Most of our readers already know this: we’re big on sharing ways to optimize your WordPress site.
What you may not know is that one of the premier ways to boost your WordPress site speed is to use a content delivery network (CDN). This is one of the simplest and most effective ways to ease the load on your web server and get your content in front of viewer eyeballs faster.
In this article, we’re showing you the 5 best CDN service providers for WordPress—and why we think everyone should be using one. We’ll also explore what a CDN is, who needs one, and how it works.
The Lowdown on Content Deliver Networks
What is a CDN service?
When someone visits your WordPress site, the resources stored on the CDN are delivered to the server closest to your visitor’s geographic location.
In short, your content travels the shortest distance to reach your visitors.
Why use a CDN on WordPress?
One of the most obvious perks to using a CDN on WordPress is improved speed. Because your content is delivered from a server ‘node’ closest to your visitor, it gets to them quicker.
A lot of your WordPress site’s load time is eaten up by accessing, downloading, and serving its components—images and stylesheets, in particular. Cutting down the time it takes to serve these means cutting down on load time in general.
This is the benefit that drives most people to invest in a CDN—and rightly so—but there are other benefits, too:
- Improved site uptime—due to reduced load on the host
- Improved data integrity and consistency
- Removal of geographic barriers—every visitor from every country receives the same quality of experience
- Affordability and value for money—paid CDN services require zero setup thanks to custom WordPress plugins. There is no hardware to purchase.
How a CDN speeds up WordPress
As we mentioned in the last section, speed is the most appealing benefit of a high quality CDN. Faster load speed means improved user experience. If you haven’t heard the statistics a million times, here they are again:
- Google data shows that over 50% of users abandon mobile sites that take more than 3 seconds to load.
- AliExpress saw a 10% increase in sales and 27% increase in conversion after making one change to their website: reducing load time by 36%.
- A delay of 1 second in page response reduces sales conversion by up to 7%.
- British media giant, the BBC, loses 10% of visitors for every second it takes their website to load.
If visitor retention matters to you, a CDN reduces speed by:
- Reducing time to first byte (TTFB)
- Utilizing caching for faster delivery
How to choose the best CDN provider for WordPress
Our Top 5 Best CDN Providers for WordPress are globally reliable and high performing. However, it’s always important to consider several other factors before you sign the dotted line with a CDN provider:
- Consider where the CDN provider nodes are located. If your audience is predominantly based in one area, you need to choose a CDN provider with nodes in that area. A CDN can offer the biggest boost in speed if there are server nodes in the geographic location you are targeting.
- Consider your host. Your WordPress website may perform better with a CDN, but it also relies on the configuration and capabilities of your web hosting platform.
- Consider your WordPress website. If your code is buggy or your resources are bloated, any benefit offered by a CDN is going to be negated by the content you are serving.
And with all these factors considered, let’s move on to the good stuff.
The Top 5 CDN Providers for WordPress
When we compiled this list of the top 5 CDN service providers for WordPress site owners, we had several factors to consider.
StackPath has come a long way since it’s 2015 launch by SoftLayer. It quickly established itself as a CDN solution and acquired the high performing MaxCDN in 2016. This strategic move helped StackPath get its foot in the door of the WordPress marketplace—where it has established a pretty strong foothold in the past 4-5 years.
As we would expect from an established player in the CDN space, StackPath’s global network supports 65Tbps of throughput across more than 40 locations worldwide. They advertise a reduced TTFB drop of up to 180 milliseconds.
This platform allows you to remove content easily, customize your user interface, create rules for redirects and headers, and utilize free SSL certificates. They also offer traffic analytics and GZIP compression.
StackPath is a user-friendly CDN for beginners right through to optimization veterans, and it offers DDoS protection on all paid plans.
StackPath makes the Top 5 Best CDN list for:
- Add and remove content easily
- Simple user interface to maintain content integrity
- Customization options
- Ability to create redirect rules
- Origin shield to protect your origin server
- Global network monitoring
- Traffic analytics
- Free SSL certificates
- Web app firewall
- GZIP compression
In our conversations with StackPath users—and our own experiments as people who have tried nearly every CDN service on the market—we’ve found StackPath to be a user-friendly option with solid offerings and good online support. Unfortunately, StackPath are pretty limited in their data centers. They are gradually expanding, but the most support is within the U.S. and Europe at this stage.
Sucuri has long been the go-to for WordPress amongst the security savvy set. As a cloud-based security provider, it offers unbeatable security features to protect eCommerce sites. CDN is included in the Sucuri package, and is an excellent option for sites concerned about their safety and that of their visitors.
Sucuri offers a web app firewall to protect your site from malware and viruses, and also counters the type of brute force hack where tools are used to steal your passwords and verification. At the same time, this powerful tool blocks various levels of DDoS attacks, and features impressive firewall settings.
Sucuri makes the Top 5 Best CDN list for:
- 24/7 technical support
- Wep app firewall
- Top recommendation for security
- SSL certificate monitoring
- Real-time scanning for malware and spam
- Smart caching
- Ultra-high performance servers
Sucuri provides some nifty CDN benefits and quality worldwide speeds. Their strongest point, however, is how configurable and resilient their security is. With a diverse network of monitoring and prevention methods, this is an excellent platform if you need to exercise stringent control against external threats.
Cloudflare is one of the most popular CDN services for WordPress. A lot of its popularity comes less from its features than from its freemium business model. On the free plan, Cloudflare offers essential DDoS protection, a strong global CDN, and shared SSL certificates.
The premium option is marketed towards major online presences, and offers services that aren’t going to help you much if you are a small business owner. What will help you—at any level—is the 193 data centers Cloudflare own globally, and the industry-leading Cloudflare status update function. You can check the status of your local center, or any center around the world, 24/7 with a few clicks of your mouse.
Cloudflare are known for fast static and dynamic content delivery, a user-friendly interface, and near-infinite customization options.
Cloudflare makes the Top 5 Best CDN list for:
- Web app firewall
- 193 data center worldwide
- Ability to check center status globally
- Free option
- Web filtering and spam limiting
- Smart image optimization
- Programmable API
- Built-in DDos protection
- Fast cache purging and expiration settings
- Intelligent routing to minimize traffic congestion
Cloudflare is most popular in the U.S., and you’re likely to find extensive support for it in the American web design space. It’s easy to use, offers expert-level features, and simple, useful functionality. This platform offers wide support, clever page rules to help drive—and steer—your traffic, and a REST API to allow developers to control what the CDN service is doing.
KeyCDN is loaded with small business features that deliver fast content and keep your WordPress site safe from DDoS and hacker attacks. It’s also easy to integrate with WordPress, thanks to a dedicated plugin.
This CDN service provider has 34 servers across 25 countries, which is considerably less than other offerings on our list, but still a solid spread for getting your content out into the world.
Another benefit to choosing KeyCDN is the guaranteed uplink of at least 40Gbps. Key CDN also allows users to easily deploy new zones, make use of advanced features and configurations, and set an expiry date for content. Make use of the detailed, comprehensive traffic analysis, set a custom domain for your CDN, protect your images from hotlinking, and enjoy multiple high-level security features at the same time.
KeyCDN makes the Top 5 Best CDN list for:
- DDoS protection
- Fast, simple WordPress integration
- Two-factor authentication
- 24/7 user support
- Included traffic analysis
- Let’s Encrypt TLS
- Uplink speed of 40Gbps
KeyCDN’s point of difference is its budget-friendly, user-friendly approach to CDN. Getting started is easier for even the total beginner—key in your email address and instantly enjoy 25 GB of CDN bandwidth for free. Enjoy the flexibility of features and integration before you reach for your wallet with KeyCDN.
Optimole is a simple CDN service that allows you to plug in your API key and go. It offers several high-quality image compression plugins, built-in dynamic image serving, lazy loading, and image CDN. For image-heavy WordPress sites that need to maintain image integrity and style, Optimole goes one step further than the rest of our top 5 Best CDN options.
Optimole also offers a watermark feature, although we think this is more quirky than necessary. On top of image integrity, Optimole lets you get started for free. At the free entry-level, you get 1 GB of image optimization per month, 5 GB of image CDN bandwidth per month, and usage stats and analytics. You can upgrade through Amazon CloudFront CDN if you need to up your usage.
Although this isn’t an extensive CDN service at this level—to be fair it’s more of an image CDN—upgrading through CloudFront bring Optimole in line with every other service on this list.
Optimole makes the Top 5 Best CDN list for:
- High-resolution image compression
- Easy installation
- Built-in dynamic image serving
- Lazy loading
- Auto watermarking
- Free to use
Installing Your CDN to WordPress
How To Set Up Your CDN For WordPress
Once you’ve established which CDN service provider is the best choice for your WordPress site, you’ve got to buy it. We’ll leave that part up to you.
Most mainstream CDN service providers release their own proprietary WordPress plugins to help users make the switch to their CDN. Optimole, as an example, uses this WordPress plugin. If your chosen provider offers a plugin, all you need to do is follow the prompts to enter your details:
- Pull zone name: the URL used to pull your static files
- CDN domain name or CNAME: a domain alias for your CDN
- WordPress website URL
- Excluded files
- Included directories
Next up, it’s time to let WordPress know which CDN is going to be hosting your content—which is fairly straightforward:
- Use your dedicated CDN provider plugin or a caching plugin— W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache and WP Rocket are all excellent options. Using a plugin makes it easy to offload your content, and manage which resources you do—and don’t—want stored by your new CDN service.
- Key in the data needed to set you up.
- Follow the prompts to integrate your CDN and domain seamlessly.
At a time when we’re losing track of all our plugins and social media and content management systems, CDN simplifies web optimization. Boost your site speed, drive your traffic further, and improve your customer experience with one simple, effective trick: the content delivery network.