The best CDN providers (content delivery network) work to accelerate almost any website by caching its files in servers around the world. This prepositions the content to a closer location. Whether your visitors come from Europe, North America, Asia or anywhere else, content is then automatically served from the nearest location for the fastest possible speeds. No wonder CDN is now an essential component for the best web hosting (opens in new tab) and the best website builder (opens in new tab) providers.
For those new to the technology, then it might seem somewhat intimidating, and there's no doubt that prices can be high, but don't be put off by these issues as a CDN is not just for a massive corporation. You see, the simplest CDN services can be configured in under five minutes, and by choosing your plan wisely, it just might not cost you anything at all.
Whatever your website, from a simple blog to a sprawling site for a big business, we've got you covered, and have picked out some of the best services around to point you in the right direction. When you find something that looks interesting,keep in kind that you can explore many of these CDNs for free, without handing over payment details or signing up for any contract.
We've compared these CDN providers across numerous factors, from their ease of setup and performance, and also their optimization tools and configurability. We also looked at their learning curve and pricing plans, among the many aspects.
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The best CDN providers of 2023 in full:
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Cloudflare is a hugely popular American content delivery service that combines novice-friendly ease of use along with expert-level features and functionality. It’s no wonder that it is trusted by leading corporations including IBM, L’Oreal, Shopify and Panasonic.
Setup is simple, with no need to edit any code. Simply update your DNS nameservers to use Cloudflare, and the service kicks in automatically, caching content and serving it to visitors from their nearest location.
But there's also much, much more. Web filtering can block bots, limit content spam, keep you safe from hackers or detect and mitigate DDoS attacks. Smart image optimizations can reduce image file sizes by up to 35%, further improving speeds.
There's wide support for standards like IPv6, HTTP/2 and SPDY, clever page rules to help you manipulate traffic, and a REST API allows developers to take full control of what the service is doing. Also, Flan Scan, a lightweight network vulnerability scanner is thrown in the mix too.
Cloudflare's free plan allows you to see what the service can do, without making any commitments, and it is a permanent option rather than some time limited trial. It's very usable, with unlimited bandwidth and no annoying restrictions to try and force you to upgrade. Just realize that support is limited to self help and a community forum, and the bot protections are more basic.
Upgrading to the Pro plan costs a reasonable $20 (£16) a month, and adds the image optimization rules, extra configurability, and improved support in the form of trouble tickets. There is also an even more robust Business plan, and also an Enterprise plan that can be customized to your needs.
Whatever you choose, Cloudflare delivers great performance. As we write, the benchmarking site CDNPerf ranks Cloudflare in top five for worldwide HTTP request response times.
Read our Cloudflare review.
Fastly provides CDN tricks for some really big organizations, including the likes of Spotify, the New York Times, and Reddit, and the firm lives up to its name, delivering impressively fast performance levels. Going by the rough guideline of CDNPerf’s rankings, it’s the fourth fastest CDN for the UK, and worldwide the speeds put it in seventh place overall.
Perhaps Fastly’s strongest point, however, is just how configurable the service is. For example, there’s diverse support for different types of video caching, and tons of low-level controls for those who want to get stuck into the likes of manipulating HTTP headers to customize how content is served. You can also log in to multiple Fastly customer accounts with a single set of credentials for ease of use.
Of course, some know-how is required to set up everything, and novices to the CDN world will doubtless be confused by all the options on offer. But for those who need a higher level of flexibility and configurability, it’s priceless to have.
Speaking of the price, Fastly operates a pay-as-you-go model with a minimum charge of $50 (£37) per month. In addition, while there is no free tier, you can give it a try, and test up to $50 of traffic for free.
Read our full Fastly review.
KeyCDN is an easy-to-use budget CDN that is an attractive choice for first-time users.
Getting started couldn't be much simpler. Sign up with your email address and you get an immediate 25GB to play with, no payment details required. A well-designed web dashboard enables creating your first zone with the minimum of clicks, and there are guides to help you integrate the service with WordPress and other apps.
In addition, KeyCDN fully supports IPv6.
More experienced users will appreciate options like Origin Shield – this allows you to specify a KeyCDN server to be the source for updates rather than the origin, reducing your server load. You're able to manipulate headers, cache or strip cookies, or set up a custom robots.txt.
Once the service is running, a capable set of reporting tools enable watching CDN performance in near real-time. Some additional features are available as well, like Block Referrer that blacklists the domains that are hotlinking content or Image Processing, which is great for image optimization.
A standout feature of KeyCDN is certainly its low prices. Bandwidth charges start at $0.04 (£0.032) per GB- less than half the price you'll pay with some of the high-end competition. The minimum usage is a downright cheap $4 (£3.2) per month with a minimum payment of $49 (£38). The company doesn't even try to cash in on the extras, for example offering shared SSL and custom Let's encrypt SSL certificates for free.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, these low prices don't get you leading-edge performance, but there's still plenty of power here at a good value for your money.
Read our full KeyCDN review.(opens in new tab)
Stackpath, a CDN provider, focuses mainly on the West, with 14 points of presence (PoPs) in North America, and nine in Europe. Altogether, Stackpath has more than 50 PoPs all over the world in more than 43 locations including South America. It gets used by PBS and Valve among others.
StackPath is user-friendly, complete with a straightforward web console to manage your settings, and if you do get stuck, there’s extremely efficient technical support available via either live chat or phone.
Performance seems good in the US and UK, and indeed Europe, but further afield you may see things tail off a bit, which follows given StackPath’s aforementioned focus on Western nations.
Another strength here comes on the security front, with this CDN giving users free shared SSL (or the option to use your own SSL certificate, if you prefer). There’s also anti-DDoS technology, a capable Web Application Firewall, and EdgeRules, a powerful tool that lets you customize the behavior of StackPath's CDN at different phases of the CDN request.
All in all, this is a tempting offering with a baseline plan that charges $27.50 (£22) for up to 1TB of bandwidth per month. There is only some basic pricing on their site, and you'll need to contact the sales for more info.
Read our full StackPath review.
One of the oldest and most popular providers, Akamai offers a great CDN service and according to the company they serve up to 30% of all internet traffic. No wonder they can count among its users Best Buy, Honda and the Washington Post. Being one of the oldest providers their server coverage is impressive with around 275,000 servers in over 135 countries. Akamai also provides great 24/7 customer support which is to be expected from someone this long in the business.
Setting up might be a bit problematic for newbies though. This doesn’t mean newbies can't do it or that they would have much trouble, it’s just that the whole service is more geared for advanced users, generally speaking.
Akamai has a good number of features and the performance is quite impressive, among the best in fact. For instance, at the time of writing, the benchmarking site CDNPerf ranks Akamai among the eleventh fastest services worldwide.
Pricing is a bit tricky, as there is no definitive information to be found on their website, so this means you’ll have to contact them directly to get the exact quota. Thankfully, they are easy to contact and you can do it by live chat, email or phone, and the website indicates that they offer free trials.
Read our full Akamai review.(opens in new tab)
Amazon CloudFront is the CDN facet of AWS (Amazon Web Services), so it’s certainly part of a heavyweight operation, which includes 450+ POP’s for global coverage.And indeed CloudFront offers a raft of advanced features as you might expect, and you can customize all manner of things such as enabling automatic GZip compression for better speeds.
Another strength here is the in-depth analytics on tap, showing you details of your visitors’ device type, OS and so forth. There’s also the handy ability to set up alerts, meaning you can be warned when data transfer usage goes above a certain level.
The downside to all the options on offer is that relative novices to the CDN world may find CloudFront’s control panel a little intimidating, at least initially.
The other slight sticking points are that calculating pricing can be a rather tricky matter, and if you aren’t an experienced user familiar with CDN basics, tech support isn’t free – if you need help, you’ll have to fork out for it. Prices vary depending on region, but the good news is there’s a free tier, which gives you a generous 1 TB of data per month, with all features available.
Performance levels are fairly average, too, but there’s no denying the power and configurability that Amazon offers to the slightly more tech-savvy user.
Read our full Amazon CloudFront review.
As you’re doubtless aware, Microsoft Azure is a big old stack of integrated cloud tools for building and managing applications and services, with a wide range of coverage including a CDN offering, which is what we’re focusing on here, naturally. Note that this doesn’t use Microsoft’s own edge servers, but rather three plans that use other CDN networks: Standard Akamai, Standard Verizon, and Premium Verizon.
We fully discuss these various plans in our review of Microsoft’s CDN service, linked below, but suffice it to say that in terms of pricing – which can be somewhat confusing to work out – this isn’t the cheapest offering around. Still, those who want integration with other Microsoft technologies and services may well find the price worth paying. You can create a free account and get started with a $200 credit, and over 55 free services, with a Pay-as-you-go model for any usage above the minimal amount included.
You get a web dashboard that is absolutely crammed with features, although as ever, this means it’s not particularly easy to use for beginners (and the setup process is pretty involved, too). Performance levels are good, and CDNPerf usually ranks it high. This has to be a tempting prospect if you’re using other Azure services, or if you’re a developer who will appreciate the likes of .NET or PowerShell management features.
Read our full Microsoft Azure CDN review.
CDN77 is a big-name player in the content delivery game, with some heavyweight clients signed up including Udemy, and the European Space Agency. It has an expansive CDN network with over 35 data centers across the globe, with many of those in Europe and the US, but there are also locations in South America, Asia and one in Australia, which form the backbone of a 120 Tbps network.
The web console interface is very streamlined and keeps any jargon to a minimum, making it suitably user-friendly for novices to the CDN world. The flipside of this is that there aren’t a huge amount of options, although you can do some tweaking of various settings.
In terms of performance, CDN77 is solid enough, and it ranks at number ten currently worldwide, quite respectable but not the fastest CDN network we found when reviewing these various services.
You get a free Let's Encrypt SSL certificate, and CDN77 is pretty good value for money overall in terms of its per-GB pricing, although it’s not the cheapest outfit we’ve highlighted here. Pricing starts at $0.033 per GB of data for US and European locations which works out to a lowest tier plan of 6 TB for $199 monthly, with Asia and Latin America being more expensive. If you want to test the waters, there’s a 14-day risk-free trial which includes 1 TB of traffic, and you don’t need to supply any payment details for this.
Read our full CDN77 review.(opens in new tab)
If you need a powerful CDN, look no further than Leaseweb, an enterprise-level operation which is still suitable for regular business users – sort of.
Regardless if you want a multi-CDN or a private CDN, you'll need to contact Leaseweb for exact pricing, although don't expect it to be cheap. The good news is that even with a ‘basic’ subscription, you get all the same security and CDN features as the heavyweight enterprise plans.
That includes a smartly designed console for overseeing your CDN needs, complete with an extensive raft of potential settings and tweaks, featuring many options you don’t get with your average service (like the ability to set the cache-control header, or determine how long to cache 404 responses).
There’s also an in-depth statistics section which displays graphs and charts showing many interesting stats, such as visitor and traffic breakdowns, cache performance and the top file types which are seeing action. We also like the multiple contact options that include phone, and live chat.
The one somewhat bleak spot is Leaseweb’s performance, which is hard to know as it did not make CDNPerf’s current list for either worldwide of the United States. Users who want a powerful range of features in their CDN could give the 30-day trial a go to find out.
Read our full Leaseweb review.
What is a CDN?
Evelyne Kuo, Content Strategist at BaishanCloud (opens in new tab)
A content delivery network (CDN) is a globally distributed network of Points of Presence (PoP) designed to provide faster and reliable content delivery to users. Whether we know it or not, every one of us interacts with CDNs daily; when reading articles on news sites, shopping online, watching Netflix, or scrolling through social media feeds. CDN is the helper behind your seamless experience. It helps minimize loading time, costs, delivery latency, and operational complexity by physically reducing the distance between content providers and users worldwide.
How does CDN work?
For example, when a user in the US wants to load a website hosted in China, the user will need to send a request to the origin in China, and then the origin will send content from China to the U.S. However, it takes a longer time to load the content and might hamper the user experience. This is when CDN comes in. CDN keeps a copy of content at its own PoPs around the world. Based on users’ location, CDN serves the content to users from nearby PoPs whenever possible.
What are the benefits of using CDN?
1. Faster load time: Instead of sending requests to the origin and waiting for it to respond, the user will receive content from the CDN PoP nearby to reduce the latency.
2. Higher scalability: CDN can serve 40-200 Tbps at the peak of the traffic. It can provide an always-on experience globally, even under unpredictable situations such as malicious attacks or origin failure.
3. Lower bandwidth costs: Through caching and request optimizations, CDN helps content providers significantly reduce delivery costs since most traffic no longer egress from the origin.
4. Better security: CDN acts as a proxy in front of the origin server, which adds an extra layer to security by hiding the origin's real IP.
Why is CDN essential in this pandemic?
Because of COVID-19, most people are on digital platforms more frequently for working, attending online classes, watching live streaming, gaming, etc. Due to the enormous traffic, the entire digital pipeline is becoming more sensitive to latency and security.
CDN can help deliver content in a fast, secured, and seamless way ensuring a consistent and optimized user experience worldwide.
How to choose the best CDN providers for you?
When selecting the best CDN provider for yourself, begin with assessing the size of your website, your bandwidth requirements, and where most of your traffic comes from.
You'll want to check the provider's network size and geographic distribution. More network servers mean faster speeds, while server distribution determines good coverage across many pockets of the globe.
Check how well the CDN enhances your site performance and whether it has additional tools, like image optimization, for enhancing the website speed. You'll also want to look out for the CDN's ease of use and pricing plans.
The best CDN providers: How we test
To find the best CDN providers, we tested them across multiple aspects. We first looked at how easy it was to set up the service and how long the process would take.
We considered the CDN's performance, network size, and geographic distribution to understand how fast the service was across different regions. We analyzed the various tools the services offered to improve website performance and speed.
We also evaluated the flexibility and variety of their pricing plans, the overall learning curve, and the configurability of the service, among other things.
Read more on how we test, rate, and review products on TechRadar (opens in new tab).