Why You Need a CDN for WordPress and How to Set One Up

Speed and reliability are undeniable priorities for any website: 47% of customers expect online stores to load in less than two seconds, and a one-second delay in load time reduces page views by 11%. This has a real impact on your business!

While there are a variety of ways to improve website speed, a content delivery network (CDN) should be one of your first considerations.

On most hosts, site content is served to all your users, wherever they are in the world, from a single location. In contrast, a CDN is a network of servers strategically distributed around the world. It takes the strain off of your server by downloading assets — images, videos, and CSS — from your website and serving them through its own network.

The result? High uptime and faster delivery of assets. If your server is in San Francisco and a user visits your site in London, a CDN would load your website from the closest server (which may well be in London) rather than all the way from San Francisco.

Who needs a content delivery network?

According to Yahoo’s best practices for speeding up your website:

“The user’s proximity to your web server has an impact on response times. Deploying your content across multiple, geographically-dispersed servers will make your pages load faster from the user’s perspective.”

Given that, CDNs are a great choice if…

You have a website with a global audience

Most of your traffic might come from the USA, so it makes sense to host your website there. But if a good portion of traffic comes from Europe, Asia, or Oceania, a CDN would improve load times by serving website assets like images from a server geographically close to each individual user — so every visitor gets a great (and fast!) experience, no matter where they are.

You have lots of images, graphics, and other static files

Jetpack offers effective ways to speed up your website, but the CDN might just be the star of the show.

Not only does it improve load times by serving assets from distributed servers, it also automatically resizes images for mobile devices. Phones and tablets are prone to poor or unreliable internet connections, so fast-loading, optimized images are critical for a good user experience.

Jetpack also includes lazy loading, which only loads images that are on the screen and loads other images as the user scrolls. This can drastically decrease initial page load times.

You need to prepare for sudden traffic spikes

It’s every company’s dream — you land an interview on a major television network, a top celebrity tweets about you, or the video you created goes viral. But if your site can’t handle the sudden influx of traffic, it may load slowly or crash altogether, turning off potential new fans or costing you sales.

A CDN helps you prepare because of the way it distributes assets: CDNs balance site requests across their entire distributed network of servers. This allows you to accommodate more site visitors at one time by spreading them out across multiple locations.

Should I set up my own CDN?

There are many CDN providers, all with different costs, features, and setup procedures, most of which require technical knowledge. Setup typically includes the following:

1. Sign up for a CDN service. There are many options. Cloudfront, KeyCDN, and MaxCDN are some of the most common.

2. Create a pull zone. To create a pull zone, you need to give the zone a name and then set a URL that the CDN should “pull” content from. You typically don’t need any FTP (file transfer protocol) details but, instead, should use the URL of your website. Pull zones may also have more advanced options, such as enabling an SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.

3. Optionally, create a push zone. It’s unusual to have any images, CSS, or JS files that are above 100 MB, but if you have videos that need to be delivered via a CDN, then a push zone may be necessary. To push files, you will usually need to use a third-party client.

4. Optionally, create a custom URL for your CDN. CDNs will often provide a URL for you (e.g. user54334.thecdn.com/yourasset.css), but most people would prefer this to be a subdomain. In this scenario, you would need to edit your DNS settings and create a CNAME that points from your chosen subdomain to the CDN-generated domain.

5. Test your new URL. To test, simply take the web address of a known asset (e.g. yourjetpack.blog/picture.jpg) and replace it with the CDN URL (e.g. cdn.yourjetpack.blog/picture.jpg). If it loads, then your URL is working properly.

6. Redirect your assets. At this stage, your website is still pointing to non-CDN URLs. You’ll need to find all of your non-CDN URLs and replace them with CDN URLs.

7. Remember caching. Remember that your CDN caches your website assets, so if you make any changes, they may not be reflected on your site immediately. For changes to appear, you’ll need to log into your CDN and clear the cache.

How much does a CDN cost?

Costs vary from provider to provider, but typically CDNs charge per gigabyte of data transfer, with different pricing per region (e.g. Asia may cost more than North America). Most also have a small, minimum monthly charge. There are a few CDN providers with a free tier, Cloudflare being a popular choice.

Seem like a lot? We think so, too. Consider using Jetpack’s much simpler option, which includes a free CDN (with no upsells!) for images, CSS, and JavaScript files.

The easier, cheaper option

Jetpack offers a free content delivery network that simplifies the process. You’ll benefit from optimized delivery of photos and static files, but won’t need to worry about creating push and pull zones, redirecting assets, or any of the other technical steps required to set up most other CDNs.

And even though Jetpack CDN is free, its features surpass many paid competitors and can be up and running right away.

Easy installation

You can install Jetpack in minutes and enable the content delivery network in a few clicks — no coding knowledge or complicated setup required!

Built on an industry-leading platform

Jetpack delivers content from high-speed, dedicated data centers; the very same network that powers thousands of WordPress.com sites.

Reduces hosting fees

In addition to distributing website content across multiple servers, a CDN also offloads static files. This means that images, as well as any CSS and JavaScript that are a part of Jetpack, are loaded from the CDN’s network, not your server.

This reduces bandwidth, which saves you money since many web hosts charge based on the amount of data transferred. And since Jetpack’s CDN feature is free, more money stays in your bank account.

Free doesn’t mean limited

There’s virtually no limit to the number of files you can serve with Jetpack. Whether your site has five pages or five thousand, ten images or ten thousand, Jetpack has you covered.

Created for WordPress

Instead of needing to configure a third-party CDN to work with your WordPress site, Jetpack was designed specifically for WordPress. You don’t have to guess which settings are best for your exact scenario — Jetpack takes care of that for you!

Jetpack CDN has been around since Jetpack 2.0 (released in 2012!), when it was called Photon. It’s time-tested and proven to effectively speed up your site.

Setting up Jetpack CDN

If you’re already using Jetpack for automated, real-time backups, brute force protection, or some of the other available features, you’re a few clicks away from having a CDN. If not, start by:

  1. Logging into your WordPress dashboard.
  2. Navigating to the plugins menu.
  3. Searching for Jetpack.
  4. Clicking Install Now → Activate.

After installing Jetpack, it will prompt you to sign into a WordPress.com account or register a new one. Once you’ve done so, take the following steps:

  1. Navigate to Jetpack in your WordPress dashboard menu.
  2. Click the Performance tab.
  3. Choose Enable Site Accelerator

Note: This will take a few seconds to load, after which your site will start to serve images and other static files, such as CSS and JS, from the global CDN.

And that’s it! There’s no cost, no hard setup, and no risk of downtime; just accelerated assets loaded from a global CDN. Jetpack’s CDN also:

  • Automatically links to CDN URLs. No need for complex rewrites; Jetpack does all of that for you.
  • Fetches images and resizes them appropriately. This is a quick way to reduce the size and load time of a website.

If you’re hosting video content, a Jetpack Premium account might be a good option, with its unlimited video hosting feature. When using this, all of your videos will be on the same global network as your other assets.

Improve site speed with Jetpack CDN

If your site loads slowly, has a global audience, or anticipates traffic spikes, Jetpack CDN could make all the difference. Install Jetpack and follow the helpful getting started guide to have it set up in minutes! 

Since the CDN is completely free, you have nothing to lose and you’ll benefit from Jetpack’s many other security, speed, and performance benefits. 

Learn more about Jetpack CDN.

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  1. Priya says:

    I am on WordPress managed host business plan and do i still need to set up external CDN like Cloudflare to improve the performance of my website? Kindly advise.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Dat Hoang says:

      Yes, if you’re using a WordPress.com Business site, you do not need to set up Cloudflare. Jetpack CDN is set up already for your site.

      Liked by 1 person

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