Free WordPress CDN? What’s that, and how can it help my site? Good questions. Here is a little background: Most people in the developed world can now enjoy very fast Internet, thanks to the proliferation of broadband/optical fiber infrastructure. It’s possible to get a fast connection even in the middle of a desert if you have the right equipment, but has this speed revolution satisfied us? No! Human nature being what it is, it’s no surprise that our expectations are always outpacing what’s available to us now. We quickly get used to WordPress pages loading instantly and videos streaming without hiccups, and when they don’t behave themselves, we just as quickly lose patience. This is why free content delivery networks have become so popular.
What is Content Delivery Network?
Longer page loading times cost money. Shorter page loading times make money. One study found that improving page loading times by a single second for a large retailer was worth an extra $6 million (US) in revenue to them.
You may not think you need a free content delivery network for your humble WordPress website in the early days but growing it beyond the ‘humble’ stage means being aware of the advantages of free CDN.
As you might have guessed, there are paid and free CDN services, and we think that in the beginning at least, you can get most of what you need from free CDN, no wallet required. But it’s not quite as cut and dried as ‘free versus paid’. Some services are free and always will be, while some are free for long trial periods of up to a year. Let’s take a look at what’s on offer, starting with the always free ones.
Forever-Free CDN for WordPress
Incapsula offers cloud-based Application Delivery, Global CDN, Website Security, DDoS Protection, Load Balancing and Failover. You can be up and running with this service in just 5 minutes, by signing up for their free CDN plan and by installing their WordPress plug-in.
Features common to CloudFlare and Incapsula:
Here’s what both Incapsula and CloudFlare do for you:
- send all your web traffic through their worldwide network of high-end servers
- analyse threats in real time to block attacks, including multi-gigabit DDoS attacks
- accelerate outgoing traffic through their worldwide content delivery network
CloudFlare is very popular amongst WordPress users, and its WordPress plug-in is used in more than 100,000 websites. This popularity is no doubt down to its impressive capabilities. It’s one of the biggest and best providers, and its free CDN is powered by 115 data centres. It has the heft to protect you from basic DDoS attacks and the resources to guarantee a high percentage of uptime.
Swarmify, which used to be called SwarmCDN, takes an alternative approach. It uses a peer-to-peer technology approach to supply content. The free plan gives you 10GB bandwidth for images, and you can ‘try before you buy’ by downloading the WordPress plug-in too. It works by sharing images between a group of users that are looking at your site, and when someone else joins in they get to share the images from that existing group.
That way you’re not putting such a heavy load on your own server, which would normally send the same image to all these different people at the same time. A P2P approach tends to work well when the peers are geographically close to each other. If you host a lot of video and want to use video CDN, Swarmify’s paid plan will be able to help you.
Photon by Jetpack
Jetpack will be familiar to all WordPress users. The latest version includes a free CDN service called Photon which distributes the serving of your site’s images across their global WordPress grid. Just download and install Jetpack and set up the Photon module. It doesn’t even need configuring. It works right out of the box to share your images across the network, speeding up your page loading times considerably.
Trial CDN Services
Generous trial periods are one way that CDN companies try to entice you to buy their paid products. You can get a great WordPress CDN service by signing up for a premium provider with a long trial period. Over a long period like this you get to know the product and the provider hopes you will fall in love with it and be happy to subscribe for the long term.
Google Cloud CDN
Google Cloud is very similar to AWS. Their offer to tempt you is $300 (US) of credits for the first year, and they also give you access to their Cloud CDN platform. It’s great that one-click solutions like this will scatter your WordPress site across multiple cloud providers for a quicker user experience.
Microsoft Azure CDN
You will find the Azure CDN available in numerous datacentres round the world. It can accelerate dynamic content, which can’t be cached, by leveraging different network and routing optimizations.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) was there right from the start. It paved the way for the introduction of top-notch reasonably-priced cloud computing to virtually everyone. Amazon CloudFront is their CDN, and it’s so good that it’s trusted by the likes of Slack and Spotify!
To get you interested, they offer a whole year’s free usage, capped at 50GB of outbound transfer. Such a generous package makes this your ideal free WordPress CDN.
If you’d like to try it out then get hold of the WP Offload S3 Lite plugin. This lets you integrate your Amazon S3 (storage) and Amazon CloudFront (CDN) services with your WordPress site.
Free Cloud Storage
If you need to share files with your audience (and they’re big files) then putting them on your own server could put it under a lot of strain and eat up a great deal of your precious bandwidth. That’s why most users have turned to free cloud-based storage services like DropBox. Pop a big file on there and link to it from your website, and anybody can download it quickly. Check out these popular providers and their offers:
- Google Drive – 15 GB free
- DropBox – 2 GB free
- Box – 5 GB free
- SkyDrive – 7 GB free
- Copy – 15 GB free
Free Open-Source CDN for Hosted Libraries
Now let’s look at a few of the open-source libraries that are hosted by premium CDNs.
Bootstrap is a very popular framework which runs millions of websites across the globe. MaxCDN plays host to the Bootstrap CDN libraries.
Google Hosted Libraries
Google offers free hosting for some of the most popular libraries in their lightning-quick infrastructure. This speed and convenience makes it very popular with WordPress developers for use with their plugins and themes.
jsDelivr is a CDN that’s available to the public, so any web developer can use it to host their own files. We’d recommend that you use it for hosting the libraries that Google doesn’t host. Their WordPress plugin hasn’t been updated for a while but you should still be able to use it to integrate their services into your site.
Short Term Free Trial CDNs
These CDN services will offer you a trial period but they ask you to sign up with them first as a security precaution. Their free trials are good, but you will need to know your stuff technically to get the most out of them.
MetaCDN service offers a 7-day trial which gives you full access to all their services without the need to give them your credit card details. As such, it seems like an excellent choice for a free CDN.
CDN77 provides a 14-day trial that frees up all the features of the premium plan, and once again without the need to hand over credit card information. If you do sign up for the full service you’ll only be charged for what you use, which is to say on a per-byte basis.
When should I switch from a free CDN to a premium service?
As good as a free CDN service is, chances are that at some point your site will gain in popularity and you will outgrow it. That’s when it’s time to upgrade to a premium CDN service. We encourage you to try out the services we’ve listed.