A Content Delivery Network for WordPress, or CDN for short, can help your site perform better and in a more optimized way. It can save your server resources and allow you to handle larger traffic with ease. However, when does your website really need a CDN? Also, which option should you go for when selecting a Content Delivery Network for WordPress?
This post will answer all of the above questions.
First up, let us try to understand what a CDN can do for us.
Benefits of using a Content Delivery Network for WordPress
A CDN refers to a cluster of geolocated servers that are distributed all around the world. Now, since we are talking about a cluster of servers and not an isolated server, it means that a good CDN can handle large volumes of traffic effectively and easily.
CDNs hold static copies of your website’s data on their independent servers. Thus, as and when you make a change to your site, it is reflected on the CDN’s server copy too.
Since Content Delivery Networks tend to be geographically distributed, your visitors from different parts of the world can access your website faster. Visitors are served content via CDN servers, rather than your main server – the one you paid for at your host.
As such, the biggest advantage of having a Content Delivery Network for WordPress is that it can yield a performance boost for your website (read: it becomes faster). Your site will load faster because the geographical distance is reduced. Plus, the load on your actual hosting server is minimized.
Certain CDN providers also offer some security features, such as a firewall or bot filtering. This can keep your website secure and away from malicious hackers.
As you can see, CDNs do serve very useful and vital purposes. However, does that mean you badly need to get one for your WordPress site right away?
Cases wherein you might *NOT* need a CDN
It is not always that a website needs a Content Delivery Network. At times, you might do well enough even without a CDN. So, you need to take your time and first focus on your requirements.
For example, if you are targeting visitors from a specific location or country only, you should prefer hosting your site on a server located as close to that desired location as possible. In this case, having a geolocated web host is better than having a geolocated CDN.
Similarly, if you just need a CDN to filter out bad traffic from good, investing in a dedicated security solution such as Sucuri might be a wiser choice too. Of course, Content Delivery Networks such as CloudFlare focus heavily on security, but investing in a CDN purely for the sake of security is not a very plausible option.
Lastly, bear in mind that if you use a reputed WordPress hosting provider, there are high chances that your host offers an in-house CDN solution along with server-side caching of your content. For most users of the blogosphere, this will suffice well enough. Check with your web host if you wish to learn more about their solutions for this purpose.
Thus, to sum it up, we can say that your website may not require a CDN if:
- Your website is not growing at an exponential rate (and you do not expect it to grow exponentially either).
- You are targeting localized visitors from a specific region, rather than worldwide users.
- You are not serving a very high amount of media files, images, CSS, etc. If you are, and still wish to avoid a CDN, be sure to invest in a good caching plugin for WordPress.
- Your budget does not permit opting for a Content Delivery Network for WordPress.
If the last point holds true: obviously, money is a constraint. However, there are various cheaper options that you can consider without burning a hole in your pocket.
Picking the best CDN for your WordPress site
There are various CDN providers out there, each with its own set of awesome features and offerings. Which one should you opt for?
To begin with, you should check out this CDN comparison guide – it goes through some of the most popular Content Delivery Networks out there, such as CloudFlare, MaxCDN, Amazon CloudFront, Akamai Edge and Fastly.
That said, there are some considerations that can help you shortlist the CDN on the basis of your requirements.
If you are serving images on your WordPress blog, by all means you should consider giving the Jetpack Photon module a try. Photon is not a pure CDN; instead, it serves the images and photos of your blog on the fly via the global WordPress.com CDN. Naturally, this gives your website a performance boost as all images are cached and served globally. Photon is a free service, so you can use it without spending even a single penny.
For websites that stream a lot of live content, CDNs such as CDN77 are viable options. CDN77 offers server locations in five different continents, and you have the luxury of choosing which locations or continents you want to pay for. Thus, if your target audience is mostly in the Americas, you need not bother with the Asia servers, and so on.
KeyCDN, MaxCDN and CloudFlare are extremely popular for medium- to enterprise-level users. All of these services offer scalable plans that you can pick on the basis of your needs. CloudFlare is especially well known because it offers a very powerful free plan as well. Also, all of these three CDNs offer terrific security features. Even better, they have great integration with WordPress, both by means of official and unofficial plugins.
For advanced users, especially developers, there are Content Delivery Networks such as Google Cloud and Amazon CloudFront. But that’s maybe a case for another post.
What if you just cannot afford a CDN?
Don’t wish to or cannot invest in a Content Delivery Network?
Not a problem. There are still quite a lot many things that you can work with.
First, as already stated, do not forget to set up a good caching WordPress plugin for your website. If you are relying on images, turning Jetpack Photon on will prove useful.
Also, see if you can upgrade your web hosting solution. For instance, many managed WordPress hosting providers offer CDN services free of cost. Many mainstream non-managed web hosts offer features such as Railgun and native CDNs on their higher plans too – those cost less than normal pricing of Content Delivery Networks.
Lastly, do not forget proper website optimization measures. Even if you are not serving your content via a CDN, everything can still load fast if you optimize it well.
Which Content Delivery Network for WordPress do you use? Share your views in the comments below!