CDN Hosting: We Reveal Top 3 Providers In 2020
by Gary McGath
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Here are our experts’ choices for the top 5 CDN hosts:
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What is CDN Hosting?
The Problem: Slow Loading Websites
Solution: CDNs Can Boost Page Load Times
So, what’s the solution for this? Other than ramping up the performance of your web hosting by switching to a higher hosting tier, you can use a content delivery network (CDN) to boost page load speeds on your site.
Types of Content Cached on a CDN
CDNs typically cache static content. Static content is anything that is fixed on your websites like headers, main content, videos, and images.
Dynamic content, or content that is ever-changing, can load much faster as a result.
Some CDN systems will also cache the dynamic content of your website.
How Does a CDN Work?
What Are Edge Servers?
How Do They Work?
When someone visits your website, your CDN will then send your content to them from the edge server that will provide optimal delivery. Often the optimal server is the one that’s located closest geographically to the user, since the closer the server is, the faster the data will reach them. But this isn’t always the case; if the closest server is already at capacity, the CDN will choose another server that has the highest availability.
Understanding CDN Functions
To understand exactly what happens with a CDN, you need a general understanding of how web pages are delivered when you click a link or enter a URL online.
When someone clicks a link to open a web page, their web browser makes a request to the server. This is called a DNS request. The browser provides the domain name to the DNS server. The DNS server will then look up the domain name in its records to find the matching IP address, much like looking up a number in a phone book.
Then, the browser will receive the IP address of the server where the website is being stored. The browser connects the user’s computer with the server so it can get access to the website they requested.
DNS Requests on a CDN
When a DNS request is made for a domain name on a CDN, the DNS server looks for the closest geographical server to the user’s IP address and then provides the IP address of the closest edge server. So, the browser will receive website content from the edge server instead of the origin server where the website is actually hosted.
Benefits of Using a CDN
- Improved site performance: Using the optimal server to deliver your Web content improves site performance and usability for users who are doing things like streaming video.
- Faster site loading times: This is important for all sites, but particularly for dynamic sites like WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla.
- Reduced buffering and latency: Using a CDN keeps your site users from waiting around for content, such as images and videos, to load. Buffering and latency, especially with video and e-commerce, is minimized or eliminated.
- Reduced traffic spikes: It reduces or eliminates the effects of traffic spikes on the user experience of your site.
- Reduced downtime: CDN hosts can keep your sites online by delivering cached pages in the event of downtime.
- Added security: The duplication and distribution of data provides you an extra level of security: If a natural disaster takes out a group of servers in one area, your data will still be available from the servers in other areas.
- Improved analytics: Tracking how edge servers are used in a CDN can also provide valuable analytics on visitor activity that can lead to a better user experience.
Additional Benefits of Using a CDN
Even without all the above benefits, using a CDN can be worth it just for the speed boost alone. Reducing loading times on your website, even by just a few seconds, can lower your bounce rate, improve your search engine rankings, and increase conversions.
These benefits are also especially important to e-commerce websites. If your customer has to wait too long, they may navigate away without completing a purchase.
Do You Need a CDN?
Individual bloggers and small bricks-and-mortar businesses without e-commerce may not see any benefit from a CDN.
Sites that deliver rich media content and those with e-commerce could decrease loading times and increase conversion rates by employing a CDN. You should consider using a CDN if:
- Your website depends on displaying a lot of images.
- You offer video or audio streaming.
- You run an income-generating website where revenue is affected by speed and uptime, such as an e-commerce site.
- You run an e-commerce site that experiences peak traffic periods, such as Black Friday.
- You need faster loading times for your website for any reason.
CDN Hosting Plans
With the popularity of CDNs increasing, many hosts offer CDNs included with their hosting plans in order to stay competitive. Many CDN hosting plans are cloud-based, using virtual servers, which is well-suited to sites that have traffic spikes and lots of media because typically, cloud hosting resources are instantly scalable.
Purchasing a Standalone CDN
You may also purchase a CDN service separately if it doesn’t come with your chosen hosting plan. Many brands of CDNs are available, some open source, others commercially licensed. They also vary in features. For example, some CDNs only allow for static content while others include dynamic content, as well. As such, the cost varies widely.
Public CDN Services
Dedicated CDN Services
You’ll likely get access to a CDN through your web host provider. But if you don’t, you can get use a dedicated CDN provider for this service instead. There are many options out there. We’ve compared three popular choices:
|Amazon CloudFront||CloudFlare CDN||Akamai|
|Best For||Used by developers.||Used by individuals and small to medium-sized businesses. This is most commonly included in hosting plans.||Used by the biggest websites. Most popular CDN provider.|
|Coverage||CloudFlare has 118 data centers all over the world.||Akamai has the biggest distribution of CDN servers in the world, with servers in over 120 countries.|
|Plans||The company has monthly plans on flat pricing for their customers with options for individuals, small businesses, and enterprises. Personal websites can use their free tier to get a CDN at no cost.|