The loading time of your page has a vital role in your website visitor’s user experience. And it can be one of the major contributing factors to page abandonment by your visitors. That's why so many people use a free CDN to boost their page loading time.
According to a survey, 40% of users abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Even worse, 79% of web shoppers say that they won’t return to a website again if they found felt that the performance of the website was poor.
Without a doubt, boosting your website's speed is critical to the success of your online business. This is where a free content delivery network for WordPress can make a huge difference.
What is a CDN?
A content delivery network, sometimes also known as a content distribution network, is essentially a geographically distributed network of super-powerful proxy servers designed to host static content and deliver a cached copy of the static files to the users based on their geographical location. They are typically available as a service that can be added to your website.
The main goal of this network is to make your site load super fast by delivering all its static files to users with the lowest possible latency from a location that is much closer (geographically and physically) than your web server, meaning that the time it takes to deliver this content is much shorter.
Most of these services offer a free CDN, either as a trial of the service or as a way to pull more users to their service.
Check out this 1-minute video to understand how a CDN works in real-life:
To better understand how a CDN (or a free CDN for that matter) works, you can also check out this handy graphic from GTmetrix:
So essentially, a Content Distribution Network is a network of multiple servers that are distributed at different locations throughout the world. The CDN caches all the static content and files of your site and delivers it to your visitor based on the geographic locations of the user through a server that is closest to them.
The below image can help you understand how a global CDN works and how it can boost the page load time of your domain.
The way such a service works is very simple.
Unlike your hosting provider, which serves your resources from a single location (the origin server in the diagram above), the service copies all the static resources of your WordPress site to its network of high-speed servers. A large global CDN will have quite a large number of these servers distributed across a number of data centers in or around highly-populated areas, as can be seen in the above diagram.
But as somebody who runs several sites, maybe you run a reseller hosting business, you'll know that you need to conserve resources and a free CDN can certainly help here. (If you're interested in setting up reseller hosting, visit this article on CollectiveRay).
Every time a user attempts to access your website, the service then automatically redirects the request from the origin server to the cache of the server nearest to the user’s physical location and serves the user the cached files.
This process cuts down the overall traveling time of your website’s data, which eventually leads to faster page load times, improved search engine rankings and a much better user experience.
There are three main types of content delivery networks:
- Content Service Protocols: These are fully managed hosted networks designed to provide users access to the website files. The CDN services we’re discussing in this blog post falls under this type.
- Peer-to-peer CDNs: With a very small setup and running cost, peer-to-peer (P2P) setups work between personal computers and therefore are not great for hosting your website’s files. BitTorrent is a popular example of a peer-to-peer network.
- Private CDNs: Alternatively, if you’re not satisfied with available services, you can create your private service. This means you have to create and manage own global network of servers to serve your static files.
Best of all, using such a CDN service (or a free CDN) not only boosts the speed of your website but also saves bandwidth costs from your hosting provider. Moreover, having a faster site can improve your search engine rankings as well, because a fast website loading speed is a positive ranking factor.
Now, the thing is this, a lot of these services cost quite a lot, so if you can find a cheap or free CDN for WordPress, it's of course so much the better because you can boost your site speed until you can afford to pay for a better content distribution WordPress service.
Depending on your budget, interest, and requirements, you can go with any of the below options. Now let’s take a look at how such a CDN can benefit your WordPress.
Want a really fast site?
CollectiveRay has been seeing surges of traffic for a while now. The only way to keep up with demand and still have a fast website was by implementing one of the best content delivery services around - StackPath CDN - formerly MaxCDN.
We are powered by StackPatch because we truly care about our users. Rather than go for a free CDN, we prefer to pay just $20/month and put our mind completely at rest. We've got a blazing fast site and are covered by excellent support too, so we're more than happy with StackPath ;-)
If you run a trial of this CDN and find you're not happy with the service, you've got a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it's completely risk-free.
5 Free CDN for WordPress
Given that you arrived to this page because you'd like to see what options exist for "free CDN for WordPress", we're happy to give you the list below.
For a self-hosted WordPress user, the Jetpack plugin needs no introduction.
It is an all-in-one plugin that provides many wide varieties of functionalities. With their Photon module, it gives your loading time a boost by loading images from the WordPress.com data centers. Speaking of Photon by JetPack, you may want to have a look at our full JetPack review to see what else is on offer besides image optimization.
While this is not a pure free CDN, Jetpack Photon is a great way to speed up your WordPress by offloading the delivery of images hosted on Jetpack-connected sites via a plugin.
Unlike the other free CDN services, Jetpack Photon is specifically for images and it will be useful for those who use lots of images on their pages.
Given that this provider is mostly focused on performance, they are somewhat weak on security. While they do provide some protection such as preventing brute-force attacks, they don't have more advanced capabilities such as DDoS protection.
Here’s how to use Photon by JetPack module on your WordPress site.
First, download the plugin and install it.
Go to the plugin page in your WordPress dashboard and click on the Switch to enable Photon. This activates the free CDN for images for your website.
Honestly speaking. we would highly recommend you opt for a Monthly plan rather than the free CDN plan. The monthly plan costs about €3.50/month and includes a daily automated backup of your data, security protection against brute force attacks and antispam filtering, together with priority support.
Cloudflare is one of the most popular free CDN services. They claim that they are used by more than 26,000,000 internet properties. Cloudflare offers a free plan for personal websites with a maximum upload size of up to 100 MB. To get more features like mobile optimization and firewall protection, you can upgrade your account at any time.
Cloudflare is also known for its excellent DDoS protection powered by its global network. They have a CTA button, "Under Attack?" which you can activate if you are experiencing a DDoS attack.
After signing up, WordPress users can install the Cloudflare WordPress plugin to enable one of the most popular and best free CDN services around. Their free plan has limitations, with the paid plan starting from $20/month.
If you're looking to implement HTTPs on your site we can show you how. If you are planning to use CloudFlare's flexible SSL on WordPress, this is how to do it.
Shift8, a web design company in Canada has developed and released a completely free CDN service.
We were quite surprised to see a private company releasing such a service completely for free, but it seems that they have pulled it off. While we haven't tried it ourselves, the service has a good number of endpoints around the world, making it a good option.
It is powered by a WordPress plugin, which you just need to install and activate and you're good to go! The free plan has a 2 URL limit with support from community forums, while you can opt for a paid plan with plenty more features such as Brotli compression, 10 URL limit, and better support.
We'd be happy to have some more feedback from users who try this, so if you've used it, please do let us know in the comments below. As far as we know both this CDN provider and the next are unable to provide DDoS protection.
4. Anyone CDN
This is another free CDN service run by an individual - this time, Ferdian Alfianto. As far as we can see, the service runs solely on donations and the only enforceable limit they have is on fair usage - i.e. no single URL on their free CDN service can use more than 20% of their bandwidth.
There are a few limitations in functionality, but for the grand total price of zero, one should understand that there will be some limits. You can use the CDN enabler plugin to make it work on WordPress, and then, in the plugin's CDN URL add the URL which is created via the Anyone CDN website.
The service still has a BETA tag, so if you run into some issues, you want to get in touch with the developer such that they can improve the service.
The service is powered by Cloudflare, StackPath, and BunnyCDN in the background.
Give it a shot and let us know what you think.
Free CDN for Web Developers
While the previous where some free CDN services that can be used with WordPress, we now shift to free CDN services that are meant primarily for hosting files that will be used by a large number of users.
As with other such providers, by taking advantage of this, it is possible to significantly improve the performance of Ajax applications, since the contents of such files are cached on multiple servers located around the world, besides reusability of the same files through browser caching.
2. jsDelivr - Open Source CDN
Bootstrap is a very popular framework for developing responsive websites powering millions of websites around the world. It requires many CSS and JS files(or libraries) to be able to run the framework, and these as typically hosted on a CDN. The Bootstrap files are hosted by StackPath on behalf of Bootstrap - but you can't use this service to host any additional files.
The same service also hosts FontAwesome, and Bootswatch, which are also two "tools" which require the inclusion of some files into your project to enable the download and usage of these frameworks.
Similar to the concept used by Bootstrap, cdnjs is a community-powered free CDN network used by over 300,000 websites.
It is currently powered and sponsored by Cloudflare, Algolia and Digital Ocean. cdnjs currently hosts over 3,400 libraries - the idea is that the service can host popular libraries for the benefits of developers and internet users in general.
The availability of identical URLs for such libraries being used by various websites makes the web faster for all because these files would most times be already cached in the browser.
Given that this is available as a Github, developers who have created libraries that are meant to be used for public consumption can use the cdnjs free CDN to distribute their work.
AWS or Amazon Web Services is not strictly speaking a completely free service, but they do offer a whole year of free usage of their services. Using Amazon Cloudfront has a 50GB limit but this is typically enough for starting out or for the first few months until you get your feet on the ground.
AWS is one of the powerhouses when it comes to cloud services, used by several large companies to power their services. The global CDN powers the likes of Spotify, Slack, Dropbox. Thousands of other known and popular services are powered by AWS infrastructure.
So far we’ve seen services that are mostly free to use. Now let’s look at a few services, which offer a free trial for a limited time.
Note that the goal of using a trial period is such that the user can decide whether the service is best suited to their needs.
9 Paid WordPress CDN
Now that we've seen some free options, we move to what we feel is the better option, i.e. the paid WordPress CDN services. As always, you get what you pay for, and we believe it's always a better idea to opt for a paid service.
With prices starting from as low as $3.50/month, we believe it's a much better idea to opt for such services.
As you might have seen in the footer of this website, our site is powered by the StackPatch CDN. We have been with this service for more than 10 years now and we've seen the service growing and growing, from what used to be MaxCDN to the wider range of services offered by StackPath today.
Given that they have edge servers all around the world and a powerful infrastructure, to handle all sorts of attacks and levels of traffic, we can only say great things about them.
One aspect that we truly love is the excellent support that comes with the service. We have always been truly impressed with the level of service each time we had any kind of issue, which incidentally, most times came with a setup problem from our side rather than a problem with their offering.
You've got a Free Trial and 30 days Money-back guarantee, so it's completely no risk.
Price: $20/month + 1 month Free Trial
This is another service which we've listed above, this is because they offer both a personal (free plan) and a paid service, which offers many more benefits. Given that this service is powered by Automattic - the company powering WordPress.com - you can rest assured that this is one of the best WordPress CDN services out there.
Sucuri is mostly known for its web security offering that essentially makes sure your website does not fall victim to web-based attacks.
However, given that the service operates as a reverse proxy to protect your site from attacks, it also offers website performance packages through their CDN. Sucuri's performance CDN works through a global Anycast network via Points of Presence (POPs) with 10 SuperPOPs in the USA, Europe, and Asia and 2 CDN POPs in Australia and Brazil.
Once you subscribe to the Sucuri Web Application Firewall you can activate the CDN via DNS changes. The Pro version (which is required if your site is HTTPS enabled) is priced at $299/year, but remember that you get all the features of the CDN plus all the features of the web application firewall.
Imperva (previously Incapsula) is yet another offering used by thousands of web pages around the world. Apart from file delivery and optimization, their personal plan offers useful features like bot protection and IPV6 support. Imperva is primarily a web security company, and the CDN is one of various products they offer.
Imperva’s global CDN makes use of advanced caching technology and optimization techniques that help to improve connection and response speeds while lowering bandwidth costs.
Using Imperva, speeds are boosted by up to 50% while at the same time decreasing bandwidth consumption by up to 60%.
Swarmify can be used as an add-on to distribute/cache image and video files of your website and not any other web page file such as CSS or HTML. If you are currently using any other service, you can still use Swarmify as an add-on to offload your bandwidth-intensive media files.
Swarmify used to be a completely free CDN service, but have recently shifted to a paid model with a free trial.
For easy configuration to this, you can use the Swarmify SmartVideo plugin.
6. Cloud storage services
Using free cloud storage services to host the downloadable files on your website is one of the best ways to save your server bandwidth. You just need to upload the downloadable files to your cloud storage, make it public and share the download link on your page.
Below are some of the most popular cloud storage solutions.
- Dropbox- no cost up to 2 GB.
- Google Drive- you don't pay anything up to 15 GB.
- Microsoft OneDrive- gratis up to 7 GB.
7. Google Cloud CDN (1 Year + $300 Free)
Google has a service that although it cannot be strictly classified as a free CDN, offers you $300 in credits as part of the trial which can be used over the first 12 months of usage of the service.
This is a cloud platform that is similar to the Cloudfront service from AWS and has access to the Google Cloud Platform.
While this is an option you could use, it is typically something that is recommended for those who have a complex WordPress infrastructure that is under frequent heavy load, and not for your run of the mill user.
MetaCDN offers a 7-day free trial. Some of its features are:
- Detailed analytics: Similar to Internap, MetaCDN also offers detailed usage and performance reporting.
- MultiCDN: When your visitor tries to access your websites, a server location is selected based on which one will be fastest for them. If there are multiple providers in one region, they’ll serve resources from the fastest one.
CDN77.com is another premium CDN service that provides a secure, reliable and affordable solution.
CDN77 supports the latest technologies enabled such as HTTP/2, free Instant SSL certificates with TLS 1.3, Gzip and Brotli compression, DDoS protection, Hotlink protection, and many other features.
It has two main offerings, one for static files and one for video processing and delivery.
CDN77.com supports 4 WordPress plugins (WP Fastest Cache, ZenCache, W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache) and has many other CMS integrations (Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Prestashop, etc) and currently has more than 35 points of presence with data centers on 5 continents and 30 Tbps+ network capacity.
CDN77.com has both monthly plans and pay-as-you-go plans with no commitments as well as high-volume plans for the enterprise.
No credit card required for the free CDN trial.
While the benefits of using a CDN can be many, below are just a few of them:
- Speed: A dramatic improvement in the website’s performance is one of the main and biggest reasons why people opt for using this service. Shortening the physical distance between the user and the server, a CDN drastically reduces the network latency – making your site load at the speed of light.
- High Global Availability and Scalability: What if your main server goes down or crashes due to a sudden spike in traffic? When enabled, your website will always stay up and running as there are multiple servers handle the traffic. Look at CloudFlare's Always Online technology that keeps a website always alive. The CDN will help ease the load on your web server.
- Security: Taking advantage of cutting-edge technologies like WAF (Web Application Firewalls) and Origin Shield, a lot of providers offer an additional layer of security to keep data secure, process customer transactions and offer DDoS protection, DNS Amplification, and Layer 7 attacks. DDoS protection can only be handled well by such a global network of servers working together to suppress the attack.
- SEO Advantages: Everyone loves a blazing fast experience, particularly Google which made speed a crucial ranking factor back in 2010. Along with helping you rank higher in search engine results, these services also increase the crawl rate of both your images in Google Image Search and increase the overall crawl rate of your site, ensuring your site ranks better.
- Lower Bandwidth Costs: Offloading CPU, traffic and other resources from your original hosting server, a CDN or free CDN can cut bandwidth requests by up to 70%. The lower bandwidth requests are, the more bandwidth costs you save with your web host. This is especially important if your website hosting offers strict bandwidth metering.
Why the need for speed?
As website owners, we quite often check the loading speed of our website because we visit often and check it against known performance testing tools.
Even if YOU feel that your website is loading fast on your end, chances are a significant number of your website visitors are experiencing a much slower load-time than what you are seeing, especially those who are in a different country or geographic location.
But why would this happen?
The speed of a WordPress website is highly dependent on not just the quality but also the physical location of your web host. This means unless your web server has globally distributed locations, it can never be fast for ALL users across the world.
Incidentally, if you are looking to make your website load faster, there are a few plugins such as WP Rocket that can make a real difference in performance in a few minutes (with little to zero effort).
Not ready to use a plugin for now? Read on...
Do I still need hosting if I get a CDN?
Yes, you still need hosting if you get a CDN. Your web host remains the foundation of your website, where you keep all your non-static files. The free CDN or CDN is an additional layer that takes all bulky static files and replicates them across its worldwide network of powerful servers.
This is one of the most frequently asked questions users have while they’re going to implement a CDN on their site.
Think of your web host as a kind of virtual space that you pay to rent your online business i.e. your WordPress. This is the place where you upload and store your pages, images, videos, PHP files, database and everything else you need to run your domain perfectly.
A CDN, on the contrary, is something that you use on top of your web hosting account, something that just speeds things up.
A CDN can never replace your web hosting account. You still need to have a WordPress hosting server to store all your files as well as the WordPress installation itself.
Recently, many premium or managed hosting sites are offering a free CDN as part of the website hosting plan.
How do I set up a CDN?
For most sites, it is very easy to implement. There are typically two ways to do this.
- CDN plugin - Install a plugin that changes the URL of static files to the address of the CDN service (e.g. KeyCDN uses this method)
- Reverse Proxy using DNS - Change the DNS entries of your domain to point to the address of the CDN service. This is called a reverse proxy service (e.g. Cloudflare offers this method)
For the first method, underneath the hood what is happening is that the plugin is instructing the webserver to change the URL of images to that of the free CDN service. In this way, the browser accessing your website can send requests to the content delivery network (CDN) service to download the static files. You may also need to modify DNS records to point them to something such as cdn.yourdomain.com.
Check out the following image, showing the URL of static files on our site pointing to our CDN:
In the 2nd method, the nameservers of your website are changed to those of the CDN service instead of those of the hosting server. This means that the CDN handles ALL the traffic sent to your website. It serves all static content, then sends requests to your web server for dynamic content which is also served to the browser.
Now let’s look at various free WordPress content delivery network services that you can opt for - which cost nothing at all. Most of these service providers allow you to upgrade to a paid service if you outgrow your free CDN plan. This is great because it allows you to start slowly whilst you build your traffic.
When it comes to setting up this service, there are numerous options out there to choose from, both free and premium.
However, the best thing would be to select a web hosting service provider that offers bundled free CDN services integration, such as Kinsta and WPEngine (read CollectiveRay's review here). In case you have already invested in a web hosting package, below given are some well-renowned third-party providers you should check out:
Types of WordPress Sites That Must Use a CDN
Now that you have understood the logic of having a free CDN in place the question you need to ask yourself is: is how do you determine if your site requires the help of a CDN?
Well, a free CDN service is beneficial in almost every way and every scenario for any website.
However, there are certain cases where using one becomes crucial for a web site. You must leverage the power of a free CDN or a CDN if:
- Your traffic is growing at a fast rate
- Your website is receiving a significant amount of worldwide traffic from various countries around the globe
- You have a complex, media-heavy domain containing a lot of images, videos or audio
- Your site is prone to sudden traffic spikes, e.g. you have a WooCommerce-powered online shop that often experiences a heavy load on the webserver, especially during holidays and special sales
- If you have a website that utilizes resources, like videos, ads, forms and chat services, from a third party website, software or service.
- If you have an online community website that tends to get bunches of people together at specific times (peaks of traffic)
- Your budget permits opting for a CDN for your WordPress site.
If your WordPress site falls into any of the above-mentioned points, you should start using a CDN as soon as possible.
Only websites that cater to very specific locations and whose hosting is already set up in a location that is located close to their target demographic (e.g. your clients are on the west side of the USA and your hosting is already hosted on a data center on the west side). In this case, you should speed your time setting up other speed optimization techniques like image optimization, CSS minification and setting a good caching plugin.
Key Factors When Choosing a CDN
Irrespective of whether you're going with a free CDN or paid service, there are several key factors you should take into account when picking the right CDN for your WordPress site. Here are the top ones to consider:
- User-friendly Dashboard with Analytics Reporting
- Easy Integration with WordPress, either through a plugin or a popular caching tool
- Server (POPs) Availability in the regions where you’re getting a lot of website traffic from
- Real-time Content Purging
- HTTP/2 Support
- Free SSL Integration
- Good Customer Support
- Reasonable Pricing - it should be easy on your pocket.
Need help getting a CDN setup or WordPress optimized for speed? Try these top-rated affordable gigs on Fiverr!
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best free CDN?
The best free CDN is either Jetpack or Cloudflare. It offers a significant boost to your website performance and good protection against some of the most malicious bots out there and is very easy to set up.
What is the best CDN for WordPress?
The best CDN for WordPress is StackPath, but different people have different answers to this question. Some will mention Jetpack, others will mention Cloudflare or any of the other premium CDNs mentioned above. This is a subjective question with a subjective answer.
Is there a free CDN?
Yes, there are quite a few free CDNs as can be seen in this article, with the most popular one being Cloudflare. One needs to note that free CDNs will only offer a limited amount of features and functions, after which you would then have to opt for a premium plan.
How do I use/enable a content delivery network (CDN) in WordPress?
You can use a content delivery network in WordPress in a couple of ways. Some services require you to point your DNS settings to their services and handle everything else automatically. In others, you will need to install a CDN plugin that rewrites the URL of images and static files to point to the CDN address.
Is WordPress a CDN?
No, WordPress is not a CDN. However, Automattic, the company which runs WordPress.com, the commercial arm of WordPress also owns Jetpack, which is one of the free CDN options which we mention in our list.
How do I get a CDN?
To get a CDN, simply visit the website of the service you want to use (one of the ones mentioned above), sign up to their service and follow the setup procedures. The setup process usually involves either changing your DNS settings or installing a plugin and setting it up. The whole process should not take you more than a few minutes from start to finish.
What is a CDN service?
A CDN service is a network of servers known as edge servers, which create a temporary copy of your website's static files on their infrastructure. When a client visits your website, the static files are served from the edge servers which are usually located closer (physically) to the location of your end-user, with the result being that your website performs faster.
Is Cloudflare CDN free?
Yes, Cloudflare is a free CDN service. You can also opt to buy a premium plan which offers many additional performance optimizations over the free option.
Should I use a CDN?
Yes, a CDN is always recommended, because it offers a much faster website experience to your visitors.
Is Jetpack a CDN?
Yes, Jetpack is one of the free CDNs available for WordPress, through a service which was previously known as Photon.
What WordPress free CDN do you use?
Are you using any other free content delivery network services that are not mentioned here? Feel comfortable to list it down in the comments section below. Do you believe one of the above is the best free CDN or are there any other service providers that you can recommend? We'd be happy to take your suggestions!
Please leave a useful comment with your thoughts, then share this on your Facebook group(s) who would find this useful and let's reap the benefits together. Thank you for sharing and being nice!
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