A lot of people are always looking for the fastest CDN (content delivery network), after all, that is a big part of what a good content delivery solution is all about. However the fastest CDN might not always be the best solution for your business or website. There are a lot of different factors you should consider when shopping for a content delivery solution, speed is definitely one of them, but you also should be looking at a CDN provider’s latency, support, pricing, features, and even security. Check out our checklist below, which can help you make a more informed decision when choosing your next content delivery solution.
Speed is a very big factor of course when it comes to choosing a content delivery solution, and usually the first thing people want to test. Most CDN providers have free trials, which makes it easy for you to signup and test the actual speeds on your website. We have a great list of 15 website speed test tools which you can use to better measure the performance of your website.
Also remember when it comes to your website, a majority of the assets you are probably needing to speed up is your images. Just how much exactly? Well, according to the HTTP Archive, 64% of the average bytes per page are made up of images. Which means for most people, what you are really looking for is an image CDN. We interviewed over 20 web performance experts a while back and 46% of the experts said that the number one priority or focus should be on image optimization. We did a case study a while back to find out how much faster the download times on our image assets were when we ran a CDN (KeyCDN) and without one.
The total download times on our image assets (without a CDN) and KeyCDN POPs (with a CDN) on average is decreased by 75.58%!
KeyCDN also just released a brand new performance test tool in which you can measure the speed of individual assets on your websites. It allows you test them simultaneously from 14 different locations. Deep linking is also enabled so you can share your test results with others.
It gives you a breakdown of HTTP status codes, CDN Cache, CDN ETag, DNS, Connect, TLS, and TTFB all in one table.
This tool can actually be very useful for troubleshooting and we have even found ourselves using it quite a bit. Besides testing your own locally hosted or CDN assets, if you are running 3rd party scripts this can also be a great way to make sure they are also loading fast around the globe. For example, if we run the BuySellAds script
https://s3.buysellads.com/ac/bsa.js through the tool we can see that there are long delays from Sao Paulo, Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo. This is most likely because they don’t have an edge server caching content in that region. Could be a good reason to reach out to them and ask them about plans for expansion into those areas.
If we run
https://opensource.keycdn.com/angularjs/1.5.0/angular.min.js through the tool, which is KeyCDN’s hosted Angular CDN, we can see that the DNS, Connect, TLS, and TTFB are much lower in those same locations. That is because there are edge servers caching the script in those locations and therefore speeding up the delivery to visitors.
And while speed is crucial in your search for the fastest CDN, don’t also forget some of these other factor’s below.
The next factor you should consider when choosing a CDN solution, or trying to figure out who has the fastest CDN is latency. We touched on this a little bit above already but want to dive into it further. What is latency? Basically it is the round trip time from the browser to the server. There are 4 main causes that can affect network latency times:
- Transmission mediums
- Propagation times
- Router hop delays
- Storage delays
Using a CDN helps bring resources closer to the user by caching them in multiple locations around the world. Once those resources are cached, a user’s request only needs to travel to the closest POP (edge server) to retrieve that data instead of going back to the origin server each time
50% of your 1-second page load time budget on mobile is taken up by network latency overhead. – WPT
|Server (POP) Location||No CDN RTT (ms)||KeyCDN RTT (ms)||Difference %|
|New York, US||36.908||18.096||– 50.97%|
|Dallas, US||0.751||0.883||+ 17.5%|
|San Francisco, US||39.645||18.900||– 52.33%|
|Frankfurt, DE||123.072||3.734||– 96.97%|
|London, UK||127.555||4.548||– 96.43%|
|Paris, FR||112.417||1.689||– 98.5%|
|Amsterdam, NL||118.418||10.364||– 91.25%|
|Singapore, SG||202.682||2.002||– 99.01%|
|Sydney, AU||191.848||0.705||– 99.63%|
|Tokyo, JP||130.804||3.379||– 97.42%|
The latency between our origin server (without a CDN) and our POPs (with a CDN) on average is decreased by 73%! So as you can see, if you want to decrease latency, deploying a content delivery network can definitely help you do that.
That is one reason why KeyCDN joined the Cedexis radar. This allows us to compete against the best CDNs worldwide with full transparency on a mission to make the web faster and more secure. Cedexis can be a great tool if you are wanting a third party opinion on latency comparisons. KeyCDN’s integration with Cedexis also includes Cedexis Fusion, making it straightforward for businesses to implement multi-CDN strategies for improved performance and cost savings. See below an example of Cedexis test below comparing CDN response times.
So as you are looking for a CDN solution, make sure to compare latency as it is very important for faster delivery of your assets.
Number of POPs (Edge Servers)
If you are looking for the fastest CDN then you need to make sure the CDN provider has a decent amount of POPs (edge servers). A CDN with only 5 POPs is probably not going to cut it, especially if you have traffic and or customers from all over the globe. We recommend choosing a provider with at least 20 locations as this usually means they have enough strategically placed POPs that users will always be getting cached content from a close location. Again, this places a huge role in reducing latency, by decreasing the physical distance.
KeyCDN has 25 POPs currently and we are dedicated to global expansion. We launched a new POP in Switzerland back in December 2015, a new POP in Brazil in January 2016, and a new POP in Canada in March 2016. We are always looking for new locations and you can see POPs that we have on our roadmap on our network page.
Keep in mind where your customers and visitors are already coming from. You can easily pull this up within Google Analytics under geo-location. Are they in certain regions or all around the globe? Then take that data and look for a CDN provider with POPs in those areas.
You can then narrow it down even further by city. Then look at your goals/conversions to see where a majority of your business is coming from.
There is also a great comparison of CDNs on cdncomparison.com in which you can quickly see providers and how many POPs they have.
Reliability is another very important feature when it comes to choosing a CDN solution as you don’t want your assets to suddenly stop serving. Most CDN providers are set up in a way that if one edge server (POP) goes down then it simply routes the request to the next nearest edge server. KeyCDN has a dedicated network status page which you can check.
Another way to ensure reliability is to use a Multi-CDN solution, which is the process of spreading a website’s static content across the servers of multiple CDN providers to further increase global presence. While there are additional benefits to a Multi-CDN setup, there are also some disadvantages to be aware of, such as:
- Added complexity
- Added administrative duties (if using the load balancing method)
- Additional costs required (load balancer service / CDN aggregation service / higher costs of CDN providers)
- Total cost of ownership and maintenance of a multi-CDN is quite high
A website should be receiving a substantial amount of traffic from various locations spread across the globe before beginning to investigate the possibility of implement a multi-CDN.
Also, did you know that you can actually use CloudFlare in conjunction with KeyCDN? Because CloudFlare is based on a freemium model, you usually don’t get all the advantages unless you are willing to pay a higher price. Using CloudFlare and KeyCDN allows you to gain benefits of the following features:
- Origin shield
- Secure token
- Let’s Encrypt support
- Push zones
- Wildcard subdomains
- Unlimited upload sizes
- Real-time analytics
Another factor that is of great importance when trying to find the best CDN solution is security! “HTTPS Everywhere” is happening and so you want to make sure that you have the best available SSL/TLS options provided for your sites. This ensures no data is ever sent in plain text and that everything is encrypted. Remember, even simple things like WordPress login pages should really be secured. KeyCDN offers the three following SSL options:
- Shared SSL (free)
- Custom SSL with your own certificate (requires you purchase certificate)
- Custom SSL with Let’s Encrypt (free)
If all you need is a domain validated certificate then we highly recommend using a CDN provider that has partnered with Let’s Encrypt. KeyCDN even sponsors Let’s Encrypt because we believe the SSL certs should be free, and that every website should be running over HTTPS. Here is a list of CDN providers who support Let’s Encrypt and have an integration.
Besides SSL/TLS there is also the matter of securing your CDN account. According to a survey conducted by TeleSign, 40% of users said they had a security incident in the last year, meaning they had an account hacked, password stolen, or were given a notice that their personal information had been compromised. That is why KeyCDN added two-factor authentication which helps improve account security by requiring the user to provide two forms of authentication in order to log in. You can also secure your account by restricting to IP addresses.
One last additional security feature when it comes to CDN providers that can be very useful is secure tokens. While most CDN providers charge for this, KeyCDN provides this for free to all users. Secure Token allows you to generate secured links with an expiration time. Once a token has expired, it is not possible anymore to access the content. Unlike some other providers.
As you can see there are many different security features that you should be aware of when looking for a CDN provider. Make sure they have them!
Price is always a factor no matter what you are purchasing. Most CDN providers charge by the GB. So it is helpful if you know how much bandwidth you are currently using on your site so that you can calculate how much using a CDN will cost you. Most web hosts will have easy reports you can export to see data transfer. For example, on this site below they have used 12.01 GB of data with their web host in the last 30 days.
And in the last 30 days they have used 34.84 GB of data with KeyCDN.
That means the content delivery network is handling 74% of the load. So when it comes to pricing out a CDN it is important to understand how much traffic your CDN delivers vs your web host. As you can see the CDN does most of the heavy lifting. You can see pricing comparison table on cdncomparison.com to get an idea of what CDN providers are charging. KeyCDN offers transparent pricing and we are completely pay-as-you-go. Unlike other low-cost CDNs we don’t sell you a package which doesn’t fit afterwards.
Make sure when you are looking at CDN providers that they have advanced features that will help cut costs and make content delivery even faster. Some advanced CDN features we are referring to are things like:
- X-Pull Key
- Zonereferrer (hotlink protection)
- Origin Shield
- Purge By Cache-Tag
- Real-time Analytics
- RESTful API
One of the unique features that KeyCDN offers is Origin Shield. Other providers charge hundreds of dollars for this feature while we provide this completely free to all users. Origin shield is basically an extra caching layer which reduces the load on your origin server and accelerates the distribution of your content from the origin server to your edge servers. Origin Shield is a great feature to reduce the traffic on your origin server to an absolute minimum and protect your infrastructure from abuse or traffic spikes.
So make sure not to settle on the first CDN provider you find. There are good CDN solutions out there with some of the advanced features like those mentioned above.
What good is a CDN if you can’t integrate it into your existing platform? Also make sure to plan ahead for the future. Perhaps you are running a Drupal site and plan on migrating to WordPress. Make sure the CDN provider supports all the popular CMS platforms ahead of time. Did you know that KeyCDN supports over 30 different platforms? And we have integrations guides for all of them. Here is a list of integrations currently supported:
If you are running on WordPress we even have a free CDN Enabler plugin which allows you to enable your CDN with only a few clicks. We want to help support the WP community and now integrating with a CDN has never been so easy! You can also use this plugin with any CDN provider, not just KeyCDN. So before simply choosing a fast CDN, make sure they have a wide variety of platform integrations.
Whenever you use a service in the technology industry, good support is almost always a big requirement. No matter what CDN provider you choose, you will most likely run into issues or have questions at one point or another. Support options from current CDN providers varies quite a bit. Some have phone support, some have live chat, and others have ticket support. In fact, some of them offer all of those combined. If you need more hand-holding or help, perhaps a CDN solution with live chat is a better way to go. Sometimes it depends on how much you really think you will need support.
KeyCDN has chosen to go the route of ticket support, an online community forum, and offering the best documentation possible. Between our knowledgebase and our blog, we have over 200 tutorials and walkthroughs on how to use a CDN, setup a CDN, and how to troubleshoot errors. We spend many hours writing these so that you can immediately find the answers you are seeking no matter what time of day it is.
Commitment to Ongoing Development
When you are on the hunt for that fastest CDN provider, make sure you pick one that is committed to ongoing development. What do we mean by that? There are certain CDN providers out there that are much faster to launch new features and support new protocols when they become stable and available to the public. If you pick what we call “stagnant CDN” you could be waiting years for those shiny new features everyone else is getting.
KeyCDN is committed to ongoing development and was one of the first providers to launch HTTP/2 support as well as a Let’s Encrypt integration. And we are working on Brotli support! HTTP/2 support allows us to offer faster speeds than most providers for those running over HTTPS because of the performance benefits of the new protocol.
HTTP/2 is a protocol designed for low-latency transport of content over the World Wide Web.
Some key features of HTTP/2 include:
- Binary: As opposed to HTTP/1.1, which is textual.
- Multiplexing: Allowing multiple requests and responses to be sent at the same time.
- Header compression: Headers are compressed using a new algorithm which in turn reduces the amount of data.
- One Connection: Allows a client to use just one connection per origin.
- Server Push: Avoid delays by pushing responses it thinks the client will need to cache.
If you want to stay ahead of the competition, join a CDN who is committed and excited about development for faster content delivery.
There’s More Than Simply Finding the Fastest CDN
So hopefully you can see that while you might have thought you were just searching for the fastest CDN, there are a lot of other factors to consider; such as latency, the number of POPs (locations), reliability, security, price, advanced features, platform integrations, support, and an ongoing commitment to development. Happy content delivery!
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