In today’s world where the average Internet speed of technologically advanced regions exceeds 10 Mbps, it’s no wonder that CDN services thrive. And to speed things up even more, our readers from Kansas City, KS can enjoy speeds up to 1 Gbps – yes one gigabits per second, thanks to Google Fiber. As a downside to this race for faster bits, our attention span takes a toll and patience, becomes volatile.
It’s always good to have your site powered by a Content Delivery Network. Not only does a CDN save bandwidth costs from your hosting provider, but your site becomes insanely fast and tends to rank higher in the search engines. You might have heard this saying:
Some people say that nothing in this world is free,
I say you just need to know where to look!
Here’s an example to prove my point:
We’ve all heard of Dropbox, Google Drive and other cloud storage services. Their free plans offer a combined total storage space of 33 GB. (18 GB from Dropbox, achieved through referrals + 15 GB from Google Drive). Add in another 7 GB from SkyDrive and you have 40 GB. If you were to store all your photos since you got your digital camera – 40 GB might not be enough one day.
This is where Flickr comes in. Now it’s not a traditional cloud storage company but it’s the world’s no. 1 photo sharing place – long before Instagram. Flickr gives you 1 TB of storage – which for all photographic purposes, is practically unlimited. You could store a lifetime of photographs, and you still wouldn’t run out of space. Which proves my original point – you just need to know where to look.
In today’s article, I’m going to list some of the free CDN services (or CDNs) available. We’re also going to look at a couple of services which offer generous trial periods – something you can always use to your advantage.
For those of you who own a self hosted WordPress site, CloudFlare needs no introduction. With 23 data centers spread across the globe, CloudFlare’s free CDN and DNS service supercharges and protects over hundreds of thousands of websites. To top it all of, its up-to-date WordPress plugin makes integrating its services in your site, a breeze.
Incapsula provides Application Delivery from the cloud: Global CDN, Website Security, DDoS Protection, Load Balancing & Failover. It takes 5 minutes to activate the service, and they have a great free plan and a WordPress plugin to get correct IP Address information for comments posted to your site.
FEATURES COMMON TO CLOUDFLARE & INCAPSULA:
In a nutshell, this is what Incapsula and CloudFlare does:
- Routes your entire website’s traffic through their globally distributed network of high end servers (This is achieved by a small DNS change)
- Real-time threat analysis of incoming traffic and blocking the latest web threats including multi-Gigabit DDoS attacks
- Outgoing traffic is accelerated through their globally powered content delivery network
To all WordPress users – Jetpack needs no introduction. In their recent improvement of awesomeness, they’ve included a free CDN service (called Photon) that serves your site’s images through their globally powered WordPress.com grid. To get this service activated, all you have to do is download and install Jetpack and activate its Photon module.
Originally a project from the MIT, CoralCDN is a peer-to-peer (P2P) based content delivery network which is absolutely free of cost. P2P networks rely on the billions of computers connected across the Internet which is mainly why CoralCDN is free. To quote from their WordPress plugin, “static content is served by CoralCDN’s servers by simply appending ‘.nyud.net’ to the element’s URL.” As bizarre to understand how it’s possible, it actually works. Here’s proof:
This is the link to WPExplorer’s logo:
To serve the logo through CoralCDN’s servers, I would just append ‘nyud.net’
Amazed? So am I!
SwarmCDN is a relatively new peer-to-peer based content delivery network that offers 100 GB of bandwidth in their free plan. Commercially, they are a pay-as-you-go CDN which is good for websites with medium traffic.
Big shout to Rudd for informing us of this awesome CDN! 😀
Google App Engine
In simple terms, App Engine is the Google equivalent of Amazon S3 + EC2. It is used for running web based applications, hosting websites and data storage. Thankfully Google generously includes 500 MB of storage, 10 hosted projects and upto 5,000,000 pageviews per month in their free plan. Setting up Google App engine requires sound technical knowledge of Python and web based application development. I recommend this tutorial to establish a theoretical understanding.
One of the sponsors of jsDeliver pubic CDN, CDN.net offers you 1 TB free CDN bandwidth. Now that’s more than enough for a website with moderate traffic and images. CDN.net will give you an idea as to what to expect once your use a proper CDN – your bandwidth consumption and popular site content.
Image Hosting Websites
One of the overlooked alternatives of a CDN include image hosting websites. If you’re just starting up and looking for an easy way to save server bandwidth, popular image hosting sites like PhotoBucket and Flickr should serve your purposes to the fullest.
Free Cloud Storage Services
Another great way to save server bandwidth is by using free cloud storage services. Say you have a couple of PDFs or video available for direct download. Hosting them on your server would consume bandwidth like crazy. A smart solution would be to use the various free cloud storage services. To share a file publicly, you can simply generate a public URL of the file and paste it in your site. Here are a couple of free cloud storage solutions:
- Dropbox – 2 GB free, can generate upto 18 GB via referrals
- Google Drive – 15 GB free
- SkyDrive – 7 GB free
- Copy – 15 GB free, 5 GB per referral
- Box – 5 GB free
- Bitcasa – 10 GB free
- SugarSync – 5 GB free
Free Trial CDNs
The following CDN services offer a trial period, but due to security purposes, you need to use a contact form to get in touch with them. You could Google for more such services.. Once you obtain a free trial, fine-tuning it requires a sound know-how, which can be gained from this awesome article.
- EdgeCast – If you’re going to work to get a trial, why not get it from an industry leader? WordPress.com and other notable companies are powered by EdgeCast.
- HighWinds – Established in 2002, this award-winning CDN provider allows 20 TB of bandwidth and 10 GB of storage in their free trial.
- Internap – This company offers a 30 day trial period and includes useful features like live event broadcasting, advanced analytics and on-demand video encoding & streaming.
- TinyCDN – True to its name, TinyCDN offers a 100MB storage, 1GB transfer trial CDN period.
- MetaCDN – Offering a 14 day trial period with unrestricted access to all services and no credit card signup required – MetaCDN is a good choice for a trial CDN.
- CDN77 – They offer a 14-day trial with access to all the features available in the premium plan and without having to provide a credit card. If you decide to continue using their service you will be charged only for what you use per byte (pro-rated).
To keep it short, I would like to remind you that all good things must come to an end. There have been instances of free CDN companies which have stopped offering their service for free (Exabytes) or have shut down completely (SpeedyMirror, CoBlitz) – which brings us to an important conclusion:
When should I switch to A proper CDN?
A free CDN service will last only for so long. Once your traffic begins to increase – you’ll eventually run out of trial bandwidth and/or your visitors might start grumbling about a slow website. That’s your green light switch over to a proper CDN service like MaxCDN or Amazon CloudFront.
Happy trails, Roadrunner!