When you’re building a website, it’s not enough that it looks great and is full of features. If it takes too long for your visitors to load your pages or access your services, they’re likely to flitter away and not come back. Content Delivery Networks (or CDNs) help mitigate the problem by placing your content nearest to where your customers are accessing it to guarantee the fastest speed and loading times possible. Even so, finding a CDN hosting provider can be an overwhelming task if you’re a beginner with little experience building websites. The best services help you expand your website’s reach by making it easier for viewers around the world to access your content and can give your traffic a solid boost. Learn more about CDN hosting and find the best providers below.
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What is CDN Hosting, and How Does it Work?
CDNs (short for “content delivery network”) are networks of interconnected data centers that communicate website information across the globe. When you sign up for a CDN hosting service, your website’s content is cached, or stored, across multiple servers around the world. This includes almost every pixel, string of letters, movie, and digital media that is delivered to a viewer’s device.
The purpose of a CDN is to reduce the time it takes data to get from your servers to your customers’ screens. The farther you are from your audience, physically, the longer it would take to load your page. A CDN cuts that down significantly by putting your data on all its servers, so when a visitor opens your site, it will take your content directly from the closest available data center. However, a CDN doesn’t take all your website to store. There are parts of your content—dynamic, or constantly changing sections—that can’t be cached, but a CDN will take your website’s static content (the media that doesn’t change frequently) and save copies of it on multiple servers in different locations. When a visitor makes a web query, the CDN will determine where they are, and send the cached website content from the nearest location.
The Main Benefits of CDN Hosting
Faster Website Loading Times
The most obvious benefit of shortening the distance your data travels is that your website receives an overall speed boost. In today’s online landscape, where two seconds is too long to wait for a page to load, a CDN means that you can remain competitive in an increasingly saturated market. More importantly, it leads to a much better user experience.
One underrated aspect of CDNs is that they save money by reducing the traffic that is being handled directly by your website. Because it balances loads across an entire network, the overall bandwidth being used by your website will go down, as will the need to pay for more optimization tools that are costly and inefficient.
Your company’s content and data are important to your success, but they are also highly vulnerable to attacks and scams. CDN hosting providers usually include security tools and measures in their products that help you keep your data safe from prying eyes online. By covering your data, you can ensure you’re protected even if your information is stored across the network.
What Factors to Consider When You’re Searching for a CDN Provider
When you’re building a website, the goal is to have as close to instantaneous loading as possible. While that obviously isn’t quite feasible, it is reasonable for a website to load pages in, for instance, 0.5 seconds. The first thing to consider is how quickly your CDN will load pages. Anything under two seconds is preferable, but ideally your chosen provider will average load times under one second.
More than just loading quickly, CDN hosting can be the difference between being able to access your website or getting an error message. CDNs reduce the strain your servers are under by distributing the load of traffic across the network. You should look for a service that will guarantee your website stays up for as long as possible. The average uptime is over 99%, but you should go even deeper, looking for companies that can stay at or above 99.91% uptime.
Your website is a major asset, and you should treat it as such. Make sure your CDN provider offers expansive security tools that protect both your website and the data you’re storing on it. Look for features such as adaptive firewalls, smart dashboards, instant notifications, and 2-factor authentication to help reduce the chances of a malicious attack.
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How to Choose the Best CDN Hosting
Before settling on a single service, it’s worth exploring the many options available to you. Instead of panicking, consider these questions to help choose the best CDN hosting provider:
- Look for a CDN with a large network and locations that matter to your users. It’s important that your CDN have access points in locations where your target viewers concentrate to guarantee the highest speeds possible. Additionally, search for CDNs which feature expansive networks. Having 100,000 locations, or even 50,000 is a great start.
- Make sure it offers reporting tools, which can cover both the technical aspects—bandwidth, requests, and transfer costs—as well as demographics that can help you properly budget and plan.
- Your chosen CDN provider should have excellent customer support to ensure your website never suffers an outage or slowdown. Explore providers that offer some form of around-the-clock communication such as live chat or phone. Additionally, an extensive knowledge base may be useful.
- Seek affordable and transparent pricing. While you don’t have to go with one model over another, knowing what you’re paying for is a must. Don’t sign up for a company that has murky subscriptions or doesn’t show you every cost directly on its website.
How to Install CDN Hosting
Setting up your CDN hosting is not incredibly complex, but it requires some care. If your web host includes CDN hosting, you simply need to activate it in your settings. Otherwise, you may require a few steps.
- Explore both your CDN hosting and web hosting providers’ instructions, which will include a series of integrations to get you started.
- Make sure your settings are properly configured to your providers’ instructions, to ensure a smooth installation.
- Connect your CDN hosting with your website, giving it access to your static data and caching.
- Activate your CDN and enable your website.
The Top 5 CDN Hosting Plans
While there are multiple options available on the market, these are five of our top choices in the CDN hosting industry:
As one of the top names in the industry, A2 Hosting offers a comprehensive hosting package that includes CDN courtesy of Cloudflare. The platform is one of the largest and most reliable CDNs, and A2 gives you one-click activation, as well as “Turbo Servers” which can deliver a 20x speed boost for your website.
With clients in over 83 countries, and a name for being a small competitor in a large market, FastComet offers outstanding service, excellent prices, and Cloudflare CDN included in your plans. Moreover, the company’s uptime has hovered above 99.95% for the past two years. A 45-day money-back guarantee only sweetens the deal.
Hostinger’s biggest draw is its many unlimited offerings, including unlimited websites, SSD storage, bandwidth, and email. It doesn’t fall behind in terms of performance, however, with loading times that were as low as 5 milliseconds (though the average is closer to 300) and 99.90% uptime guarantee.
As one of the most versatile alternatives on the market, Hostwinds is great for a variety of users. Additionally, the company’s plans start as low as $3.29 a month and include CDN hosting from Cloudflare out of the box. Hostwinds goes a step further and guarantees 99.99% uptime, which places it among the top companies in that regard.
This US-based company is one of the most advanced CDN hosting providers around, with a full fiber optic infrastructure in the US that guarantees fast loading times. Additionally, Interserver focuses its efforts on performance, with an average uptime of 99.97%, and loading times that reach as fast as 222 milliseconds.
CDN Hosting for Free
If you’re operating on a budget or just getting started, you may not have the funds to invest in a fancy CDN hosting plan, but not to worry. There are many CDN hosting providers that offer free alternatives to their paid plans, and plugins you can install into your content management service to boost your speeds. Companies like Cloudflare, Incapsula, and Swarmify can help you get started. Additionally, many companies listed above will at least offer a free trial, which can help you determine how necessary your CDN hosting is.
My Final Thoughts on CDN Hosting
It’s no longer enough to have a beautiful website; it needs to be fast, convenient, and reliable. CDN hosting helps you offer your visitors a much better user experience by loading the content they’re seeking in milliseconds and ensuring that no matter when or where they’re visiting your site, they can always enjoy the same outcome. Choosing the right CDN takes some research, but can give your website a significant boost that is hard to ignore.