What is a CDN?
CDN is the acronym used for Content Delivery Network. It is a service that takes the static resources of your website and saves them as cached files in various servers across the world.
When a visitor accesses your website, the CDN servers the static files from the server closest to the visitor’s location, thereby speeding up the website load time.
A Quick Example to Understand CDN
Try to understand how a CDN works with this example. Suppose your website is hosted on a server located in Japan. Someone from France tries to access your website. There is a massive distance between the two countries.
So, the data from the server needs to travel all the way from Japan to France to eventually reach the destination computer located in France.
A CDN will place a server between Japan and France, but close to France. The server in the middle will have all the static files of your website stored as cached files.
When the French guy tries to access your website. The server located close to France will quickly serve the cached static files to the destination computer.
This puts less pressure on the server where your website is hosted. Since the cached files are served from a server close to the end-user, the website loads faster.
So, the purpose of the CDN is to minimize the page load time of your website. A faster website is what Google prefers.
How to Choose a CDN?
I am pretty sure that by now, you have almost made up your mind to get the services of a CDN provider. But wait! It is not that easy.
There are many CDN providers out there, and some of them are quite pricey. You need to think before you pick up a CDN randomly.
There are a few factors that you need to consider. They are:
Your budget: Some CDNs are very expensive. You may have to shell out as much as 200+ dollars a year irrespective of what traffic you get, and how much profit you make out of your website.
So, finding a CDN that is easy on your pocket, and yet serves your purpose well is desirable. Don’t you think so?
Your technical know-how: Implementing CDNs can be a complicated task. There are some technical aspects that you need to deal with. In case you are not very technical by nature, you need to make sure that you get a CDN that offers easy implementation.
If you find everything to be too difficult, you should consider getting some professional help. That will cost you some money, but you need to understand two things:
- Failure to implement CDN properly can break your site.
- If properly implemented, a CDN will improve your website speed, leading to better search rankings. This eventually translates into more revenue.
The CDN expanse of the CDN network: A CDN with few servers will not help. You must go for a CDN that has a vast and global network of servers. This will ensure that your website loads fast in every corner of the world.
The other logical thing that you should do is to go ahead and look into the traffic you receive. Find out the countries from where you get the maximum traffic.
For example, if you get 80% of your traffic from the United States of America, it makes sense to get a CDN provider that has a large pool of CDN servers spread across America.
It is okay if your website loads slightly slower in the other parts of the world.
If you ask me, I always prefer the first option, that is, CDN servers located all over the world. I prefer my blog to load faster everywhere, and not just from the country from where I get the maximum traffic.
The reason for this is simple. Today I may be getting more traffic from a particular country. No one can say for sure that tomorrow I won’t get more traffic from other countries.
So, I will always suggest that you go for a CDN provider which has a vast network of server spread globally.
Now that you know what to look for when shopping for a CDN service, it is about time I walk you through the list of the best CDN providers of 2020 to speed up any website.
11 Best CDN Providers of 2021 to Speed Up Any Website
Cloudflare – By Far, the Most Famous
Cloudflare is, by far, the most popular CDN on Earth. Millions of websites across the globe use Cloudflare. It comes with a basic free plan, which is capable of improving or boosting your website performance to a great extent.
It has 115 data centers spread globally. You can find the data centers in North America, South America, Asia-Pacific, Middle East, Australia, Africa, Europe, etc.
Cloudflare uses the technology called ‘Anycast’ to create a network that is extremely resilient. It has features like automatic failover, load balancing, etc. that allow it to maintain service continuity even if 50% of its network fails.
I will not go into the technical aspects too much. However, what’s worth mentioning here is that Cloudflare has an advanced security system in place that thwarts off DDoS protection like a pro. It is one of the largest DDoS protection services in the world.
Its security is capable of handling every type of attack that targets ICMP and UDP protocols. It also thwarts risks of DNS amplification, SYN/ACK, and Layer 7 attacks.
You don’t need to understand everything now. The bottom line is that once you put your website behind Cloudflare protection, you can sleep peacefully at night.
Another exciting feature of the service is called the Rocket Loader. Appropriately implemented, Rocket Loader can ensure that your website always gets a 90+ score for both mobile and desktop in Google Pagespeed Insight tests.
Be aware! There are specific ad networks that are incompatible with Cloudflare’s Rocket Loader, and they will ask you to disable it. One such ad network that I have worked with is Mediavine.
Amazon CloudFront – Avoid It If You Are a Noob
Unless you possess the know-how to implement it, or unless you have some developer’s help, avoiding Amazon CloudFront will be a good idea.
But, if you are able to implement, CloudFront is one of the finest options you will have. It seamlessly integrates with AWS (Amazon Web Services) to deliver APIs, applications, and content with very high transfer speeds and very low latency, making it one of the fastest CDNs in the world.
It has a strategic presence in 21 countries through 77 Edge Locations. It is also present at 11 Regional Edge Locations.
All these locations offer high availability alongside scalability in conjunction with AWS, leading to high cache hits.
It is one of the most secure environments for hosting any website with its very own domain name and even its own SSL certificate. CloudFront has some extremely unique features that include geo-restrictions, live video streaming, and support for personalized dynamic content.
CloudFront has a steep learning curve, making it an obvious choice, mostly for developers and experts. Noobs really cannot handle its complexity.
One good thing about Amazon CloudFront and AWS is that they have a pay-as-you-go pricing plan. So, you pay only for what you use.
In case you don’t know, some of the largest websites in this world use the combo of AWS and CloudFront. One such website is Quora.
StackPath CDN – One of the Finest for E-Commerce
It was previously known as MaxCDN. If you are more interested in finding a CDN for a website that is powered by WordPress, or if you have an e-commerce website, StackPath CDN is one of the finest that your money can buy.
This content delivery network has a presence in 90 countries with strategically located servers. The servers use high-performance SSD servers that offer excellent image caching and acceleration along with side fast page load times, that together speed up your website.
This CDN offers a built-in SSL feature that offers real-time protection to all websites sitting behind it. They offer both two-step authentication along with secured tokens to keep accounts safe.
You can set individual caching rules for different servers using the easy-to-use control panel.
MaxCDN is optimized to work with all well-known CMS platforms like WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc.
The StackPath CDN has carved a niche in offering world-class CDN solutions for e-commerce websites.
Imperva – Security Features That Are Second to None
If you are looking for a CDN service that aces the security segment, the Imperva is one name that you can blindly rely on. Their cloud-based CDN comes with integrated DDoS attack protection and various security services for web applications.
They have a complete load management feature alongside failover feature and real-time traffic monitoring. They have deployed a dynamic caching technology for ensuring that the caches remain fresh and that bandwidth consumption remains low.
Incapsula also has a set of network and content optimization tools to ensure speedy delivery of cached content. The company takes pride in protecting and serving 6000+ multinational companies, including financial firms, insurance companies, global banks, and multinational telecom giants.
While they are definitely the finest when it comes to protecting websites while providing CDN, I have doubts about how far they play along with small websites and blogs. Why do I say that?
Because their pricing plans are hidden. If you want to use their services, you have to request a demo, which makes me believe that the company plays with large websites and corporations. You may give it a try though! Requesting a demo won’t cost you money.
They have a chat system on their website. You can talk with them there as well.
Cachefly – They Are Elite & They Are Pricey
With 40 points of presence across the globe, Cachefly has an interesting range of CDN services. They have very low error rates and excellent performance. What makes them stand apart from the cloud is their ability to deal with rich media.
But before you head out to Cachefly website, you need to know that they are very pricey with their core plan (or the most basic plan) starting at $595 per month.
That’s a lot! However, they do offer a 100% uptime guarantee with a 98% global cache hit ratio. They are, indeed, very fast and deliver static objects of your website up to 10 times faster. They also provide gzip compression.
They have something called the md5-shared secret system that you can use to create various security controls for your website. Analytics and real-time reporting, on-demand bandwidth, two-factor authentication – they have everything you need.
Unfortunately, most of the advanced features are available only when you upgrade to the Global or the Elite Managed plan that costs 1995 USD or 2995 USD per month, respectively.
Google Cloud CDN – Cheap but Fast
When you are using a CDN, your motive is to make your website fast. Google Cloud CDN will do that for you. They will charge you only for what you use. There is no fixed monthly price to pay.
With Google Cloud CDN, you can always depend on their global network of servers for the fastest delivery of content across the globe. They have low-latency servers in 90 global locations that offer quick page load times.
Google Cloud CDN will offer a single IP address to all users on your site, thereby eliminating the need for regional DNS. The CDN service is integrated with Google’s Cloud Platform, and deploying it requires checking a single box.
Google will also throw in an SSL certificate for your website so that your customers can feel secure when they see HTTPS security!
KeyCDN – One of the Cheapest Options You Will Get
KeyCDN is one of the cheapest CDNs in the world with a pay-as-you-go pricing policy. This means that you pay for only what you use. They have 34 data centers spread across the world.
It is a perfect choice for WordPress users because they have a nifty WordPress plugin that makes integration super easy.
It has a series of amazing features like Origin Shield, which will allow you to specify a KeyCDN server as the source for updates rather than your web server. This dramatically reduces the server load.
In case you are blessed with technical know-how, you can always work with things like header control, cache, custom robots.txt, strip cookies, etc. They will also throw in some reporting tools to keep a real-time (almost) on CDN performance.
They will also give you free SSL. There are other security features that you can work with, which include DDoS protection, two-factor authentication, secure token, bad bot blocking, etc.
Did I mention that they have an image processing feature as well, which allows you to serve highly optimized images, and hence, get faster load times for your website?
Rackspace – 99.99% Uptime with Great Security Features
Yet another key player in the CDN space, Rackspace comes out as a strong contender when it comes to offering CDN with amazing security features.
Rackspace is a high-end provider, just like Imperva. The company has deployed Raid-10 SSD drives that come ticked with advanced backup technology. They have added a unique protocol that allows the RAID-10 SSD to automatically move and adjust in the face of an imminent threat.
Because of their unique technologies, they ensure near-zero downtimes with high reliability.
They come with a 3-layer scan system that protects all business communications. They also offer a file storage option just in case you want to host static content, images, and large files. For this, they have a pay-as-you-go pricing model.
Rackspace is not a suitable option for small websites. It is perfect for large and complex websites.
Microsoft Azure CDN
If you are using Microsoft’s Azure services, using their CDN makes more sense, because of seamless integration and instant scalability.
It is Microsoft in question. So, you can expect global coverage, high-end security, and quick scaling for the content delivery network.
They, too, have a pay-as-you-go pricing model. Unfortunately, if you are not aware of Microsoft Azure, using their CDN will not be a viable option.
So, I will suggest that you steer clear of this option unless you have a developer who can deploy it for you.
Fastly – A Heavyweight You Can Depend On
Some big organizations like Reddit, Spotify, etc. use Fastly. The company stands up to its name by offering speedy performance that you will love.
In the UK, Fastly is the second-fastest CDN (if we are to go by CDNPerf’s ranking). That doesn’t mean that Fastly is not good for other countries. Their worldwide speeds are impressive.
However, speed isn’t the thing that makes Fastly so popular. It is the configuration flexibility that the service provides is what makes it so popular.
From video streaming to image optimization, from load balancing to cloud security, Fastly has some cutting-edge technologies that make it an incredibly reliable CDN. Their CDN offers dynamic site acceleration that serves content just as fast as your readers can consume it.
They also have real-time logs that will allow you to make split-second decisions whenever necessary. Unfortunately, Fastly is not for rookies. It is developer-friendly, and you need to go through a steep learning curve to fine-tune your needs.
You can try Fastly for free. They will allow you to test their CDN service for up to $50 worth of traffic.
MetaCDN – It Is a Multi-CDN
MetaCDN is an Australian company with a unique take on CDN. What they do is that they combine the CDNs of multiple providers to give you one unified network of servers that’s largest in the world.
For starters, they combine Fastly, CloudFront, and EdgeCast (by Verizon). Because they combine the CDN servers of different providers, the chances of a visitor to your site having a CDN server close to him or her increases significantly.
This ensures the fastest content delivery everywhere in the world!
What MetaCDN does is that if there are multiple CDN providers in a location closest to the visitor, it will automatically route the traffic through the fastest option available in that location.
Again, if, for any reason, one of the CDN provider’s servers are down in a particular location, MetaCDN will route the traffic through another provider’s server. This ensures 100% uptime.
The only problem with MetaCDN is that you will have very limited control. When you signup with a single CDN provider, you will have all the controls that your selected plan has to offer. You can fine-tune the settings depending upon your needs.
With MetaCDN, you will barely get any configuration options. Well, the reasons are quite obvious, aren’t they? If you get configuration options, you need to have the options available for all CDNs that MetaCDN combines.
You definitely don’t want to go ahead and fine-tune the settings for each CDN! So, what you get is preconfigured.
MetaCDN offers you a no-obligation free trial. So, why don’t you try it out before purchasing a plan?
CDN is an important thing today for all websites, especially when Google is shifting its focus on website speed as an important ranking factor. It is better that you take a CDN subscription for your blog – no matter how big or small it is.
If you are unable to decide on which one to use, I will definitely suggest you go for Cloudflare’s free plan if you don’t have enough budget. It is free forever, and yet it delivers!
I have tried out Cloudflare, Amazon CloudFront, and StackPath CDN (previously MaxCDN). What my experience says is that Cloudflare is too easy to set up. You will never need any professional help. CloudFront is a strict NO from my end if you don’t have ample technical knowledge.
StackPath CDN is a good choice. It is user-friendly as well. However, Cloudflare has far more data centers that will allow you to get amazing speed. It is reliable, secure, and fast.
Talking of security, only recently, my blog came under DDoS attack from China. The blog was receiving more than 40 requests per second. That is a massive number, and Cloudflare successfully thwarted each one of them. I am happy with Cloudflare. You won’t be disappointed either.