Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) are collections of servers located in strategic locations helping sites more efficiently deliver content. They improve websites performance, help increase site availability, offer additional levels of security and help reduce bandwidth cost.
They are usually run by companies which specialize in this type of service and offer varying benefits depending on the type of account you have with them. Cloud flare, for example, offers a free basic service that can be upgraded depending on what you need.
Why Use a CDN?
There are two statistics that logically intersect to make the case for WordPress sites to use CDNs a strong one. The first is that more than 77% of the top 10,000 websites in the world are already using them. The second is that WordPress powers over 34% of the Internet.
While those are general ideas of what the trends are like, there are very specific benefits that CDNs offer to all websites.
- Better Speeds – By caching part of your site content on servers located around the globe, CDNs can help you serve parts of your site faster to specific geographic locations. This means that whether your host server is in North America or Japan, your site can perform just as well.
- Save on Bandwidth – Although many web hosts today offer unlimited bandwidth, over-usage will still flag your account for attention and possibly bandwidth throttling. Because CDNs help you store parts of your site remotely, your bandwidth is used much more efficiently.
- Cyber attack Prevention – DDoS attacks can swamp even the largest and most secure sites simply because they were not designed to handle those volumes of traffic – but CDNs are. Using a CDN can help mitigate these attacks for a fraction of the cost of you doing it yourself.
- Increase Site Availability – Any site can suffer from equipment failure or service interruptions, but CDNs are designed with extremely high levels of redundancy. By relying on them to help you with redundancy, you are increasing the potential availability of your site.
Great CDN Options for WordPress Users
WordPress is popular because it offers users who have limited coding skills the option to build sites quickly and easily. With WordPress hosting, you can even set up your website in a WordPress-optimized environment. Its popularity has led to a very active developer community which creates a huge number of plugins to help with everything from design to the adoption of specific technologies.
This means that if you’re starting a blog with WordPress there are many ways you can use a CDN. Either configure one yourself or find one of the many plugins that can do this for you. It also means that there are likely to be many resources you can turn to for help.
To get you started, here are some great CDN options you can explore;
1. Cloud flare
Cloud flare is possibly one of the most recognizable names in CDNs. Although it was first designed as an application to find the origin of spam mail, it grew into the service it is today. Now, Cloud flare helps optimize the performance of websites while at the same time protecting them from cyber attacks.
Their CDN service boasts one of the largest networks of servers around the world in over 151 data centers. These are spread across locations in all major geographic areas including North America, Asia, Europe, and Africa.
A basic CDN account with Cloud flare is free but they offer packages with enhanced services ranging from $20 per month to $200 per month. For more specialized services there are also custom tuned offers available on request.
How to Setup Cloud flare with WordPress
- Sign up for a Cloud flare account.
- Click on ‘Add a Site’ and type the URL to your site.
- Select your plan.
- You will be shown a list of DNS records. If you’re not familiar with this, leave it and click ‘Continue’.
- Cloud flare will show you your existing DNS entries and the corresponding ones you need to change them to. Make a note of these.
- Log in to your Domain Name Management system.
- Change the DNS entries to the ones provided to you by Cloud flare and save them.
- You’re now protected by Cloud flare CDN!
There are many individual configurations you can set up with Cloud flare. These can be done from your control panel in your Cloudflare account. If you rather do everything from your WordPress site there are also plugins that can help you connect to your Cloudflare account.
Otherwise, you can sign up with a Cloud flare ready hosting which provides you with one click Cloud flare activation.
2. Stack Path (Previously MaxCDN)
Stack Path is a paid CDN provider and their price varies depending on the package you choose. Packages differ by services and bandwidth required. If you’re not familiar with CDNs, I recommend that you try out Cloud flare first and familiarize yourself with the concepts there since basic Cloud flare accounts are free.
Once you know the basics then you can sign up for a trial Stack Path account to see if it’s right for you. Trial accounts on Stack Path cost $10 for the one-month trial period. The configuration process is slightly more involved in Stack path.
Even with WordPress, there are multiple ways you can configure your Stack Path CDN. Thankfully, they have an extremely extensive database you can refer to. Just choose the right one for what you have and follow the instructions there.
3. Key CDN
Key CDN is another well-known CDN service provider and is based in Europe. Although they do not offer free accounts, Key CDN plans are highly configurable. You can customize your plans depending on where most of your traffic comes from.
Prices for bandwidth vary according to region, with North America and Europe costing $20 per 500GB and other locations clocking in at $70 per 500GB. These prices include a minimum usage fee of $4 per month.
Using Key CDN is also fairly complex and for WordPress, it is recommended that you do so with the CDN Enabler plugin. Once you’ve signed up for your Key CDN account, install the plugin and refer to the Key CDN knowledge base here to set it up.
As with Stack Path, I highly recommend you test out using a CDN with Cloud flare first before signing up for an account here.
Sucuri is a very recognizable name in the field of website security. It offers its users very robust solutions and their CDN is highly integrated with a suite of security solutions. Because of this, their pricing starts from a minimum of $199 per year.
This pricing, however, opens them up as an integrated services platform that has an offering beyond what most basic CDNs provide. Package includes a powerful WordPress firewall, malware, and attack screening as well as guards against most WordPress threats.
Everything is filtered and scanned before even reaching your site if you’re using a Sucuri product. The configuration is much easier than most CDN products and is mostly automated.
Setting up Sucuri CDN with WordPress
- Sign up for an account and add your site to the Web Application Firewall.
- Enable the CDN service (you will need to change your existing DNS records).
- You get free SSL to secure data transmission to CDN servers or you can use your own.
- You’re good to go!
Imperva Incapsula is another option that is favored by many WordPress users. It combines a network of global servers with multiple caching controls to optimize how your site is delivered to users automatically. Similar to Sucuri, it is also deeply integrated with security solutions such as application firewalls and attack mitigation.
This, however, comes at a price and the minimum startup cost of Incapsula is $59 per month. (Note that Incapsula didn’t state the pricing on their website. To get the pricing you need to email them for a quotation.) For WordPress sites, there are additional benefits as well such as code minification, file compression and even performs analysis on your site to optimize caching.
Setup for WordPress is simple;
- Sign up and select your plan.
- Add your site to the system.
- They also offer free SSL for secure connections, so enable it.
- Change your DNS settings and you’re done.
Incapsula has a very extensive dashboard where you can not just do manual tweaks to your service but also monitor all traffic that passes through the CDN.
Conclusion: You Need a CDN
As you can see, pricing for CDNs can vary a great deal from the free plan that Cloudflare offers to the highly secure plans of Sucuri. I recommend exploring CDNs with an initial focus on learning to use the service and then deciding if you would like a more integrated platform.
CDN services are great and can speed up the website. The services also considerably increase your website reliability and availability. WordPress installations tend to grow over time and if you’re not careful, you can get bloated. A CDN will not only help you optimize services but also train you towards better habits, such as keeping your site lean.
With so many options available in CDNs, there is something that is surely right for you somewhere. Per