If you are running a website that has a lot of images and similar content, a Content Delivery Network might be useful for you as it can help in reducing page load times.
A content delivery network (CDN) can speed up your site and help to protect it against traffic spikes. The Internet was designed according to the end-to-end principle.This principle keeps the core network relatively simple and moves the intelligence as much as possible to the network end-points: the hosts and clients. As a result the core network is specialized, simplified, and optimized to only forward data packets.
A CDN provider uses its multiple servers across the globe to serve your static content to visitors from various regions (simple logic: geographically closer means quicker pageviews).
Some of the major advantages of using a CDN are as follows:
- Websites load quicker.
- Saves a lot of bandwidth — ideal for heavy traffic websites or those with limited shared hosting accounts.
- Less pressure on your hosting server.
There are a number of free CDNs offered by Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and other large web organizations. For example, few people host their own videos when YouTube and Vimeo offer amazing free services. Similarly a great way to save server bandwidth is by using free cloud storage services. Say you have a couple of PDFs or video available for direct download. Hosting them on your server would consume bandwidth like crazy. A smart solution would be to use the various free cloud storage services. To share a file publicly, you can simply generate a public URL of the file and paste it in your site. Here are a couple of free cloud storage solutions
Content Delivery Networks augment the end-to-end transport network by distributing on it a variety of intelligent applications employing techniques designed to optimize content delivery. The resulting tightly integrated overlay uses web caching, server-load balancing, request routing, and content services.
With the introduction out of the way, let us now take a look at some of the major Content Delivery Networks.
For those of you who own a self hosted WordPress site, CloudFlare needs no introduction. CloudFlare offers both free and paid plans. The company has been around for over 15 years now and CloudFlare is a very popular choice when it comes to CDN providers. With 23 data centers spread across the globe, CloudFlare’s free CDN and DNS service supercharges and protects over hundreds of thousands of websites. To top it all of, its up-to-date WordPress plugin makes integrating its services in your site, a breeze.
Incapsula provides Application Delivery from the cloud: Global CDN, Website Security, DDoS Protection, Load Balancing & Failover. It takes 5 minutes to activate the service, and they have a great free plan and a WordPress plugin to get correct IP Address information for comments posted to your site.
FEATURES COMMON TO CLOUDFLARE & INCAPSULA:
In a nutshell, this is what Incapsula and CloudFlare does:
- Routes your entire website’s traffic through their globally distributed network of high end servers (This is achieved by a small DNS change)
- Real-time threat analysis of incoming traffic and blocking the latest web threats including multi-Gigabit DDoS attacks
- Outgoing traffic is accelerated through their globally powered content delivery network
Photon (under WP Jetpack)
To all WordPress users – Jetpack needs no introduction. In their recent improvement of awesomeness, they’ve included a free CDN service (called Photon) that serves your site’s images through their globally powered WordPress.com grid. To get this service activated, all you have to do is download and install Jetpack and activate its Photon module.
Originally a project from the MIT, CoralCDN is a peer-to-peer (P2P) based content delivery network which is absolutely free of cost. P2P networks rely on the billions of computers connected across the Internet which is mainly why CoralCDN is free. To quote from their WordPress plugin, “static content is served by CoralCDN’s servers by simply appending ‘.nyud.net’ to the element’s URL.” As bizarre to understand how it’s possible, it actually works. Here’s proof:
This is the link to our logo:
To serve the logo through CoralCDN’s servers, I would just append ‘nyud.net’
SwarmCDN is a relatively new peer-to-peer based content delivery network that offers 100 GB of bandwidth in their free plan. Commercially, they are a pay-as-you-go CDN which is good for websites with medium traffic.
Google App Engine
In simple terms, App Engine is the Google equivalent of Amazon S3 + EC2. It is used for running web based applications, hosting websites and data storage. Thankfully Google generously includes 500 MB of storage, 10 hosted projects and upto 5,000,000 pageviews per month in their free plan. Setting up Google App engine requires sound technical knowledge of Python and web based application development. We suggest trying google to find out more on this and to establish a theoretical understanding. But there is also a service called PageSpeed
Google PageSpeed is a relatively lesser known concept that can be used as a CDN. Unlike all others in the business, PageSpeed is meant entirely for developers. Still in its initial stages, PageSpeed is not yet ready for multipurpose usage: you cannot send POST requests greater than 2 MB, or have Flash and streaming audio/video or files over 50 MB. Plus, PageSpeed does not support HTTPS pages as of now.
One of the sponsors of jsDeliver pubic CDN, CDN.net offers you 1 TB free CDN bandwidth. Now that’s more than enough for a website with moderate traffic and images. CDN.net will give you an idea as to what to expect once your use a proper CDN – your bandwidth consumption and popular site content.
Amazon Web Services
Basically, Amazon has two offerings in this section. First up, you can opt forAmazon S3, a budget-friendly storage solution. Amazon S3 can prove helpful for websites that receive majority of their traffic from USA.
Secondly, Amazon also offers CloudFront for content delivery. CloudFront is one of the most reliable as well as most expensive CDN options out there, so you might consider opting for it if you need blazing fast CDN and pricing is not a barrier for you. Be warned though, Amazon CloudFront is basically meant for developers and enterprises and does not offer much 24×7 support for end users.
When trying to choose a CDN provider, most people tend to have two broad considerations: speed and bandwidth. In terms of speed, the general notion is to opt for a provider that offers server locations in close geographical proximity to your target audience. Most CDN providers have USA, EU and Asia Pacific covered, but if you are looking for a region in particular (let us say, Africa), the best choice to opt for the bigger names such as Amazon CloudFront, simply because they have more servers than most others.
What about bandwidth? Try to assess your bandwidth usage by looking at the stats in your hosting control panel. If your website consumes 2 GB bandwidth per month, purchasing a CDN plan with 1TB makes little sense. A word of caution, though: always make sure that your CDN plan is future-proof. If you need 30 GB monthly bandwidth as of now, you can consider investing