3 best free CDN services to speed up your website and optimize cost

3 best free CDN services to speed up your website and optimize cost

Introduction

If you own a website and your traffic is growing, it’s time to look into using a CDN for your website. Here are 3 best free CDN services that you can use.

Why should I use a CDN

As your website’s traffic grows, your web server may spend a lot of resources serving static files, especially media files like images. Your traffic cost may become a pain in the ass because on an average website, the traffic sent for images is usually 4-10 times the traffic sent for the html, css, and javascript content. On the other hand, CDNs are very good at caching image and optimizing resources for static files serving, as well as choosing the best server in their network to serve the images to the end user (usually the nearest server to the user).

So, it’s time for your server to do what it’s best at, which is generating web contents; and let the CDNs do what they are best at. That also saves you a bunch since you will only have to pay a lot less for your web traffic. Moreover, the setup is unbelievably easy.

1. Jetpack’s Photon

If you have a WordPress website, the fastest and easiest way to give your website the CDN power is to use the Photon feature of Jetpack by WordPress.com plugin.

First, you will have to install and activate the plugin.

The plugin will ask you to login using the WordPress.com account. Don’t worry. Just create a free WordPress.com account and log in.

In the Jetpack settings page, switch to Appearance tab and enable Photon option.

That’s it. Now your images will be served from WordPress.com’s CDN, and that doesn’t cost you a cent.

How Jetpack’s Photon works

Jetpack’s Photon hooks into the rendering process of your web pages and changes your image urls to the ones cached on WordPress.com CDN. Therefore, every time your users open your web pages, they will be downloading cached images from WordPress.com CDN instead of your web server.

Known issues

Jetpack’s Photon use their algorithm to decide the image resolution to be served to the users. In some rare cases, the algorithm doesn’t work so well and the image will be stretched out of the original width and height ratio. For example, if your image size is actually 720×480 but your image’s name is my_image_720x720.jpg, Photon will guess that your image ratio is 720×720 and set the width and height of the img tag to 1:1 ratio, while the cached image is still at 720:480 ratio, which will make the image stretched out of its correct ratio.

Except for that, everything works perfect for me.

If you ask if I would recommend using Jetpack’s Photon CDN, the answer is definitely yes.

2. Cloudflare

Cloudflare offers a free plan with no limit on the bandwidth nor traffic. The free plan is just limited on some advanced functions like DDOS protection or web application firewall, which most of us may not need.

Cloudflare requires you to change the NS records of your domain to their servers, and that’s it. Cloudflare will take care of the rest. You don’t have to do anything else.

How Cloudflare works

After replace your domain’s NS with Cloudflare’s one, all your users will be redirected to Cloudflare servers. When a user request a resource on your website, whether an html page, an image, or anything else, Cloudflare will serve the cached version on their CDN network to the user without accessing your web server. If a cached version does not exist or has expired, Cloudflare will ask your web server for the resource, and then send it to the user as well as cache it on their CDN if that resource is suitable for caching.

I find Cloudflare doesn’t have the image ratio problem like Photon, since Cloudflare doesn’t try to change the html tags, but instead serve the original html content. The CDN works without changing the image url, because Cloudflare has set your domain records to point to their servers by taking advantage of the NS records we set to their name servers earlier.

3. Incapsula

Like Cloudflare, Incapsula offers the same thing. You will have to edit your domain records to point to their servers. However, with Incapsula, you don’t have to change your NS records. You will just have to change the A record and the www record, which may sound somewhat less scary than giving the service full control of our domain like in the case of Cloudflare.

Incapsula works the same way as Cloudflare. It redirects all the requests to its servers and serves the cached version first if available.

Final words

Trying these CDN services does not cost you anything, and on the other hand may save you a lot of traffic costs as well as make your website more scalable. I would recommend that you try at least one of these services. If you don’t like a CDN after using it, you can always disable it and everything will be back to normal. In my case, the CDN saves me 80 percent of my traffic cost, even though my website does not have a lot of images.

 

Did you find this post helpful? What CDN do you use? Tell me in the comment! 😀

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