When it comes to delivering information to a global online audience, the basic principles of the best CDN hosting can seem like an episode of “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”
Just like your website visitors, the elusive brunette and her red trench coat can be anywhere in the world; finding her and being as close to her as possible accelerates how quickly she can be brought into custody. Likewise, using a content delivery network (CDN) to store website files, videos, and images as close as possible to end users reduces load times and increases your chances at conversions.
We’ve scoured the planet for the best CDN hosting options that pair a global network with superior web hosting services and customer support. Read on for more information, or jump ahead to the section most helpful to you.
Best Overall CDN Hosting
We’ll get into the details of how a content delivery network works later in the article, but a CDN is another tool website owners and application developers can use to increase performance and improve user experience. Site speed and page load times are critical to the success of your online presence; every additional second your site takes to appear increases the number of visitors likely to give up and go elsewhere.
According to 2018 research from Google, more than half of mobile users will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load — not good news for the average mobile site, which takes an average of 15 seconds. A two-second increase in page load time (from one to three seconds) increases the bounce rate by 32%; a five-second delay more than doubles the likelihood your visitor will leave without interacting with your site.
Beyond making your customers and visitors happy (and, by extension, your conversion rate and bank accounts), page load times matter for another good reason: Google has made page speed a major ranking factor in mobile searches. By upping the ante on website speed, which has been a ranking factor since 2009, search engines carry a greater influence on where your site appears in results and how much added traffic you’ll see.
Many web hosting providers include a free CDN when you sign up for services, usually in the form of a plugin found within your cPanel control panel. Getting started with a CDN is extremely easy, and we especially appreciate hosts that combine the performance boost with optimized hardware, programming languages, and caching tools. SiteGround is far and away our favorite option, featuring high-powered solid-state drives, PHP 7, HTTP/2, Memcached, and OpCache. The company includes the Cloudflare CDN for free with all plans, so be sure to check them out below:
- FREE site transfer or new site setup with 1-click install
- FREE automated daily backups, CDN, email, and SSL
- 24/7 expert support with no wait time on phone or chat
- Recommended by WordPress as a top WordPress host
- Ideal for business email hosting, with 99.9% uptime
- Get started on SiteGround now.
Cheap CDN Hosting
Because CDNs rely on servers located in dozens of datacenters spread around the world and carefully working together to position your content and data as close to visitors as possible, the complicated global network seems like a high-end feature available only to established businesses with big budgets. While it’s true you can spend hundreds of dollars each month on a premium CDN, many networks are eager to let you experience the increased performance, security, and stability for free.
Most hosting providers will include the massively popular Cloudlfare CDN to customers for free, while others (including HostGator and iPage) opt to provide the TrueSpeed CDN that is part of SiteLock’s larger security suite. No matter the network, though, hosting your content on a CDN can be as affordable as a low-cost web hosting account — often for far less than $5 per month.
The three hosting providers we’ve listed below excel at meeting that price-to-performance balancing act. Bluehost and A2 Hosting are both well-known and highly trusted brands known for giving customers tremendous bang for their bucks. Both companies include Cloudflare with shared hosting plans, along with tons of other features to help you get started.
On the other hand, InterServer has concocted a fascinating blend of proprietary software and Cloudflare’s global network to create Inter-Proxy, and automatic caching and content delivery service that optimizes performance at five different levels of your environment.
- Known for performance at a low price
- Endorsed by WordPress.org team
- FREE Weebly site builder
- FREE Cloudflare CDN
- Get 63% off today (was $7.99/month)
- Get started on Bluehost now.
- FREE Cloudflare CDN and SSD speed boost solution
- A2-optimized caching and 1-click CMS installs
- Up to unlimited email addresses, domains, and databases
- Advanced security features and FREE HackScan
- 24/7/365 Guru Crew support via phone, chat, and tickets
- Get started on A2 Hosting now.
- $0.01 for the first month, then $5 monthly after
- NO annual contracts and NO sudden price increases
- Unlimited storage space, data transfers, and email
- New domain is $11 with 1-month plan ($1.99 otherwise)
- 99.9% uptime and price-lock guarantee
- Get started on InterServer now.
Cloud CDN Hosting
Because both cloud hosting and content delivery networks rely on a large group of servers, it can be easy to confuse the two services. Not every cloud hosting provider is a CDN, and not every CDN is a cloud computing host — though there can be some overlap. Broadly speaking, the group of servers behind your cloud hosting plan can all be located in the same datacenter. Your files and processing needs are spread around the cloud network in a way that promotes stability and scalability.
Servers in a CDN, however, need to be spread around the world to most effectively deliver content to website visitors. Each server handles the full workload for processing user requests and loading content for nearby audiences.
The high levels of hardware and data redundancy built into both cloud hosting and CDNs make both platforms highly reliable services that can withstand large spikes in traffic and malicious attacks. Pairing the two services provides the most firepower for data-heavy sites with dense databases, dynamic content, or large image and video files.
Two of our all-time favorite hosts are poised to show you the best of both the cloud and CDN worlds, providing the control of a dedicated server paired with the cost-effective scalability of a VPS. Liquid Web gives users access to the Cloudflare CDN, DDoS protection, and a stunning 100% network and power uptime guarantee, while SiteGround’s VIP support, auto-scalable resources, and free CDN make the more expensive option a worthwhile investment in your site’s growth.
- 50% off the first month for HostingAdvice users
- Cloudflare CDN, DDoS protection, and built-in backups
- Performance-boosting SSDs and cloud-level flexibility
- Rock-solid reliability with 100% uptime guarantees
- 24/7 Heroic Support® via phone, chat, and email
- Get started on Liquid Web now.
- Scalable, speedy, and fully managed cloud hosting
- FREE Cloudflare CDN and choice of 3 datacenters
- Fit for the high-traffic enterprise site
- cPanel/WHM, SSH access, and private DNS server
- 24/7 VIP support and a dedicated IP
- Get started on SiteGround now.
WordPress CDN Hosting
While better website performance helps every website or application, WordPress users particularly benefit from a CDN. The world’s most popular content management system is not always known for performance and can quickly get bogged down if the platform, plugins, and themes aren’t meticulously maintained and updated.
What’s more, many CDN providers include additional security features to protect its network stability and your data privacy. Web application firewalls are particularly useful for WordPress administrators, as the platform’s popularity makes it a prime target among attackers. Additionally, a CDN’s monitoring tools and log reports mean it can quickly identify common security threats like Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and other spammy activities from bots and scripts.
The three hosts below balance the needs for top-notch speed and security with WordPress-optimized environments. A2 Hosting has built its reputation around performance by featuring 100% SSD infrastructure and a variety of custom server configurations, while the WordPress core team itself vouches for SiteGround‘s developer tools for caching and staging. HostPapa is a relatively under-the-radar provider for those looking for mixing affordable WordPress hosting with the full slate of optimized features.
- FREE Cloudflare CDN and 1-click installs for WordPress
- Turbo Server, SSD speed boost, and optimized caching
- A2-optimized WP plugins for performance and security
- SSL certificates, PayPal integration, and 24/7 support
- FREE HackScan and KernelCare
- Get started on A2 Hosting now.
- Officially endorsed by WordPress.org as a top host
- FREE WordPress transfer or setup with 1-click install
- Pre-installed Git, 3 caching levels, and FREE CDN
- FREE WP setup wizard, staging, and auto-updates
- 99.9% uptime, 24/7 support, and custom chat system
- Get started on SiteGround now.
- Auto-installed WordPress with caching and FREE CDN
- FREE SSL certificate and HTTP/2 support
- Jetpack pre-installed for speed and security boosts
- Server firewall, monitoring, and intrusion detection
- Unlimited MySQL databases and phpMyAdmin
- Get started on HostPapa now.
Video & Image CDN Hosting
As we mentioned before, the line between web hosting and CDN hosting can seem somewhat blurry at times. In all its forms (shared, cloud, virtual, or dedicated), web hosting entails a specific set of features and functionalities. For instance, the operating system has a major influence on the types of applications and programming languages you can use effectively.
A CDN is less reliant on the underlying software and applications, making it great for handling more complicated files. Images and videos are particularly heavy files that can quickly overwhelm a standard web hosting environment. Offloading those big chunks of data to a large number of CDN servers enables your visitors to quickly access the content from nearby locations, making them extremely useful for those websites and applications that maintain vast image libraries or video streaming services. We’ve reviewed a ton of premium CDNs that amplify the benefits and features needed to effectively optimize video and image hosting and have included our favorites below.
Yes, the hosts above show that Cloudflare is pretty easy to come by; and who can argue with free? However, upgrading your Cloudflare package introduces a large number of performance and security features to protect and optimize your website. In addition to a web application firewall and DDoS protection, professional-grade Cloudflare will apply lossless or optional lossy optimizations to images to reduce file sizes by an average of 35%. Additionally, the company’s Mirage tool automatically streamlines image loading through virtualized and lazy loading images. The platform detects your users’ browser types and optimizes performance for the particular device — especially critical for those on mobile connections. When it comes to video streaming, Cloudflare customers spend just $1 for every 1,000 minutes viewed and $5 for every 1,000 minutes of video stored.
- Cost: FREE to upward of $200 per month
- Server locations: 165 datacenters in 81 countries
- Highlighted features: Unmetered DDoS mitigation, shared SSL certificates, simple DNS and API management, video streaming
Pairing Lance Crosby, the entrepreneur who sold SoftLayer to IBM for $2 billion, with the ultra-popular and highly rated MaxCDN, StackPath represents a rapidly growing and intriguing option for developers looking for premium security without sacrificing speed or user experience. The company expects to accelerate customer websites by at least 68% and give users better control of caching. Intelligent caching and instant purging makes exactly the right content available in exactly the right places for exactly the right amount of time. The innovative company perpetually looks for ways to improve services and move more computing functions out to the edge.
- Cost: $20 to $2,000 per month (one month FREE trial)
- Server locations: 45 edge locations in 16 countries
- Highlighted features: Unlimited websites and requests, private SSL certificates, and network-layer DDoS protection
Featuring a user-friendly dashboard and custom plugins to integrate with WordPress and Joomla, KeyCDN offers a flexible but high-performance network optimized with 100% SSD coverage and latency-based routing technology. Every account has access to the company’s full set of features, including HTTP/2, IPv6 support, TLS 1.3, Gzip compression, and real-time reporting. The company’s Optimus plugin provides smart image compression of PNG and JPEG images, while video options cover on-demand distribution and live streaming for all leading video and audio formats. The company’s pay-as-you-go pricing format may be a bit tough to plan around, but smaller sites should see somewhat reduced costs.
- Cost: Pay-as-you-go pricing starts at $.04 per gigabyte; minimum of $49 per year
- Server locations: 34 datacenters in 25 countries
- Highlighted features: Real-time reports, HTTP live streaming, Let’s Encrypt or custom SSL, and Brotli compression
Used to deliver images from the Hubble Space Telescope to scientists and astronomers around the world, CDN77 is a fascinating service powering more than 45,000 websites. The forward-thinking company was the first CDN to implement and offer HTTP/2 and Brotli compression in 2016, and CDN77 continues to expand its network and bandwidth capabilities. Video delivery is especially easy, as users just need to upload their MP4 or FLV files and let the company encode, secure, and deliver the videos to visitors worldwide. The company’s video streaming service has been used to broadcast a variety of concerts, sports, and TEDx events.
- Cost: $199 to $999 per month or pay-as-you-go pricing starting at $.049 per gigabyte
- Server locations: 33 datacenters in 26 countries
- Highlighted features: FREE 50GB of storage and SSL, 24/7 live support, CMS integrations, and API management
What list of cloud hosting and global delivery networks would be complete without some mention of Amazon Web Services? The company’s CDN, Amazon CloudFront, seamlessly integrates with other AWS services to deliver content, applications, and APIs with low latency and high transfer speeds. The usual complaints about AWS, such as poor support and hard-to-calculate pricing, still hold true, but it’s hard to question the global leader’s effectiveness. Developers and site owners will need to take an à la carte approach to combining CDN with load balancing and DDoS mitigation, but users can rest assured that AWS has all the functionality you can dream of.
- Cost: FREE tier includes 50GB of data transfer and 2 million HTTP and HTTPS requests each month. Otherwise, on-demand pricing starts at $.085 per gigabyte.
- Server locations: 166 POPs in 29 countries
- Highlighted features: Developer-friendly environment that integrates with other AWS services, including DDoS protection, load balancing, and custom code functions
Springing from an inspiration to deliver the first web application firewall in the cloud, Incapsula expanded its vision to speed up secure content delivery. Owned by leading IT security company Imperva, Incapsula now serves more than 125,000 clients and has received recognition from both Gartner and Forrester. Incapsula‘s CDN uses intelligent caching and control options to deliver website speeds that are, on average, 50% faster and consume up to 70% less bandwidth. The CDN is not designed for video streaming quite yet, but Incapsula recommends those users combine its services with a CDN from Akamai. Advanced image optimization via compression and progressive loading helps those with large static files.
- Cost: $59 to $299 per site per month
- Server locations: 44 datacenters in 32 countries
- Highlighted features: Static and dynamic content caching powered by machine learning, TLS and IPv6 support, and web application security
What is a Content Delivery Network?
As we’ve alluded to throughout the article, a content delivery network is a collection of servers geographically distributed around the world. The various points of presence, otherwise known as POPs, represent the physical locations of the servers. CDN servers largely fall into one of two camps: An origin server is the primary source of your website’s data, and edge servers are the global locations that store and deliver copies of your website.
Your origin server is typically where your hosting provider’s server or datacenter is located. For instance, SiteGround maintains datacenters in Chicago, London, Amsterdam, and Singapore. Customers will want to choose a server location that is closest to their target audience to reduce or eliminate any delays.
Latency, or the time between a browser’s request for information to travel to the server and be processed, can be exacerbated by the distance the data has to traverse. Without a CDN, all of your website visitors would need to request information from the origin server in that one specific location, which is the only place that can serve the data.
CDNs distribute copies of your website or application to edge servers. When a visitor’s browser requests data, the edge server closest to the visitor’s location will supply the information, greatly reducing the latency and distance between your website and its end users.
How does a CDN Work?
Instead of completely duplicating your website on dozens or hundreds of servers, CDNs essentially take a snapshot of your site. Let’s say you wanted to make a copy of a certain document. Instead of typing it again, measuring the margins, ensuring your have the correct font, and printing it, a CDN goes straight to the photocopier. That process, where data is stored locally to speed up subsequent delivery, is called caching.
Where things can get tricky is with dynamic content, or data that changes at unpredictable intervals. Static content caching enables dynamic content to load much faster, but some CDNs will also cache dynamic content. WordPress websites and online stores, in particular, display dynamic content in the form of blog posts, product inventory, breaking news, and other time-sensitive information. Caching dynamic content often entails storing the generated HTML versions of websites at certain time intervals and purging older copies.
No matter the content, CDNs route browser requests to the edge server that can deliver the information the quickest. Usually that’s the machine physically closest to the user, but not always. If a server is currently busy processing other requests, the visitor may be routed to one with more availability.
Benefits of Using a CDN to Deliver Videos, Images, and Dynamic Content
Offloading static content, images, and other large files to a CDN optimizes the user experience and the strain put on your origin server. Your globe-trotting website or application reaches customers exactly where they are, providing a premium and personalized interaction. The speed boost alone from a CDN is enough to lower bounce rates, improve search engine rankings, and increase conversions, all serving to grow your brand and the success of your online presence.
That being said, not everyone will see the same benefits. For instance, individual bloggers, professional portfolios, and small brick-and-mortar businesses that don’t run an ecommerce store may not notice a dramatic change in load times. Those local audiences are likely already relatively close to your origin server, and your files may not be all that cumbersome to process.
Websites that display a lot of images or offer video or audio streaming are prime candidates to use a CDN, along with an online business that generates income or encourages subscriptions. Does your site experience traffic fluctuations because of holiday shopping seasons or a particular sports season? A CDN will help you stay online and operate at peak performance.