What is the best WordPress CDN to use on WordPress powered website? And even better free to use.
First, I will explain what Content Delivery Network or CDN is and do you actually need one for your site.
A CDN will drastically reduce server lag by storing static resources on a network of fast loading servers.
Choosing a CDN can be tricky since there are many options available. Finding the right one depends entirely on your needs and the popularity of your site.
If you want to make your WordPress website faster, as well as more secure and robust, then using a content delivery network (CDN) is smart choice.
CDN is a network of web servers that supply cached content from sites to individuals based on the geographical place of the individual.
You might not realize it, but the geographical distance between you and a web server can play a large part in determining how long it takes for you (and your visitors) to connect to your site.
The bigger the distance, the longer the wait. Especially for websites that are particularly resource intensive.
WordPress CDN Solution
If you’re storing all of your files that go together with your website on just one server, visitors accessing your site from the other side of the world could potentially end up spending a significant amount of time waiting for those files to load.
A CDN gets around this problem by storing your website on servers in multiple locations.
When someone tries to access your website, they will be connected to the server that’s geographically closest to them.
This can substantially improve load times resulting in happier visitors and higher rankings.
I will only mention CDNs which are free or at least have a free plan (at the date of writing this).
How does CDN speed up WordPress website/blog?
When a visitor comes to your WordPress blog/site, they are rerouted to your web hosting’s web server (i.e., GoDaddy, HostGator, SiteGround, InMotion).
Your host’s web server is located (for example) in New York. Every customer on your site is accessing the site through that web server located in New York.
If you have a high quantity of website traffic, that could overload your web server.
That then results in a slow site load or maybe even server crash. You don’t want that to happen.
This is where a CDN comes in by storing static content (images, flash, CSS, etc.) of your website at different servers across the world while keeping rest of the data on the primary server.
This increases the speed at which a user (from anywhere around the world) accesses that website.
Your static content is cached and also kept on all of these web servers when using a CDN.
When a visitor sees your website (original web server), the CDN reroutes him to the closest web server to his place.
Let’s say your site web server is located in New York. A visitor comes to browse your site from Germany and attempts to access the site.
He will be rerouted to the closest web server which might be in Germany.
That way your site is loaded faster, thus making visitors experience when checking site much more pleasant.
By spreading content throughout several geographically distributed web servers, you make your web pages load much faster from the individual’s viewpoint.
In basic words, the closer the CDN web server is to where your customer is, the much faster the customer obtains the material.
Should you use CDN for your WordPress site?
Because it distributes your data across the globe, a CDN is beneficial for pretty much everyone.
Larger WordPress blogs and websites with a lot of traffic, sites serving videos or other downloadable files benefit most.
If you are just starting with your site, Content Delivery Network is not explicitly needed.
When things start to roll, then consider implementing CDN for your WordPress website.
But, as there are free CDN options available, it cant hurt to implement it right from the start. At least CloudFlare.
Best Free WordPress CDN Options
You can begin with a free CDN for start and then move onto premium once you’re sure that it’s affecting ranking and health of your website in a positive way.
Here are some free CDN options which you can utilize for your website traffic and business:
CloudFlare is Web Application Firewall, a distributed proxy server and a content delivery network (CDN).
It optimizes your website by acting as a proxy between visitors and your server.
It helps to protect your website against DDoS attacks, decreasing website load time, adding SSL, stats about visitors, etc.
By acting as a proxy, CloudFlare caches content for your site, which lowers the number of requests to servers, but still allows visitors to access the site.
CloudFlare is not exactly Content Delivery Network. It is better at optimizing page speed by preventing the site from malicious bots, attackers, and suspicious crawlers.
They offer a free basic plan suitable for small websites and blogs and paid packages which vary from $20 – $200. For a start, the basic plan is everything you need.
Many of you will have already heard of CloudFlare, due to its reputation as the best free CDN for WordPress users.
CloudFlare promotes itself as a ‘next-generation CDN’ with the infrastructure of 34 data centers.
In fact, CloudFlare claims that their service will reduce your load times, regardless of visitor location.
This is achieved by caching the things that don’t change (aka, static content) and the use of Anycast technology to connect your visitors to the data center closest to them.
Unlike many CDNs that charge for additional bandwidth, CloudFlare takes a flat-rate approach to pricing.
This means that if your website experiences a sudden surge, you won’t have to worry about any excess bandwidth charges.
Setup CloudFlare free CDN plan for your WordPress site
1. To set CloudFlare sign-up for an account. After putting all necessary data click ‘Create account now’ button. When prompted enter your web site’s link.
CloudFlare will then check your site. This can take up to 60 secs. After that is done, click on the proceed button to continue with the configuration.
2. Now CloudFlare will show you a list of all DNS records their systems found. This will include subdomains too.
The DNS records which will be passed through CloudFlare will have orange cloud symbol. The DNS records that will bypass CloudFlare will have a gray cloud symbol.
CloudFlare will include FTP as well as SSH subdomains for you. When pleased with the DNS records, select I’ve included all missing records.
3. On the next screen, you will be asked to choose a plan, performance and security settings.
4. On the final step of setup, CloudFlare will ask you to update your name servers. You will be requested to change your name servers and point them to CloudFlare nameservers.
After you have done that, return to CloudFlare web page and click the button ‘I’ve upgraded my name servers, proceed’ to complete the process.
That’s all. Your website is integrated with CloudFlare.
CloudFlare tools for WordPress users:
1. CloudFlare is a complementary solution to various other caching plugins for WordPress. Like W3 Total Cache or WP Rocket as you can set up CloudFlare straight in their setting options.
While the white space is excellent for people checking out code, it takes devices a bit longer to check out the code when it isn’t minified.
4. CloudFlare always online option provides a cached version of your site even if the site is down. In that way, visitors can still browse through site or retry for a live version.
2. Free WordPress CDN Using INCAPSULA
Incapsula is a CDN (Content Delivery Network) that offers customers the highest levels of website security while increasing traffic speeds by up to 40%.
This cloud-based service does not require any hardware to set up. Once you sign up, Incapsula sends you step-by-step instructions for changing your website’s DNS records.
The entire process takes only a few minutes, and your traffic will begin to be filtered through Incapsula’s cloud-based security and performance network.
Incapsula offers three distinct plans for customers that range from a free version designed for small websites to a business plan for small to large businesses.
A free plan includes bot protection, access control, login protect, CDN and Optimizer, website analytics, and community support.
A paid PRO plan starts at $59 per month and includes the same features as the free plan, plus SSL support, advanced performance, and email support.
Incapsula offers global CDN and caching (dynamic and static), including content that other CDNs might consider uncacheable.
On average, websites using Incapsula’s CDN are 50% faster and consume 40%-70% less bandwidth, according to the company’s website.
The service provides an excellent monitoring dashboard so you can check the effect of caching on your website’s performance.
There’s also an API for companies that want to control caching policies and change things like caching modes, create custom caching rules, purge the cache, purge a particular cache, or configure content optimization settings.
If you’re looking for a free CDN service that rivals CloudFlare, be sure to check out Incapsula.
A free plan with Incapsula includes the use of a CDN and optimization service, plus bot mitigation and two-factor authentication.
To further speed up your website, Incapsula also supports content optimization. This includes minifying your website and compressing images to ensure a smaller file size.
Premium plans start from $59/month, which also includes advanced performance, a web-app firewall, PCI compliance, and SSL support. A 14-day free trial is also available.
Setting Incapsula is very easy, and you can check steps by visiting how to set up page.
3. WordPress CDN Free With Amazon S3 and CLOUDFRONT
The Amazon Web Services suite includes many services for speeding up your website.
You can use S3 to store your website in the cloud, and then use the CloudFront CDN to serve it to your visitors at superfast speeds.
There are free plans available for both services. S3 includes 5GB of storage for free, while CloudFront offers 50GB of storage and 2 million HTTP requests free of charge.
This means that, depending on your usage, you can use both services without spending a cent.
If you go over the free allowance, all Amazon Web Service products are competitively priced, with PAYG pricing ensuring you’re only billed for what you use.
All products are high performance and secure and backed by the reputable Amazon brand.
You can check this tutorial on how to set up your site free CDN using Amazon S3 and CloudFront.
Free WordPress CDN Alternatives
4. Free WordPress CDN using Photon module by Jetpack
Photon is an image acceleration and editing service for Jetpack plugin. Photon isn’t a CDN, but it provides a WordPress-only image caching service through the Jetpack plugin.
Photon filters content but doesn’t change the info in the database.
It looks at the img element’s width and height attributes and then serves an image resized to those dimensions or to the width of the containing element (whichever is smaller).
There are some limitations with this module. The images are cached “forever” and if you want to refresh an image, you will need to change the name of the image.
Photon only caches GIF, PNG, and JPG files.
As it is not quite a “true” CDN (and very limited regarding displaying any meaningful data and stats on usage), Photon is rather an image acceleration service.
With the Photon module activated, your images are served dynamically to visitors via a network of Automattic’s (note: Automattic is the company behind wordpress.com) servers.
If you run an image-heavy website, and you’re on a budget, Jetpack’s Photon module is an alternative to a fully fledged CDN.
5. Image Hosting Websites
One of the overlooked alternatives of a CDN includes image hosting websites.
6. Free Cloud Storage Services
Another great way to save server bandwidth is by using free cloud storage services.
Say you have a couple of PDFs or video available for direct download. Hosting them on your server would consume bandwidth.
A smart solution would be to use the various free cloud storage services. To share a file publicly, you can just generate a public URL of the file and paste it in your site.
Here are a couple of free cloud storage solutions:
Paid CDN Options for WordPress
#1 MAXCDN – MaxCDN present themselves as the experts in content delivery networks. They’re one of the most well-known names in the field.
They have a large number of server locations that distributed across the US, South America Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Customer dashboard is easy to navigate, and you get an enormous amount of control over how your website content is hosted. This includes a content provision, purge controls, usage reports, and content caching settings.
They offer free test accounts and a 30-day money back guarantee.
Price: from $9/mo | More Information
#2 KEYCDN – KeyCDN is available on a pay-as-you-go pricing structure. This means there’s no monthly fee. You only pay for the data you transfer.
Their network of servers spans the four main regions of the globe, US, South America Europe, Asia, and Australia.
Thanks to the real-time reporting, you can instantly see how the service is performing and how much data you are using.
Price: $0.04/first 10TB | More Information
#3 MICROSOFT AZURE CDN is a global delivery network for high-bandwidth content. They offer multiple pricing plans to ensure you only pay for what you need. The free trial will help you get started.
This CDN integrates with other services from Azure. Like their Storage, Web Apps, and Media Services products.
Price: from $0.087/GB plus free trial with $200 of credit | More Information
#4 CDN77 aims to please both small to medium-sized website owners and larger, high traffic online properties.
To help you monitor performance CND77 offers a great set of reporting and analytics tools. CDN77 also integrates with WordPress caching plugins tools.
Price: from $35/TB | More Information
#5 CDNSUN has a total of 6 pricing plans that you can choose from. All plans use of the pay-per-GB pricing model.
With no minimum traffic required, the Business plan costs $0.045 per GB spent with a maximum of 10 websites registered.
All of the plans offer an unlimited number of requests per website, with no recurring monthly fees to worry about.
All plans include the standard features. For example HTTP/2 protocol, streaming capabilities, 20 GB of storage, raw logs, free backups, DDoS protection, 24/7 support…
You also have the option to choose the PoPs for your CDN service to focus on your market’s location.
Price: from $0.033 per spent GB | More Information
How to Choose Right CDN For WordPress Website?
Knowing your website’s specific needs is key to choosing proper CDN.
Before signing up for a CDN, it’s important to have a clear outline of what you need.
1.Bandwidth Needs – What are your bandwidth needs? Are you going to use 20GB per month or 20TB per month?
To find your bandwidth usage, login to your web host to access your bandwidth stats.
If your site gets little traffic, it might not be worth signing up for a premium CDN. A free service, such as Photon by Jetpack or CloudFlare’s free service will suffice.
When you are delivering about 500GB per month of traffic, it makes sense to offload those hits to a CDN.
If you provide videos, podcasts, music, large images, and software downloads, a CDN will ensure your visitors can access your media quickly.
2. Network Performance – Where are your users located? How many servers do you expect a CDN to have, and where?
If the majority of visitors to your site is based in the US, it makes sense to go with a CDN with servers spread across that region.
However, if you have a range of visitors from across the US, Europe, and Asia, it would be better for your content to be available on servers in those regions.
It’s also important to note whether a CDN offers a push or pull service. A push CDN works very much like a secondary server. The user uploads content directly to the CDN (automatically or manually) and links to it.
With a pull CDN, the site owner leaves the content on their server and rewrites their URLs to point to the CDN. When asked for a particular file, the CDN will first go to the original server, pull the file and serve it. The CDN then caches that file until it expires.
3. Technology – Do you require streaming downloads, such as video, audio or software downloads? Do you run a gaming website?
Some CDNs, like CDN77, offer services intended to support streaming.
Also, check whether a CDN offers quality analytics and real-time monitoring features.
4. Support – Support is an extremely important aspect. What kind of support do you expect from a CDN?
It’s easy to check what kind of support is on hand, whether it be live chat or email support. Some CDNs offer technical assistance over the phone.
5. Price – How much are you willing to spend?
There are vast differences in cost from one CDN to the next, and plans differ from pay-as-you-go to monthly accounts with set features.
The price you pay will depend on the CDN plan that best meets your needs and how much traffic lands on your site.
Many CDNs offer free trial periods so if you’re interested in trying out a CDN you’ve got nothing to lose.
What is the Best CDN for WordPress Multisite?
While many services support WordPress, the lines blur when it comes to Multisite.
Services like MaxCDN, CloudFlare, and Rackspace, can be integrated with WordPress using W3 Total Cache, but the caching plugin still doesn’t fully support Multisite (you can use it on sub-sites and the main site, but not an entire network).
Here is quick guide from one user who managed to get it working with CloudFlare:
To use a WPMU site configuration with CloudFlare, do the following:
1. Add the root domain to CloudFlare (yourdomain.com) and point the DNS to CloudFlare, using the CloudFlare nameservers specified during the signup process and making the DNS change at your registrar.
2. Define the wildcard subdomains in your DNS zone file during the signup process. CloudFlare cannot proxy wildcard DNS entries, so to benefit from CloudFlare performance and security, you must explicitly define any entries in your zone file as either CNAMEs or A record entries.
WordPress CDN Comparison: Incapsula vs CloudFlare vs Akamai vs MaxCDN vs KeyCDN vs CDNsun
- Content delivery network
- Protection against the largest volumetric attacks
- Full application-layer visibility
- Mitigation of attacks against DNS servers
- Protection of non-web infrastructure services
- Detection and mitigation of Application Layer attacks
- Instant customization and propagation of security rules
- Real-time visibility and control
- Protection of origin IP addresses against DDoS attacks
- External DDoS attack monitoring for network infrastructure
- Compression and minification
- Content and network optimization
- Caching of both static and dynamically generated content
- Serving cached resources directly from physical memory
- Secondary level caching on SSD's for real-time cache updates
- PCI-compliant Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Access Control
- IP reputation-based monitoring system
- Self Service Customization of security rules
- 60-second security rule propagation
- Backdoor protection to guard against malware infection
- API Integration
- Two factor authentication to prevent stolen passwords
- Global server load balancing
- Application layer Local server load balancing
- Application layer site failover
- Real-time application layer health monitoring
- Application delivery rules
- Ticket System
- Phone support
- HTTP/2 Support
- Data Centers
- Push (upload to CDN servers)
- Purge/Purge all
- Honors all origin server headers
- Can override origin server headers
- Set caching headers for pushed files
- Custom CNAMEs
- Hotlink Protection
- Live chat
- Free backups
- Integration with WordPress
- Integrates independently of WordPress. You need to change DNS settings. You will get all instructions in email and on Incapsula dashboard.
- Free and paid plans
- Integrates independently of WordPress. You just need to sing up to CloudFlare and then assign new DNS servers to your domain name. CloudFlare picks up from there.
- Free and paid plans
- More than 100,000
- I am not familiar what settings you need to make in order to integrate Akamai CDN with website
- To get pricing for Akamai's products you need to contact them.
- After setting up your pull zone, you can integrate MaxCDN through the cache plugin. For example W3 Total Cache, Super Cache or WP Rocket.
- Starting from $9/month to $299/month
- After setting you can integrate through the cache plugin. For example W3 Total Cache, Super Cache or WP Rocket.
- Pay As You Go
NOTE: In time of writing some CDN providers did not provide data for comparison so I had to fill by checking their knowledge base which lacks of all info mentioned in comparison table. Data provided may be correct or false.
WordPress CDN Service Final Words
Using a CDN is a good step in the right direction to solving the issue of geographical distance between user and server.
By connecting to the server closest to them, valuable seconds are shaved off your load times.
In today’s world where the average Internet speed of technologically advanced regions exceeds 10 Mbps, it’s no wonder that CDN services thrive.
Where once websites were delivered from a single server, CDNs have revolutionized how online content is delivered.
If you run a small to a medium-sized site (around 40,000 to 50,000 page views), CloudFlare is a reliable option for your needs.
Their free plan makes it a great alternative to just get started with the concept of CDNs and speed up your site with minimal effort.
From there, you can either let CloudFlare grow with you – by switching to one of the paid plans – or move your business elsewhere.
Services such as Amazon CloudFront, Akamai are better suited to enterprise level sites and are overkill for sites with minimal traffic.
For small sites, CloudFlare is a great option since it is free and smaller sites don’t spend too many resources.
Sites offering streaming media, such as video, audio, and gaming, should check out paid CDN plans which are tailored for this kind of service.
For WordPress sites that already attract a nice chunk of traffic every day, I’d recommend KeyCDN, cdnSUN, MaxCDN or Incapsula. The configuration possibilities of the networks are really good, and it’s quite affordable all the way up (as your bandwidth grows).
Alternatively, if the core of your audience is located in a single geographical location, I’d probably go for a CDN that has the most servers in that area, even if that means your country’s local CDN network, which might not be that popular world-wide.
Let’s keep in mind that delivering your website to your core audience is the most important thing here. You won’t get much use of a CDN that has the best global coverage if your visitors are from just a single country where that network might have no servers.
For this site, I use Incapsula Pro plan as it provides me with security features as well as CDN. For my smaller sites I use CDNsun and for sites that I have just started CloudFlare is a must have tool.
Now over to you my dear reader. Tell me which CDN service do you use for your WordPress website needs?