There are many CDN providers promising the fastest website loading speeds and performance. Cloudflare, CloudFront, and Max CDN (now integrated into StackPath) are some of the widest used ones.
The right choice of CDN provider not only will increase your site loading speed but strengthen the security as well.
So which of the 3 does its job best?
We tested and compared Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN to help you decide which CDN is the best CDN for you.
What is Cloudflare?
Cloudflare is one of the biggest and most universal CDN service providers across the globe. Furthermore, Cloudflare is part of the Google Cloud Platform CDN Interconnect Program, which means that 30 Cloudflare servers are connected directly to Google Cloud and offer faster routing than standard Internet connections.
Currently, Cloudflare provides over 20 services alongside its CDN plans to ensure better loading speed, security, and stability.
And as difficult as the technology may sound, it's not as fancy. In our 'What Is Cloudflare?' we thoroughly explained how does CDN work and why should (or shouldn't) you use it.
What is CloudFront?
CloudFront is Amazon’s CDN and is closely integrated with Amazon Web Services and Amazon’s S3 cloud storage platform.
At this time, CloudFront has relatively few global servers and is largely focused in the US and Europe.
Amazon CloudFront is integrated with the majority of AWS high-tech hosting services and can be used for free.
What is MaxCDN/StackPath?
MaxCDN is a global CDN much like Cloudflare, although their servers are primarily focused in the US and Europe. MaxCDN also boasts collaborations with internet service providers in multiple countries in order to further speed up connections.
In addition, MaxCDN is integrated into the broader StackPath platform of secure data services, and now MaxCDN is StackPath.
Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN/StackPath: Comparison
The CDN market is definitely a competitive one and that's why you can easily get lost in tons of different Content Delivery Networks, offering the BEST services. So far we know that Cloudflare, CloudFront, and StackPath(MaxCDN) can stand out but which one can be considered the best and why?
We tested and compared pricing, security, services, and performance of the 3 providers to see which one is the best.
Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN Pricing
Cloudflare and CloudFront both have free plans to get started with, while MaxCDN provides 1 month free and then charges $10/month for the cheapest plan. If you want to go for premium plans, Cloudflare CDN pricing starts at $20/month, while Amazon Cloudfront will only charge for what you use without minimal fee.
|Storage & Bandwidth||CloudFront||MaxCDN|
Note that CloudFront pricing does not include technical support, which comes at an additional charge. By default, you only get access to a community forum for help with the CDN service.
Cloudflare, MaxCDN and CloudFront charges based on three different service tiers, none of which depend on bandwidth.
Instead, Cloudflare plans offer varying degrees of upload and download speeds, security, and technical support.
Premium MaxCDN (StackPath) plans start at $20/mo and go as high as $2000/mo for the enterprise solution.
Although Cloudflare has a free option that may be good enough for small websites, the free service is relatively basic and does not offer many of the performance benefits of a paid CDN plan. Paid plans start at $20 per month, which is less expensive compared to low-bandwidth plans from either CloudFront or MaxCDN / StackPath.
CDN Server Locations
Cloudflare CDN has 180 PoPs (server locations), Amazon CloudFront has 187, while MaxCDN (or StackPath) only has 45.
Why is PoPs number important?
With any CDN, the number and global distribution of servers is one of the most important considerations. The more servers a CDN provider has and the more globally distributed they are, the more likely that your website’s visitors will experience the increased performance allowed by having a closer geographic connection to your site.
However, it’s also important to keep in mind where your website’s visitors are likely to be. If you are targeting customers in China with an e-commerce site, for example, you’ll want to choose a CDN that offers multiple server locations in or near China.
With that in mind, Cloudflare and CloudFront dominate when it comes to having the most server locations overall.
The distribution of these servers varies widely among providers, though. Cloudflare is very global, with numerous data centers across each continent, including South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.
CloudFront is more concentrated in the US and Europe, although it can compete with Cloudflare in India in particular.
StackPath is primarily concentrated in the US and Europe, with few data centers in South America, Africa, or Asia.
StackPath Data Centers
All things considered, if you want to go global with your website - Cloudflare and CloudFront are both good choices, while StackPath help is significant only in the US and Europe.
Push vs Pull CDN service
One of the most notable disadvantages of Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN is that Cloudflare only offers a push CDN service.
This means that you’re responsible for making sure that your website’s content is being delivered to the CDN’s data centers every time a change is made so that the content is ready in a cached form for potential visitors.
CloudFront and MaxCDN/StackPath also offer the pull CDN service, in which a CDN creates a new cache of your website only after a user has tried to access your site through the local data server.
While this means that the first visitor to your site will not experience the performance benefits of the CDN, every following user will receive a newly cached version of your site with no effort on your part.
Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN Security
Security is another important consideration when choosing a CDN, and this is one of the areas where Cloudflare, CloudFront, and MaxCDN, excels. All Cloudflare plans, including free plans, protect your site against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
An easy to activate ‘I’m Under Attack’ mode challenges visitors to your site to ensure they are human. Besides, basic Cloudflare plans come with a web application firewall and an SSL certificate for your website.
That’s not to say that CloudFront and StackPath don’t offer security for your site, though.
CloudFront allows you to restrict access to your site from specific geographic locations, as well as to set alarms for different site usage events. MaxCDN allows you to closely monitor and manage the users, bots, and locations that are accessing your site and to restrict access as needed.
Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN Analytics
Both MaxCDN and Cloudflare offer advanced analytics that breaks down the locations from where your site is being viewed, the content that is being accessed by users, and how users are moving through your site.
Though Cloudflare has something more - it will provide you with warnings of possible security threats.
But when it comes to comparing Cloudflare vs MaxCDN vs CloudForm, the later does not offer as much in the way of visual analytics. Some charts display content use by visitors to your site, but much of the reporting is related to cache statistics and threat monitoring.
Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN - the Verdict
When it comes down to choosing the best CDN out of Cloudflare vs Cloudfron vs MaxCDN, it all depends on your needs. All of the services are pretty great, however, their functionality will be different.
- Cloudflare has the largest number of global data centers and the widest geographic distribution of those servers, making it an ideal choice for reaching website visitors around the world.
- MaxCDN can be a good option if your website visitors are primarily located in the US or Europe. However, the lack of data centers in South America, Africa, and Asia, and the higher price of MaxCDN's comparing to Cloudflare limits the competitiveness of this service.
- CloudFront has strong integration with Amazon Web Services, which can make it advantageous for users already storing content with Amazon.
Out of the 3, Cloudflare is the most universal option - it has huge and still increasing numbers of worldwide servers and integration with all hosting platforms. Not to mention that you can try (or use) Cloudflare for free, before committing to its paid plans.
On the other hand, if you use AWS services, Amazon CloudFront is the logical option - you can also use it for free or choose on-demand, pay-as-you-go service.
If you want to save a couple of dollars, MaxCDN/StackPath is also a decent option. But only if your audience is located in the US or Europe. Otherwise, you might not see positive results.
Did this CDN comparison help you choose between Cloudflare vs CloudFront vs MaxCDN? Let me know in the comments below!
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