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 free CDNs to boost their loading times.
According to a survey, 40% abandon a page that takes more than 3 seconds to load. Even worse, 79% of web shoppers say that they won’t return to buy again if they found any trouble with the performance of the website.
Undoubtedly, boosting your website 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.
Why the need for speed?
When was the last time you checked how fast your site was performing? Was it fast enough or need some remarkable speed improvements? Well, no matter how smooth, lightweight and speedy your loading times are at your own location, chances are a user is experiencing a significantly slower load-time than that of yours in a different country or geographic location. Wondering, why?
Incidentally, if you are looking to make your website load faster, there are a few plugins such as this one which 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...
What is a CDN and how can it boost your WordPress website speed?
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.
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. To better understand how a CDN actually works, 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. It 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.
Below image can help you understand how the concept works and how it can boost the speed 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 service copies all the static resources of your WP to its network of high-speed servers.
Every time a user attempts to access your website, the service then automatically redirects the request from the original host server to the server nearest to the user’s physical location and serves 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 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 own 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 service 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. Now, the thing is this, a lot of these services cost quite a lot, so if you can find a cheap or no-cost 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 one of the first or the last option. Now let’s take a look at how such a network can benefit your WP.
While the benefits of using such a service 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 multiple servers are there to handle the traffic. Look at CloudFlare's Always Online technology that keeps a website always alive.
- 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 prevent DDoS, DNS Amplification, and Layer 7 attacks.
- 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 your images in Google Image Search.
- Lower Bandwidth Costs: Offloading CPU, traffic and other resources from your original hosting server, a CDN can cut bandwidth requests by up to 70%. The lower bandwidth requests are, the more bandwidth costs you save with your web host.
Want a really really fast site? Try StackPath (formerly MaxCDN)
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 - StackPatch - formerly MaxCDN. We are powered by StackPatch because we really really care about our users. Rather than go for a free CDNs, we prefer to just pay $9/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 ;-)
You've got 30 days Money back guarantee, so it's completely no-risk.
Do I Still Need Hosting If I Get a CDN?
This is one of the most frequently asked questions users have while they’re going to implement a CDN on their site. Well, the right answer to this question is YES. Think of your web host as a kind of virtual space that you pay to rent your online business i.e. your WP. This is the place where you actually upload and store your pages, images, videos, and everything else you need to run your domain perfectly.
A CDN, on the contrary, is something that you use on the top of your web hosting account, something that just speeds things up. Your web host remains the foundation of your domain, where you keep all your non-static files. This additional layer takes all those bulky static files and replicates them across its worldwide network of powerful servers. Concisely, these content services can never replace your web hosting account. You still need to have a WordPress hosting server to store all your files as well as WP.
Free CDNs for WordPress service
For most sites, it is very easy to implement.
All you need to do is tell the service which files it needs to be mirrored, configure your site so it can send requests to the content delivery network service for handling the files. You may also need to modify DNS records and change the name servers as well.
Additionally, if you want a free CDN for WordPress websites, you may need to install plugins to ensure your blog is running optimally on the platform.
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 starter plan which 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:
For a self-hosted WP user, 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 CDN, it is definitely 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 no-cost CDN services, Photon is specifically for images and it will be useful for those who use lots of images on their pages. So if you're looking for a CDN service for images, your search is over.
Here’s how to use Photon by JetPack module on your WP.
At first, download the plugin and install it.
Go to the plugin page in your WP dashboard and click Activate button for Photon. That’s it- you’re done!
Honestly speaking. we would highly recommend you opt to go for the Monthly plan rather than the free plan, which costs about €3.50/month and includes a daily automated backup of your data, security protection against brute force attacks and antispam filtering, and priority support.
CloudFlare is one of the most popular free CDN services. CloudFlare claims that they are serving 2,000,000 web properties to make it faster and safer. They offer a free plan for personal websites with a maximum upload size up to 100 MB. To get more features like mobile optimization and firewall protection, you can upgrade your account at any time.
Once you sign up, make sure you install the CloudFlare WordPress plugin for optimal service.
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 WP, this is how to do it.
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.
While CloudFlare’s plan offers SSL encryption, Incapsula does not offer this as part of its free plan, it is under a paid plan only.
During the setup process, you can install the Incapsula WordPress plugin here, to enable one of popular and best free CDN services around.
Coral Content Distribution Network is an MIT project, developed by Michael Freedman based on peer-to-peer technology. The service is absolutely no-cost because it relies on billions of connected computers around the world since it is based on P2P network.
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.
It can be considered as an alternative to Photon module of Jetpack plugin. The difference is that Swarmify can cache video files as well.
For easy configuration to this, one of the free CDN services for WordPress, you can use the Swarmify plugin.
7. 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.
8. Google Cloud CDN (1 Year + $300 USD Free)
Google has a service which although it's not strictly free, offers you $300 in credits as part of the trial which you can use over the first 12 months. This is a cloud platform which 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 which is recommended for those who have a complex WP infrastructure which is under frequent heavy load, and not for your run of the mill user.
Bootstrap is a very popular framework for developing responsive websites. It requires a number of CSS and JS files(or libraries) to be able to run the framework, and these as typically hosted on a is one of the most popular frameworks powering millions of websites around the world. StackPath today hosts these files 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 a number of 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 network used by over 300,000 websites. It is currently powered and sponsored by CloudFlare, Algolia, Digital Ocean. cdnjs currently hosts over 3,000 libraries - the idea is that the service is able to 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 which are meant to be used for public consumption can use cdnjs to distribute their work.
11. Microsoft Ajax Content Delivery Network
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.
Now, let's focus on free trial services.
So far we’ve seen services that are absolutely no-cost to use. Now let’s look at a few services, which offer a free trial for a limited time.
Please note that the goal of using trial period is to gather real experience in using it and to decide if the service is best suited to your needs.
HighWinds is one of the most popular CDN services for WordPress. The pricing starts at as low as $9/month. They offer a free trial upon request. You can fill out the form here to get a free trial.
MetaCDN offers 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.
Types of WordPress Sites That Must Use a CDN
Now that you have learned almost everything about these services, the million dollar question is how do you determine if your site really requires the help of a CDN? Well, as a matter of fact, this service is literally beneficial in almost every way and every scenario.
However, there are certain cases wherein using one becomes imperative for a web site. You must leverage the power of these services if:
- Your traffic is growing at an exponential rate.
- Your website is receiving a decent 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 clips.
- Your site is prone to sudden traffic spikes, like if you have a WooCommerce-powered online shop that often experiences a load on the web server, especially during holidays and special sales.
- If you have a resource 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 where a myriad of like-minded individuals communicate each others simultaneously.
- Your budget permits opting for a CDN for your WordPress site.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Perfect Service
Irrespective of whether you're going with a free or paid service, there are a number of 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 WP, either through a plug-in or a leading caching tool.
- Server Availability in the regions wherefrom you’re getting a lot of website traffic.
- Real-time Content Purging
- HTTP/2 Support
- Free SSL Integration
- Customer Support
- Reasonable Pricing - it should be easy on your pocket.
What WordPress 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 which you are able to recommend? We'd be happy to take your suggestions!
The article has been written through a collaboration of CollectiveRay authors and Ashish Kumar. Ashish is an experienced web developer working with XHTMLJunction - PSD to HTML Coder. He always try to keep himself up with latest web development trends and technologies so he could boost his productivity and capabilities.