The 7 Best CDN Providers – Tested and Evaluated in 2019

I am here today with a very important mission — to help you make your websites harder, better, faster, stronger (you know, just like Daft Punk wanted).

How do you suppose I will do that?

Well, with the help of a CDN, of course!

A CD-what? No, not some revolutionary data storage format. CDN, as in content delivery network. You know, the distribution of globally interconnected servers that helps users load data from a nearby location .

Today, we are going behind the curtains of the best CDN providers to see what they can do to help us accomplish our mission — the perfectly optimized website.

I’ll even give you one better — at the end of the review, I will let you in on some handy tips on how to choose your CDN partner.

So stay with me, it’s gonna be well worth it.

Evaluation Methodology

For the sake of my mission today, I have selected the best CDN companies based on a few essential concerns every new customer might have:

  1. Who is the provider, and what is its history and experience in the CDN field?
  2. How extensive is the network of servers and how many POP locations does it cover?
  3. What are the main CDN features and packages to choose from?
  4. What am I getting from the provider security-wise?
  5. What costs should I expect?
  6. How easy is it to reach support? Are they effective?
  7. Which businesses can best benefit from this CDN?

As you can see, a lot of questions need answering.

Let’s dive right in!

1. Cloudflare

Here is a name that should probably ring a bell.

Cloudflare holds the largest piece of the pie on the CDN market — nearly 29% of Alexa's Top 1 Million Websites make use of its services. Click To Tweet

That solid number is no surprise — Cloudflare is by far one of the most popular free CDN solutions, coming as an added extra with many reputable web hosts reviewed here on Hosting Tribunal. It is trusted by names like Reuters, Discord, and ZenDesk (and about 16 million more).

In 2014 the company received international acclaim after its services mitigated the most persistent DDoS attack at that time, blasting 400GB/s incoming traffic.

Cloudflare Locations

Datacenters in 180+ cities on six continents.

Cloudflare Features

Unlike other providers on this list, Cloudflare has a very clear and comprehensive pricing policy. You have four service plans:

  • Free
  • Pro — starting from $20/mo
  • Business — starting from $200/mo
  • Enterprise — quote by request

The Free plan is (understandably) housing most clients and actually doing a pretty good job. You have access to the whole network of servers and can utilize free SSL and DDoS mitigation options.

A plethora of hosting companies are already partnering with Cloudflare, so activating the Free Plan rarely takes more than a few clicks from your control panel.

Moving to the premium packages, things are getting increasingly sweet.

Cloudflare is throwing a web application firewall (WAF), HTTP2 prioritization, and advanced optimization features in the mix.

Once your business starts booming, you can easily jump to the Business plan. The goodies there are shaped to match your stature — custom SSL certificates, image resizing requests, 24/7 dedicated support.

It looks like Cloudflare competitors have a mountain to climb…

Cloudflare Support

Cloudflare seems so confident in the ease of use and reliability of its services that its support took the back seat. So much so that you can only find them over the phone for sales queries.

Need chat or email assistance? Sure…on the Pro plan, starting from $200/mo.

Help over the phone? You are now in Enterprise plan territory, buddy, so you better have the dough.

Sure, you have a well-written knowledge base and a large community ready to lend a helping hand, but for me, nothing can beat the hands-on approach of a dedicated operator.

I get it, up to a point.

With such a huge customer base, you cannot afford to waste a lot of time with basic questions, which make up the majority of support requests. But there should be room for compromise, a middle ground, so to speak.

Email or a ticketing channel with a 24-hour response rate should be absolutely enough for most queries.

Or at least the option to unlock more support options on the cheaper plans.

Now I’m just daydreaming…

Verdict

You can’t argue with the numbers — Cloudflare is the most famous company of the lot for a reason. Their cheap CDN plans are solid, reliable, and secure enough to handle both startup and mid-level projects.

Enterprise clients are always welcome as well, but I believe there are companies with better-tailored services for this particular group.

2. Akamai

Akamai is one of the largest (if not THE largest) CDN providers out there in terms of coverage. Based in Cambridge, MA, the company has more than two decades of experience behind its back.

But wait a minute — isn’t CDN a relatively new technology?

The answer might surprise you…

The father of the internet, Tim Berners-Lee, was the architect who sparked the research for what we know today as CDN technology. He foresaw how easily the Web could become congested and challenged fellow MIT colleagues to find a suitable solution. Click To Tweet

That was way back in 1995.

Three years later, Akamai Technologies came to the stage. The CDN provider today caters to some of the largest enterprises, with Fox, Audi, Adobe, Nintendo, and IBM just a few of the big names under its belt.

Akamai Locations

Over 100,000 servers in 130+ countries.

Akamai Features

Akamai is best-known for serving high-end clients, so its services wouldn’t be very cost-effective for startups and SMBs.

The performance solutions might start from $2,000/mo, but the company carries much more benefits than your run-of-the-mill CDN. Akamai often has to deal with media-heavy projects, so it employs predictive content delivery to stream high-quality videos without stalling and buffering.

The Akamai CDN optimizes content delivery speeds via a Cisco IWAN boosted by Akamai Connect.

There is a heavy accent on security measures as well.

The company provides a wide range of products that tackle malware, phishing, DDoS attacks, SQL injections, or XSS attacks. In short — hackers’ favorite weapons of choice.

Akamai Support

Akamai guarantees 24/7 assistance via phone and live chat. Not only that, but there is a dedicated hotline you can call when your website is under a DDoS attack.

Certainly a step ahead of the competition here, but remember — these are high roller clients we are talking about, so you can’t risk disappointing them with below-par assistance.

I had a quick run-in with Akamai’s chat operators and was generally satisfied with their level of knowledge. The representative was on point with the information I was seeking and cleared all my security concerns.

The only thing that baffled me was when I asked for clarification on how easy it would be to connect their service with my web host.

Just some positive reassurance, you know.

Instead, the operator started explaining this query was for their Technical Support team and asked a lot of additional questions to determine which of their tech teams would best handle this.

A bit of unnecessary hassle, if you ask me.

Verdict

Akamai is for all the big boys out there. The ones with large-scale web projects that need a lot of resources and sturdy defense. If you are just in it for a cheap ecommerce or WordPress CDN solution, then you can definitely cross Akamai off and find much better candidates down this list.

3. MaxCDN (now StackPath)

MaxCDN was founded in 2015 but made an immediate impact in the CDN market. The company grew so rapidly it quickly attracted the attention of US cloud service provider StackPath, which acquired it in 2016. Click To Tweet

StackPath had massive plans for MaxCDN, though.

They paired it with their other services like Highwinds, Staminus, Fireblade, and Encrypt.me, to form an all-round solution that takes both speed and security to a whole new level.

To ensure their CDN is up-to-par with the competition, StackPath partners with some of the industry leaders in the tech business — AT&T, Verizon, Samsung, Google Cloud, and more.

StackPath Locations

45 POP locations in 32 cities across 5 continents.

StackPath Features

There aren’t any defined plans on the StackPath website, which is why I needed the support for further clarification.

It turns out that, as an entry-level client, I can create a free account for 30 days. During this trial, I can take advantage of 1TB bandwidth, network layer DDoS protection, and free private SSL per site to protect your user data.

This plan is $10/mo after the promo period, and there is another package at $20/mo, which adds WAF, DNS services, and server monitoring.

What about businesses with more significant needs?

Surely they’d need something more powerful than that.

Well, you can’t be one of the best CDN providers and miss out on such an opportunity, right?

The Edge Delivery 200 and Edge Delivery 2000 packages open a world of opportunities for digital stores, SMBs, cloud platforms. Basically, anyone looking to distribute large amounts of content without losing out on speed and availability.

EdgeRules was a feature that really stood out for me.

With it, you can feel like the God of Content Customization — 301 redirects, headers, cache management, URL signing — everything from a clean and user-friendly interface.

StackPath Support

It’s great to feel appreciated, and every MaxCDN client can feel that.

Actually, even non-clients can take advantage, as did I.

Looking around, I noticed there are 24/7 phone and live chat options to reach support, apart from the extensive knowledge base and case studies. You don’t have to sign up to try them out, and you can go beyond the simple sales questions.

I confirmed the last statement, first-hand.

I was dealing with my sales operator over the chat when the conversation started getting a bit more technical. She suggested a colleague from the support team can better assist and, to my amazement, she immediately added him to the chat.

Wow!

First time I was getting prompt assistance in a three-way chat, and I absolutely loved it.

I told the technician I would need a WordPress CDN for my new project and I wasn’t sure how to go about the integration. He got back with a well-written tutorial and reassured me the MaxCDN team could also assist in the process.

A thoroughly impressive job, kudos.

Verdict

Perhaps the best testament to StackPath’s quality services is the growing trust of gaming and media companies (Valve, XITE, Hi-Rez Studios, etc.). After all, those businesses carry out some of the most resource-demanding projects. If they find this CDN platform suitable — you should seriously consider it, too.

4. Incapsula

Our next contender is all about protection.

Imperva is a California-based cybersecurity company which evolved into a full-blown cloud-based platform for application delivery. Part of that evolution was the acquisition of 85% of the Incapsula CDN service in 2009.

By 2013, Incapsula was already growing by 50% per quarter, but Imperva’s balance was still in the red.

That’s when the security firm completely assimilated the CDN and made it part of their fully-featured app delivery service.

Who works with Incapsula? PayPal's service Xoom, real estate marketplace Zillow, and tech giant Siemens are just some of the most notable followers. Click To Tweet

Incapsula Locations

44 POP locations over six continents.

Incapsula Features

Incapsula is not your run-of-the-mill content distribution network. It’s a multipurpose solution that mixes CDN, WAF, load balancers, and application delivery control in one monster of a product.

We are talking about a CDN that makes your website environment look like a maximum-security prison.

From the smart caching options, which lower bandwidth costs, to the Cache Shield on your origin server — it seems Incapsula has it all figured out.

That is if you’re not a newbie.

Novice users might have trouble navigating the website and understanding what is where. I know I did, even with my previous experience.

This is why I thought the support team could shed a little light on the services and pricing…

Incapsula Support

At first glance, everything looks fine — you have a 24/7 phone line, a live chat, emergency DDoS protection. The last service promises 3-second mitigation, possibly the best on the market.

So how good are they? Here’s my experience:

I entered the chat very optimistic that the operator would just outline the types of plans they have and check my budget to confirm it would be enough.

Boy, was I wrong.

First of all, it turned out this was not a sales chat, but a support one — I could only leave my details so a sales representative could contact me. Usually, it works the other way around, but alright, I’ll play along. What would you need?

Here is when the interrogation started:

A few questions to understand your project? Sure, go ahead.

What is your business about, how big is it? This and that.

What kind of content will you protect, and what does it do? Ok, here you go.

Names, name of company, size, job position? Hmmmm…ok, I guess.

A sales operator will contact you shortly, but first — phone, mail, would you like us to contact you via social networks? Pass on the social networks, here is my email.

We need a business email, sir! Well, that is my email for business, we don’t have a hosted domain and mail service yet.

We need a business email! But this IS my business email!

I am sorry, sir, but we need a business email! 

So let’s recap:

Fifteen minutes. Zero information. More questions than a census survey. Complete waste of time.

Verdict

Incapsula carries undeniable benefits in terms of performance and security, but I expected nothing less. We are talking about a complete solution ready to power not just your content, but your whole website infrastructure.

Still, Imperva Incapsula might not be the best solution for an entry-level customer, and the level of support can be frustrating.

5. CacheFly

The Windy City has its own representative on this list.

Chicago-based provider CacheFly started as DownloadHosting.com in 1999, a file distribution solution for software developers. After a few years of testing, in 2005, the new CDN project was ready to hit the stage.

CacheFly foresaw the rise of media-rich content and pioneered the Anycast technology for optimized data routing and delivery. Click To Tweet

The long years of experience and positive online reputation helped the company convert over 3500 clients in 80 countries.

You can find a lot of interesting names in CacheFly’s list of clients — ArsTechnica, Bank of America, and Rakuten. The company is also famed as the #1 CDN partner for podcasts, partnering with platforms like Twit and Diggnation.

CacheFly Locations

43 POP locations on six continents.

CacheFly Features

I found a lot of intriguing items in CacheFly’s feature set.

Take Multi-CDN, for example.

What can be better than the CDN coverage of a single provider? Why, the networks of multiple carriers, of course. Utilizing the POPs of many companies means you can further increase your content delivery speed and coverage.

Pioneering the development and establishment of the Anycast technology (more on that here) was particularly praiseworthy. The routing method proved much faster than the ordinary DNS lookups, and some of the best CDN providers were quick to adopt it.

This means your video or IPTV stream would never have to endure interruptions because of latency anymore.

Even on the lowest plan, you still get a sweet deal with real-time monitoring tools, traffic reports, and token-based authentication.

SMBs might find CacheFly’s services a bit costly for a new project. Prices start at $295/mo, which can go down to $245/mo if prepaid yearly.

CacheFly Support

CacheFly provides support services via email and phone. No option for live chat, which is always a pity.

Still, I went ahead and sent an email with a few sales questions about the packages and what they include.

The reply arrived within the hour, which is a plausible response time for email correspondence (though sales matters aren’t really urgent, are they?). I feel I could’ve gotten more from the response, as the staff member just gave me basic info and skipped over most details I expected.

As most providers at least maintain some kind of a knowledge base, I went to check how useful CacheFly’s was.

Have you played “Where’s Waldo” before?

Well, that’s the same, except Waldo isn’t there.

Sadly, neither the company website nor Google was able to help me solve the Case of the Missing Knowledge Base.

Verdict

CacheFly doesn’t offer any set plans or billing models, so you can’t really tell if it’s a cheap CDN or not. Still, some of the features, like MultiCDN and infinite scalability, are well worth considering.

The company prefers to maintain a personal relationship with clients, and I am perfectly fine with that. Sure, more means of assistance are always welcome, but hopefully, the CDN service will be so reliable that you won’t need any.

6. KeyCDN

It’s always refreshing to find a successful contender in another country among the pool of US-based CDN companies. In this case, we have one from Switzerland.

KeyCDN is the baby project of developers Jonas Krummenacher and Sven Baumgartner. Click To Tweet

The company puts a strong focus on customer experience and data redundancy. At the same time, it is keeping everything affordable, with a comprehensive billing based on traffic usage.

KeyCDN provides one of the best CDN for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, and other popular web building apps.

Over 40,000 companies make use of its services, among them names like Sennheiser, Discourse, and Meteor.

KeyCDN Locations

34 data centers in 25 countries across six continents.

KeyCDN Features

I just love it when I get to a website, and I can immediately understand the essential information — what’s that, what does it do, how much does it cost, and what does it include?

Doesn’t sound like much, but you’d be surprised how many companies fail to do that.

KeyCDN is not one of them.

You have a single plan with clearly outlined features. Things such as:

  • Instant purge
  • Origin shield
  • DDoS protection
  • TLS certificate
  • Gzip compression
  • HTTP live streaming
  • Log forwarding

…and this is just scratching the surface.

This content delivery network packs advanced security features like OCSP stapling, blocking bad bots, and setting customized access rules.

You don’t have to select a plan, choose extras, or contact support to calculate expected costs. Your total monthly bill will be based solely on the traffic your content generates (as long as it’s a minimum of $4).

That’s peanuts, considering what others are charging, even for their entry-level plans.

KeyCDN Support

KeyCDN is one of those companies that don’t rely on chat support. In fact, you don’t even have the option of phone contact.

Ok, what DO you have?

Apart from the 24/7 support via ticketing, you have a tutorial knowledge base, community assistance, and FAQs at your disposal. I took a look at a few guides, and I have to say — they are pretty good — plenty of details, screenshots, and step-by-step explanations.

Given the fact KeyCDN offers a unified plan with a comprehensive billing model, you shouldn’t need much help to get you started.

I saved the best for last, though.

KeyCDN flaunts a wonderful set of tools that let you test everything — website speed, performance, DNS lookups, SSL certificate validation.

I lost a good couple of hours trying them out, and I have to say, I am beyond satisfied.

Verdict

First-time users can find a trusted partner in KeyCDN. As a client of a new company, I always like to know what I’m getting into, and this provider makes everything crystal clear.

One plan, packed with features, billing based on the traffic I consume.

What you see is what you get.

7. Limelight

Founded in 2001, Limelight not only managed to sustain the pressure of surviving in such a competitive industry but gradually grew into one of the largest companies for CDN services.

We are talking about a company with hundreds of servers under the watchful eye of 500+ employees.

Click To Tweet

Just look at the Limelight clients — Marvel, DailyMotion, Napster — I mean they can’t all be wrong, right?

Limelight Locations

100+ POPS on six continents.

Limelight Features

The Limelight website is not exactly clear when it comes to outlining essential information, like product features, but luckily I got a hold of a data sheet which was much better structured.

So what do we have here?

Content caching for improved delivery speed and performance.

SmartPurge for global content invalidation and deletion.

Last Mile Acceleration for boosting the user/server connection.

HTTP video streaming with reduced load on the origin server.

Rate limitation and data transfer caps, so you don’t go overboard with the expenses.

Thе list goes on…

It looks like a hefty deal, really, especially if the cost matches up.

You’ll find more about that in the next section.

Limelight Support

Here we have all possible support channels — phone, mail, and chat. The LimeLight team is international, so you can even request to speak to someone in your native language.

But let’s keep things in English for now.

As their website didn’t say much about the plan features and pricing, I went ahead and investigated them with a chat operator. She was very straightforward with her answers, something not so common with other CDN server providers.

I posed as a startup client with minimal needs, just to get a feel of what monthly invoice I should expect.

The lowest deal included up to 5TB of traffic and came at a whopping $1,500/mo.

Ouch!

Not exactly your cost-fits-all provider.

Still, support-wise, I appreciated the honesty and the followup I got via email.

Verdict

Limelight is one of those content delivery network providers that focus primarily on their advanced business and enterprise offerings. Their plans are bursting with features and ready to accommodate any website, video platform, application…for the right price.

What is a content delivery network?

A CDN is a system of globally interconnected servers that optimizes and speeds up the delivery of content over the Web. This includes HTML pages, javascript files, stylesheets, images, videos, and more. Click To Tweet

This CDN definition doesn’t tell you the whole story, though. Let’s outline the major benefits of using a content distribution network partner:

Boosting speeds — delivering the content from a server nearby means the distance between user and data is minimal. This results in faster load times and reduced bounce rates.

Improving uptime and redundancy — if your website resides on a single server, you are very much dependent on the hardware and software of that machine. Should a single component fail — so will your website. Distributing your content on a network of servers eliminates the risk of a single-server failure costing you your project availability.

Lowering traffic costs — a CDN caches and optimizes your content for better delivery. The smaller your files get — the less bandwidth they “consume,” which is always welcome, especially if your provider charges based on traffic.

Hardening security — most reputable content delivery network companies also put a strong emphasis on security. Be it advanced means for DDoS mitigation, private SSL certificates, or personalized support — the best CDN provider is a secure provider.

How to choose a CDN?

As with other tech industries, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Instead, you have to consider choosing a partner that understands your project and your particular needs. Focus on the things that really matter to you, regardless of what we are talking about:

  • price — even the best CDN package is worthless if you cannot afford it.
  • technical knowledge — are you a total tech newbie or know precisely what you’re looking for?
  • level of support — when unsure, it’s good to have a reliable backup.
  • POP locations — the more server locations your provider supports, the quicker it will take them to deliver your content.
  • primary goal — some clients are after lightning-fast speeds, while others only need maximum security for their project.

Conclusion

There you have it!

All providers of content delivery services on this list offer something unique or high-quality, which makes them stand out from the crowd. Whether you are looking for a basic WordPress CDN or an enterprise solution for a large-scale project — at least one of the companies here can make your dreams come true.

And should you find your new CDN partner from this review, I can only say one thing:

Mission accomplished!

FAQ

Q: What is the best free CDN?

A: Most companies include a free trial of their services, but significantly fewer can offer a no-cost package for life. Cloudflare is undoubtedly the biggest and most feature-packed free CDN you can find. Partnering with a plethora of web hosts, you can easily activate CF from your control panel with a few mouse clicks.

Q: What is a CDN website?

A: This is a website that makes use of CDN services to serve its content. Instead of residing on a single server, such web pages are stored on a network of machines. Whenever a user “requests” the content, they see the copy that is closest to their location, thus reducing load times and bandwidth consumption.

Q: Is AWS a CDN?

A: Amazon Web Services (AWS) offers a solution called Amazon CloudFront. CF is part of the AWS packages and does not exist as a standalone service, which is the reason it did not make the above list of best CDN providers. Still, you can easily pair up CloudFront with other tools like AWS Shield, Amazon S3, or Elastic Load Balancing and put together a robust hosting platform.