MAKE WORDPRESS BLAZING FAST WITH A CDN
A content delivery network, or CDN as it is most often referred to, is the name given to a distributed network of servers that are responsible for delivering web content to the end users of a particular website.
The servers in the network will typically be geographically distributed around the work in order to provide the best coverage and allow for users anywhere in the world to download the content from the nearest server.
In simple terms, each server in the network will keep a cached copy of the website which it can then pass directly to the users that are in its catchment area when they request that website. In situations where the content on the CDN server has become stale or is part of a dynamic page that needs to be delivered from the source the CDN server will request a new copy of the content before passing it on to the user.
This process is almost always completely transparent to the end user and the time it takes to be carried out is typically much shorter than delivering the page from a single location to users spread around the world.
In the past, large web services companies would have established their own internal CDN networks with servers located around the world. This would have been very expensive and a solution reserved for only the largest websites. With the advent of cloud computing and the delivery of services via the cloud this type of setup is now almost always managed by a third party provider and delivered to the website owner as a relatively low cost monthly service.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF USING A CDN?
There are many different advantages to using a CDN. Some of those advantages will certainly benefit the larger website but some of them will also benefit any website that is interested in staying available to its users.
FASTER WEBSITE LOAD TIME
The load time of a website is one of the biggest advantages to using a CDN. As we all know, Google has made it clear in the past that load time is important and plays a part in the ranking of websites in its search results. In addition to this, load time is very important to the average Internet user who typically only has an attention span of a few seconds.
Using a CDN load time can be reduced dramatically for several reasons. Firstly the servers that CDN networks typically run on are very powerful and can deliver results to the end user very quickly. Secondly the very nature of a CDN network means that web pages are delivered to users locally no matter where they are in the world and this local delivery also reduces page load time due to the decrease in distance that the web pages have to travel from source to destination.
DISTRIBUTION OF LOAD
The second major advantage of using a CDN is the distribution of load across all servers in the network and away from the clients own servers. This in itself will increase page load time as well, but it will also mean that the hardware required to run large websites is reduced – because much of the strain is off loaded to the CDN servers.
In addition, because of this setup having a CDN also makes it possible to mitigate DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks. If a website behind a CDN faces a DDOS attack it will be spread out across the CDN servers and will not have such a major impact on the source servers themselves.
GREATER UP TIME
The last major advantage that we will cover in the introduction is the increase uptime that comes from having a CDN in place. This is a very important feature and is one that makes having a CDN important to even the smallest of websites. Having a CDN in place means that a cached copy of your website resides on the CDN network at all times. The advantage of this is that even if your webserver or servers go down, the site will still be available to end users in the form of the cache that is available at the CDN.
In cases where the website contains dynamic content, users can be alerted that they are viewing a cached copy of the site until the main server or servers comes back on line, but this means that the site is never completely down and this is definitely an advantage to any webmaster.
Whilst there are many CDN providers out there, the two main players in the market are Cloudflare and MaxCDN and in this article we will be reviewing both of these providers in detail as well as comparing them against each other.
Cloudflare provide a content delivery network build from the ground up using their own proprietary methods and have servers across the globe to give full coverage and local content no matter where the user is based.
Cloudflare optimizer ensures that content loads fast for all end users no matter where they are and no matter what device they are using – be it desktop or mobile. Cloudflare also have additional optional features that enable compression and other speed increasing measures.
Cloudflare offer advanced security along with their service for protecting against DDOS as well as other attacks such as SQL injection.
As part of their service Cloudflare also provide full DNS management for your website using their distributed DNS servers which also adds to the speed increase that is gained from using Cloudflare.
In addition to the other CDN features offered by Cloudflare, they also provide advanced analytics allowing you to get an insight into the traffic that hits your website on a day to day basis.
Cloudflare offer a free plan for basic use of their content delivery network but without any advanced features. For the more demanding user they have several plans which start from $20 / month and go up to $5k+ depending on feature requirements and the level of service gurantee that is required.
MaxCDN provide similar services to Cloudflare – they also have a global network of servers that provide direct reach to over 90 countries.
MaxCDN have also built their entire network from scratch and everything from infrastructure ot server hardware has been selected with speed and stability in mind.
A particularly interested feature of the MaxCDN network is a proprietary technology known as Multipath which is a routing technology that aims to deliver websites to end users via the quickest route using smart technology and decision making. The technology uses on the fly analysis of data packet loss to establish the fastest routes to take data at any given point in time.
Another feature of the MaxCDN network is the Faststack technology that the physical hardware runs on. The servers are all powered by advanced caching solutions sitting on top of 100% SSD (solid state drive) servers providing the fastest web delivery speeds available.
Global 10GB link
The MaxCDN network is made up of servers in data centres all around the world, all linked with 10GB network connectivity ensuring lightning fast data delivery to the end users of your website.
Origin shield ensures that the source web servers are never overloaded with requests from the CDN network when cache is reset by maintaining a single server within the network that is responsible for handling cache reset requests and then passing the latest dataset out to the rest of the network.
All of the features of MaxCDN can be acquired after a very simple setup process meaning that a webmaster can easily take advantage of all the benefits of MaxCDN with very little integration efforts.
For more complex deployments MaxCDN also provide API access to their system enabling automated integration of all services.
Another really cool feature of MaxCDN which is perhaps reserved once again for the more advanced user is something known as Edgerules.
This feature allows for advanced rules to be created that dictate the handling of requests as they come into the MaxCDN network.
There are many templates available for use with these rules that will handle most standard scenarios such as blocking requests by country or simply redirecting bots to static content.
However, if you wish to include some custom setup to your CDN network then the Edgerules can be manipulated to achieve any desired effect concerning the traffic that comes in via the CDN.
MaxCDN pricing starts from just $9 / month and this provides you with 100GB bandwidth per month. This plan is enough to satisfy most small websites but for the larger site that has a more demanding user base there are plans ranging from $39 / month up to $12k / month depending on the exact bandwidth requirements.
If none of the advertised plans suit your needs then you can also discuss a custom plan directly with MaxCDN support and they will come up with a bespoke package that suits any scenario.
In addition to bandwidth based pricing there are also a couple of features that can be purchased in addition to the standard packages such as Origin Shield which is an additional feature charged at $200 / month across packages.
Both of these CDN providers are well established and have their own bespoke solutions in place for the provision of CDN functionality to their users. They both have some bespoke software solutions that handle certain aspects of the CDN framework which enable them to increase security and also speed of web page delivery to the end users.
Both providers also offer 100% up time guarantees backed by SLA which further inspires confidence from their users.
Pricing is also similar across both providers although the metrics involved in determining the required price plan are quite different.
One of the key areas that do differ quite dramatically between the two providers is the functionality and also the flexibility offered by the service.
With Cloudflare the service is provided very much off the shelf – it’s easy to set up for sure but the interface isn’t as intuitive and the features that are offered don’t have as much flexibility as they could.
With MaxCDN on the other hand the features offered are very diverse and in fact a quick look at the features page itself will confirm this.
Not only are the features of MaxCDN very comprehensive but the flexibility with which the network can be deployed and controlled is far greater than that of Cloudflare. The network seems to be very much more customisable than Cloudflare – in particular the Edgerules allow for a much greater insight into the management of the network and how it reacts to traffic and web requests. This comparison of features and flexibility brings to mind a comparison between Apple iOS and Android – both being similar in the feature set but with Android having a much more opaque and controllable view into those features and thus an increase in how they can be manipulated and sued.
It is really this open window into the features and the management of the system as a whole that brings us to crown MaxCDN as the better provider for content delivery over Cloudflare.
With MaxCDN you really do have a very stable and secure content delivery network at your disposal with a very flexible pricing system that will grow with you and your website. In addition you have the luxury of a very easy and fast setup when required whilst also having the great benefit of being able to get in there and tweak the settings to your hearts content as the site grows and as your demands of the network grow also.
Check out MaxCDN today to really see how rich the available features are and how it can improve everything from security to site performance. Still not convinced? If you have bandwidth requirements over 15TB per month you can get a free full feature trial from MaxCDN.