There are a lot of ways to speed up a website, but one of the most effective is using a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN stores copies of your site, or select content, on a network of servers, then sends that content to your visitors’ computers from the server that can do it the fastest. This is usually one nearest to them geographically.
Using a content delivery network distributes your server’s workload — meaning your site loads faster and more reliably while reducing the resources used by your hosting plan.
Because there are so many options, the question isn’t really whether you should use a CDN for your WordPress site, but which one to use and how to integrate it with WordPress.
Some CDNs are free. Others come with hefty fees. Some require advanced technical knowledge to set up and others are built for WordPress and can be easily integrated with a plugin.
The point is that not all CDNs are the same. Below, you’ll learn how to choose the right CDN for WordPress and how to install it. Then, we’ll discuss the benefits of using a CDN and answer some frequently asked questions.
What’s the best CDN for WordPress?
There are a lot of CDN services that you can use with any website. Although, one downside of most content delivery networks is that they’re premium services. This is because of the infrastructure required behind the scenes.
To put it simply, when you sign up for a CDN, you get access to a global network of real-world data centers. These data centers cache copies of your site and its files.
So, when a visitor goes to access your site, the CDN then ‘intercepts’ that connection and serves the website from the data center that’s closest to the user. This way, the website is delivered more quickly and efficiently.
Essentially, CDNs are optimized to serve content as quickly as possible and to be able to handle massive amounts of traffic. With a CDN, your website still works just as intended, but in most cases, it loads much faster than it would using your hosting provider’s servers alone.
Popular content delivery networks (CDNs)
There are a lot of choices for CDNs. Cloudflare is one popular option that comes with additional services you may or may not want. While it’s well-known, it’s going to be more complicated to set up when compared to other solutions that are completely dedicated to WordPress sites. That said, if you have an advanced site and an IT team available to help, it could be a great option. There are free plans available with limited features, but business plans start at $200 per month and are designed for companies that rely heavily on their website.
Cloudfront is a CDN service from Amazon. It’s part of the Amazon Web Services suite of tools and is another option that could be ideal for sites with a large volume of traffic (hundreds of thousands or millions of hits each month) or a large database of content or products. You’ll need an AWS account and an AWS Identity and Access Management user to get started. Cloudfront does have a plugin for WordPress, but you might want to view the getting started documentation to see if you, or your IT manager, is up for what might be a lengthy setup process. Cloudfront was not designed solely for WordPress sites.
KeyCDN is another CDN for WordPress that you may have heard of. It has powerful, fast servers and a focus on speeding up images — one of the heaviest parts of a website. It also includes a plugin that makes integrating with WordPress relatively simple. However, there are still quite a few settings that require configuration, which can be confusing for non-developers. There’s also no free plan available, and pricing is based on storage space used. This means that the more you grow, the more you’ll have to pay.
The best CDN for most WordPress sites
Unless you’re a larger company, many popular CDNs can be prohibitively expensive or complicated to manage. But most WordPress sites can greatly benefit from an outstanding free option that’s built specifically for WordPress — Jetpack.
Jetpack offers a free CDN that you can use for your website’s images and static files. Those are features built into the base version of the plugin. You don’t even need a premium Jetpack license to access CDN functionality.
Additionally, you can install the Jetpack Boost plugin, which will help you optimize your load times even further. With Jetpack Boost, you can improve your Core Web Vitals by having the plugin optimize your CSS, defer non-critical scripts, and enable lazy loading for your site.
If you’re not sure what CDN to use, you can’t beat Jetpack when it comes to easy integration.
How to install a CDN in WordPress
Typically, installing a CDN involves editing your Domain Name Records (DNS) so they point to the service instead of your web hosting provider. However, that process can vary depending on which content delivery network you’re using.
With Jetpack, you don’t need to edit any domain records to use the CDN functionality. For WordPress CDN setup with Jetpack, all you have to do is install the plugin and activate it. After that, you’ll need to connect the plugin to a WordPress.com account to start taking advantage of its features.
Although Jetpack works with self-hosted WordPress sites, it’s developed by the Automattic team (the same people behind WordPress.com). Creating a free WordPress.com account takes only minutes and you don’t need to use it beyond entering your credentials to activate Jetpack.
How to configure your WordPress CDN
We’re going to use Jetpack CDN as an example. Before you read through it, however, you may want to check out other CDN getting started documentation like this one from Cloudfront. Then, compare Jetpack’s configuration process below to fully understand the difference in ease of use.
How to configure Jetpack CDN
Once the plugin is active on your website, navigate to Jetpack → Settings and open the Performance tab. Look for the section that says Performance & speed and turn on the Enable site accelerator option:
At the bottom of this section, you can also choose to enable lazy loading for images. If you do, visitors won’t have to load all images from your website’s pages at once. Instead, images will only start to load as users scroll down the respective pages.
If you’re using Jetpack Boost, there will be an additional Jetpack → Boost page in the dashboard, where you get access to more performance-related settings. From this page, you can monitor your PageSpeed Insights performance scores for the desktop and mobile versions of your website.
These settings aren’t part of Jetpack’s CDN functionality, but they’re essential if you want to improve your website’s overall performance. All in all, the Jetpack CDN features and Jetpack Boost go hand-in-hand in helping you reduce site load times.
What are the key benefits of Jetpack CDN?
Some CDNs offer massive rosters of servers spread out across the world, which is perfect for large, global enterprises. Others have a wide range of extra features built in. For most sites, these far exceed what they’ll ever need or use.
If you’re running a growing website and simply want to speed up your site without breaking the bank, Jetpack CDN is the ideal option.
With Jetpack, you get to leverage the world-renowned WordPress.com infrastructure to improve your site’s loading times, all for free. Here are some other benefits:
- It’s easy to set up. Other CDNs typically involve a complex integration process. In most cases, you need to configure your DNS settings to point to other nameservers to use a CDN. This can be confusing, especially for WordPress beginners. But Jetpack enables you to enhance your website’s performance without a complicated configuration process.
- It can reduce your hosting fees. Because many of your large files are offloaded to Jetpack CDNs servers, your storage capacity and bandwidth used with your hosting provider are reduced.
- It includes unlimited resources. Many other CDNs charge more based on the size of your site or the number of visits you get in a certain time period. The more you grow, the more you pay! But Jetpack is free no matter how large your site becomes.
- It’s built for WordPress. This means that it integrates seamlessly with the themes and plugins you’re already using and you don’t have to spend your valuable time troubleshooting compatibility issues. Plus, it’s always up-to-date with the latest version of WordPress.
- It includes automatic image compression. Images are typically one of the heaviest types of files on your WordPress site. Jetpack CDN automatically compresses images as you upload them to reduce their weight, and even optimizes them for mobile devices.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
If you still have any questions about CDNs and how they work, this section will answer them. Let’s start by digging into how to use a CDN in WordPress.
What is a CDN in WordPress?
Content delivery networks (CDNs) are services that enable you to cache copies of your site on third-party servers. Typically, CDNs have data centers around the world, which they use to serve the cached copies of your site when a visitor tries to access it.
If you decide to use a CDN, you’ll need to sign up for it. You’ll also have to integrate it with your site manually if you’re looking for ways to improve its performance.
One key advantage of using a CDN with WordPress is that the CMS is so popular that most services offer easy integration with it. That means you usually get access to plugins or in-depth instructions on how to configure a CDN to work with your WordPress website.
Do I need to use a CDN?
Using a CDN isn’t strictly necessary for any website, but it’s recommended in most cases. That’s because ensuring that your website loads as fast as possible will improve the user experience and can help reduce its overall bounce rate.
In most cases, integrating a CDN with WordPress will drastically reduce loading times almost immediately. If you combine the use of a CDN with other performance improvement tweaks, you’ll be able to offer the best possible user experience.
If you don’t have the budget for a paid CDN, you can use a service like Jetpack. With Jetpack, you get access to most of the features that paid CDN services offer, all for free. If you want access to more advanced features you can always choose to upgrade to a premium Jetpack plan.
What are the benefits of using a CDN for WordPress?
The main benefit of using a CDN is to reduce your website’s load times. CDNs achieve this by serving cached copies of your site from the closest data center to its visitors. Their servers are optimized for performance. What’s more, they can typically handle a lot more concurrent traffic than regular hosting plans.
Besides performance improvements, CDNs also offer a range of additional benefits. Some of them include:
- Increased security: With a CDN, you get an added layer of security between attackers and your website. Some CDNs also offer web firewall functionality, which enables you to block connections from malicious sources.
- Protection against DDoS attacks: Most CDNs offer protection against distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. A DDoS attack is when someone directs massive amounts of concurrent traffic to your website to overwhelm it, making it impossible to access.
- Diminishing your server’s workload: Since a CDN handles most visitor requests, your server doesn’t have to work as much. Often, that means you can opt for a less expensive hosting plan without sacrificing quality.
If you’re using a free CDN like Jetpack, there’s basically no downside. Premium CDNs can be expensive, so it becomes a question of how much the increase in performance and the other benefits outweigh the costs. With a free (and powerful) CDN, it’s all upside.
Is there a free CDN built specifically for WordPress?
Jetpack is the only WordPress-specific CDN on the market. Some of Jetpack’s features are only for users with premium licenses, like real-time WordPress backups and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools. Jetpack CDN, on the other hand, is available for all users.
To get started using Jetpack and its built-in CDN, you only need to install the plugin and set up a free WordPress.com account. You can also install Jetpack Boost to improve performance even further.
Will a CDN improve my WordPress site’s performance?
In the vast majority of cases, using a CDN will result in an immediate performance boost. That’s because most CDN servers are far better optimized than regular ones. CDNs also offer data centers around the world, which cut down on latency issues when connecting to websites hosted in distant regions.
If you’re using a performance-oriented WordPress hosting provider and you’ve configured your website properly, it might already load quickly. However, using a CDN can further reduce load times, which is always a positive.
What else can I do to improve my site’s performance?
There are a lot of ways to improve a website’s performance. When you set up a new WordPress website, it should load almost instantly. If it doesn’t, it’s likely that your web host is the problem.
Unfortunately, not all web hosts are optimized for performance, even if you’re not using a shared hosting plan. If you have a brand new website and it’s taking more than two seconds to load, you might want to consider switching to a different hosting provider.
On the other hand, if you’re happy with your web host and your site’s basic performance, there are still a lot of ways to reduce load times even further. Among those methods, you have options like:
- Compressing images before or during upload. Images can take up a lot of server space and they can slow down loading times drastically. Instead of avoiding images, we recommend compressing them to reduce overall file sizes.
- Enabling browser caching. With browser caching, visitors can store files from your site locally. That way, they don’t need to reload your website fully every time they visit it.
- Turn on lazy loading for images. This feature makes it so that users don’t load images until they scroll down to see them. Lazy loading helps reduce the initial loading times for a page.
On top of those optimizations, you’d also be wise to consider Core Web Vitals. These are user experience metrics that Google takes into account when ranking websites in search results. Core Web Vitals are directly related to website performance.
If you use Jetpack Boost, the plugin can help you measure and improve your Core Web Vitals on WordPress.
Use a content delivery network (CDN) to improve your WordPress website’s performance
Making sure that your website is as fast as possible is key to providing a positive user experience. If you don’t, slow load times can cause you to lose visitors. Using a CDN is perhaps the best way to improve your site’s performance.
There are a lot of options for CDNs that you can use with WordPress, but Jetpack CDN is a great, free tool that’s easy to configure. For most sites, Jetpack is the ideal tool to instantly improve site performance.
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