The time it takes for your website to load can significantly affect the user experience and how your online business performs. The time to the first byte and page load time are also important factors that influence your website’s SEO ranking.
That’s where some of the best CDN solutions can help. A content delivery network has other benefits, such as cutting down bandwidth costs, improving security, and making it globally accessible.
Includes: Easy-to-use DNS, unmetered DDoS protection, SSL, and more
Includes: 3+ TB bandwidth, image optimizer, TLS, reporting, and more
Includes: a 14-day free trial, low latency, flexible pricing, SSL, real-time monitoring, and more
Includes: SSL, 24/7 support, custom rules, scripting, and more
Includes: WAF, virtual patching, load balancing, and more
Includes: Image optimization services, managed services, custom edge scripting
Includes: TLS v1.3, monitoring, debugging, SSL, and more
What Is a CDN Service?
A content delivery network - CDN - is a network of servers located at the so-called “network edge.” Closer proximity to the user means that the time the information needs to travel is greatly reduced, and a website or a web application loads much faster.
The content delivery network servers store a cached copy of your website, meaning that anyone who wants to access it doesn’t have to send the request to your main server and wait for the information to be delivered across a greater distance.
Apart from making your website faster, CDNs also improve its security and reduce the amount of traffic that goes through your main server, thus reducing bandwidth consumption.
How Does a CDN Work?
When you’re opening a website, all it seemingly takes to get the page opened on your browser is to type in the address, wait for a second, and freely browse the page. However, it’s not as simple as that.
A web address like “www.example.org” is tied to an IP address, which is a string of numbers, such as 192.168.0.1 (this example IP is used for local area networks, and not websites).
In order not to have to remember a string of numbers ranging from 4 to 12 figures, the URL is sent to a DNS server, which serves as a figurative “address book.” The DNS server processes the URL request from your internet service provider and delivers the requested page.
The DNS forwards the request to the CDN service, which stores the cached version of the website, and redirects it to the node closest to the user based on their IP address. This is known as Unicast routing.
Most CDN providers use Anycast routing, which has advantages such as less traffic congestion, protection against DDoS attacks, and better availability, as multiple nodes with a single IP architecture have more redundancies than Unicast.
If you use a CDN for your website, visitors will be routed depending on multiple factors, such as the location request, CDN server load, and the type of content requested.
When the distance that data needs to travel is lower, you’ll have lower command input latency, better video streaming, and, most importantly, shorter website loading time.
An additional benefit of CDNs is having additional copies of your website in case of server crashes. While even the most affordable hosting providers have impressive guaranteed uptimes, you can still benefit from preparing for the worst-case scenario.
CDN servers are located at internet exchange points, and it’s one of the main reasons why they can speed websites up. These are locations where networks of multiple ISPs are connected to allow communication between them.
Top CDN providers are also used by large companies to distribute other types of media besides websites. They can host data for games, video, audio, and software, and deliver it efficiently to users around the globe.
How We Evaluate CDN Service Providers
Our main criteria for choosing CDN providers were network size, coverage, time to first byte, pricing, and support.
Network Size and Coverage
Waiting for a website to load can be frustrating, and it’s the main reason why a site can lose traffic, users, and potential customers. On top of that, Google can give your website a lower ranking because of poor load times. That’s why even a cheap CDN can make all the difference and help push your online business.
You can reduce your website’s bounce rate as CDN speeds up the time to first byte. Internet users are mostly used to instant access and expect to find information quickly, and this performance directly depends on the CDN’s network infrastructure (the number of servers) and coverage (how many IXPs have the provider’s servers). All these factors directly influence the speed of the CDN service.
That’s why we focused on CDN service providers with a robust network infrastructure.
The amount of traffic your website attracts will directly impact how much bandwidth you need, and paying your hosting service for extra bandwidth may be more expensive than using a CDN.
When you’re deciding on a content delivery network provider, make sure to check what bandwidth they’re offering. You’ll need to compare it with your website’s traffic since going over your allotted limit may incur additional charges.
Some providers charge you for the actual traffic going through the CDN to your website, and this may be the best solution for smaller businesses.
Remember that traffic can vary, as some websites have more or fewer visitors depending on the season. However, it’s not always unpredictable, and you can plan for an increase in traffic following certain promotions, such as after a successful email marketing campaign.
Since a CDN directly lowers the bandwidth requirements for the origin server, you might also consider downgrading your subscription plan if you’re currently paying extra for more bandwidth.
The pricing will dictate how much you can invest in the infrastructure of your online business. You have the option of paying based on the amount of data transferred, the number of requests processed, or you can pay a flat fee.
There’s always the option to try CloudFlare for free and see for yourself if you actually need a CDN. Certain providers also offer discounts for long-term subscription plans.
You can always compare pricing plans and decide on those that meet your needs and then upgrade further down the line if necessary. Companies that we listed here have scalable solutions you can adjust to your requirements.
You can have the best content delivery network in charge of caching your website, but something can still go wrong and have a disruptive effect on the day-to-day operation of your online business.
If you’re not someone with previous experience using CDNs, you’ll definitely need help at some point.
The providers we listed here are known for good customer service, and most have support teams that are available 24/7. Available communication channels are usually email and live chat.
Top CDN solutions implement much-needed security measures, such as DDoS protection. Some services even include free SSL certificates. Even if you’re not considering using a CDN for a website that hosts user data, such as payment information, you can benefit from the basic security it provides.
However, if you’re considering starting an eCommerce business, it’s better to find a CDN that has a good set of security features. Some are compliant with PCI DSS, meaning that visitors can confidently use the site without worrying about compromising their payment card data.
If you don’t already have a hosting service that provides you with an SSL certificate, you should seriously consider finding a CDN that will. Having an HTTPS instead of an HTTP address lets your users know that the connection is encrypted and that nobody can spy on them during the session.
This encryption is also necessary for ranking well on Google, as it’s one of the multiple factors that determine how easy it is to be found via Google search.
Top CDN providers include DDoS protection in their plans. This cyber threat is just one of the many tactics commonly used by malicious parties to disrupt websites.
If you’re using a content management system such as WordPress or Drupal, you should consider a service with a web application firewall. Such security measures are effective against SQL injections and cross-site scripting.
How To Find the Perfect CDN for You
So, how can you be sure if a certain CDN is the best option for you? You’ll need to consider where your audience is from, what type of content your website has, and if your website is static or dynamic.
If you’re aiming to reach a global audience, using a CDN is a much better option than relying on a single server. You can expect much better performance and faster load times anywhere.
A CDN provides great value for static websites, as it can cache the content without the need to fetch it often from your server. For websites hosting video files or streaming content, it can help with reducing latency and improving user experience.
Best CDN: Our Top 5 Picks
Best CDN - Reviews
- ⦿ Great free plan
- ⦿ Can scale up depending on project needs
- ⦿ Data centers across the globe
Cloudflare is one of the most famous CDN providers, and for a good reason. It’s a go-to solution for small businesses, individual bloggers, large enterprises, and professionals, as it can scale to meet the needs of corporate networks, secure APIs, and web applications.
This CDN provider has multiple products, such as SASE, application services, network services, a platform for developers, zero trust services, and more. Both the application and zero trust services have free plans, including a free SSL certificate.
Cloudflare has great coverage, with data centers in more than 100 countries and 275 cities around the globe. The infrastructure can process around 36 million HTTP requests per second.
Unlike some other CDN providers, Cloudflare offers a highly functional free plan. Anyone can reliably use the service with unlimited bandwidth and get DDoS protection with an easy-to-use interface.
So, do you even need a premium subscription if you’re running something like a hobby blog?
The answer is yes, you’ll need it at some point. Having a fast CDN like Cloudflare can improve your SEO with image optimization, improve your pages for mobile viewing, add a web application firewall, PCI DSS 3.2 compliance, and provide 100% uptime.
- ⦿ PCI DSS
- ⦿ DDoS protection
- ⦿ Great WAF
With Fastly, you don’t get unlimited bandwidth like you do with Cloudflare, and the company is much less transparent with its pricing plans.
The base price is $50 per month, and then there’s a pay-as-you-go fee of $0.12 for the first 10 TB for North America. Expect that you’ll have to submit a request to get an exact quote for your needs and website traffic.
This content delivery network company includes a number of useful features in its Essential package, including a WAF, DDoS protection, TLS encryption, easy updates, and the option to deploy on any type of infrastructure, including cloud, data centers, or hybrid setups.
Fastly is convenient for providing network services that include websites with media content streaming. If you’re running an eCommerce site and you rely on online transactions, Fastly can cache and deliver content in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard - PCI DSS.
If you need clarification regarding Fastly’s offers, you can always consult some of the experts working there to see what’s the right service for you. You can also take advantage of a limited free trial. We recommend trying the service out for yourself before deciding on any of the paid plans on offer.
- ⦿ In-depth traffic analytics
- ⦿ Good DDoS protection
- ⦿ Permanent cashing
Bunny.net is a fast-growing CDN company founded in 2014. It currently powers more than 1 million websites, and the content delivery network handles more than 650 billion requests per month. Bunny.net recently received series A funding, which will be used to improve the user experience further and add new features to the network.
Bunny.net has a range of products, and Bunny CDN is just one of them. With an 80+ Tbps network and servers that use NVMe drives, the service can significantly reduce latency and speed up the load time of your websites. Bunny.net directly connects your visitors to 14 Tier 1 transit providers and over 3,000 ISPs.
The CDN service provider also includes comprehensive security measures. You can set up geo-blocking and network limits, and Bunny.net also includes DDoS and hotlinking protection as well.
Another great feature of Bunny.net is access to reports and analytics regarding your traffic. Through a user-friendly control panel, you can measure performance, monitor traffic, and get access to real-time stats for your website.
With more than 110 locations, Bunny.net is a great option for anyone who’s in the market for a CDN, and if you’re still not convinced, there’s a 14-day free trial available to try it out for yourself.
- ⦿ Advanced WAF
- ⦿ Free SSL
- ⦿ Customizable edge server settings
StackPath is a Texas-based edge server platform offering plenty of solutions for anyone looking for a CDN vendor. StackPath also has the expertise of industry veterans from companies such as Highwinds, Fireblade, and MaxCDN.
With StackPath, you can reduce load time for your APIs, improve SEO, and reduce the bandwidth consumption on your dedicated servers. Even if your server is hosting large files, such as software installation files or high-resolution videos. Users can download files in segments, and StackPath doesn't impose any file size limits.
StackPath can mitigate any DDoS attacks on your website, in addition to protecting your server from a request overload. StackPath’s Origin Shield balances the load between multiple Points of Presence, so if there’s an issue with connectivity with one edge server, another one automatically handles the requests.
The provider also delivers SSL certification from PoPs, further reducing the workload from your original server. On top of that, you get a free EdgeSSL certificate for each website or web application you add to the CDN or WAF service on StackPath.
StackPath covers a smaller number of locations compared to some other CDN vendors, but it makes up for it with edge servers that won’t be overloaded with requests as easily.
- ⦿ Superb firewall and malware protection
- ⦿ Virtual patching
- ⦿ Zero-day exploit prevention
Sucuri is more than just a CDN service, as it offers website security solutions such as malware scanning and removal, hack protection, security scans, and more. However, if you’re in the market for a CDN with a firewall, you won’t be disappointed with Sucuri.
With this provider, your cached website will most often have load speeds improved by 70%. The company guarantees that your website will be reliably accessible, as the CDN has multiple redundancies that will prevent any interruptions from making it unavailable. This fast CDN can be used with multiple platforms such as WordPress, Joomla!, Drupal, Magneto, and phpBB.
More importantly, you can significantly improve the security of your website with Sucuri. It offers great DDoS protection, and if your site is under a DDoS attack, you can restrict access to the Admin panel for your whitelisted IP address.
If your server host didn’t provide you with a free SSL certificate, you get one automatically with a Business or Professional subscription plan. Sucuri is easy to set up, as only a DNS change and access to web server credentials are required.
If you’re also looking for an affordable and reliable cloud backup service, you’ll be pleased to know that this is also in Sucuri’s repertoire. For a small monthly fee, you can maintain a cloud backup and roll back your website to any point in the last 90 days.
Overall, Sucuri has several plans on offer to suit the needs of businesses of all sizes, including a firewall and a cheap CDN service.
- ⦿ Managed CDN service
- ⦿ Great for live streaming
- ⦿ Fast TTFB results
CacheFly is one of the best content delivery networks for delivering video content, including live broadcasts, with less than one second of latency. It has more than 50 PoPs worldwide, making it perfect for streaming.
The experienced team behind CacheFly started in 1999, and now it has customers among renowned companies and corporations such as Microsoft, LG, Adobe, P&G, Vodafone, and many more.
If you’re looking to expand your business in some of the emerging markets such as South America, CacheFly can greatly help you out with establishing a responsive website. The Essential package is great for small businesses, and it covers 10 TB bandwidth monthly, up to ten websites, and it includes standard customer support.
With Growth and Performance subscriptions, you receive managed CDN solutions, priority support, dedicated account managers, and many other benefits.
Some notable features offered by this CDN provider include SSO, 2FA, storage optimization, and many custom options you can tinker with to have your CDN tailored specifically for your needs.
You can even get the first month for free, but you’ll have to contact CacheFly directly to receive a quote. The company has flexible billing terms and doesn’t require you to sign a long-term contract, so you can try CacheFly’s global content delivery network without any risk.
Google Cloud Review
Google Cloud Review
- ⦿ Top speeds
- ⦿ No issues with useability
- ⦿ $300 of credits for testing
We can’t talk about CDN providers without mentioning Google Cloud. You might think that the Google Cloud platform is the best solution for you since you’re already optimizing your content for users trying to find it through Google. But it’s not necessarily that straightforward.
Google offers a powerful solution for enterprises, as we can see from its customer base, which includes brand names like PayPal, Twitter, UPS, Etsy, and Equifax. Small businesses can benefit from Google’s large PoP network, but it may not be as easy to set up as some other content delivery network providers we have on our list.
There are plenty of customization options that you can adjust to your needs, but most people who are new to cloud services won't know how to configure options like smart congestion control, TLS 1.3, keys, cache modes, and others. Meanwhile, enabling HTTPS requests with other CDN providers is a simple matter, and Google’s documentation on the topic is extensive.
Pricing is also not as simple as with other CDN providers. It depends on your bandwidth usage and how many cache fill and egress requests the CDN processed for your website.
While Google is a great option for developers, small entrepreneurs may get more value from some other providers. Unless you’re prepared to invest time and effort to learn more about edge cloud platforms and how content distribution networks work, it’s better to try another vendor.
Cloudflare is one of the best-known content delivery networks. However, there are multiple companies that could be considered among the biggest CDN providers. These include Google Cloud, StackPath, Sucuri, Fastly, CacheFly, and Bunny.net.
Cloudflare is the only free content delivery network on our list. It offers unlimited bandwidth, and you can cover three domains with a single account.
Before you invest in a CDN, you should examine the technical requirements of your website. If you want to run a small website, Cloudflare’s free plan may be the best first step for you. If you need more from your content delivery network, you can always upgrade or see if another provider has a better offer for you.
We listed Cloudflare as one of the best providers on our list since it offers a wide range of features that can be adjusted for almost any website, from a small one-man blogging site to huge websites and services such as Steam, Vimeo, Discord, and many others.
Cloudflare is the best CDN provider on our list because it offers a wide range of features, it’s easy to use, and it has a free plan that gives you access to most of the essential features.
There aren’t many free CDN providers, so Cloudflare offers a risk-free option of trying out the service for yourself before opting for a paid plan. It also has one of the biggest PoP networks in the world.