6 Best CDN Providers in 2019 – Which One Is Best for YOU?

6 Best CDN Providers in 2019 – Which One Is Best for YOU?

Dale Cudmore
Dale Cudmore
June 10, 2019
36

There are many content delivery networks (CDNs) that claim they are the best for site performance and security. That’s great, but which one is the best for you?

A good CDN will make your site load faster and reduce your hosting costs significantly. But since it can take a serious time investment to test out a CDN, there’s no easy way to compare them. So how are you supposed to know which CDN fits your budget, is fast enough, and provides an adequate level of security?

I’ve tried out dozens of CDNs over the past few years, and my goal is to simplify the choice for you. I’ve compiled the six best CDN providers that you should consider. I’ll break down the major features each CDN offers, and the situation where each is best. 

What We Look For in the Best CDN Providers

When trying to figure out which CDNs deserved the title of best, these were the core features we looked for:

  • Global coverage: All the CDNs on this list have data centers around the world. No matter where your website visitors are based, they should be able to load your site as quickly as possible.
  • Security features: Most CDNs offer a suite of security features, but the most important one? DDoS protection. All CDNs on this list will make your site(s) more secure against attacks.
  • High performance: One of the big reasons to use a CDN is to improve page load speed for visitors. If a CDN doesn’t offer basic performance features, like compression, it didn’t make the cut.
  • Support for modern web traffic: All CDNs on this page support secure socket layer (SSL) traffic, which is a basic security measure all modern sites should have. In addition, most also support HTTP/2 and IPv6, which are the newest protocols that will help load pages for visitors quicker.

Cloudflare – The Best Free CDN You’ll Find

Cloudflare is arguably the most well-known CDN—it supports over 16 million websites.

But you don’t just get the CDN if you sign up with Cloudflare. It now offers a wide range of other products for website performance and security. Most of these are optional and require an extra fee, but some are included at no charge.

What Cloudflare is most known for is its amazing free plan. Even on the free plan, you get full access to the CDN, plus unmetered distributed denial of service (DDoS) protection, and shared SSL certificates.

No other CDN offers this much for free.

Features

  • 180 global data centers. Most other top CDNs have 40–100 data centers, which is great, but Cloudflare’s coverage is on a higher level. These widespread data centers guarantee that there’s one near your website visitors, no matter which country they live in.

cloudflare datacenter map

  • Unmetered DDoS protection. Every plan, including the free one, comes with unmetered protection. No matter what volume of traffic is trying to DDoS you, you’ll be protected, while most other CDNs impose a limit.
  • Advanced cache control. Cloudflare makes it easy to create page rules to customize how content on your site is cached. You can ensure that caches for static pages don’t expire often, while caching on dynamic pages is more frequent. This maximizes your bandwidth savings, while making sure visitors always see an up-to-date version of your pages.
  • Intelligent traffic routing. This feature is courtesy of Cloudflare’s Argo Smart Routing, which costs a small monthly fee. It will speed up your site for visitors by finding the fastest network path to transfer data on (which isn’t always the closest data center due to congestion and latency).
Free plan or trial?Free plan
Beginner-friendly?Yes
Customer support?Depends on plan (only email support on free plan)
WordPress integration available?Yes

Imperva – A Cutting-Edge CDN for Large Sites

If you run an enterprise-level (i.e., huge) site, Imperva (formerly Incapsula) should be near the top of your list. Imperva boasts customers like Zillow and Siemens, and has 44 data centers around the world.

imperva cdn network map

The only potential downside is that you can only purchase its CDN as part of a bigger application security package, which includes products like threat intelligence and attack analytics.

Features

  • Intelligent caching. Imperva uses machine learning to cache dynamic pages as efficiently as possible. You’ll reduce your bandwidth consumption without negatively affecting the freshness of your content.
  • Set application delivery rules. Imperva lets you easily write custom delivery rules. For example, you can redirect unwanted bots to other sites or pages that consume less of your bandwidth. This also improves your site performance for real visitors.
  • Performance-boosting features. Imperva offers a full suite of features designed to transfer data to visitors as efficiently as possible. This includes file minification and automated compression, which reduce page load speed.
  • HTTP/2 support and IPv6 support. You’ll have access to dual-stack support for both IPv4 and IPv6, plus the latest form of HTTP protocol—HTTP/2. These will speed up your site for visitors who are using modern browsers.
Free plan or trial?No, but can request demo
Beginner-friendly?No
Customer support?Paid support packages available
WordPress integration available?No

Google Cloud CDN – A Simple CDN for Sites Hosted by Google

Google’s Cloud CDN has over 90 data centers around the world, but it has a big downside: It can only be used by sites hosted by Google Cloud Storage or Google Compute Engine.

If you use any other website host, go with one of the other CDNs on this list. But, if you are using Google’s hosting services, there are a few big upsides of picking this CDN. It has a low-cost, pay-as-you-use pricing model, and you can easily integrate it with other useful Google Cloud products (e.g., Google Cloud load balancing).

Features

  • Support for large objects. You can cache files of up to 5 TB, which makes it arguably the best CDN for video streaming.
  • Integrates with Stackdriver Logging. Stackdriver Logging provides real-time insights to track errors and diagnose issues that are preventing visitors from loading pages correctly (or at all).
  • Free SSL protection. All cacheable content is secured with SSL/TLS on Google’s CDN with no extra fees.
  • Support for HTTP/2. The latest and fastest protocol is fully supported, along with HTTP/1 and HTTP/1.1.This will ensure your site loads as quickly as a visitor’s browser can handle.
Free plan or trial?Free trial
Beginner-friendly?Yes
Customer support?Paid support packages available
WordPress integration available?No

Fastly – Low-Level Control for Advanced Users

Fastly is a great CDN for DevOps engineers and other advanced users. It caters to large sites, with customers like Reddit and Spotify. Fastly isn’t meant for beginners; it provides advanced configuration options for those who want to have full control over how content is served (e.g., set custom expiration rules for different parts of your site).

Features

  • Large file caching support. Fastly supports large object delivery, which is great if you need to host large video, audio, or image files.
  • Origin Shield. This is a feature designed by Fastly that essentially creates a second caching layer to reduce the number of requests sent directly to your origin. It designates a particular point of presence (PoP) to act as an intermediary between edge servers and your origin servers.
  • Dynamic site acceleration. Fastly keeps connections between PoP cache nodes open in order to reduce latency from having to constantly open up new connections. This speeds up your data transfer even more.
  • Instant Purge. This is another proprietary feature on Fastly’s CDN. It lets you issue a purge request for a piece of content that’s been recently changed, and it will update the version stored on Fastly’s servers within 150 milliseconds worldwide.

fastly instant purge diagram

Free plan or trial?Free trial (Until $50 of traffic is reached)
Beginner-friendly?No
Customer support?Basic email support is free, paid plans if you need more.
WordPress integration available?Yes

StackPath (MaxCDN) – A Simple CDN with Great Support

MaxCDN was one of the most popular CDNs for years, then it was absorbed by StackPath. This has improved the performance and reliability of the CDN further.

It features 45 PoPs around the world on all of its plans, whereas you had to pay extra if you wanted coverage in Asia when it was MaxCDN.

The biggest draw of this CDN is that it’s quite user-friendly, making it one of the best choices for beginners. It doesn’t give you quite as much control over certain settings as the other CDNs on this page, but it’s enough for most sites.

Features

  • Free SSL coverage. Not only is all cached content secured with SSL, but StackPath also gives you a free private SSL certificate when you sign up.
  • Complete DDoS protection. All plans come with StackPath’s DDoS protection, which is effective against Layer 3, 4, and 7 attacks.

stackpath ddos settings

  • Real-time analytics. You get live log data to help you analyze attacks, and you can make new security policies based on them to make your site(s) more secure.

stackpath analytics

  • Efficient data storage policies. StackPath offers “instant purge” to let you instantly remove and update stored content for a page you’ve updated. They also use “intelligent caching,” which is a set of caching policies designed to keep content at edge locations as long as possible while remaining fresh.
  • 24/7 support on all plans. StackPath is the only CDN that comes with great support in every plan it sells. There’s 24/7 ticket, chat, and phone support, as well as a 100% uptime guarantee.
Free plan or trial?One month free trial
Beginner-friendly?Yes
Customer support?Yes, 24/7
WordPress integration available?No

Amazon CloudFront – Easy Access to AWS

If you have no experience using Amazon Web Services (AWS), or you’re new to CDNs, you’ll probably find CloudFront a bit difficult to use. However, if you’re willing to learn, there’s a big upside. CloudFront has competitive pay-as-you-go pricing and a generous free plan. The free tier gives you up to 2,000,000 HTTP and HTTPS requests per month, which is more than enough for your site until you have hundreds of thousands of visitors.

The CDN itself is top-notch, just like all AWS infrastructure; it’s used by companies like Hulu, Slack, and King games. It has 180 PoPs that span 30 countries and it’s easy to connect it with other Amazon services, like Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon S3, or Amazon EC2.

Features

  • DDoS protection. While not included in the CDN itself, it’s easy to toggle on AWS Shield and AWS Web Application Firewall at no extra cost. It will detect and mitigate almost all Layer 3 and 4 attacks.
  • Certified security compliance. CloudFront is one of the few CDNs that is compliant with HIPAA, ISO 9001 and 27001, SOC (1,2, and 3), and PCI-DSS. If you work with sensitive data in any way, you’ll likely need to use secure hosting (e.g., HIPAA hosting) and a certified CDN.
  • Efficient traffic routing. Amazon CloudFront has its own form of dynamic site acceleration. It keeps connections between nodes open when possible to reduce data transfer times, and uses other techniques like request collapsing and keep-alive connections to transfer data as fast as possible.
  • Great for large files. The fact that huge video sites like Hulu and Amazon Prime Video use CloudFront tells you all you need to know. It’s one of the best CDNs for images and video streaming and for transferring other types of large media.
Free plan or trial?Free plan
Beginner-friendly?No
Customer support?Paid support packages available
WordPress integration available?No

Which Is the Best CDN Service for You?

The best CDN provider for you will depend on the scale of your site(s), your technical background, and your budget.

If you’re looking for a free plan that’s actually good, go with Cloudflare or Amazon CloudFront, which both offer a lot of options for free.

If you’re looking for the simplest CDN possible to get started with, choose either StackPath or Cloudflare.

If you’re looking for a CDN for an enterprise-level site, just about any of these CDNs will work, but Imperva and Fastly are your best options.

Finally, if you’re looking for a CDN that supports videos and other large objects, choose Amazon CloudFront, Fastly, or Google Cloud CDN.

Here’s a brief recap of how each of the CDNs on this page stands out:

CDNEase of UseStandout Feature(s)
CloudflareHigh180 global data centers and great free plan
Imperva MediumExtensive security features for enterprise-level sites
Google Cloud CDNHighEasy to use if you’re using Google’s cloud hosting services
FastlyLowFull control for advanced users
StackPathHighMost beginner-friendly CDN and has 24/7 support
Amazon CloudFrontMediumAmazing free plan and works well for large videos and other files

If you’d like to learn more about the fundamentals of CDNs and how they work, refer to this guide on how server location affects load speed.

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