Best CDN in 2020 – A Comprehensive Guide

By Jovan Milenkovic October 26, 2020

Sometimes less is more. While 10 seconds might be a fantastic time for running a 100 metre race, it’s less impressive when you’re waiting for a web page to load. In this day and age, people have short attention spans, and if your page isn’t ready to scroll within a few seconds, they’ll most likely leave it.

You could try to remedy the problem by stripping out all the graphics and making your site look dull and outdated, or you could address the real problem: your server is physically located far away from your customers. Without a content delivery network, the trip is just too long for your site to load quickly.

That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the best CDN services today. After putting them up against our rigorous criteria, we came up with the top picks you can safely rely on in 2020. Don’t sacrifice a single dancing hippo GIF if you don’t have to!

Best CDN

  • Fantastic free plan
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy to set up and use
  • No API protection
Price $Starting from 20 per/mo
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  • Second fastest CDN on our list
  • Phenomenal number of servers
  • Great for large scale projects
  • Not beginner-friendly
Price Ask for a quote
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  • $300 credit over the first three months for testing
  • Native integration across Google’s vast platform network
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Lacking some features
Price Prices vary per location and usage
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  • Very affordable
  • Easy to set up and use
  • IPv6 support
  • No tech support during trial
Price $49/year
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The Best CDN

1. Cloudflare -
" Best CDN for WordPress "
2. Akamai -
" Best CDN for Video Streaming "
3. Google Cloud CDN -
" Best CDN for Mobile Devices "
4. KeyCDN -
" Best CDN for Images "

1. Cloudflare

" Best CDN for WordPress "

  • Query Speed
    78.97 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200+ servers in more than 100 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email, live chat, phone

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fantastic free plan
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy to set up and use
  • No API protection

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Fantastic free plan
  • Excellent coverage
  • Easy to set up and use
  • No API protection
  • Query Speed
    78.97 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200+ servers in more than 100 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email, live chat, phone

Pricing

The first thing we should mention about Cloudflare is that it has a great free CDN plan available. Sure, it doesn’t come packed with much, but having email support, access to the global Cloudflare CDN network, and basic DDoS attack mitigation is more than enough to get you started without having to pay a dime.

To get the real experience, though, you’ll want to upgrade to one of the paid plans. The first of these is the $20 per month Pro plan, which adds a web application firewall, lossless image optimization, cache analytics, and automatic optimization for mobile devices.

From there, you can go for the $200 per month Business plan or get a quote for Cloudflare’s best CDN network plan: Enterprise. These higher-tier plans add several advanced CDN features, such as 100% uptime service level agreements, PCI compliance, live chat and phone support, the option to use your own SSL certificate, and more.

User Experience

Another benefit of Cloudflare is that it’s a really straightforward and simple solution to install and use. Installation takes but a couple of minutes and the intuitive dashboard makes navigating the software a breeze.

When it comes to customer support, the free and pro versions come with email support only. You’ll have to get the pricey Business plan to get 24/7 live chat support, and Cloudflare’s CDN pricing really goes up if you want dedicated phone support as well.

Features

Let’s start with the most important part: network speed. According to CDNPerf’s results, Cloudflare sits around the middle of the table, with a 78.97 ms average query speed during the last month, based on some 300 million daily user tests.

In our experience, it ran pretty well across the board, though obviously some regions performed better than others. Asian servers were particularly fast, for example. With more than 180 edge servers around the world, you’re sure to find a good reliable server just about anywhere, though.

Another excellent feature of Cloudflare is its fantastic WordPress integration. In fact, we’d say the company offers perhaps the best WordPress CDN experience around, as its add-on is not only free but works natively with WordPress.

Cloudflare’s security is also top-notch. Even free users get excellent DDoS protection, with the company claiming that its system averts more than 70 billion malware threats every day. Starting with the Pro plan, security features get bolstered by a web application firewall, too.

Final Words

Cloudflare is one of the world’s oldest and most popular CDN services. It’s good to see that it hasn’t rested on its laurels and is still one of the best and most reliable options on the market. With an excellent free plan and fantastic WordPress integration, it easily earns its place on our list of the best content delivery networks in 2020.

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2. Akamai

" Best CDN for Video Streaming "

  • Query Speed
    73.20 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200k+ servers in more than 130 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email, phone, customer center

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Second fastest CDN on our list
  • Phenomenal number of servers
  • Great for large scale projects
  • Not beginner-friendly

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Second fastest CDN on our list
  • Phenomenal number of servers
  • Great for large scale projects
  • Not beginner-friendly
  • Query Speed
    73.20 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200k+ servers in more than 130 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email, phone, customer center

Pricing

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: getting a price from Akamai requires asking for a quote, and many factors will determine what your price will ultimately be. That being said, the company is used to working with big players, so don’t expect its services to come cheap.

According to online reviews, prices can range from $0.20 and $0.40 per GB of transferred data. When we asked for a quote, it ended up being around $0.35 per gigabyte, working out to around $3,500 for 10 TB of traffic. This places its CDN cost on the higher end of the spectrum, but you’re getting world-class service and access to an unprecedented number of servers around the globe, so it’s worth it if your company can afford it.

There are also free trial options available, but you’ll have to get in touch with the customer support team to inquire about how you can test the software for free.

User Experience

Akamai is primarily aimed at large companies and enterprises. As such, it’s ideally meant for the types of users who would have professional web developers working on their site. In other words, its complex set of tools is not the easiest to set up and use, but provides a lot of options to those who know what they are doing.

As one of the largest CDN providers around (if not the largest), Akamai has fantastic customer support options available. You can reach representatives 24/7 via phone, live chat, or email and response times are great, too. While the software itself may not be beginner-friendly, the knowledgeable staff will certainly be able to lend you a hand with any problems you may encounter.

Features

As you’d expect from a company with over 20 years of experience serving various big industry names such as LinkedIn, Microsoft, Hulu, and many more, Akamai has a world-class CDN network, comprising more than 200,000 servers in more than 130 countries around the world.

It’s not just server coverage, but speed too. The consistently fast servers combined with advanced in-house features make Akamai the best content delivery network for video streaming, but you don’t have to have a video-heavy site to benefit from speedy and reliable servers.

At 73.20 ms average worldwide query speed, Akamai is hot on the heels of Google Cloud CDN in the battle for the fastest provider around. Consider also that the vast network of its servers covers almost 30% of global web traffic, and that gives you a pretty good idea of how big this company’s web presence is.

Security is also top-notch, with two-factor authentication, world-class SSL encryption, and standard protection against DoS attacks.

Final Words

If you’re looking for the best CDN for live streaming and video content, Akamai is a fantastic option. It’s not for everyone, though. Both the complexity of setting it up and the quote-only pricing scheme with prices on the upper end of industry standards may turn some people off. That being said, Akamai may be costly but it provides some of the fastest and most reliable CDN servers in the industry, and that shouldn’t come cheap.

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3. Google Cloud CDN

" Best CDN for Mobile Devices "

  • Query Speed
    71.89 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200k+ servers in more than 130 countries
  • Customer Support
    Can be purchased in a separate package

Things we liked / disliked:

  • $300 credit over the first three months for testing
  • Native integration across Google’s vast platform network
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Lacking some features

Things we liked / disliked:

  • $300 credit over the first three months for testing
  • Native integration across Google’s vast platform network
  • Free SSL certificate
  • Lacking some features
  • Query Speed
    71.89 ms
  • Server Coverage
    200k+ servers in more than 130 countries
  • Customer Support
    Can be purchased in a separate package

Pricing

Google’s CDN solution is similar to Akamai in many aspects, in that it has a vast, powerful network of secure servers and offers pricing schemes based on the amount of data that’s being used. As with most other Cloudflare competitors, both end up being more expensive than Cloudflare, as well.

The main difference between Google and Akamai is that Google’s content delivery network service incentivises large data usage, ideally in regions where it already has the best CDN server network: Europe or North America.

Prices are steepest when starting out, with the first 10 TB coming in at around $0.08 per GB in North America and Europe, but they can go as low as $0.02 provided you spend enough bandwidth. Some other regions like Africa and Oceania are more expensive, though, and prices can get as high as $0.20 per GB.

On the bright side, Google does offer a generous $300 in credit over your first three months, allowing you to test all of the important features.

User Experience

The main draw with Google products has always been that they’re so prominent that we’re all familiar with them to some degree. The company’s popular CDN is no different. While advanced customization may require a serious level of tech savviness, picking up and using the software won’t require you to have a professional developer on hand to get through the installation process.

Unfortunately, as with other commercial Google products, customer service is absolutely fantastic… if you’re willing to pay for it. The basic free plan covers only billing support and read-only access to break/fix cases. For full chat, phone, and email support you’ll have to get one of the paid plans, which start at $100 per month.

Features

In terms of speed and reliability, Google naturally has the best CDN server selection around. Averaging 71.89 ms according to CDNPref, it tops even high-profile competition such as Akamai, Azure, and Cloudflare.

We probably don’t need to stress that by signing up with Google’s Cloud CDN, you’re guaranteed access to a veritable army of servers and data centers all around the globe, especially in Europe and North America.

With support for hybrid and multi-cloud architectures and edge caches peered with nearly every major end-user ISP globally, Google Cloud CDN offers perhaps the best content delivery network overall. Mobile support is also fantastic, owing to Google’s proven track record with Android.

As you’d expect from Google, security protocols are also taken quite seriously. TLS (SSL) certificates come free with your subscription, two-factor authentication is supported, and there is a whole slew of other enterprise-friendly security features to boot.

Final Words

Google Cloud CDN is a fantastic service. It may not be the cheapest or most customizable content delivery network around, but the mix of unmatched speed, great server coverage, and excellent integrations make it hard to beat for a no-brainer solution that is guaranteed to work well. We just wish you didn’t have to pay extra for proper customer support.

4. KeyCDN

" Best CDN for Images "

  • Query Speed
    92.41 ms
  • Server Coverage
    34 servers in 25 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to set up and use
  • IPv6 support
  • No tech support during trial

Things we liked / disliked:

  • Very affordable
  • Easy to set up and use
  • IPv6 support
  • No tech support during trial
  • Query Speed
    92.41 ms
  • Server Coverage
    34 servers in 25 countries
  • Customer Support
    Email

Pricing

Compared to the rest of our list, KeyCDN is a much smaller provider aimed primarily at individuals, startups, and small companies. This is reflected not only in its much smaller server infrastructure, but also in its very affordable pricing scheme.

As with Google, pricing is regional, with North America and Europe being the cheapest, while South Africa and South America cost the most. Prices for the Europe/NA regions start at $0.04/GB for the first 10 TB per month but go down to as little as $0.01 when going over 100 TB. There is also discounted volume pricing if you manage to go over 150 TB per month.

While the best CDN deals are to be found in these two regions, customers in South Africa will have to pay as much as $0.11/GB for their first 10 TB each month. No matter where you are, there are no request charges and the minimum monthly expenditure is $4, while the minimum you need to pay per year is $49.

Put simply, no other provider offers as much value for money. That being said, there are no trial options available, but at these prices you won’t really need one.

User Experience

In the battle of the best content delivery network companies, KeyCDN is in many ways the polar opposite of Akamai: very cheap vs very expensive, small server infrastructure vs huge infrastructure and, finally, very simple installation and user interface vs one that requires a web professional.

The setup is lightning quick and registration only requires entering a valid email address and creating an account, which takes less than a minute. Every feature is controlled from a handy navigation bar on the left side of the page, and the user interface is as friendly as it gets when it comes to content delivery networks.

We should also mention the fantastic customer support, available 24/7 via email, phone, and even Skype.

Features

While KeyCDN won’t win any best CDN of 2020 awards when it comes to speed or server coverage, that’s to be expected from a small company that primarily aims to be affordable. According to CDNPerf’s data, it averages around 92.41 ms worldwide, placing it 16th on the list of the fastest content delivery networks around.

You won’t get nearly as much choice as with the competition when it comes to servers; currently it has only 34 servers spread across 25 countries. They are mostly focused on Europe and North America, while the northern part of Africa is not covered at all at the moment.

If Akamai is a fantastic choice for video streaming, KeyCDN is a great fit for images. While the network speed is not up there with the best CDN providers around, it’s more than good enough for image sharing. But what really sells it is the price: just $1 per 2,000 images processed. There are also WordPress integrations and an ad-enabled video player so you can monetize videos on your website.

Security is also better than you would expect at this price range. You can either integrate your existing SSL certificate or get a shared one from KeyCDN, all without incurring any additional costs. Excellent encryption protocols are bolstered by security features such as secure token links and two-factor authentication.

Final Words

KeyCDN is a great little budget alternative to industry giants such as Cloudflare, Akamai, and Google Cloud CDN. While it may not reach the top CDN providers in terms of server infrastructure or high-end corporate features, it offers a very solid set of features for a significantly lower price than the competition. Ideally suited to small-scale entrepreneurs and startups, it’s a great option for anyone who values cost savings more than having the fastest possible website.

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Why Would I Want a CDN?

The real question is why wouldn’t you want one? The list of benefits is substantial, so let’s break them down one by one:

Improving load times

This is the main reason most people implement content delivery networks. In the age of lightning-fast internet, optic cables, and Wi-Fi adapters, it’s no longer acceptable for pages to take more than a few seconds to load. As people get impatient and start leaving your site(s), the lost web traffic means you don’t only lose potential sales and other revenue, but your site will also take a dip in Google’s web rankings.

The best CDN hosting sites dramatically decrease the time it takes for websites to load, speeding up the process of content delivery by distributing it across high-speed regional servers around the world.

Reducing bounce rates

It’s not just about bringing people to your website – you want them to stay there. A speedy website won’t get a high bounce rate from all the visitors who rage-quit for being forced to endure long loading times. This in turn has a positive effect on its ratings on Google, and it’s far less likely to be viewed as a spam site with no worthwhile content.

Reducing bandwidth costs

Bandwidth costs are typically the highest expense paid by website owners, but even low-cost CDN providers can help alleviate that to some degree. By placing their servers at key internet exchange points around the world, caching website data, and performing various other optimizations, CDN companies can do much more than just help increase your website’s access speeds.

The key here is that lowering the amount of data that the origin server has to provide also reduces hosting costs for website owners.

Improving security

An often overlooked benefit of CDN services is their ability to increase the security of your website. Hackers love denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, and without the best CDN security protocols or alternative encryption solutions, websites are wide open to being flooded by data specifically designed to cripple them.

At best, such attacks can cause severe slowdowns, while at worst they can completely paralyze the site and stop people from being able to interact with it. This can really affect your site’s reputation; even after you’ve spent significant resources on restoring everything to normal, people will be far less willing to visit a potentially insecure site.

The way CDN networks deal with such attacks is simple: they make improvements to security certificate and DDoS mitigation protocols. By their very nature, in order to properly distribute and cache data, the best CDN systems have to be able to analyze traffic patterns and react to potential surges identified as originating from a malicious source.

Staying online and boosting SEO metrics

Malicious attacks aren’t the only issues webmasters face. While they can certainly put your site out of commission for a good while, so can hardware failure, power outages, and other technical difficulties. Due to their globally distributed nature, CDN servers can not only handle more traffic, but are also better able to withstand potential software- or hardware-related difficulties.

This in turn positively affects your website’s online ranking, as speedy and reliable sites tend to be valued by Google’s algorithms just as much as those with high-quality content.

Our Methodology

In order to find the best CDN provider in 2020, we’ve come up with various criteria to grade our candidates. Price and value, performance and reliability, the number of available servers, integrations and security features, and customer support all play a role in being considered a great CDN network.

Price

As is the case with any product on the market, the first consideration for many potential customers is how much dough they’ll have to fork out. Some companies clearly offer more bang for your buck, but you’ll also have to gauge your own needs accurately.

Many companies charge according to your monthly bandwidth. And, of course, a small-scale personal or startup website won’t need the same extensive toolset that a large site like Amazon might.

Speed

Finding the cheapest CDN is one thing, but don’t expect miracles unless you’re willing to pay for them. Server infrastructure is costly, after all. This category considers perhaps the most important aspect of choosing good CDN hosting: the speed of its servers.

Many providers give some sort of a trial option, which gives you an ideal way of testing the speed and stability of the service compared to your origin site. Increasing loading speeds and reducing latency are some of the most basic and instantly noticeable improvements that a good CDN server should be able to provide.

Reliability

Many people get a CDN service so they don’t have to worry about power outages, DDoS attacks, and other issues that could kill their website’s online presence. It is reasonable to want content delivery network providers that have systems in place to deal with such situations and enough backup servers to cover any potential issues on their end.

Server Coverage

Speaking of servers, another big feature of high-quality content delivery networks is having proper worldwide server distribution. Global server coverage is one of the primary ways in which such systems can drastically improve your website’s performance and reliability. Even if you have a very specific local audience, you’ll appreciate having more servers to cache data at your disposal.

Security

Another key aspect you should be mindful of when picking the best CDN provider for your needs is the range of security options offered. eCommerce websites are particularly vulnerable to hacker attacks and proper data encryption can mean the difference between a seamless shopping experience and a potentially costly lawsuit.

Even if you’re not afraid about personal or credit card data leakage, DoS and DDoS attacks can cripple the speed of your sites or even render them completely unusable. Many good CDN networks provide numerous security features, ranging from 2FA systems to SSL encryption, RSA keys, and more.

User Experience

Getting started with CDNs can be a daunting experience for people without a developer background. This category is all about CDN best practices when it comes to customer care. It covers everything from how easy installing and operating the software is to how simple the customer support team is to reach if something should go wrong.

Being able to quickly troubleshoot potential problems with your content delivery network is essential to having peace of mind when it comes to running your website smoothly and without major headaches.

Typically free and lower-tier plans feature email support or live chat, while more expensive options add dedicated phone agents.

The Best CDN in 2020

1. Cloudflare

2. Akamai

3. Google Cloud CDN

4. KeyCDN

FAQ

What are CDN services?

CDN(short for content delivery network services) are geographically distributed networks of proxy servers and their data centers that aim to improve the speed and security of websites.

Who needs a CDN?

Anyone whose website has a worldwide audience, really. A CDN service will help websites get better geographical exposure by caching data on local servers, which will significantly boost the page loading and transaction speeds. This is especially useful for content-heavy or eCommerce/transaction-based sites and news sites that issue the latest press releases.

They will also boost the website’s security, thwarting malware attacks and preventing dangerous data leaks.

What is the fastest CDN?

Currently, that honor goes to Google Cloud CDN and Akamai, and considering the massive server infrastructure these providers offer, it’s hard to imagine other providers overtaking them anytime soon. That being said, the differences between the top contenders tend to be fairly small and shouldn’t greatly affect your decision.

Is CloudFlare a good CDN?

As one of the oldest and most popular content delivery networks around, it’s still many people’s first association when thinking about CDN services. It’s also the only provider on our list to offer a free content delivery network option. It easily deserves a place on our list of the best CDN options in 2020.