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, some lucky readers can enjoy speeds up to 1 Gbps – yes one gigabits per second, thanks to services such as Google Fiber, Cox Gigablast or Centurylink Gigabit. 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!
What is a CDN – Content Delivery Network?
Before we dig into free CDNs for your WordPress website, let’s cover the basics. Put simply, a Content Delivery Network or a CDN is a bunch of servers, located across the globe, designed to deliver your website’s files to the site’s visitor in the fastest time. Three points:
- Bunch of servers.
- Located across the globe.
Why A CDN?
A new website usually has one source of origin. And that’s okay when you’re starting out and don’t have a lot of visitors. As your website grows, (i.e. your traffic increases) the amount of time taken to load your site would also increase.
People generally don’t like waiting for a website. The effect is most powerful in online shopping websites, where a one-second drop in loading time added to $6,000,000 USD (that’s 6 million) in revenue. I picked this up from CachePoint’s brilliant article – The Very Real Performance Impact on Revenue.
That’s why we have a CDN. It speeds up content delivery by serving the content from the server that is closest to the visitor. Your loading time decreases and you end up winning. If you want to understand CDNs better, Incapsula’s CDN guide is a great place to start.
Getting Started with the CDN List
We’ll structure this article into four groups:
- Group one are the absolutely free CDN services that will have a forever-free plan.
- CDNs under group two are ones offer generous trial periods (think twelve months) – that are sufficient to scale up your blog.
- Group three contains CDNs that are again absolutely free for hosting common scripts such as jQuery, Bootstrap, etc.
- Group four is contains honorable mentions that are no longer active, but were alive at the time this article was originally posted (that’s way back in 2016).
Free CDNs for WordPress that have a Forever-Free Plan
Given that you’ve landed on this page for “free CDN for WordPress”, let’s dive down into the article.
CloudFlare is popularly known as the best free CDN for WordPress users. It is one of the few industry-leading players that actually offer a free plan. Powered by its 115 datacenters, CloudFlare delivers speed, reliability, and protection from basic DDoS attacks. And it’s WordPress plugin is used in over 100,000 active websites.
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 offered by both CloudFlare and 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
3. Photon by Jetpack
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.
WordPress users need no introduction to Jetpack. One of the coolest features Jetpack has to offer is their free CDN service called Photon. The best part? You don’t need to configure a thing! Simply install the plugin, login with your WordPress.com account and activate the photon module. That’s it. All you images will be offloaded to the WordPress grid that powers over hundreds of thousands of website across the globe.
Swarmify, (previously known as SwarmCDN) is a peer-to-peer (P2P) based content delivery network that offers 10GB bandwidth (only for images) in their free plan. To try it out, download the WordPress plugin and give it a go. It is interesting to note that Swarmify works in a slightly different manner:
Let’s say a group of people are browsing your site. Think of them as the first ‘peer’ in P2P. When a new visitor (peer) arrives, the images are served from the already existing group of users (the previous peer). This saves your server’s bandwidth, and improves loading times, since the peers are usually closer to one another. Swarmify also offers video CDN, which is only a part of their paid plan.
Trial CDN Services that are as Good as Free:
In this section, we’ll explore some of the premium cloud CDN providers that offer a generous trial period. I would think that the trial duration would be sufficient to test the service and eventually upgrade to a paid plan
To give you some context, the future of the web is in the cloud. Be it the content delivery for your WordPress site, or high performance computing for NASA – the cloud is everywhere. We’ve covered a couple of articles on how to install WordPress in the cloud. Today, we’re going to look at the same services that also happen to offer CDN. We’ll look at Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud.
5. AWS Cloudfront
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a pioneer in bringing high performance cloud computing to the masses at an affordable rate. One of their services is Amazon CloudFront an industry-leading content delivery network used by the likes of Slack and Spotify!
To top that off, they have a free usage tier of one full year. And the quota? 50GB of outbound transfer over the trial period. This is definitely a must-try for all WordPress enthusiasts.
How do you get started?
We’ll for starters, you could use the WP Offload S3 Lite plugin which enables you to integrate your Amazon S3 (storage) and Amazon CloudFront (CDN) services with your WordPress site. You can also check out our article on how to install WordPress in AWS.
6. Google Cloud CDN
Similar to AWS, Google Cloud offers $300 USD credits over a one-year duration, with access to their Cloud CDN platform. We’ve covered how to install WordPress on Google Cloud in the past. Today, there are one-click solutions to deploy WordPress (and other leading CMS) across multiple cloud providers.
7. Microsoft Azure CDN
If you run website that heavily dependent on images (think portfolios of photography/design services), offloading your images to another server would be a good idea. You would end up saving a lot of precious bandwidth. Cloudinary is a robust image management solution that can host your images, resize them on-the-fly and a ton of other cool features. In their forever-free plan, they offer 2GB storage with 5GB of bandwidth.
A wildly-popular image hosting site, imgur is fast, reliable and perfect for beginners. If you’re just starting up and looking for an easy way to save server bandwidth, imgur along with other popular image hosting sites like PhotoBucket and Flickr should serve your purposes to the fullest.
10. Free Cloud Storage Companies
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 up to 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
Free Open-Source CDN for Hosted Libraries
We’ll now look at some of the open-source libraries, that are hosted by premium content delivery networks.
11. Google Hosted Libraries
Google provides free hosting for some of the most popular libraries in their super-fast infrastructure. This is extremely useful for WordPress developers to use in their themes and plugins.
jsDelivr is a publicly available CDN where any web developer can upload and host their own files. It is best suited for hosting the libraries that aren’t hosted by Google. You can use their WordPress plugin (although not updated for a couple of years) to integrate their services in your site.
14. Bootstrap CDN
Bootstrap is one of the most popular frameworks powering millions of websites around the world. MaxCDN proudly hosts the Bootstrap CDN libraries.
Honorable Mentions (Short Term 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. Once you obtain a free trial, fine-tuning it requires a sound know-how, which can be gained from this awesome article.
- MetaCDN – Offering a 7 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).
- KeyCDN – They offer a free trial period without having to provide a credit card when signing up it appears they provide you with 250GB of free transfer during the trial period.
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 such as CDN77 or Amazon CloudFront. Happy trails, Roadrunner!