About 40% of your website’s visitors click away if the page takes three seconds to load, analytics firms say. That’s why you need a content delivery network. The best CDN can make pages load faster so impatient customers stick around to purchase your products and services.
- Great for smaller companies
- A substantial range of free and paid packages
- Excellent security features
- Familiar interface
- Established infrastructure
- Integrates across Google’s other platforms
- Highly trusted
- Awesome customer support network
- Huge number of servers
- Very easy to set up and operate
- Low costs
- Just right for beginners
What is a CDN?
The CDN provider maintains copies of your website on hundreds or thousands of proxy servers all around the world. When a user on the far side of the planet accesses your website, the best CDN services ensure that the data is loaded from a local server. That means the user’s requests and your website’s data needn’t make the time-consuming round trip across the multiple network bridges, gateways, and other devices that would otherwise stand between them. The result? Pages load faster.
If your website is an essential part of your business strategy, it’s a no-brainer.
A CDN can save you money too, especially if your server demand experiences spikes and slower periods. If your server is handling all user requests for data, you’ve got to buy or contract for a server that’s fast enough to handle peak traffic. With a CDN, you can get by with a less expensive server because traffic peaks are distributed across among multiple servers.
The speed boost provided by the best web hosting CDNs can give your website a boost on search-engine results pages too, allowing more customers to find your site more easily. Google’s search algorithm favors web pages that load faster.
Our Evaluation Methodology
CDN web pages are full of jargon and details that make choosing a service more complicated than it needs to be. Our expert reviewers developed a five-part rubric for exploring a CDN service’s capabilities and performance. The assessment criteria helped us identify the market’s best values in top-performing CDN services. And you can use it to determine which offering is the very best CDN hosting service for you.
Choosing a content delivery network ultimately comes down to speed. That’s the most important criterion and the reason most users sign up with a CDN service. If your web pages don’t load much faster with a particular CDN, then you can immediately cross it off your list and confine your search to the market’s remaining offerings. Since improving your website’s speed is perhaps the most critical factor when subscribing to a CDN, we made sure just to select ones that are among the fastest CDNs.
If you are hoping to read actual speed rankings here, you will be disappointed. Many factors determine page load speeds with CDN, including such ephemeral influences as minute-by-minute fluctuations in local web traffic. In general, you want a service with more nodes and more servers - especially in the regions where your customers are found. You want fast servers with solid-state disks and plenty of RAM. You may want servers that are optimized for transmitting images or streaming video. And you must give up the idea that benchmarks can give you much more than a snapshot of performance during the testing period. All of the best CDN services we review here have ranked among the top performers at CDNPerf, a website that spot-checks CDN speed worldwide.
After speed comes a whole host of useful features.
Some CDNs offer analytical software and administrative dashboards that give you insight into the way consumers interact with your website.
If you host multimedia on your servers, then you’ll want a CDN whose servers are tuned to provide the best audio and video streaming performance.
You may want more server coverage in particular regions. You may benefit from particular kinds of security. If your users habitually store large data files on your servers, then you need to find the best CDN for handling video uploads and image crunching.
Your search for the most appropriate CDN for your business and its particular needs may not be done when you find the one that delivers the biggest performance boost.
Ease of Use
CDNs are conceptually simple, but in operation they are quite sophisticated. The complexity usually remains under the hood where you can ignore it, but setting up your servers, deciphering analytic data, configuring options, and troubleshooting problems can require substantial time, effort, and expertise.
That’s why we evaluate each CDN according to how easy it is to set up and use. Our top list of providers includes a couple of surprise entries - the best small-website CDN services that make life simple for website managers.
Security is an essential factor in evaluating CDNs.
With a conventional internet setup, you must inoculate your server against attacks. With a CDN, you’ve got dozens or hundreds of servers to protect. Any one of them might be compromised. Any one of them might deliver harmful content to your customers.
Security is doubly important for e-commerce sites, which have proved to be among the most enthusiastic adopters of CDN technology.
The good news is that your CDN provider can apply economies of scale to equip proxy servers with industrial-strength security technology that is far beyond what you would use on your stand-alone server. In general, the best CDN servers are the most secure computers on the public internet.
Internet giants like eBay and Amazon can afford to have seamless worldwide coverage in their content delivery networks. But those companies are several orders of magnitude larger than the average small or medium-size business.
That doesn’t mean that smaller companies need to compromise. In general, the proxy servers that handle content distribution for small customers are the same ones that tech giants rely on. You could say that the big companies paid for the infrastructure, which is now available at budget prices to the rest of us.
Even so, real price differences distinguish CDN plans from each other. It’s reasonable to take CDN cost into account when choosing a provider.
Best CDN: Our Top 4 Picks
- Google Cloud CDN
Best CDN - Reviews
- ⦿ Great for video optimization
- ⦿ Best integration with WordPress
- ⦿ Doesn't take a genius to use
CDNPerf ranks Cloudflare among the internet’s fastest CDN services. The company caches both static and dynamic content on its extensive network of proxy servers, and it allows users to write caching rules to ensure that website visitors get the fastest load times on the most current data. Cloudflare uses intelligent algorithms for load-balancing and data-routing based on anticipated latency instead of just proximity. The company also provides specific software support to speed video streaming.
Cloudflare’s investment in high-speed streaming hardware and software makes it perhaps the best CDN for video. The company’s all-in-one CDN service stores, encodes, delivers, and streams video.
Cloudflare is also our top pick as the best of the CDN services for WordPress websites. WordPress thinks so too – that’s why Cloudflare CDN is an included feature with every WordPress-hosted website. If your company’s websites are built on a WordPress framework, then you can already take advantage of a top-ranked CDN to ensure your pages load fast, your SEO ranking rises, and your pages are secure from internet bad guys. The best part of this add-on feature? It’s free, which makes Cloudflare our choice as the best free CDN for WordPress.
Ease of Use
We found Cloudflare to be among the most straightforward CDNs to install, configure, and use. You can get it going in the space of a few minutes, and you can explore all the options with a convenient dashboard. Cloudflare is designed for users of all levels of technical experience, which means that you don’t need to be a computer whiz.
Cloudflare provides DDoS protection to all users, including those who use the company’s free service. The company reports that its 42 Tbps network interrupts an average of 72 billion malware threats every day. You’ll know you’re using one of the best CDN servers on the market when your firewall stops detecting these threats.
The company also offers a web application firewall to secure your website against the most evil and insidious digital attacks.
We rate Cloudflare’s security features superb.
Cloudfare’s free CDN package is for casual users who want to start a blog – not so much for serious e-commerce projects. The free package provides baseline CDN services, DDoS protection, and customer support via email.
If you’re running a business, you’ll probably be interested in firewall security, image process, and mobile protection. Paid packages start at $20 per month, and that’s a bargain.
Cloudflare’s Business package ($200 per month) is packed with additional features. It’s designed for serious companies that want the best CDN services on the market.
Cloudflare also offers an Enterprise package. You’ll need to consult with the company’s sales engineers for a quote.
- ⦿ Top speeds
- ⦿ No issues with useability
- ⦿ $300 of credits for testing
CDNPerf routinely rates Google Cloud CDN among the two or three fastest CDNs on the internet. Benchmark results suggest the company has had more success linking up with regional service providers in Africa and the Americas than in Asia, where its service lags somewhat. Even there, however, Google provides some of the fastest content delivery you can get from any CDN.
Google’s servers are omnipresent on the internet, which means Google can implement the best CDN for your website by taking you to your user’s ISP with a minimum of time-consuming hops. Google says it optimizes last-mile performance with modern protocols like HTTP/2 and QUIC. This technology is especially important in emerging markets and for users on mobile devices.
Google already compiles latency metrics around the world as part of its other businesses. These figures allow Google Cloud CDN to route web communications along the optimum path every time.
One of the things that make Google one of the best CDN providers is its reach: It offers speed boosts to users everywhere in the world. It’s hard to beat the size of Google’s infrastructure.
Mobile use is an increasingly important problem as more and more internet traffic originates with mobile devices. Mobile pages generally load far more slowly than the same pages on a desktop or laptop computer. That’s what a CDN optimized for mobile use is a great investment. Google Cloud CDN is a great choice for everyone, but it wins our special recognition as the best CDN for mobile.
Ease of Use
One of the key selling points of Google Cloud CDN is that it is from Google, a company you already interact with every day. You can incorporate almost anything you do online with one of Google’s many tools. This makes Google the go-to company for users who want to keep things simple. If you’re already using the Google Cloud, you can consider CDN just an extension. It’s easy to set up, configure, and monitor.
If you trust Google with your email account, then you can trust them to run your CDN. The company’s security and data protection features are top-notch, making it one of the best of the CDN providers.
Google Cloud CDN is priced based on usage. North American prices start at $0.08 per GB for the first 10 TB of data. The more data you use, the less you pay per GB. The service is cheaper in places where Google already has an established infrastructure such as Europe and North America.
As a bonus, Google offers a $300 credit for your first three months, which lets you test the service at a lower cost.
Google’s pricing is fair for what you get, but CDNs like KeyCDN cost considerably less. We conclude that Google doesn’t have the best CDN price, but it has plenty of advanced technology to justify the cost.
- ⦿ Highly secure
- ⦿ Great for multimedia
- ⦿ Covers 30% of internet traffic
In 1995, World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee challenged his colleagues at MIT to solve a problem that didn’t exist yet: data traffic jams on the internet. In 1996, math professor Tom Leighton assembled a team to work on the problem, including graduate student Danny Lewin. In 1998, Leighton and Lewin launched Akamai.
As the inventor of CDN technology, Akamai provides superb performance through a huge network of nodes and proxy servers. Akamai handles 30% of the internet’s traffic every day, which means you simply won’t find speed to be an issue.
Akamai is one of the best CDNs for video streaming. Delivering video smoothly is tricky on the internet. It’s even harder now that consumers demand high-resolution video suitable for big screens. If you want to deliver video streams to customers without hiccups, then Akamai is the answer. The company delivers high-quality videos, including live streaming, to desktop and mobile devices alike. Its fast servers, huge network, and proprietary technology ensure that video is provided as smoothly and clearly as possible. If you’re searching for the best CDN for live streaming, then you’ve found it right here.
Ease of Use
Akamai is complicated, and that means it can be tricky to set up and use. You won’t require a computer science degree, but it will help if you understand what content delivery networks do and how they work. Without that kind of technical background, setup can be troublesome.
If there’s a kind of malware on the internet, Akamai has already dealt with it. You can rest easy that your website won’t be compromised. The company’s comprehensive suite of security features includes bot management and web-application protection.
Akamai is fairly expensive, so we can’t award it the best CDN pricing crown. Beyond that we can’t say much that is authoritative, as Akamai generates a custom quote for each customer. Reports from existing users reveal that the prices are at the high end of the scale. In return, you get an opportunity to join the ranks of Akamai customers, an elite group comprising the biggest brands on the internet.
- ⦿ Excellent image processing
- ⦿ Prefect for small businesses
- ⦿ High performance despite low costs
KeyCDN is a smaller company that lacks the resources to provide as big a speed boost as the other companies we’ve outlined here. That said, the company delivers excellent value and significant speed boosts that are sufficient for most e-commerce websites. It’s not the fastest CDN, but the speed differences that separate the CDN industry’s top and bottom performers are relatively insignificant, and there are few businesses that can really justify paying more for a tiny speed improvement.
KeyCDN has special features for high-performance delivery of images. The company’s software ensures that images on your website load for users immediately. KeyCDN image processing comes at a good price too: just $1 for every 2,000 operations. If you exceed 100,000 operations per month, you can get in touch with KeyCDN to work out a discount.
KeyCDN also offers users CDN storage space, which is one of the best CDN services there is. This feature lets users save and share large files on the company’s network of proxy servers.
Ease of Use
KeyCDN is probably the most accessible CDN technology we examined. All you need to launch the service is an email address. Once it’s up and running, you’ll find all the tuning and management options logically arranged in a content delivery dashboard. There’s no need to be intimidated by content delivery networks when an easy-to-use option like Key exists.
When it comes to keeping users and data secure, KeyCDN checks all the boxes. It may not offer the best CDN security, but it’s more than good enough. The company offers two-factor authentication, protection against DDoS attacks, and solid encryption among other security features.
KeyCDN charges a fraction of what clients pay to its larger, better established competitors. The company targets smaller ecommerce businesses and websites, which means that its feature set and its price are both a perfect match. With prices this low, there is no reasonable excuse not to get content delivery network services for your company’s website.
The company’s highly affordable CDN pricing starts with a $4 monthly minimum charge, plus low additional charges if data usage exceeds the capacity of the basic plan. The first 10 TB of data usage per month is charged at $0.04 per GB, dropping to as little as $0.01 per GB once you hit 100 TB.
Relative speeds and rankings change minute by minute according to traffic flow. With that caveat, you can take a look at the customizable performance charts at CDNPerf. The Google Cloud CDN and Microsoft’s Azure CDN can both claim top honors, depending on which region of the world you’re talking about. Outside of bragging rights, the practical differences distinguishing the best and fastest CDNs from one another don’t really matter.
Cloudflare is widely used, and for good reason. It has a logical interface, it’s easy to set up, and it has a great free plan. It’s the best CDN for small websites such as blogs where traffic and revenues may be low.
Choosing an effective CDN is an important step in developing a high-functioning and user-friendly website. That’s why we put forward a detailed methodology to help you select the best CDN provider for your specific site. We put emphasis on the CDN’s speed, reliability, ease of use, security, and price as key factors in influencing a choice. Review these points carefully and look forward to enjoying having a faster, safer website.
If your website has an audience across multiple countries or across a continent, a CDN can help you deliver content at equal speeds. Some websites require this more than others. We’d say a CDN is essential for e-commerce sites, video sites, and any business site that is intended to help generate revenue for your business. The best CDN for your website can improve the experience for visitors while increasing traffic and sales.