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Best CDN for WordPress: 5 Content Delivery Networks Compared

This post compares the performance and the features offered by the five best CDN for WordPress options on the market. Read on to find out which of the main players is most likely to work for your WordPress site: StackPath vs CloudFlare vs Amazon CloudFront vs Akamai Edge vs Fastly.

The CDN (Content Delivery Network) market is a fairly busy one.

There’s a ton of different services available, and for a newbie, picking the best one is a serious challenge.

MaxCDN-vs-CloudFlare-vs-Amazon-CloudFront-vs-Akamai-Edge-vs-Fastly

After all, they all promise incredible performance, lightning speed loading times and etc. So what to do, how to live in a world like that?

Okay, things aren’t actually that brutal, and there’s a methodology when selecting the best CDN for your WordPress site. We’re going to talk all about it here.

Here’s our comparison of the top CDN for WordPress options:

Which is the best CDN for WordPress: StackPath or CloudFlare or Amazon CloudFront or Akamai Edge or Fastly?

⚠️ Before we begin, if you landed here looking for information on “MaxCDN”, you should know that MaxCDN was bought out by StackPath in 2016. It continued to operate, but was finally discontinued and absorbed fully into the StackPath brand at the very end of 2022 [1].

Let’s start by me playing Captain Obvious here, and say something that we all know … your WordPress site speed matters.

It matters for a lot of reasons. First off, people are not very keen on waiting for a website to load. In fact, 2 seconds is all you get. Again … that’s just 2 seconds! And I’m not just pulling this number from you-know-where. There are studies confirming that if your site takes more than 2 seconds to load, 47 percent of people can’t be bothered to wait [2]. They will leave and never come back.

Then there’s Google. We’ve been led to believe that Google pays attention to how fast your site loads, and based on the results, give you a bump in search engine rankings or penalize you slightly. (Here’s some data on that).

But enough with the theory…

One of the ways to make your WordPress site faster is to look for the best CDN for WordPress option that will work for your site.

In plain English, CDNs work by reducing the distance between your website and your target audience. It works something like that:

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cdn
  • This example presents the connection without the CDN – the user has to connect all the way from Spain to the US.
  • The next example has a CDN enabled – the connection distance for the user has shortened because now they only need to connect to the nearest CDN server, which happens to be somewhere in the UK in this case.

So long story short, CDNs are awesome. They make the connection faster, and thus improve the user experience overall. But there’s the question, should you go with StackPath, CloudFlare, Amazon CloudFront, Akamai Edge, or Fastly?

Round 1: Server locations

Let’s start the StackPath vs CloudFlare vs Amazon CloudFront vs Akamai Edge vs Fastly comparison with probably the most important parameter of any CDN – server locations and the size of the topography overall.

You’re always going to have the best results if you sign up to a network that has the best coverage in the geographical area where your audience is.

For instance, what’s the point of signing up to a service with the most server locations in the US if you run an Australian-based WooCommerce store?

Therefore, here are the server locations of each network we’re comparing, according to their own information  (interactive map; feel free to switch between different CDNs from the sidebar of the map) :

(💡 Note: You’ll notice that there’s no Akamai Edge servers on the map. That’s because Akamai has the biggest CDN infrastructure of them all with more than 350,000 servers in over 134 countries. In a word, it’s everywhere.)

Round 2: Price vs features and their limitations

Generally speaking, the price tag you’ll have to pay for a good CDN service depends on how much of your website data you want to hook up to the CDN + the bandwidth this will require on a monthly basis.

Here’s what you get with each network:

  StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
250 GB   $0, $20, $200 * $21.25   $50
500 GB     $42.50   $60
1 TB $27.50   $85   $120
5 TB     $425   $600
10 TB     $850 ~$3,500 ** $1,200

* CloudFlare doesn’t bill based on bandwidth; the 3 main plans available (including the free one) all have different parameters based on different traits other than bandwidth.

** Akamai doesn’t showcase their pricing publicly; you need to contact the company to get a quote; that being said, they’re more on the expensive side, with price tags going even as high as $3,500 for 10 TB.

Then, there are other standard features that you should expect from a WordPress-friendly CDN:

  StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
Origin Pull
Push
Cache Purge
Gzip
Custom CNAMEs
API
SSL

Finally, each CDN also offers a range of additional perks, which you might find useful:

StackPath (MaxCDN)

  • Added security features with network layer DDoS protection. View and manage the people, bots, locations and types of access you grant to your assets and to your control panel.
  • 24/7 live chat and phone support.
  • Real-time site analytics. See how your network is performing.
  • CDN API. Integrate users, zones and other resources into your applications.
  • Use on unlimited sites.

CloudFlare

  • Added security. Protects your website from all sorts of online threats. Including DDoS protection.
  • Site analytics. View your website traffic, but also the number of threats avoided, bot traffic, and more.
  • 24/7 email and phone support, but only on the most expensive plan.

Fastly

  • Media streaming.
  • Cloud security, TLS encryption, DDoS mitigation.
  • Real-time stats.
  • 24/7 email and phone support.

Amazon CloudFront

  • There’s AWS Free Usage Tier allowing you to use CloudFront for free up to 1 TB of data transfer and 10,000,000 HTTP and HTTPS requests each month.
  • Works with the AWS Management Console.
  • Supports dynamic content, not just static media.
  • Cache statistics reports, popular objects report, monitoring and alarming, usage charts, and more.
  • Advanced security features and geo restriction.
  • 24/7 email and phone support at extra charge. By default, you just get access to a community forum.

Akamai Edge

  • Adaptive media delivery, download delivery (for software updates, other digital downloads).
  • Media acceleration products.
  • Dynamic site delivery.
  • Media services and media analytics.
  • Predictive content delivery.
  • Global traffic management.
  • Cloud-based DNS.
  • Advanced security features.
  • 24/7 email and phone support.

Round 3: Performance

Testing CDNs is somewhat troublesome. I mean, there are different types of CDNs, different conditions in the network, and depending on what you’re trying to fetch (the size of the files, the main server, location, etc.), the performance can vary greatly.

For starters, there are two main types of CDN work modes, “Push” and “Pull”:

  • Push is where you basically send all your files over to the CDN (actually, the software layer responsible for integrating your site with the CDN does that), and then they get served from there whenever a visitor asks for any of them.
  • Pull is where you just let the CDN do all the work in the background, and whenever a file is needed – when a visitor comes to your site – the CDN pulls that file from your main server and caches it for future requests.

Then, there are issues with measuring performance of one CDN against another in a real-world environment where there’s just sooo many factors to consider.

You know how when you read a brochure for a new car, and it says that it does X miles to the gallon, but when you actually buy it you’ll never get anywhere close to that number. It’s somewhat the same with CDNs.

So when all put together, just picking some example sites that use a given CDN and measuring their performance via tools like this wouldn’t be very objective.

That being said, there are some standard performance measures that some CDN experts refer to in their comparison wars. One of them is the “initcwnd” parameter (initial congestion window – the number of packets a server sends on a new connection after the first GET request), which has a significant impact on the performance of TCP connections.

Setting all the technical details aside, it’s believed that – and I’m simplifying – the bigger the better. Years ago, before the widespread adoption of the https protocol, it was possible to get this data. CDN Planet used to publish a list and periodically update it, however, it’s been quite a number of years since they’ve done so. Given that there is no recent data to pull from, the archived information still provides us with some insight of what the initcwnd numbers looked like back then [3]:

  • 📶 StackPath (MaxCDN): 32 packets
  • 📶 CloudFlare: 10 packets
  • 📶 Amazon CloudFront: 10 packets
  • 📶 Akamai Edge: 16 packets
  • 📶 Fastly: 10 packets

Does that mean that StackPath (MaxCDN) comes on top here overall? Well, not necessarily. As we just stated, things may have changed since that information was published.

Round 4: Under the hood

Okay, so while all of the services we’re featuring here today are content delivery networks, their inner workings tend to differ a lot. So based on what your requirements are, you’ll find some more suitable than others.

StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
Real-time CDN that lets you accelerate, control, and track your web assets with just a few clicks. Not an actual CDN (tech-wise), but more of a reverse proxy that takes over all of your traffic and then serves cached versions of your content whenever possible and from a nearby location. Advanced CDN by Amazon (with all of Amazon’s infrastructure behind it) suitable to help you deliver both static and dynamic content, including streaming. Pricing based on bandwidth. The most popular CDN on the market right now, used by the biggest websites. Apart from CDN, Akamai also offers a whole range of website performance tools, with every plan being custom-built on a per-client basis. Real-time CDN built with mobile in mind, or rather, built for mobile first. Supports media streaming and real-time stats and reports.

Round 5: WordPress integration

How easy it’s going to be to integrate a given CDN with your WordPress site is a key factor here. I’m sure you’d like to be able to do everything on your own, and not mess up your site along the way.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room:

None of the CDN services featured here are push-button-easy to integrate. That’s because even though we are talking about CDN for WordPress users in this article, the content delivery networks themselves aren’t built specifically for WordPress users only.

(One of the few CDNs that work like that is the image CDN included in our Optimole solution for optimizing images. All you have to do is just install it on your WordPress site. From there, you’ll have all your images sent through a CDN before they get displayed to the visitor. But again, Optimole is for images only, so it’s not a complete CDN for WordPress option like the others on this list.)

Here’s how to integrate each of the CDNs with your WordPress site:

StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
After setting up your pull zone, you can integrate StackPath through the W3 Total Cache plugin. Integrates independently of WordPress. You just need to sign up to CloudFlare and then assign new DNS servers to your domain name. CloudFlare picks up from there. Integrates through the W3 Total Cache plugin. However, you need to configure your Amazon AWS setup before you can enable the plugin. No info.  There are two WordPress plugins through which you can integrate your site: the official plugin called Fastly, and the actual recommended plugin called Purgely.

Final round: Who uses what

In this last round, we’re going to look through some of the websites that use each of the CDNs featured in this comparison.

This information should give us a better understanding of the kind and caliber of websites that gravitate towards a given CDN. For example, if you’re just getting started with a small WordPress site, you wouldn’t want to sign up for a CDN only to find out later on that it’s basically used primarily by HuffPost-sized websites, right? That’s what this is about.

First off, let’s see how popular our CDNs are overall [4]:

MaxCDN-CloudFlare-CloudFront-Akamai-Fastly

And here’s a list of some example websites using each CDN network:

StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
WPBeginner, Yoast.com, WPEngine, WPLift, InstantShift.com, 9gag, The Next Web, BuySellAds. FounderLY, StackOverflow, Montecito Bank, APNIC.net, CodeGuard, Embed.ly, plus thousands of entry-level sites that would be impossible to list here. Zendesk, NASA, IMDb, PBS, SEGA. Facebook, Adobe, Airbnb, American Idol, Autotrader.com, Autodesk, Best Buy, BuzzFeed, Elance, Fiat, IBM, MailChimp, NBA, Philips. Stripe, imgur, Etsy, Vox Media, Pinterest, Fast Company, Wistia, Disqus, GitHub, Kayak.

Even though I tried listing some of the more recognizable brands (at least in the WordPress community) there’s a pattern here. Amazon CloudFront and Fastly seem to be favored by mainstream companies and overall well-known brands with a huge online presence, while StackPath and CloudFlare cater to both the big boys and standard WordPress blogs (or just entry-level websites). Akamai Edge is an entirely different story on its own. With high-tier pricing this probably isn’t a solution for anyone who’s not already consuming multiple TB of bandwidth every month.

Conclusion: StackPath (MaxCDN) vs CloudFlare vs Amazon CloudFront vs Akamai Edge vs Fastly

If I had to pick one solution here to use on a new WordPress site, I would go with either StackPath (MaxCDN) or CloudFlare.

Both have very positive track records in the blogosphere and deliver really good features for the price:

  • For site owners that are just starting out, I’d recommend CloudFlare. Their free plan makes it a great alternative to just get started with the concept of CDNs and speed up your site with minimal effort. From there, you can either let CloudFlare grow with you – by switching to one of the paid plans – or move your business elsewhere.
  • For WordPress sites that already attract a nice chunk of traffic every day, I’d recommend StackPath (MaxCDN). The configuration possibilities of the network are really good, and it’s quite affordable, which you can see in the first table of this comparison.

Alternatively, if the core of your audience is located in a single geographical location, I’d probably go for a CDN that has the most servers in that area, even if that means your country’s local CDN network, which might not be that popular world-wide.

Let’s keep in mind that delivering your website to your core audience is the most important thing here. You won’t get much use of a CDN that has the best global coverage if your visitors are from just a single country where that network might have no servers.

Finally, here’s a side-by-side comparison table, comprised of all the individual parameters that we talked about in this resource, so that you can decide which is the best CDN for WordPress option for your unique situation:

  StackPath (MaxCDN) CloudFlare Amazon CloudFront Akamai Edge Fastly
           
250 GB   $0, $20, $200 * $21.25   $50
500 GB     $42.50   $60
1 TB $27.50   $85   $120
5 TB     $425   $600
10 TB     $850 ~$3,500 ** $1,200
           
Origin Pull
Push
Cache Purge
Gzip
Custom CNAMEs
API
SSL
           
Under the hood Real-time CDN that lets you accelerate, control, and track your web assets with just a few clicks. Not an actual CDN (tech-wise), but more of a reverse proxy that takes over all of your traffic and then serves cached versions of your content whenever possible and from a nearby location. Advanced CDN by Amazon (with all of Amazon’s infrastructure behind it) suitable to help you deliver both static and dynamic content, including streaming. Pricing based on bandwidth. The most popular CDN on the market right now, used by the biggest websites. Apart from CDN, Akamai also offers a whole range of website performance tools, with every plan being custom-built on a per-client basis. Real-time CDN built with mobile in mind, or rather, built for mobile first. Supports media streaming and real-time stats and reports.
           
WordPress integration After setting up your pull zone, you can integrate StackPath through the W3 Total Cache plugin. Integrates independently of WordPress. You just need to sing up to CloudFlare and then assign new DNS servers to your domain name. CloudFlare picks up from there. Integrates through the W3 Total Cache plugin. However, you need to configure your Amazon AWS setup before you can enable the plugin. No info.  There are two WordPress plugins through which you can integrate your site: the official plugin called Fastly, and the actual recommended plugin called Purgely.
           
Who uses what WPBeginner, Yoast.com, WPEngine, WPLift, InstantShift.com, 9gag, The Next Web, BuySellAds. FounderLY, StackOverflow, Montecito Bank, APNIC.net, CodeGuard, Embed.ly, plus thousands of entry-level sites that would be impossible to list here. Zendesk, NASA, IMDb, PBS, SEGA. Facebook, Adobe, Airbnb, American Idol, Autotrader.com, Autodesk, Best Buy, BuzzFeed, Elance, Fiat, IBM, MailChimp, NBA, Philips. Stripe, imgur, Etsy, Vox Media, Pinterest, Fast Company, Wistia, Disqus, GitHub, Kayak.
   Get for a growing WordPress site 
 Get for a new WordPress site 
     

* CloudFlare doesn’t bill based on bandwidth; the 3 main plans available (including the free one) all have different parameters based on different traits other than bandwidth.

** Akamai doesn’t showcase their pricing publicly; you need to contact the company to get a quote; that being said, they’re more on the expensive side, with price tags going even as high as $3,500 for 10 TB.

Do you know of any other good CDN for WordPress options that we didn’t mention here? Let us know in the comments section below!

Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. Learn more below:

 
Yay! 🎉 You made it to the end of the article!
Karol K

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xZero
September 20, 2018 5:51 pm

Only issue with CloudFlare is that their pricing models are really not flexible.
Eg. if you want some specific feature, you need a whole plan even though you don’t need 90% of features that plan has to offer.
Otherwise, CloudFlare is scalable and powerful and you can do very well with huge website on free plan.

Kingsley Felix
June 12, 2018 12:34 pm

No KEYCDN?

Chris Pointon
May 14, 2018 4:54 pm

Pricing for CloudFront is a combination of data transfer and number of HTTP/HTTPS calls made. Depending on your traffic & content, the number of calls can cost more than the data transferred (if you have lots of very small files being served). If you’re going to revisit the article, it would be good to add number of calls to your calculation.

vitya
April 25, 2018 1:02 am

How about Google?

Ayoola Moore
October 11, 2017 1:47 pm

One question though – Why is there no single CDN Edge Location in Africa? Despite the fact that Africa is the most secure location with historical record of lower disaster ?

FieldWolf
October 5, 2018 8:17 pm
Reply to  Ayoola Moore

There are a lot now. I can only list the companies that have POP’s in South Africa, as that is where I live and it is the only place I’ve researched for CDN infrastructure. BaishanCloud, CDNetworks, CDNvideo, CacheFly, Cloudflare, Fastly, Level3, Limelight, and QUANTIL now have POP’s here in South Africa. It’s amazing what happened in a year, yikes.

Jay Holtslander
April 22, 2017 12:38 am

A downside of CloudFlare is that if you want to use your own SSL certificate it requires a $200+/month plan from CloudFlare.

makeonlineshop
April 8, 2017 7:26 pm

Hello, do you know what wordpress/woocommerce cache plugin works better with Cloudflare ? Thank you for your great post !

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