Do you use a lot of images and video content on your website? Does a good portion of your visitors come from regions far away from your origin server?
What you need is a content delivery network, a type of service that allows you to serve static content from their network and deliver it to servers located closest to where your visitors live. The end result is faster page load speeds and a better user experience overall.
In this post, we are comparing eight of the best CDN providers you can use to improve your site’s performance.
The best CDN providers compared
- StackPath – Best overall CDN provider.
- Sucuri – Best combination of CDN, WAF and malware scanning & removal.
- NitroPack – Best CDN for page load times given it’s built-in performance optimizations.
- Cloudflare – Best free CDN provider.
- KeyCDN – Great pay-as-you-go CDN provider.
- Imperva – Best CDN for enterprise businesses.
- Fastly – Solid CDN with security functionality built-in.
- BunnyCDN – Good CDN with large number of POPs.
StackPath is a computing infrastructure with multiple layers to its platform. CDN services are included under this umbrella. The company distributes this service via edge servers designed to be much faster and less load-bearing than the cloud server infrastructure many CDN services use.
A cloud-based CDN utilizes a central location to distribute your content to users accessing it from a specific region. For instance, if this type of CDN has a network location in Chicago and nowhere else in the midwest, every user who visits your site from the midwest will access your content from that single origin point.
What edge computing allows StackPath to do is create multiple points of presence (PoPs) that deliver your content much closer to where your users access them from.
StackPath also includes advanced caching in its CDN service. Instant purging is available when you want to ensure a file you delete from your website doesn’t appear for users long after. This feature also prevents deleted files from eating up resources.
Alongside instant purging, StackPath allows you to customize caching through “edge rules.” These are “if this, then do that” policies you can apply to edge servers to control the way they handle the traffic your site receives. These rules allow you to customize how long content is stored on your site, among other things.
With edge rules, you can also create 301 redirects to control which web pages users visit, add or remove headers to dictate whether or not requests are sent to your origin point and on through to the user, and sign URLs to limit who has access to your content and how long they can access it for.
You can also use StackPath to protect your website with a web access firewall (WAF) and a private SSL certificate. Analytics and service monitoring also allow you to view how much traffic you receive, where you receive traffic from and how much traffic you receive from specific locations.
- 45 full-stack edge locations in five continents.
- Edge servers with edge rules.
- Advanced DDoS protection.
- Advanced caching with customization and instant purging.
- Serverless scripting for incorporating custom logic and sending personalized content to specific users.
- Gzip compression.
- Web access firewall available.
- Origin shield to protect your origin server from request overload.
- Managed DNS service available.
- Real-time analytics.
- Service monitoring.
StackPath offers its CDN services as a standalone product or as part of a suite of products. Plans for individual services, such as CDN, WAF and service monitoring, cost $10/month each. Bundles start at $20/month.
Additional fees apply if you go over your plan’s limits.
Sucuri is a cloud-based website security platform that provides cutting-edge applications that protect your website from threats. It offers CDN services through its network of 12 data centers located in five continents. Two of these locations are edge servers: one in Brazil and one in Australia.
Because Sucuri’s platform is built on a cloud infrastructure rather than edge, its caching system doesn’t have nearly the same level of sophistication as CDNs like StackPath.
There are four caching setups to choose from with no way of setting up your own rules outside of excluding specific URLs from being cached with ease. You can enable simple caching, only cache your site for a few minutes at a time, utilize site caching through headers or disable caching altogether.
Fortunately, cache clearing comes with more advanced features. You can clear the cache sitewide or on a per-file basis. You can also set up Sucuri’s cache API, which allows you to clear your site’s cache on the fly from a bookmarked page.
Sucuri’s CDN and caching features may seem light at first glance, especially when compared to the rest of the options on this list, but they’re all the more impressive when you consider the company’s main claim to fame is site security.
Its WAF blocks incoming threats while the included CDN and brute force protection safeguards your site against DDoS attacks. Still, even the most intricate security system can’t block every threat. This is why Sucuri also offers a malware scanner that monitors your site for malicious activity and file changes.
They’ll even clean your site for you when threats do slip through.
- 13 data centers in five continents.
- Caching with exceptions and clearing.
- Web access firewall with DDoS protection that blocks layers 3, 4 and 7.
- Malware detection and removal.
- Keeps track of your site’s blacklist status.
- Uptime monitoring.
- DNS monitoring that detects changes in your site’s DNS settings.
- Alerts for changes made to your site’s SSL certificate.
- Automatic and manual incremental backups available as a $5/month add-on.
You can gain access to Sucuri’s site security platform for $199.99/year. All plans offer more or less the same features but differ in the response times.
NitroPack is a website optimization application that connects your site to Amazon Web Services’ Amazon CloudFront CDN. This allows you to use the benefits CloudFront has to offer without needing to pay for an AWS account or configure the CDN yourself.
Don’t let the name “CloudFront” fool you. Amazon’s CDN is powered by a global network as well as several edge locations. In fact, there are 217 PoPs in 84 cities across six continents, making it the first CDN on this list to offer fast content delivery to African countries.
NitroPack as an application focuses primarily on optimizing your website for speed to improve your Google PageSpeed Insights score. It does this by offering a number of different features, most notably caching and minification.
Caching options come in the form of on-demand cache purging and the ability to invalidate caching automatically during traffic spikes. The invalidation process refreshes the cache in the background rather than outright purging it so your users don’t have to deal with slow page speeds, a side effect of the purging process.
You can also exclude specific pages from being cached.
Solutions for common PageSpeed Insights errors are thrown in as well. They include deferment of CSS and JS files as well as optimization for fonts.
- Amazon CloudFront CDN offers 217 PoPs.
- Simple yet effective caching with caching options included.
- Minify HTML, CSS and JS files.
- Gzip and Brotli compression.
- Defer CSS and JS files.
- Optimizes fonts.
- Image optimization with lazy loading included.
- Cache “warmup” that ensures your most important pages are always optimized.
Many of the features listed above are available in NitroPack’s free version, but you’re only allowed up to 200 page optimizations per month. Premium plans start at $228/year for up to 20,000 page optimizations per month and up to 20GB of CDN bandwidth.
Cloudflare is a website performance platform most comparable to StackPath. Its network is massive and exists in over 200 cities in six continents. Plus, similar to CloudFront, the company’s CDN infrastructure is powered by edge computing despite the “cloud” in its name.
On top of this, Cloudflare is able to provide fast delivery of static and dynamic content through a built-in tool called Argo Smart Routing. This technology detects network congestion in real time and directs traffic to the fastest path in response.
Cloudflare also offers caching for CDN content along with caching options. For example, the Page Rule tool available to premium users allows you to control the way individual URLs are cached. You can choose what gets cached, how long content is cached for and more. Instant purging is available as well.
Developers can take caching further with the Cloudflare Workers tool, which allows you to build your own caching rules with code, and the Cloudflare Cache API.
Along with these site performance tools, Cloudflare also offers security solutions in the form of a WAF, DDoS protection and bot management. DDoS protection blocks layers 3, 4 and 7 at the edge while bot management stops content scrapers, credential stuffers that expose private customer data and general spam.
- 200+ PoPs powered by edge servers and Argo Smart Routing.
- Cache control, instant cache purging and advanced tools available to developers.
- Web access firewall.
- Advanced DDoS protection with DNS management available.
- Bot management.
- Rate limiting that blocks suspicious visitors, DDoS attacks and brute force attempts.
Cloudflare’s CDN and DDoS protection are available for free. If you want access to the firewall, you’ll need to pay $20/month. Unfortunately, the other services listed are only available as individual add-ons.
For example, five cache page rules are available for $5, Argo Smart Routing for $5/month, load balancing for another $5/month, and so on and so forth.
KeyCDN is a dedicated CDN service that offers a large network powered by edge servers. This is more or less all KeyCDN has to offer, but it’s still one of the fastest content delivery services out there.
Caching is available, but you’ll need to play around with a bit of code in order to control what gets cached and how long to wait until it’s cached again. Fortunately, instant purging sitewide and on a per-URL basis is available at the click of a button.
The service even includes DDoS protection in its infrastructure but recommends you to integrate your account with Sucuri to enable a WAF.
- 34 data centers scattered across six continents and powered by edge servers.
- Simple caching with instant purging available.
- Built-in DDoS protection.
- Cloud storage for images and large files available at $0.01/GB.
- Brotli compression and other advanced features for developers.
- Blocks bad bots preemptively by detecting specific user-agent strings found through a comprehensive list of known suspects.
KeyCDN charges a flat $4/month fee regardless of how much bandwidth you utilize. The rest of its pricing scheme is dependent on a max bandwidth cap and the region(s) you’d like to serve.
Nevertheless, these prices range from $0.01/GB to $0.11/GB.
6. Imperva (formerly Incapsula)
Imperva is an application and data security platform that includes CDN services. Its network is powered by edge servers and spans over 40 PoPs in six continents.
Its network also utilizes intelligent caching that delivers static and dynamic content alike at fast speeds. You can also choose how your content is cached. Options include no caching, static-only caching, static and dynamic caching, and aggressive caching that caches everything.
You can also set up custom caching rules for specific URLs as well as URL prefixes and suffixes. Purging is available and can be set up manually or automatically.
Imperva also minifies the content you serve with its CDN and enables file compression automatically.
Developers and advanced users can use the CDN’s delivery rules to control where legitimate users and bad bots are sent. Redirect visitors automatically based on specific parameters, such as URL patterns, cookies, HTTPS headers and visitor type.
Rules can be made based on behavior as well, and you can send malicious bots to other websites and servers.
Similar to the pretty permalink options in WordPress, Imperva’s CDN service also allows you to “beautify” URLs on the frontend, meaning the URLs your visitors see in the address bar.
Imperva’s primary features include a WAF, DDoS protection on multiple levels, bot protection, data protection and more. You can even use the platform to protect applications you’ve built on AWS and Google Cloud Platform.
- Global network with over 40 data centers built on an edge-based infrastructure.
- Intelligent caching with different caching modes, custom rules and purging.
- File minification and compression.
- Delivery rules that allow you to control where specific types of traffic are sent.
- Frontend URL beautification (doesn’t change permalinks).
- Web access firewall.
- Multilayered DDoS protection.
- Bot protection.
- Analytics for attacks.
- Cloud data security with data masking, data protection and file security.
- Security solutions for AWS, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure.
CDN services, caching, WAF and DDoS protection are available as part of Imperva’s individual Application Security plan as well as its bundles. Unfortunately, you’ll need to contact them directly to request a demo and a quote.
Fastly is a cloud CDN built on a network of dozens of edge locations. The company has deliberately designed its network to provide faster speeds to a global user base while using fewer PoPs than its competitors.
By focusing on more powerful PoPs, Fastly is able to cache your content for longer periods of time as it requires fewer instances of calling upon your origin server.
Speaking of cache, Fastly does cache static content for you, but this feature is pretty lackluster when compared to other tools on this list. You can purge the cache on demand or use surrogate keys to tag specific objects that should be purged.
Soft purging is included as well. This allows you to specify pages as “stale,” which prevents them from being purged as removing these types of content from the cache can affect user experience.
Unfortunately, controlling what gets cached and how long it stays cached for requires the use of code.
Fastly also has an image optimization tool that allows you to compress and format images from its own servers rather than your origin.
Finally, while CDN and caching services are its primary features, Fastly does include several security tools as well. These come in the form of a WAF, advanced DDoS protection and bot mitigation.
- 55+ PoPs powered by edge servers.
- Load balancing that redirects traffic to the fastest routes.
- Static caching with instant and soft purging available.
- Web access firewall.
- DDoS protection.
- Bot protection.
- Image optimization.
Fastly’s pricing is based on bandwidth usage, the total number of requests you receive and the region(s) you serve. Every customer is billed a minimum of $50/month regardless of how many resources you use.
Pricing varies widely after that. It ranges from $0.08/GB to $0.28/GB for bandwidth usage and $0.0075/10,000 requests to $0.016/10,000 requests.
BunnyCDN’s network is powered by edge servers and spans over 25 countries across six continents. It also utilizes intelligent routing to redirect traffic to the fastest path when surges occur.
It uses simple caching with only two options that allow you to control cache expiration time. If you want more control over this, you can set up an edge rule. These rules let you specify certain conditions that must be met, which is useful if you don’t want specific file extensions and other parameters to be cached.
Instant purging is available as well.
BunnyCDN focuses more on site optimization outside of the aforementioned features. It has an image optimization tool as well as Brotli and Gzip compression.
- 41 PoPs in six continents.
- Smart routing to improve performance during traffic surges.
- Simple caching with instant purging and expiration times.
- Image optimization.
- Brotli and Gzip compression.
- Real-time analytics.
- Stats for bandwidth cache, traffic usage, request count and more.
- Blacklist for IP addresses with the ability to block users from specific countries.
All BunnyCDN users are charged at least $1/month. The company’s pricing system gets more complicated from there. Nevertheless, you’ll pay as little as $0.0025/GB or as high as $0.01/GB.
Each of the CDN providers on this list vary in the features they offer, but some are more alike than others. This makes it difficult to decide on a single one. However, because many CDNs rely on a pricing system based on usage, it’s best to choose a CDN that suits your budget.
If you’re on a strict budget, consider choosing a CDN that offers fixed rates so you don’t get blindsided by the bills you receive at the end of certain months.
Lastly, decide how much security you feel your CDN provider should be in charge of. Sucuri is a fantastic all-in-one solution, but if all you’re looking for is a CDN to serve your content with, you’ll wind up overpaying.
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