Most of us use the Internet every day to read the news, get information, browse through feeds on social media, shop, watch videos, and do our jobs. Have you ever wondered how you get to see this content? Well, regardless of what you do on the Internet, you’ll be using the services of a CDN to read every text, view every frame, and see every pixel.
What is a CDN?
A content delivery network, or CDN for short, is a distributed network of proxy servers designed to deliver the content you want without any delay. In many ways, CDN is the backbone of the Internet as it ensures high availability and quick delivery of content to end users.
CDNs are widely used today because they eliminate the annoying delays that occur when you request for a piece of content. Imagine you type a URL and it takes 10 minutes for the page to load. How would you react to it? Most times, you’ll simply close the page and move on to something else or if the web page is highly important, you’ll wait, but with a lot of frustration. Well, a CDN is designed to eliminate these delays. Essentially, it caches a content’s version across many geographical servers, called points of presence (PoP). When you request for specific content, it is delivered from a server that’s closest to your location and in the process, reduces the time you’ll have to wait to access the content.
Best CDN providers
Businesses rely on the best CDN services to ensure that their content is delivered to end users within the quickest time possible. That said, not all CDN providers are the same and they vary in terms of size, presence, cost, accessibility, features, and more. Here are the best CDN providers in 2019, in no particular order.
One of the leaders of the CDN market, Akamai, has been offering its services since 1998. This service provider has more than 240,000 servers located across 1,353 cities in 133 countries, making it the largest CDN provider in the world. According to Akamai, it delivers 30 terabits of content per second, three trillion Internet interactions every day, and almost 85 percent of the world’s content is within a single hop of an Akamai CDN server.
- Widest possible network, so exceptionally high reliability and performance.
- Excellent customer support.
- Offers many web security features that protect a website from security attacks.
- Comes with advanced compression algorithms.
- Networks can be scaled on demand.
- Creates real-time reports.
- Provides many tools that make site management a breeze.
- It is expensive.
- Does not offer real-time statistics.
- No instant purge.
- Setup is complex.
MaxCDN, a Los Angeles-based company, has been enhancing websites’ performance since 2009. It offers a ton of features such as origin pull, origin push, instant purge and provisioning, GZip compression, instant SSL, real-time reporting, and GitHub integration. Its network includes eight locations in North America, two in London, and three in Europe, at the time of writing this article.
- Integrates well with most content management systems including WordPress.
- Easy to setup.
- Intuitive user experience.
- Real-time reports.
- Good tech support.
- Affordable plans for all types of users.
- Website analytics.
- Full encryption.
- Support for video files.
- Extensive configuration options.
- Fastest only in the UK and the U.S. and considerably slower in other parts of Europe.
- Accessing its servers in Asia costs extra.
- It has a smaller global presence when compared to many other providers.
- Focus is more on speed than security.
- The free trial version offers only a limited set of features.
CloudFlare is a popular CDN service with a large global presence. It not only increases the speed of websites but also protects it from security threats. It uses a proprietary technology called Anycast to route requests to the nearest datacenter. In addition, it optimizes for IPv6 even if your current environment is still on IPv4 architecture. Also, with 152 datacenters around the world, you’re never too far from a server.
- Setting up takes less than five minutes and the setup wizard takes care of it completely. No additional code or installations are required.
- Reputation threat module blocks malicious threats by monitoring the IP address. It also gives the choice to block IP addresses based on their country of origin.
- Protects against content scrapping, comment spanning, DDoS attacks, and SQL injections.
- Provides SSL encryption and HTTPS.
- Offers two-factor authentication.
- The pre-loader module pre-caches popular pages to increase delivery speed.
- Sends notifications in case of problems with Google Analytics.
- Offers a free version with basic features.
- Many security features are available only on paid plans.
- Stats and analytics is highly limited, though you can integrate Google Analytics with CloudFlare.
KeyCDN is a simple, fast, and cost-effective CDN service that offers many advanced features such as HTTP/2, free SSL, pull and push functionality, real-time analytics, secure token, and a RESTful API. This Swiss-based company offers a competitive pay-as-you pricing model that gives a bang for your money. Also, it has a worldwide presence with more than 50 datacenters spread across the world
- You can create as many zones and use as many data centers as you want.
- Supports all major content management systems.
- Comes with real-time reporting tools.
- Protects all websites from hotlink attacks.
- Allows purge by URL or key.
- The dashboard is simple and intuitive.
- You pay only for what you use. No fixed plan charges.
- 30-day free trial.
- No tech support during the trial period.
- Response times are below average at times.
Microsoft Azure CDN
Microsoft Azure CDN is designed specifically for Azure and can quickly distribute static data to millions of users around the world.
- Has a big global presence,
- It is well-integrated with other Microsoft services.
- Good performance in terms of speed and availability.
- Competitively priced and offers $150 in free credit.
- Does not support web sockets.
- Limited options for authentication.
- Comes with a ton of different plans that have overlapping features and this makes it confusing for users.
- Setting up and managing it can be a bit complex.
- You’ll have to pay extra for tech support.
Amazon CloudFront is another popular CDN service and it integrates well with all Amazon services. Its globally distributed network of proxy servers caches the content of web pages to improve access speed for users. Easy to use, a good set of features, and support for all CMSs are other reasons to choose this service. It has 54 edge locations spread across five continents.
One aspect that distinguishes CloudFront from its competitors is its cloud-based delivery system that provides high levels of reliability and elasticity. Also, it taps into the storage system of AWS and this means that users can access more pages of your website quickly.
- Supports two protocols — HTTP/HTTPS and RMTP. This means you can use CloudFront to distribute both static and dynamic content of websites, web applications, audio transmissions, and all other types of content.
- You can manage your account easily from the centralized AWS console.
- Offers wide-ranging security features such as SSL certificates, blocking IP-based requests, DDoS protection, AWS web application firewall, and more.
- It’s a pay-as-you-go service that you can cancel at any time without incurring any associated charges.
- Creates extensive reports for analytics.
- Has a global presence with servers spread across all the continents.
- Tech support costs extra.
- Performance could be better.
- Hard to calculate the monthly costs.
Fastly is a major CDN provider catering to well-known companies such as Spotify, The New York Times, and Reddit. One of the main reasons for its popularity is the many configuration options it offers to customize traffic just the way you want. Excellent speeds and high levels of availability are other aspects that make it a popular choice today.
- It is a pay-as-you-go service with a $50 minimum monthly charge. The cost of usage varies across regions as well. Fastly charges you based on the total number of requests as well.
- A powerful image optimizer tool is available as an add-on feature. It can resize images, convert formats, change resolutions, and do so much more.
- Offers advanced GZip compression features.
- Excellent speed within the U.S. and above-average speeds for the rest of the world.
- There is a minimum of $50 per month.
- Basic knowledge of CDN and good tech knowledge is required to set it up. It is definitely not for novices.
In all, a CDN is necessary to ensure content availability and its quick delivery. It also reduces the geographical gap between users and the servers where the content is located and in turn, this reduces latency. As a result, users are able to access the content they want without any delay. There are many CDN providers today that offer excellent service. But not all of them are created the same and they vary in many aspects such as speed, level of global presence, pricing, and other additional features. The above CDN providers are well known for their excellent service and rich set of features.
We hope this information helps you to make an informed choice when it comes to choosing a CDN provider. Do let us know your experience with these service providers or any others you use in the comment section.
Featured image: Pixabay