Best Content Delivery Network 2021

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Content Delivery Networks (CDN) are a great tool to you can leverage to optimize and accelerate website experiences for your visitors. This is critical at a time when people are increasingly demanding a quick and accurate response to their web requests.

A CDN is essentially a network of servers that are used to store content, such as images, videos and text files. When someone visits your website, the CDN will ensure that they receive the content from the server closest to them, which results in a faster loading time.

There are a number of different CDN providers available, but there can be a significant cost involved. This may not be an issue for large companies, but it could prove to be problematic for bloggers and small businesses that need to keep costs down.

This review will inform you about the best CDN software offerings available in 2021 and assess their speed, servers and locations, ease of use, and value.

What's on This Page

What is a Content Delivery Network?

A content delivery network (CDN), also known as a content distribution network, is a geographically distributed and interconnected group of servers designed to deliver content quickly and efficiently. It is especially crucial for larger assets such as images, video streaming, and live streaming, and HTML pages and stylesheets which tend to lag amongst normal website traffic.

CDNs do not replace web hosts – you will still need a host. Instead, they complement a web host to increase website performance and prevent interruptions in service. 

Certain types of files can take time to load, and delays can turn off visitors who may become impatient, frustrated, or leave your site. Visitors to your website are coming from across the globe, and distance can worsen slow loading times. CDN stores some of these files closer to the access point of your visitors in a process known as caching, reducing the distance files must travel and increasing load speeds. Most major websites, including Facebook, Netflix, and Amazon, leverage CDNs to distribute their content and ensure better speeds. However, given the increase in efficiency and cost-effectiveness, many smaller sites are also now using CDNs. 

Why do I need a Content Delivery Network (CDN)?

CDNs offer several essential benefits to website owners. Of course, the most important one is that they improve website loading times. Because the content is cached or stored on servers closer to your visitors, it will load more quickly. This can reduce frustration and bounce rates and even increase your visitors’ time on your site. Depending on the terms offered by your CDN and your website host, you can get some cost savings using a CDN by reducing the bandwidth you need at your hosting site. 

 

Another potential benefit to a CDN is the additional security protection it can offer. Accessing a network of servers to store cached copies of your website assets, as happens with a CDN, can protect you from the effects of Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. CDNs can also immunize your site from issues related to hardware. If one server goes down, your assets are stored and available on others. 

How does a Content Delivery Network work?

CDNs are essentially a network of servers linked together to deliver content quicker and more reliably. To do that, a CDN company will set up servers at specific points between different networks – usually at an internet exchange point (IXP) where various internet providers link up to provide one another access to their network.

These servers are known as point-of-presence (PoP) or edge servers. When a visitor attempts to download or access specific content on a website, it will trigger a PoP geographically closer to the visitor to store a copy of the asset. When that visitor or another visitor from that area attempts to reaccess the content, it will be sent to them from the PoP server and can be delivered much more quickly.

Since each of the PoPs provided by the CDN will eventually house, or cache, copies of your content, your site, and all of the assets on it will load much more quickly, and your visitors will enjoy a vastly improved user experience. The other benefits of CDNs are that they can reduce the download-related costs you have to pay your host, provide you with more security, insulate your site from network failures and help reduce general congestion on the internet.

Top 5 Rated Products

Amazon CloudFront

Best for Amazon Retailers

Amazon CloudFront is the content delivery network operated by Amazon Web Services (AWS). 

Amazon CloudFront boasts these stand-out features:

  • Deep integration with AWS includes free access to AWS certificate manager, firewall and shield
  • The excellent free tier offers 1TB of content delivered out and 10 million HTTP or HTTPS requests. 
  • Offers genuinely global coverage with a high number of well-distributed servers and regional servers for backup

The free tier offers an easy place to start, but after that, CloudFront pricing gets complicated as it is based on traffic and the regions where requests originate. There is a pricing calculator available to help you decide which package is best for you. 

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StackCompare.com

4.6 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

5 (2 user reviews)

G2.com

4.3 (135 user reviews)

CloudFlare

Best for Small Business

Cloudflare is a U.S.-based is a leading Internet performance and security company with one of the largest networks of data centers. The company handles almost 10% of all Internet requests worldwide.

CloudFlare’s standout features include:

  • The free option provides access to all servers as well as free SSL certificates and anti-DDoS
  • Strong security and optimization features in paid versions
  • Easy to set up but with robust developer tools for customization and control

In addition to the free version, Cloudflare offers a Pro plan for $20/month, a Business plan for $200/month and custom pricing for enterprises.

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StackCompare.com

4.8 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.8 (n/a)

G2.com

4.8 (n/a)

StackPath

Best for Support

Stackpath is a U.S.-based CDN that boasts a strong presence in Europe and North America but has fewer servers in Asia, Australia, and South America and none in Africa. Stackpath acquired MaxCDN in 2016, expanding its coverage and offerings.

The standout features of Stackpath include:

  • User-friendly dashboard and extensive support
  • Advanced security features including SS certificates, anti-DDOS, and firewall technologies
  • Strong speeds, particularly in Europe and North America

Like all CDNs, Stack Path’s pricing is tied to the bandwidth you require. However, they do not advertise their pricing and do offer a free version.

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StackCompare.com

4.3 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

4.2 (n/a)

G2.com

N/A

Fastly

Best for customization

Founding in 2011, Fastly is based in California but operates in six continents with high-capacity servers that allow it to deliver content quickly without needing additional servers.

Fastly’s standout features include:

  • It’s highly customizable and gives developers configuration control but also offers managed services
  • Offers pay as you go pricing and a pricing calculator to estimate costs
  • Provides instant purging removing old media and ensuring new media is instantly accessible to visitors

Fastly offers a free trial which allows you to test up to $50 of traffic on its CDN and then pay as you plan tied to visitor location and usage. It also has specific small business and enterprise plans.

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StackCompare.com

4.6 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

N/A

G2.com

4.5 (5 user reviews)

KeyCDN

Best for WordPress

KeyCDN Is a CDN company based in Switzerland.

The standout features of KeyCDN include:

  • It is affordable. Users pay only for what they use, and unlike other CDNs, the minimum payment is only $4.
  • Set up is simple, and CDN offers 24/7 support via ticketing and an extensive knowledge base.
  • KeyCDN offers easy integration with sites such as WordPress, Drupal, Magento, etc.

KeyCDN offers a 14-day free trial. Per GB pricing is tied to region and traffic and starts at $0.04/GB for the first 10TB in North America and Europe.

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StackCompare.com

4.6 (Aggregate Score)

Capterra.com

5.0 (5 user reviews)

G2.com

4.5 (70 user reviews)

Our Rating Process

We assessed each CDN software based on Speed, Server Locations, Ease of Use and Value. We scored them each out of 5 points to help you in your decision process.

Product Features

Amazon CloudFront

$199 / month
  • Great bundle deal for web hosting and domain name registration
  • Competitive pricing for domains
  • A large WordPress hosting partner

Cloudflare

$750 / month
  • Servers in 250 cities in 100+ countries
  • A challenge to setup but numerous options
  • Integration options including Amazon web services

StackPath

$200 / month
  • 50+locations in 5 continents
  • Easy to read, real time user interface
  • Customer service via email, phone and knowledge base

Fastly

$50 / month
  • Over 70 locations, many with multiple POPs
  • Challenge to set up but highly configurable
  • Scalable with options for any sized business

Alternative Options

Similar Services

Frequently Asked Questions

Choosing the best CDN largely depends on several factors, including the caching needs of the website, traffic levels and even the technological expertise of the website owners. However, with almost all these factors, Cloudflare comes out on top. It has maximum server coverage and can dramatically speed up your website while helping protect it from security threats.

Since accelerating your website is the sole purpose of engaging the services of a CDN company, speed matters. The speed of a CDN depends on the technology it uses and the number and location of its PoPs. However, since speed is often relevant to location, the location of the website’s visitors and the types of content the site contains will also affect the speed of a CDN.!

Stackpath has phenomenal speeds in Europe and North America, but it lags in Asia, Australia and South America and has no presence in Africa. Cloudflare again offers the best global speeds due to the large number of servers it has put in place across all six continents.

Load balancing distributes network traffic across several servers to ensure that a single server does not handle all traffic. CDNs leverage load balancing by spreading incoming requests across their servers to increase processing speeds and utilize server capacity. This ensures that the servers closest to the user and those with the most capacity are employed to deliver content.

Load balancing helps mitigate traffic jams in content delivery that can occur when there is an unusually high number of visitors at a single time or when a site experiences a DDoS attack.

Multi CDNs are a great option for websites and businesses hoping to reach a global audience and ensure customers can access their sites or services quickly and easily, no matter where they are located. Multi CDNs essentially distribute website requests across multiple CDNs. Leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) technology, multi CDNs consider proximity to the user, the processing power of servers, and customer traffic and then select the best CDN to deliver the content.

There are several advantages to using a multi CDN. The first is that if one CDN server goes down, traffic is quickly shifted to another. The multi CDN approach also leverages the different strengths of multiple CDN networks. Some may have an increased presence in specific regions or have servers that can handle different types of content more quickly. They are, however, often a more expensive option to single CDN services.