to the nearest server for faster response times.
*Latency = the time it takes for data to travel from the source to the destination in a network.
  • Geolocation DNS: directing traffic based on where the customer is located. Traffic coming from Sydney is routed to the Sydney Region, while traffic in Ireland is routed to the Dublin Region.
  • Health checks: checking the health of different servers and avoiding those that might be experiencing issues.

You can manage DNS records in Route 53:

  • You can buy and register new domain names.
  • You can also transfer DNS records for existing domain names that were managed by other DNS services. Now, all of your domain names can be in a single location.

Route 53 and CloudFront

We have to give credit where credit is due! Route 53 is the magician helping our computers find the right website quickly, but it's not why the images and videos are loaded almost instantly. That's Amazon CloudFront's magic happening in the background!

Quick pause - do you remember learning CloudFront in our global infrastructure topic? If you don't - no worries! Let's recap it now.

Amazon CloudFront is a content deliver network (CDN) service that helps deliver data, video, applications, and APIs to customers around the world with low latency and high transfer speeds. Amazon CloudFront uses edge locations to help accelerate communication with users, no matter where they are. Here's how Amazon CloudFront works:

  1. Origin: Suppose that your data is stored in Sydney, and you have customers who live in Brazil.
  2. Edge location: Instead of needing your customers in Brazil to get their data from Sydney (which will take a long time), CloudFront can cache a copy locally at an edge location.
  3. Fast delivery: Now, when a customer in Brazil requests one of your files, Amazon CloudFront retrieves the file from the cache in the edge location and delivers it to the customer. This is much faster than the situation where the file is coming from the original source in Sydney.

This means Route 53 and CloudFront collaborate to deliver content efficiently.

  • When a user requests your website, Route 53 figures out the best way to reach AWS's data centres.
  • CloudFront then speeds up the delivery of website assets (i.e. the images, videos and GIFs) by placing them closer to users.

AWS Global Accelerator

Just like Route 53, Global Accelerator is a network layer service that you use to direct traffic to the best endpoints over the AWS global network. Global Accelerator improves the availability and performance of your public applications that are used by a global audience.

So what's the difference from Route 53?

  • Route 53 is primarily a DNS service, with the additional ability to direct users to the most suitable server based on DNS information.
  • Global Accelerator takes things a step further by working at the network level. Global Accelerator can change the underlying network path to make sure traffic is taking the fastest possible route.
  • Think of Global Accelerator as the architect that dynamically creates and changes network paths based on traffic, while Route 53 is the navigator that helps traffic pick the best path to take.


A VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a technology that lets you create a secure connection over the internet. Without VPNs, internet use wouldn't have added layers of security and privacy, making sensitive data more vulnerable to being exposed.

There are two main types of VPNs: client VPNs and site-to-site VPNs.

Site-to-Site VPN

A Site-to-Site VPN and Direct Connect are very similar - the goal of both is to connect your on-premise data centre with your AWS VPC.  

  • VPNs offer a fully encrypted route from wherever your on-premises network is located to your Amazon VPC. Traffic would still travel over the public internet.
  • Direct Connect is a physical cable connecting your data centre to an AWS data centre. It doesn't use the public internet, making it even more private and secure.

Note that site-to-site VPN, VPC peering and internet gateways are not the same.

  • Site-to-site VPN connects your on-premise data centre to an AWS VPC over the internet.
  • VPC peering connects two VPCs so they can communicate directly with each other.
  • Internet gateways connect instances in a VPC with the public internet.

Client VPN

Client VPNs work on a smaller scale, and are used to connect individual devices (laptops, smartphones) to a private network over the internet.

The user would install a VPN software on their device, which sets up a secure connection to a server. Now all internet traffic is routed through an encrypted connection!