Adding your website to a WordPress CDN (Content Delivery Network) is essential nowadays. This article explains why that is, and we will show you how easy it is to do. What’s more, we suggest both free and paid options that will allow you to get started with a CDN even if you have little or no budget at your disposal.
Why is CDN Needed?
Website loading speed is now a crucial factor used by search engines when determining page rank. Unfortunately, people are becoming increasingly impatient as life becomes more and more digital, and they are no longer prepared to stick around on a website waiting for it to load.
According to a survey carried out by Unbounce, almost 70% of consumers stated that page speed plays a significant part in their willingness to purchase from an online retailer. The report Milliseconds make Millions prepared by Deloitte Digital makes even scarier reading. That mentions data gathered by Google, who found that page loading speeds of more than just a single second causes users to lose focus, and ten seconds invariably sees them leave the site for good and probably not return.
Content delivery networks can help reduce website load speeds considerably. Without using a CDN, whenever visitors go to your web address, their browsers request the site from the host server. The server could be thousands of miles from the visitor, meaning the data transfer will take longer than if the server were just down the road.
A CDN is effectively a network of servers dotted around the globe. Data from your website is copied to and stored (or rather ‘cached’) statically on these servers. Then, whenever someone visits your site, the cached ‘copy’ of the content on the server nearest to them can be called up, thereby significantly reducing speeding things up.
Who Should Use CDN?
We mentioned above statistics showing how website speeds affect consumer habits, but that does not mean that non-commercial websites should not use a CDN.
Irrespective of your website type – a blog, eCommerce store, information site, etc. – a CDN is essential if you are trying to grow an international audience. The only real exceptions would be:
- Personal websites to be accessed only by a small group of people, for example, a couple’s wedding website or a family tree blog.
- Where your target market is relatively local, for example, a London-based eCommerce store using UK-based hosting servers and only interested in selling to the British market would not need to use a CDN.
The increased performance gained by adding your website to a CDN will:
- Greatly enhance user experience.
- Boost SEO rankings.
- Provide an extra level of security.
So basically, you have little to lose by using a CDN but much to gain.
What is the best CDN for WordPress?
Choosing which service is best for you depends on factors like what type of content your site has, the locations of the CDN servers relative to your target users (if not global), and how much (if any) budget you have available to spend.
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Depending on the CDN you subscribe to, access to it may be via a plugin, or alternatively, you may need to point the name servers for your domain to the CDN. Don’t freak out, though, as that is a straightforward process that takes just a few minutes.
We’ll now tell you about some of the most popular CDN services currently available to speed up your WordPress site, a few of which are free.
Optimole is a bit of a wild card in this list as it is not a CDN platform per se, but an image optimization plugin. You are probably now wondering why the heck we have included it. The reason is, if your site is composed mainly of images and very little else, this plugin can really help speed things up. That’s important as images are the ultimate speed sappers, second only to video and audio.
Optimole automatically optimizes your images, resizing them to fit your visitor’s browser and device perfectly. But best of all, it then makes use of AWS CloudFront to serve them as fast as possible to your site visitors. All for free.
In addition to the advantages offered by integrating the AWS Cloudfront CDN, Optimole also gives you the following:
- A free plan that allows you to optimize an unmetered number of images for up to 5k monthly visits
- Responsive, lossless image optimization
- Automatic image resizing to suit browser and device types
- Retina support
- Automatic watermarks
- Image lazy loading
- Image quality downgrade for slow connections
- Save images to the Optimole Cloud to reduce server storage
Paid plans are on a sliding scale based on the number of site visits and start from €19.08 per month.
Over 80k active downloads of Optimole are in operation, and users have given it a rating of 4.8/5.0 stars. So, if you have a predominantly image-based site, it could be one to check out.
Jetpack is a hugely popular multifunction plugin that boasts over 5 million active installs to date. It helps enhance your site’s security, while its free CDN helps make significant improvements to page loading speed. The plugin optimizes images then serves them with other static content from Jetpack’s global CDN.
This free plugin includes the following features:
- Easy one-click installation
- Automatic image resizing for mobile devices
- Unlimited files
- Non-CDN related features include extra security via brute force attack protection and site statistics
If you also need to serve videos through the CDN, you will need to add VideoPress, Jetpack’s video hosting service. That currently costs $54 per year and includes 1TB of storage.
Jetpack scores 3.9/5.0 stars in the WordPress plugin repository. That is an acceptable rating given that most of the negative reviewers have not backed up their low marks with reasons, and it is probable they did not configure things correctly.
Cloudflare is a well-known and highly regarded CDN service. It boasts one of the most expansive server networks, with data centers situated in over 250 cities spread across more than 100 countries. Therefore, it is unlikely that any of your visitors will be far from a server containing a cache of your site.
Cloudflare is available with both free and paid plans. The free one is quite basic but will be a good starting point for many website owners. It gives you the following features:
- Access to Cloudflare’s global network of servers
- A fast, simple to use DNS
- Free SSL certificates so your visitors will see a padlock symbol in their browsers, avoiding errors about the site’s security certificate not being trusted
- Limited to a maximum of 100k workers’ requests, 30 scripts, and three page rules
The cheapest paid plan is ‘Pro,’ costing $20 per month. This plan enhances the features of the free one to include:
- 17 extra page rules
- A web application firewall (WAF) for additional security
- Bot report and basic mitigation
- DDoS alerts
- Lossless optimization of images
- Accelerated mobile page (AMP) load speed
- Privacy-first analytics
Additionally, ‘Business’ ($200 per month) and ‘Enterprise’ (custom pricing) plans are available. Those have fewer restrictions (page rules, scripts, and worker’s requests) and include some additional security features. Unless you run a substantial business, we’d say try the free plan first, only upgrading to a paid plan if the restrictions get cumbersome.
Bunny.net is a premium CDN service that promises blisteringly fast content delivery thanks to a global network of 59 points of presence (PoPs). It is easy to set up and use, plus it offers plenty of flexibility to scale with your site.
Two simple pay-as-you-go pricing plans are available:
- The ‘Standard Network’ plan is region-based. There are four regions – Europe and North America, Asia and Oceania, South America, Middle East and Africa – and depending on which one(s) you choose, the pricing is between $0.01 and $0.06 per GB of bandwidth.
- The ‘Volume Network’ plan is best suited to sites that consume a lot of bandwidth and need a global reach. The pricing structure for this plan is $0.005 per GB for the first 500TB, reducing to $0.002 if your bandwidth consumption is between 1-2PB.
Both pricing plans have the facility to add a monthly cap to prevent your budget from being exceeded. Each includes the following key features:
- Free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate
- Perma-cache for permanent storage of file copies in the edge storage
- Instant content purging to remove and replace outdated content from the servers
- Real-time logging and monitoring
- Customizable rules for on the edge control of delivery, security, routing, authentication, etc.
- Compatible with various WordPress caching plugins
- Daily, round-the-clock support
- 14-day free trial
Bunny.net is an excellent option for small to medium-sized companies who have some budget but still want close control of costs.
KeyCDN assures your site speed will be optimized thanks to its expanding network of more than 40 data centers spread across the continents of North America, Europe, Asia, Oceania, Africa, and South America. Additionally, integral security features mean that your data is always well protected.
Pricing is based on both bandwidth and region (North America + Europe, Asia + Oceania, Africa + South America). The highest cost is $0.11 per GB for up to 10TB in the Africa and South America region, reducing to $0.01 per GB for bandwidths exceeding 100TB in North America and Europe. Volume discounts are available where the bandwidth exceeds 150TB. Storage and image processing costs extra, and you may need to factor those into your budget calculations.
Key features of KeyCDN include:
- Easy set-up, configuration, and operation through a user-friendly dashboard
- Security features including Let’s Encrypt TLS, Secure Token, DDoS Protection, Two-Factor Authentication, and many more
- HTTP live streaming
- Image processing
- Purge cache and purge URL options
- 24/7 support
- 14-day free trial
The popular CDN service, Stackpath, has swallowed up the also popular MaxCDN. Those two combined have resulted in a formidably fast and reliable platform with an ever-growing web of servers strategically located around the globe. That marriage also means Stackpath now boasts excellent features, including:
- Simple installation and operation via the user-friendly interface
- A custom CDN rules engine to configure policies behaviors
- Serverless scripting
- Integral asset optimization
- Origin shield to protect the origin against traffic spikes
- SSL certificate management
- DDoS protection
- Advanced analytics (real-time) and reporting
- Direct connection to the edge platform
Bizarrely, the developer no longer publishes prices on their website, so you will need to request those directly from their sales team. However, as far as we know, they are competitive compared to the other paid CDN platforms covered in this article.
Amazon CloudFront is a CDN service operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS). Given that it falls under the umbrella of the world’s largest company, it is no surprise that it is rather good, too. The platform caches virtually all content types, including videos, mages, data, CSS, and APIs, meaning your site loads like grease lightning.
Of course, Cloudfront integrates deeply with all of AWS’s other offerings, and interfacing with WordPress is possible using Amazon Lightsail. Information on how to do that is available here.
Here are just a few of the key features offered by Amazon Cloudfront:
- Simple installation and operation via the user-friendly interface
- Network of over 225 PoPs strategically located in 90 cities across 47 countries
- DDoS protection via AWS Shield
- SSL/TLS Encryptions including HTTPS
- Origin shield
- Deep integration with other AWS services, for example, Amazon S3, Amazon EC2, Elastic Load Balancing, and many more
- Developer tools available via the AWS management console or developer tools like APIs and CloudFormation templates
- Amazon Cloudwatch and Kinesis integration for real-time logs and analytics
Happily, a free tier of Amazon Cloudfront is available. Sadly, it is only free for a year, and there are limitations too. We say ‘limitations’ loosely, as you can ‘only’ have up to 2 million HTTP or HTTPS requests and 2 million function invocations per month, which is probably more than enough for most sites. What’s more, the one year is plenty for testing the platform and seeing if it is right for you.
When you are no longer eligible to continue with the free usage tier, pay-as-you-go pricing kicks in. This is akin to the pricing structures offered by other paid CDNs, with rates per GB ranging between $0.02 and $0.12 depending on region and bandwidth consumption.
We highly recommend trying the free usage tier of Amazon Cloudfront and taking advantage of all the AWS integrations.
According to Sucuri’s CDN map, they currently have twelve DDoS/WAF/CDN and three CDN Edge servers scattered around the globe. That does not seem like many, but the company claims website speeds improve by 70% on average when using the CDN in conjunction with their caching options.
Price-wise, Sucuri plans start from $119.88 per year, rising to $499.99. Depending on which plan is purchased, you will get some or all the following features:
- Multiple caching options
- Fast HTTP/2 Support
- Website firewall (WAF)
- DDoS attack mitigation
- Zero-day exploit prevention
- Protection against brute force attacks
- Malware detection
- SSL scanning
- SEO spam scanner
- DNS monitoring
- Incident response
- 24/7 support
- 30-day moneyback guarantee
Sucuri won’t be for everyone, given its pretty steep pricing. Still, those who can afford it will be able to avail of some great features that will significantly improve their website performance and security.
What is Your Favorite WordPress CDN Service?
Are you already using a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up your WordPress site and enhance its security? If you are, which one did you choose? Have you used any others in the past? And will you be sticking with the one you have? If you are not using one yet, do you plan on doing so in the future?
As always, we enjoy hearing about what you are doing with your sites, your future plans, ideas, and suggestions.