Content Delivery Networks or CDN are in essence just a group of servers spread around the world that help deliver website assets and make them load faster.
CDNs have become an irreplaceable trend in today’s internet-speed competitive online market. According to unBounce, websites that load within five seconds see 70% longer average session times.
Speed is key in establishing yourself on the web as a reliable service provider. And CDNs are irreplaceable in making pages load faster.
Without CDN, if the speed of the website is heavily dependent on the location of the user. Imagine your site is hosted in Bangalore, and you are accessing it from San Fransisco.
You will have increased page loading times because of the increased geographical distance. With CDNs during a request, the assets are transmitted to the many mini-locations (or points of presence) around the world owned by the CDN service provider.
Users now load assets from the nearest mini-location instead of the actual server. This has huge benefits. The key benefits are
- Speed – Loading time is drastically reduced.
- Load – Your original server (Bangalore in the eg.) will see lesser hits, and this reduces the load.
- Uptime – Reduced load means more uptime of your web server.
- Security – End users do not communicate directly with the servers reducing security risks.
Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting service provider. It provides its own CDN (called Cloudways CDN) as an add-on with a cloud-hosting server. But note that you can also use other CDNs such as Cloudflare while using Cloudways for only hosting your website in the cloud.
So this brings us to the question, which one is better? Is it Cloudways CDN or Cloudflare? We will look at a few important details about each in the next sections and decide in the end.
Cloudways CDN is available as an add-on for Cloudways hosting users. It uses StackPath CDN (formerly MaxCDN) as a partner service (it’s PaaS).
Some advantages of using StackPath as the underlying CDN platform are
- Stackpath is the biggest CDN provider in town.
- Improved Content Caching – Compared to its legacy, MaxCDN, StackPath oﬀers advanced cache-control with high-capacity SSDs. This includes intelligent caching and intelligent purging.
- Greater number of PoPs around the world that ensures better and faster performance
- Improved Security – The edge is built with security in mind. It comes with network layer DDoS attack Protection.
Here are some key features of Cloudways CDN to note
For Cloudways hosting users, integration with Cloudways CDN is as easy as possible. It takes just a couple of clicks to install and use it with specific web applications on your server.
With Cloudways the billing for Cloudways is not separate if you use Cloudways CDN. The monthly/hourly billing would include the price of the subscription-based on the size of the server.
Clean Integration with lesser overhead
Since it is built by Cloudways and owned by Cloudways, there is barely any computational overhead caused by inflexible endpoint connections. There is no third party involved, therefore it has a seamless integration process.
How to install Cloudways CDN?
Installing Cloudways CDN is extremely simple.
Navigate to Applications(Navbar) -> Click on an application -> Cloudways CDN.
Check the website URL and press the create button. This would enable the CDN and open the Cloudways CDN options panel. You will see the following
- Website URL – Your domain name
- CDN URL – This CDN URL should be added to a place where you need to add the URL for your application’s static resources.
- Bandwidth – The bandwidth used by the application in the present month.
- Purge Content – Deletes all cached data from the PoPs we earlier talked about. Use it when you change your website content and do not want users to use the outdated cached data.
- Remove Subscription – Uninstalls the CDN from your application. Be sure to remove the CDN URL before you hit this button!
For a detailed walkthrough check out this official Cloudways doc.
Cloudflare is a web infrastructure and security company. Cloudflare CDN is one of the solutions that Cloudflare provides to improve speed and security.
It was founded by Matthew Prince, Lee Holloway, and Michelle Zatlyn in 2009. It has since become one of the most popular cloud service providers. It acts as a reverse-proxy for web traffic. At the same time, it supports web protocols like SPDY ad HTTP/2.
Cloudways markets itself to be having the following features
API Centred Approach
Cloudflare CDN is highly centred around its API. This is designed to integrate intricate workflows and better cache control.
Customization – Cloudflare Workers
Customising your application code is done by Cloudflare Workers. All you have to do is deploy your code and content. You do not have to worry about optimization for different geographical regions around the world. Cloudflare takes care of all of the optimisations for you.
Argo Smart Routing
Cloudflare calls this a “virtual backbone” of modern internet! It is the state of art real-time route optimiser for the internet. It promises reduced cost versus equivalent path, higher security and faster loading speed. It is end to end encrypted across the whole network. So there is no need of worrying about new vulnerabilities. On average, Cloudways oﬃcially says
- There is a 35% decrease in latency.
- Also a 27% decrease in connection errors.
- Finally, a 60% decrease in cache misses. (Cache misses are when the data requested is not available in cache and lead to extended delays)
The two key concepts of Argo routing are – smart routing and tiered cache.
- Smart Routing – At each request, the pack loss data and latency are estimated as the request passes through the CDN in real-time. This provides Cloudflare with the means for pinpointing the best route from that particular node.
- Tiered Cache – It reduces origin load and improves cache hit ratios. The other mini-locations (or PoPs as Cloudflare refers to them) are first asked it the available content is present after the initial cache miss.
It is worth noting that about 10% of all HTTP/HTTPS requests made on the internet use Cloudflare and Argo.
If you are thinking of installing Cloudflare CDN with Cloudways hosting, check out this support doc from Cloudways.
Key Diﬀerences between Cloudflare and CloudwaysCDN
Cloudways uses StackPath and StackPath is a traditional CDN. So only cacheable requests will be stored in the many Points of Presence (PoPs) of the CDN. So non-cacheable requests will never be redirected via the CDN. This saves overhead.
In Cloudflare, all the requests are required to be proxied via their Network. This adds some degree of overhead because the requests now travel some extra distance even when they cannot be cached.
That said, the overhead is not that significant to aﬀect small or medium-sized websites.
For more about this, check out this response in the Cloudways community forum.
Cloudflare will customize your website assets for you. You do not have to worry about fine-tuning the cache controls. Cloudflare will do it for you. Such optimizations include latest web protocols such as HTTP/2 and TLS 1.3. Further static assets such as images are enhanced for mobile device users.
According to the Cloudways community forum, for all the WordPress users who use cache plugins to manage cache do not usually need to worry about this extra-optimization. But if your WordPress application is inflexible and takes performance hits because of cache plugins, relying on Cloudflare is always a choice.
On the other hand, CloudwaysCDN does not have this inherent asset optimization feature.
Points of Presence
Points of Presence are the geographical locations where the CDN has servers in. These act as nodes for the CDN to cache the data and store them in these PoPs.
So for example, assume you are accessing a website based and hosted in Texas, the USA from Madurai, TN, India. If this particular website uses Cloudflare, your closest PoP will be Chennai. The cached request from Chennai’s node will be delivered to you much faster than that in Texas.
StackPath has about 45-full stack server locations around the world. For the complete list of server locations, check the server status page. It is worth noting, there is no PoP in Africa or West and South Asia. This includes India.
Cloudflare has a much more spread out geographical Points of Presence. It has over 200 server locations in over 100 countries. Find the full list of server locations in the network status page.
This is a huge difference. This includes more than 50 servers in Africa, West Asia and South Asia. There are about 7 servers in India – Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, New Delhi and Nagpur.
So Cloudflare has much more nodes and makes up for the slight relatively higher computational overhead as stated in the previous section.
Aha, the golden metric of comparison. But it is not as objective as it seems. There is not one exact metric or statistic that can prove that one CDN works better than the other. The performance of the CDN is based on a large number of factors. The type of request being made, the location of the client, the type of content being accessed and so on. This makes it extremely hard for us to fit them all inside one metric. As stated by this codeinwp blog, a popular metric is initcwnd (aka initial congestion window). And according to codeinwp, the initcwnd values of the two are
- StackPath (Used by Cloudways) – 32 Packets
- Cloudflare – 10 Packets
So this gives StackPath an edge in terms of packets delivered and performance.
Another factor to consider while taking about performance is the overhead (we talked about this earlier). CloudwaysCDN has significantly lesser overhead.
It is key to understand that different websites have different kinds of content. A photography website would have much more static content than a Blog. And a dynamic web application with an existing workflow, then it would have lesser static content.
CloudwayCDN only caches cacheable static data. This means all the static assets are offloaded to the CloudwaysCDN. Once all the assets are cached, the actual server will only be hit once for the HTML. The static assets are retrieved from the CDN (takes much lesser time)as the page loads.
But this approach is not all roses. Users from geographically far locations, experience slower page loading times. The static assets however are delivered almost as quickly as everywhere else. But the original HTML request takes time.
If your site contains a lot of static content CloudwaysCDN might be a good choice. You will benefit from the lesser overhead (not cacheing HTML) and
Cloudflare does not face the previous issue. It caches both the HTML and the static content (the whole site actually). Although this might create some level of unwanted overhead, it is significantly better for users from far ways geographical locations.
Cloudways CDN is very aﬀordable. The price is $1 per month for 25 GB. That’s not bad, is it? For every additional GB, the extra fee is $0.04. The pricing is definitely on the cheaper side of things.
Cloudflare has a bit more complicated pricing plan. It has 4 tiers of subscription Free, Pro, Business, Enterprise.
The free plan ($0 per month) comes with
1. Full access to the 200+ PoPs of Cloudflare CDN
- DDoS attack mitigation
- Support via Email (Avg Response time – 24hrs)
The Pro Plan ($20 per month) comes with all of the free tier features and
- Enhanced security with Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Lossless image optimisation
- Automatic mobile optimisation
- Cache Analytics
- Reduced Email Response time – 4hrs
Aimed at professionals who secure and optimise websites.
The Business Plan ($200 per month) has all Pro features and
- 24x7x365 chat support
- 100% uptime service level agreement
- Domain CNAME set-up compatibility
- Easy PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance
- Use your own SSL certificate
- Reduced Email Response time – 2hrs
Aimed at small businesses operating online for high uptime.
The Enterprise Plan (Custom quote required) has all Enterprise-level features and
- Prioritized IP ranges
- 24x7x365 phone support
- Named solutions engineer support
- 25x reimbursement uptime service level agreement
- Role-based account access
- Reduced Email response time – <1hr
Aimed for core business application that needs advanced security and support. For complete pricing details or to get a quote, visit Cloudflare.
So, which one is better in Cloudways CDN vs Cloudflare CDN?
Well, it depends. Are a small scale business owner looking to improve page loading speed for your users? Maybe you are looking for an easy one-stop solution to improving your loading speed with Cloudways. If you have a mostly static web application or blog then we recommend CloudwaysCDN.
Say you are looking to get through to a wide user base from all over the world. And if your website has a lot of dynamic content for which the user will have to hit your server multiple times, then we recommend Cloudflare.
Either way, both StackPath (used by CloudwaysCDN) and Cloudflare are very popular and reliable. Go for what you think is best!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What are CDNs?
CDNs are Content Delivery Networks. Fundamentally, it’s just a network of servers around the world that is used to store website data. Users accessing the website can retrieve data from these CDNs which are geographically closer (and hence respond faster) instead of the original server (which is far and slow to respond).
Is it compulsory that I use CDNs?
It is not ‘compulsory’ but we certainly recommend that you do. Today’s online market and website popularity are heavily dependent on speed.
With indisputable statistics, you can say that a faster website attracts more traﬃc. And CDNs are the ‘Big Cheese’ of page loading speed. They cache website assets and deliver them to clients in their vicinity. This reduces the need to hit the original server and improves response time.
Do CDNs improve security?
Yes. If all your users mostly hit your CDNs, it reduces the actual traﬃc or load on your web server where the website is hosted. Meaning, better security for your original server. It is important to keep in mind that usually CDNs are not designed to provide better security on their own, but StackPath and Cloudflare services are designed to keep DDoS attacks at bay. So yes they do help but are not enough on their own.
When should I purge my web cache in CDN?
You should consider purging your web cache when you make any noticeably major change in your website. The data stored in the CDN might be outdated and your users could be accessing irrelevant or even incorrect information. So purge the data when you make a major change.
What are some other CDN providers to check out?
Some other popular CDN service providers are:
- KeyCDN – Pay on use plans, WordPress integration plugin, No free Plan
- Google Cloud CDN – Free SSL certificate, $300 free trial credit, Configuring could be challenging.
- Amazon CloudFront – AWS integration, 100s of PoPs, Configuring could be challenging.
- Akamai – Old, Popular, Suited for advanced users, Great Performance.
- Microsoft Azure CDN – Part of a stack of web tools, Use a combination of its own and other providers’ servers, Up to 12 months of free services.
An engineer and a tech enthusiast, driven by curiosity.