Content delivery networks are now essential to many organizations, as the amount and complexity of content they need to distribute to users worldwide continues to increase. The recent surge of video delivery is unceasing, taking CDNs from a nice add-on to a essential system. Today's CDN services decrease page load times, as well as provide other features, including image and video optimization, compression, web acceleration, security and analytics.
Here's an in-depth look at 10 leading content delivery network providers for SMBs and enterprises, detailing each vendor's primary service focus, features and number of points of presence (PoPs), as well as pricing and whether a free trial version is available.
Amazon CloudFront is the CDN component of AWS and works with related AWS offerings, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3), Elastic Load Balancing and Elastic Compute Cloud. As with AWS, CloudFront can scale from small businesses up to large implementations.
CloudFront supports static content, as well as streaming media. Its security features include signed URLs, a web application firewall (WAF) and AWS CloudTrail, which provides admin user tracking and auditing capabilities through the various command-line interfaces, GUIs and APIs. Amazon Lambda@Edge enables users to customize content and to run code across AWS locations worldwide.
By late 2019, CloudFront already had over 200 PoPs in 77 cities across 34 countries.
Amazon offers a free tier that covers 50 GB of outbound data transfer over 12 months. No contracts are involved in using CloudFront, and fees are based on usage and consumption.
With the massive growth in CDNs, there is not just a single CDN market anymore, so this article profiles CDNs whose offerings are geared toward SMB through enterprise markets. The vendors profiled in this piece were determined using research from analyst firms like Gartner, G2 and internal sales surveys.
Founded in 2002, CacheFly focuses on delivering rich media content. As the demand for rich media has skyrocketed, CacheFly made its way to the top of the market. The company notes that it was a pioneer using the TCP Anycast protocol -- a key element of CDNs to this day.
The company claims to have over 3,500 clients in more than 80 countries with 50+ PoPs serving six continents. It boasts a 98% cache hit ratio and an availability service-level agreement (SLA) of 100%.
Unlike some other vendors that also provide network security and other functions ancillary to CDNs, CacheFly is CDN all the way. Its focus is on delivering low latency, and it is particularly good for low-latency applications, such as gaming.
The company notes, with its video on demand cache feature, customers can save significantly on data egress storage from origin services on AWS, Azure or Google Cloud. It does not offer details of its CDN implementation on its website.
The company does not offer a trial tier but does offer a one-month free trial. The most basic plan, limited to U.S. and EU PoPs, starts at $595 per month.
Founded in 2011, CDN77 is based in Europe with offices in the United Kingdom and Czech Republic. The company notes its CDN began as open source that has been highly modified.
CDN77's CDN platform is optimized for video on demand, as well as live video. The company has 47 PoPs across six continents with over 70 terabits per second (Tbps) of network capacity, and its service has a hit ratio of 97% or higher.
In addition to the core CDN services, CDN77 provides content and security features that include distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) protection, geoblocking and digital rights management.
The company prices its services by monthly data transfer with the lowest tier priced at $199 for up to 6 TB of data delivery.
The company offers a free trial of its service.
Cloudflare was founded in 2009, and content delivery is its primary service focus. Where most CDNs focus on enterprise-level customers and require custom setup, Cloudflare takes a simpler, self-service approach.
With a free option for personal websites and blogs, Cloudflare offers basic and inexpensive CDNs to individual and small users, as well as customizable, API-oriented services to business and enterprise users. Cloudflare claims, on average, to serve 25 million HTTP requests every second, involving 250 cities in over 100 countries.
The company seems well positioned in China, stating to host 32 PoPs in 30 different cities within mainland China through a partnership with JD Cloud, JD.com's full-service cloud computing platform.
In recent times, it expanded its capabilities to include both application security and application performance. The company even offers its R2 Storage service, which competes directly with Amazon S3.
Cloudflare's highest density of data centers is in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. At the lower end, Cloudflare offers free plans for personal use, $20 per month plans for simple professional sites and $200 per month plans for sites involving e-commerce and requiring security features. Enterprise pricing is customized based on requirements and is the only pricing tier where phone support is available.
Fastly Inc., established in 2011, offers a balanced portfolio of CDN services, including content delivery and image optimization, video and streaming, cloud security, load balancing and managed CDN. Fastly's Varnish Configuration Language is an open source web accelerator where users can customize delivery to their specific needs.
Pricing is based on bandwidth consumption and network requests. The company offers a free trial, with no charge for up to $50 of traffic. Beyond that, the first paying tier provides for up to 3 TB of delivery and 30 million images optimized per month, although no price for the tier is provided. Fastly's global capacity is 145 Tbps.
As of mid-2019, the company had 64 PoPs online globally. The company has PoPs in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand.
Google Cloud CDN
Google needs no introduction, and Google Cloud CDN is integrated with Google Cloud -- also requiring no introduction. But functions such as load balancing and network security, common in CDN product suites, are not part of Google Cloud CDN as they are available separately within the overall Google Cloud suite.
The key benefit of Google Cloud CDN is convenience, especially for customers already hosting applications and storage on Google Cloud. There is no free trial or free tier, but given the pay-as-you-go strategy, it is easy to get started without a significant financial commitment.
Where most others price simply by measuring the volume of data delivered, Google's monthly cost involves not only data delivered -- what Google terms cache egress -- but also charges on the customer for filling the cache, which is free for most other vendors, and the number of cache lookup requests. So, coming up with an accurate prediction for your monthly Google CDN bill is not easy with this platform.
Founded in 2014, Gumlet is a small company focused on image resizing and delivery. The company handles both static images and videos and aims to automate media processing and optimization that, according to Gumlet, does not require in-depth technical expertise.
Media optimization reduces data transmission costs and can right-size the media files for the user. The company delivers its service in conjunction with the Fastly CDN as the actual delivery network.
Gumlet notes that it serves up in excess of 3 billion images and videos each week with an average media size reduction of 68% across its customer base of over 6,000 companies.
Gumlet offers a Free Forever tier with minimal data usage and paid plans starting at $5 per month for small businesses and $50 per month for midsize and larger businesses.
Imperva Secure CDN
Imperva Incapsula was founded in late 2009. The company was spun out of Imperva and then back into Imperva in 2014. Its CDN service is now known as Imperva Secure CDN. While it's a full-service CDN, Imperva's focus is on security. Its web application security -- Imperva WAF -- is the cornerstone of Imperva's offerings. Unlike many of the other CDNs, Imperva offers Security as a Service. Unlike any of the other offerings profiled, Imperva provides an SLA on attack mitigation of 3 seconds.
Imperva offers a free trial, as well as a basic option for businesses at $299 per site, per month. Imperva Secure CDN is delivered by 47 data centers around the globe, with over 6 Tbps of capacity. With its primary focus on security, Imperva has DDoS scrubbing centers around the globe that can be aggregated to share the workload in the event of volumetric DDoS attacks on any of its customers.
With headquarters in Switzerland, KeyCDN positions itself as a European CDN catering to businesses of all sizes. The feature set description notes support for HTTP live streaming and image processing.
In addition to core CDN, KeyCDN has a strong security orientation, providing features such as DDoS protection and bot protection. Of the vendors profiled, KeyCDN is one of the few that cites the push capability of its CDN.
KeyCDN can deliver content globally with prices lowest in the North America and Europe region at $0.04 per GB but significantly higher in Asia and Oceania at $0.09 perGB with the highest prices in Africa and Latin America at $0.11 per GB.
Microsoft Azure CDN
Similar to Amazon CloudFront and Google Cloud CDN, Microsoft's Azure CDN is a natural extension to the Azure platform. Tight integration is a key selling point of this CDN. As with AWS and Google, related functions, such as load balancing, network security and file storage, are available through other products in the cloud platform portfolio.
Pricing is based on the volume of the outbound data transfer with the prices dropping as volume increases. Interestingly, Microsoft also lets its customers segue into standard and premium services for CDN industry stalwarts Akamai and Verizon. Prices increase, naturally, as one moves from Microsoft branded services to premium third-party delivery.
In addition to CDN services, Microsoft also offers to accelerate data transfers for data that cannot be cached, such as shopping carts. Pricing for this is based on volume and whether the services use either the Verizon or Akamai network.