Setting up a website means you often need to set up a whole bunch of related services – not just hosting. Some of these are:
- Domain name
- The hosting itself
- A CDN
- A backup service
These are the bare minimum necessary for a modern site. There are a lot of other optional services depending on your size. Load balancers, reverse proxies, smart routing, malware checkers, and more. When you sign up for hosting with NameHero, you need to think about what else you’re going to use. Some of these services are already baked in. For example, in December 2018, NameHero started to offer free real time malware scanning.
This article takes a look at your CDN options – some of them are for free, and others are paid.
Free CDN – Cloudflare
By far, the simplest way to get a CDN up and running on your site is to use Cloudflare. You can enable it from your NameHero panel as shown here:
With Cloudflare, all your static files and images are stored at EDGE servers around the world, and visitors receive a copy from the server that’s closest to them. They have more servers than most other networks, and it’s an excellent free solution.
Cons of Cloudflare
Cloudflare has a few drawbacks. For one, it doesn’t give you detailed information about which files were served over their network, and what the hit percentage was for each file.
In addition, the huge number of servers around the world can actually be a disadvantage in some cases since if a particular EDGE server isn’t pinged often enough, it can drop the file from its cache, causing a full response from the origin server when it’s needed again sometime later.
Pros of Cloudflare
Apart from it being free, Cloudflare has the distinct advantage of not requiring a separate DNS lookup at the beginning of each page request. This is because Cloudflare operates as a reverse proxy server, and there’s no separate “CDN domain”.
This benefit shows in page requests to users who don’t have the DNS information already stored in their browsers. In such situations, Cloudflare is faster by several hundred milliseconds.
Free CDN – Jetpack’s Site Accelerator
In November 2018, Automattic released an updated version of Jetpack which included the Site Accelerator functionality.
This causes all your WordPress CSS and JS files to be served from Automattic’s fast CDN servers across the world. In addition, you can also enable the image CDN which takes care of images as well.
The disadvantage of this free solution is that it only caches native WordPress, WooCommerce, and Jetpack static files (but not images). This means that your theme and plugin CSS and JS files will still continue to be uncached.
So if you choose to use Jetpack’s site acceleration, you should do so in conjunction with something like Cloudflare that can serve the rest of your site’s CSS and JS from a CDN.
Also, it requires an additional DNS lookup for the CDN. But the hope is that enough websites are using the service so users already have it is their DNS cache.
If you need to use Cloudflare anyway, then why use Site Accelerator at all? The reason is that Jetpack’s EDGE servers are always “hot”. Meaning that the EDGE locations will always have a public copy of the JS and CSS static files. As a result, your origin server will never be touched – unlike with Cloudflare, which is liable to drop unused static files from its EDGE servers after a while.
Paid CDN Solutions
If using a combination of Jetpack and Cloudflare isn’t enough for you, then there are any number of paid CDN options for you to use. I’m undecided on how useful these are however, outside of special scenarios like push zones and the like.
If you just have a normal website like everyone else, I think the two free solutions above will have you covered for pretty much everything!
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!
Drew Davis says
Thanks so much! If most of my blog readers are from the United States and my target audience is not overseas, does it still make sense to have a CDN? I’ve used Cloudflare in the past with mixed results. Will having a CDN slow down my site in the USA?
Thanks in advance,