9 Top CDN Services for a Super Fast WordPress Site
A CDN will massively speed up your entire site and the crucial time to first byte (TTFB) by storing static assets on networks of servers located all over the world, ensuring your visitors get the content loaded in the quickest time possible at the location closest to them, massively improving server lag and response times.
You’re probably familiar with CloudFlare, one of the more popular CDNS options, but there are lots of other options worth checking out.
Updated: 12/20/2018 – Smush Pro now includes WebP compression, automatic image scaling and 10GB of CDN storage on our 40 Tbps servers with 45 share points around the world.
So let’s go through what’s available and the features to keep an eye out for.
What is a CDN?
The CDN provider copies your static site assets to its servers; the assets are then loaded from the server closest to your site visitors.
It also acts as a load balancer; most CDN providers have networks of servers per location, which means they can easily handle a larger number of requests than if you hosted the files on your own server.
Why Use a CDN?
Using a CDN not only improves your load times but also allows you to handle more visitors to your site at the same time. If your site has ever experienced a sudden and unexpected traffic spike and gone down thanks to being featured on an authority news site in your niche, a CDN could have stopped that from happening.
On top of that, a one second delay can result in a 7% decrease in conversions. Imagine all that money you’re missing out on. Using a CDN, and serving up static assets to your visitors from the servers located closest to them, will help you see a vast improvement in load times and bounce rates.
What to Look for in a CDN
Custom SSL Support
If you already have an SSL-enabled website, you’ll want to make sure that the CDN you pick supports the use of custom SSL without extra charges. CloudFlare forces you onto its business plan to use a Custom SSL, which is $200/month a massive $180/month more than the standard plan.
HTTP/2 is the new web protocol standard. Currently, it only works over SSL and not non-HTTPS websites. Having an HTTP/2 enabled CDN can hugely increase your site’s speed and slash its loading time. Make sure your CDN supports this vital technology.
The more locations a CDN provider has, the greater flexibility you’ll have. You may see this referred to as POPs also known as Points Of Presence. Make sure your CDN provider has locations/POPs covering all major continents, America, Australia, Europe (Eastern and Western), Australia, Asia and, ideally, Africa. Most CDNs don’t currently have data center locations in Africa.
What good is a CDN if you can’t see what’s happening? Most CDNs now offer real-time analytics allowing you to see everything that’s happening on your site at a glance.
Real-time purging of content is a vital component to any CDN solution. If your CDN solution doesn’t offer real-time purging visitors to your site will be seeing old outdated content or styling that you may have changed.
Push Or Pull?
CDNs offer two different types of zones: Push and Pull.
A Push Zone requires that you upload your content to your CDN. It’s then distributed from there to edge servers. Most CDN providers support FTP, SFTP, and rSync to upload your files.
A Pull Zone fetches the requested content from your server/hosting and caches the assets on the edge servers of the CDN provider.
In general, CDN providers usually offer both types of zones, but it’s recommended to use a pull zone for most dynamic sites using WordPress, as content often changes whether that be through uploading additional files for a post or page or updating plugin/themes. You wouldn’t want to have to upload it to both your website and the CDN separately.
Rules allow you to set up custom behaviors for how your content should be handled or if files should be excluded. If your CDN doesn’t enable you to control what is and isn’t served via its network, don’t use it. WordPress plugins can sometimes break when their files are served via a CDN or if the CDN offers minification solutions. Always make sure your CDN allows you to exclude any files you want.
Some CDNs offer additional services for video hosting, ad delivery, software distribution and app delivery.
Support & Service Level Agreement
Before signing up that a CDN, check that it offers a level of support that you feel comfortable with. Many now offer live chat in addition to support tickets, and often enterprise customers get one-to-one live phone support.
Also, check the SLA – you want to make sure that if the network goes down, you’ll be credited for the lost network availability.
Some CDNs charge per GB of traffic, and some on a flat monthly basis with no bandwidth costs. Costs can also vary widely depending on how many zones you set up and what features you want to take advantage of.
At the time of writing, there are no Multisite CDN solutions. While you can use a plugin such as WP Super Cache on a per site basis and manually configure the CDN, there’s no way to set up a CDN solution to automatically configure required records both at the DNS provider and the CDN provider. Other hazards to a network admin include domain mapping, which will also require manual setup to work with your CDN.
CDNs Worth Checking Out
25GB of traffic to get started within a 30-day trial and no credit card required. This includes everything offered including HTTP/2 Support, Custom and shared SSL at no extra cost, 25 data center locations, and 5 zones for free.
The more you use, the cheaper it gets. With pricing starting at $0.04/GB up to your first 10TB which works out at just $40 per TB. With pricing going as cheap as just $0.01/GB for 2PB! Pricing is based on a rolling structure tiered structure where you pay a set price per tier than go to the next level.
You get 5 zones included for free, and each additional is just $1/month, you can add as many zones that are needed at any time.
There’s also free CDN storage for pull, and push zone storage starts at just $0.47/GB a month.
Ease of Setup
It couldn’t be easier to setup KeyCDN. You can use the CDN Enabler plugin created by the same developers, W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, just enable CDN support in the plugin, enter your CDN URL, save and away you go.
The best part of KeyCDN though has to be that all POPs are enabled for every zone, whereas some CDN’s charge you based on which POPs you use, all POPs are included at no additional cost. Not only does this help keep cost down, but it also makes your site fly!
There are 25 POPs currently with locations in America, Canada, Brazil, London, Hong Kong, Sydney and more. There’s also another seven planned POP locations.
KeyCDN works perfectly with all standard WordPress functionality out the box. Like most CDNs while it’s compatible with WordPress Multisite you’ll need to manually create zones for each subsite, there’s currently no way to automatically create zones for all subsites.
A simple and clear dashboard while remaining incredibly powerful with real-time stats on usage, two-factor authentication, a comprehensive API, and Zonealiases (CNAMEs) support.
CloudFlare offers a free basic plan that includes fast site performance, security protection, and powerful stats about your visitors.
Plans start at $20/month for one website and then $5/month per website thereafter. The business plan, which also includes Railgun optimization, is $200/month per website.
Unlike most other CDNs, CloudFlare doesn’t charge for bandwidth usage, making them one of the best to use for DDoS protection, ensuring you don’t get any nasty bills at the end of the month.
All plans include CloudFlares Global Anycast DNS, which routes your visitors to their nearest data center, HTTP/2, Security, and DDoS protection.
Until you get to the business plan at $200/month, you won’t be able to have a custom SSL certificate, and only the CloudFlare issued one. This could prove to be problematic if your site already uses SSL and massively increases the pricing compared to other solutions like KeyCDN that allow custom SSLs at no additional cost.
CloudFlare has undoubtedly the best network amongst all CDN providers, offering 77 locations worldwide, minimizing hops and making your website load blazingly fast. It’s also one of the only CDN providers to have locations in Africa.
Ease of Setup
Setting up CloudFlare is a piece of cake. You can use one of the many WordPress caching plugins, such as W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, just enable CDN support in the plugin, enter your CDN URL, save and away you go.
CloudFlare works perfectly with all standard WordPress functionality out the box. Like most CDNs, while it’s compatible with Multisite you’ll need to manually create zones for each sub-site. There’s currently no way to automatically create zones for all subsites. While there used to be a plugin that provided automatic zone creation support, it has since ceased development and is no longer available for download. CloudFlare’s documentation still mentions these plugins as ways to use CloudFlare with WordPress Multisite, but it’s no longer a workable solution.
A clean and simple dashboard to manage your site, add custom rules and enable/disable CloudFlares features at the click of a button. Account management in CloudFlare couldn’t be easier.
You can get a 100GB bandwidth free trial package for 30 days, which includes all features and a one-to-one setup call. If you go over the 100GB bandwidth limit you’ll be charged; you’ll also be charged if you purchase any add-ons.
The basic plan comes with 100GB bandwidth for two websites for $9/month. Additional zones (websites) are charged at $12/month per zone. Unlike other CDN providers you don’t automatically get all POPs, you can purchase the extra POP location package which includes Asia for $15/month. There’s also an average charge of 8 cents per GB outside of your plan limits.
Custom SSL, Real-Time analytics, instant purging and an initial setup call are all included in the base price.
With 19 Global POPs and 57 peering partners to minimize hops between ISPs, covering 90 countries worldwide.
Ease of Setup
Creating a pull zone is a breeze, and then you can use W3 Total Caches MaxCDN configuration to integrate with your WordPress site.
Like all the other CDNs here, MaxCDN works perfectly with WordPress. Moreover, like others, if you wish to use it on a Multisite install, you’ll need to manually configure the CDN per subsite with no global network option available.
An intuitive and easy to use dashboard, two-factor authentication for logins and IP Whitelisting makes MaxCDN a pleasure to use.
One of the newest players in the market is Google with its cloud CDN solution. Having entered Alpha in December 2015, it’s now in public beta and available for use as a beta-based service. Backwards compatibility and SLAs aren’t applicable.
The cloud CDN is covered by the same pricing structure as the rest of the Google Cloud platform, meaning that if you register a new account, you get $300 worth of credit for 60 days. Though if you don’t use all your credit within the 60 days it’ll expire and won’t roll over.
This is one of the most complicated CDNs as far as pricing goes, with variable prices per region and also charges for both HTTP/HTTPS cache lookup requests. The most expensive region is China at $0.20 per GB for the first 10TB.
Luckily, there’s a handy pricing guide, which you can use.
HTTP/2 support, SSL as standard at no additional cost and invalidate any CDN content in minutes (removal of content from the CDN). Also, seamless integration with the rest of the Google Cloud Platform, making it one of the most robust solutions for developers.
A global reach of over 50 locations backed by Google’s robust network architecture. With the little information currently on the exact specifics of the network, though more information should become available over time as the service exists its beta phase.
Ease of Setup
One of the most complicated CDNs to setup from scratch, though if you already have a Google Cloud site running it’s as simple as checking a box in your Google Cloud Console. If not, it involves setting quite a few different options on setup, enabling the API and setting up billing. Not the simplest for beginners or non-technical users.
Even though it’s early days, there aren’t any currently known incompatibilities between Google Cloud CDN and WordPress – and there shouldn’t be. By design, a CDN wouldn’t break WordPress, rather moving files or configuring incorrectly would be the cause.
The standard Google Cloud platform management console, with the flexibility it provides, can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of options that aren’t always related to the particular setup of your site.
There are a couple of different products in the AWS line that are worth mentioning: Amazon S3 and Amazon CloudFront.
Amazon S3 is an online storage component of the Amazon platform, allowing you to store your files across multiple “buckets.” With scalability and security built in, Amazon S3 is a great choice for backups, archives, hosting static content files and hosting media, for instance, your blog images. As there are also multiple WordPress plugins that can instantly copy your wp-content/uploads files to Amazon S3 and replace the URLs that link to the images/files on your install, saving you all that hard work.
Then there’s Amazon CloudFront, which is Amazon’s CDN offering, working in conjunction with S3. You can setup Amazon CloudFront with Amazon S3, where the S3 buckets can act as your origin server, rather than the hits taking place directly on your origin server. You can also use Amazon CloudFront on its own without Amazon S3.
The free AWS tier includes 50GB data transfer out, 2,000,000 HTTP and HTTPS requests with Amazon CloudFront.
Amazon AWS pricing is notoriously complex – you need a degree in mathematics to make much sense of it if you wish to use multiple parts of the AWS platform! For Amazon CloudFront, pricing is based on regions and three different aspects, including, data transfer out to The Internet (per GB), data transfer out to Origin (per GB) and pricing for HTTP and HTTPS requests per 10,000.
Amazon CloudFront arguably has some of the best features out of all CDNs in this post. Not only does it have the standard CDN offerings, such as custom SSL, geo targeting, CORS sharing, reporting and a global network, it also offers some of the best security of all CDN providers, including being PCI DSS compliant (Level 1), which is vital if your business needs to be PCI compliant for processing credit cards. Live streaming support, file protection, integration with the rest of the Amazon AWS family, including EC2, S3, and Amazon CloudWatch plus a comprehensive API perfect for developers.
Amazon CloudFronts global network consists of 38 locations worldwide, covering America, Europe, Asia and South America. There are no locations in Africa at this time.
Ease of Setup
Similar to Googles offering, Amazon CloudFront is one of the most complex to setup, being much more developer-focused than plug-and-play. Like most CDNs, it offers a unique distribution domain you use can in caching plugins that include CDN integration.
Amazon CloudFront works perfectly with WordPress and with the addition of Amazon S3 and compatible plugins it makes a truly powerful solution for your media, storage and distribution needs.
As would be expected, Amazon CloudFront uses the AWS management console, which will be familiar to anyone who has used it before while it can be overwhelming due to the sheer number of options available and configurations, it still provides a graphical user interface for managing all your AWS products. Making it a great option if you already use another AWS offering, but perhaps too complicated if you only want the CDN functionality, as there are many more user-friendly solutions.
Rackspace is one of the leaders in cloud and dedicated hosting with a fantastic infrastructure, and Rackspace Cloud Files is a CDN offering from Rackspace.
There currently isn’t a free trial available.
Pricing starts at just 10 per GB for your first 1TB of storage and just 12 cents per GB for your first 10TB of CDN bandwidth. As CDNs go, the pricing structure is a simple one: storage and bandwidth, with no region specific pricing differences.
Custom SSL, CDN content purging, HTTP streaming, a powerful API, no minimum usage and CNAME support. However, one of the best features about Rackspace Cloud Files has to be its replication; it maintains three copies of each files ensuring reliability and availability for if one copy somehow gets corrupted.
With 219 CDN edge locations on six continents, optimizing content delivery closest to your visitors, if you pick Rackspace Cloud Files you’ll be getting a robust content delivery network.
Ease Of Setup
A quick and easy signup process, simple setup and a 100% uptime guarantee make this one of the most beginner-friendly CDNs to use, both powerful enough for developers and simple enough for site owners.
With no known WordPress issues, Rackspace cloud files works perfectly with all WordPress plugins that provide CDN integration.
Easy to use online graphical interface, plus managing your CDN files is a breeze through the online software, desktop software, a Windows 8 app or create a custom solution using the Rackspace Cloud Files API.
We reviewed CD77 and found it to be a fast and user-friendly CDN, especially for non-developers. Check out the full review: CDN77 Review: A User-Friendly CDN for WordPress Faster Than Amazon CloudFront.
Fourteen-day all-access free trial with no limitations on features and no credit card required.
Tired region-based pricing, based on the volume of traffic, with under 30TB costing $0.049/GB for the USA and EU regions with prices getting cheaper the more you use. Like other CDNs, different regions have different prices, with Asia & Australia costing $0.125/GB under 30TB and South America costing $0.185/GB under 30TB.
CDN77 has a very impressive feature list with custom SSL coming as standard at no additional cost. HTTP/2, purge and prefetch files, advanced reporting functionality, hotlinking protection, DDoS protection, and cache expiry.
Like other CDNs, CDN77 doesn’t have any locations in Africa currently, but they do have 32 data centers across five continents covering 26 countries worldwide, and all data centers are SSD based. Plus, you can control which data centers you do and don’t want to use, which is perfect if most of your traffic is in Europe and you don’t want to or don’t need to pay the higher fee for the other locations.
Ease of Setup
A super simple signup process and an easy to use control panel, makes using CDN77 a pleasure.
Works perfectly with WordPress and CDN77 themselves recommend WP Fastest Cache, though it also works with WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
Simple but powerful control panel, the ability to turn on and off used data centers at will, makes CDN77 a great all round CDN solution.
Fourteen-day free trial, up to a maximum of 2TB of transfer. Instant activation.
Pay as you pricing based on transfer and regions. Under 10TB is 10 cents a GB in the USA and Europe, rising to 15 cents in Asia, 17 cents in Africa, Australia, and the Middle East and 20 cents a GB in South America and India. With pricing getting cheaper per GB on TB based tiers.
Where CacheFly lets itself down compared to others is SSL certificates. With a Custom SSL certificate being charged at $500, compared to services like KeyCDN that offer it at no additional cost. On an average WordPress site, you could get around 2-3 years or even more total CDN usage just for the price of an SSL with CacheFly.
Instant purging, real-time reporting, HTTP rule-based content serving. Though as mentioned in the pricing section above where CacheFly lets itself down compared to others is the huge charge for custom SSL usage. Meaning you’d be stuck with a cacheFly CDN name and potentially causing SSL problems if you already use a Custom SSL on your site.
More than 40 Global POPs, including Africa, make CacheFly’s network and infrastructure one of the best out of all the CDN providers especially with the inclusion of Africa. While not overly useful if you don’t have any African based visitors, it’s still a useful addition knowing your CDN has all locations covered.
Ease Of Setup
Straightforward signup process and a simple getting started guide to follow, once signed up, use FTP to upload your files, and away you go.
While there’s no direct integration, CacheFly works great with WordPress using any of the CDN-enabled caching plugins.
Simple and clean user interface, easy account management and pay-as-you-go pricing.
Incapsula is one of the best CDN providers thanks to its standout security features. Though they have a best in class network and features, along with fantastic customer support. If it’s so good why aren’t we covering it further? Simple: Incapsula is an enterprise-level solution and wouldn’t be suitable for your average WordPress site. The Incapsula CDN is a custom quote-only based pricing like most other Incapsula services, though you can get security from $299/month.
If you have a business site or large blog that relies on reliability, uptime customer service and best in class features, you can’t go far wrong with Incapsula, but for your average user, many of the other solutions mentioned in this post are more than enough.
Other Ways to Make WordPress Blazingly Fast
Hummingbird will scan your site and recommend actions for you to take to make it faster. Minify your files, cache your content and enable Gzip compression at a touch of a button. Plus, with the bonus of uptime monitoring, you’ll know right away if you site every goes down.
Photon is a free component of the free Jetpack plugin developed by Automattic. While Photon isn’t a CDN solution, it provides image caching, making less load on your server and super quick images for your visitors. There are some current known limitations with Photon, for instance, there is no cache invalidation, which means images are cached forever, if you want to modify or remove the image, you’ll need to change the image name. This could be a massive deal breaker for most, with many constantly changing images on their sites.
WP Smush is the fastest, easiest and best-performing image compression plugin for WordPress. It compresses your images while maintaining their quality to dramatically improve your website’s page speed. With WP Smush, you can bulk optimize your images up to 32MB without timing out.
If you run a small to medium sized website (40,000-50,000 page views), KeyCDN, MaxCDN or CloudFlare are good choices for you, and each provides great features, strong SLAs and customer support across the board.
If you run a site that streams a lot of content, you’ll want to take a look at Rackspace CloudFiles and CDN77.
For enterprise level sites, you can’t go wrong with either the CloudFlare business plan, or for an even more comprehensive solution, the full offering from Incapsula.
If you’re a developer and want to tinker or create a custom platform using an API, either Amazon CloudFront or Google Clouds CDN would be a perfect choice. Both of these services are aimed at developers.
For Multisite users, the jury’s still out. While there’s no perfect solution currently, it’s only a matter of time before someone creates a solution. For now, I would recommend using a combination of KeyCDN and W3 Total Cache.
What CDN do you use? Have you found the holy grail Multisite solution? Let us know in the comments below.