If you don’t have caching or CDN, your website page load speed is missing two critical speed boosters. Other factors like your theme’s and plugins’ coding quality and other WordPress speed optimizations play a part in having a fast website too. With W3 Total Cache and MaxCDN, you’ll have both caching and CDN implemented and blazing fast within 10 minutes, even if you’re on cheap shared hosting.
What is a CDN?
CDN stands for content delivery network. Basically, it replicates your site’s static content to servers around the world. This frees up your main web server (called the “origin” server), which handles the PHP/processing side of things, from having to do double duty — process the page and serve the content.
Additionally, the CDN’s servers (made up of “edge” and “peer” servers) are optimized for the sole purpose of serving your static content quickly no matter where in the world your visitors come from. Static files include images (.jpg, .png, .gif), stylesheets (.css), scripts (.js), and other “assets”, which make up the bandwidth of your page loads.
You might have seen content around the web being served from “media.example.com” or “images.example.com” or something similar. The main site is located at example.com, but the DNS settings have the subdomain as a CNAME for the CDN’s server. It might also be cdn, cdn1, cdn2, cdn3 and additional subdomains, but that’s a more advanced setup.
It’s simpler than you may think:
- Use WordPress like normal (Media Gallery or FTP file uploads).
- Files stay on your server but also get cached (i.e. copied) to the CDN servers.
- Make the required DNS changes.
- Enable and configure the appropriate plugin, as needed.
- Your site loads static files via CDN, and, when the plugin is disabled, files are served without CDN.
With CDN, your site loads much faster and can handle much more traffic before crashing. Your visitors (including Google Bot for SEO) appreciate the decreased loading time, and your site is more Digg-proof than before.
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Best WordPress CDN
Now you know you need a CDN. Like anything else, there are choices, but the hands-down winner is MaxCDN (parent company is NetDNA). It works flawlessly and is easily implemented via the popular W3 Total Cache plugin.
The most popular CDN alternative is Amazon S3, which is slower than MaxCDN, but S3 is better than no CDN at all. Additionally, you might want to consider CloudFlare or Dropbox, both of which could be implemented for free.
CloudFlare requires you to host all your DNS records with them. This isn’t a bad thing, but it could be an inconvenience if you prefer using GoDaddy, Namecheap, or any other DNS management portal besides CloudFlare’s. You could also run MaxCDN alongside CloudFlare, but it’s not the ideal setup.
Dropbox runs off Amazon S3, and sharing limits exist per day so your site might stop working and your Dropbox account could get suspended. Dropbox isn’t a dedicated CDN service and shouldn’t be considered a full CDN alternative.
MaxCDN Implementation and MaxCDN Coupon Code
I think MaxCDN is the best because of its many CMS and Hosting Integrations, ease of implementation, affordability and straight-forward pricing, great customer support, and reliable and speedy service.
MaxCDN for WordPress
Follow these steps and you’ll have a significantly faster WordPress site in 10 minutes:
- Sign up for MaxCDN. Use coupon code wpmu25 (case-sensitive) for an additional 25% off the already discounted initial 1TB price. 1TB should be sufficient for nearly all sites. Note: all bandwidth amounts expire 12 months after purchase.
- Follow MaxCDN’s easy-to-follow installation instructions for setting up both W3 Total Cache and the CDN.
- After a few minutes, clear your browser cache, reload your site, and click View Source. Look at the images, stylesheets, and scripts in View Source to make sure they’re being served via CDN.
- If you run into issues, comment below or contact MaxCDN Support.
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Nitty Gritty Details
MaxCDN is best used for serving small files, not things like video, audio, and other very large files. It’s optimized for files of small size and serves them via SSDs (Solid State Drives), which are faster and more reliable than spinning hard drives (used by most other CDN providers). It’s got a stellar network, which is younger (i.e. more recently engineered) than traditional providers like Akamai (best for large file sizes). I recommend using YouTube, Vimeo, SmugMug, or Amazon S3 for serving video files.
If you’re going to be serving all or most of your site via SSL / HTTPS, you have a few options: A) pay MaxCDN’s monthly SSL Add-On service fee, B) use MaxCDN’s Free/Shared SSL, C) use a different CDN that allows HTTPS at a lower cost, or D) don’t use a CDN.
Give the MaxCDN blog an occasional read to keep up with tips, tricks, and announcements.
You can sign up for 1 MaxCDN account and use its bandwidth across multiple WordPress sites.
Summary: MaxCDN for WordPress
By installing W3 Total Cache, you’ll implement caching, which is an important step for your site. W3TC has an option for integrating CDN services, one of which is MaxCDN. Getting a CDN for your site is an excellent and easy way to improve page load speed and provides visitors with an improved experience. If you can’t get things working properly or change your mind, MaxCDN’s support is just an email or phone call away. I’m sure that once you get MaxCDN, your jaw will drop and you’ll brag to your friends and clients.
Credit: Speedometer image from Nathan E Photography