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Which CDN services are right for you? A breakdown of providers' features

Learn how 10 CDN providers measure up when it comes to addressing key considerations, including primary service focus, features, POPs, a free trial version and pricing information.

Content delivery networks, or CDNs, have become essential to many organizations, as the amount and complexity of content they need to distribute to users worldwide via the internet continues to increase. Today's CDN services decrease page load times and offer a variety of other features, including web acceleration, security and analytics.

Here's an in-depth look at 10 leading content delivery network providers that examines each vendor's primary service focus, features and number of points of presence (POPs). This product roundup also covers whether a free trial version of the CDN and pricing information are available.

Akamai Technologies

As the pioneer of CDN services, Akamai has delivered content since the late 1990s. Where some of the vendors examined here provide CDNs as just one of their services, Akamai's sole focus has always been on CDNs. The company's offerings are designed for organizations of all sizes, as well as for service providers.

Akamai's more than 40 products focus on four areas: web performance, media delivery, cloud security and network operator services. Web performance encompasses web and mobile acceleration -- including a specific China CDN service -- IoT services, image optimization, domain name system (DNS) and traffic management, and an API gateway.

Media delivery includes real-time and on-demand video delivery, cloud storage and download delivery. Cloud security includes application protection, bot management, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) mitigation and enterprise security. Network operator services cover high-scale video delivery, DNS infrastructure and security, and personalization services.

Akamai claims 240,000 servers in 130 countries.

The company offers a free trial of its CDN and generally prices its services by consumption.

Editor's note

Using extensive research into the content delivery network market, TechTarget editors focused this article series on 10 leading providers of shared global content delivery network services. Our research included data from TechTarget surveys and reports from research firms, including Gartner and Forrester.

Amazon CloudFront

Amazon CloudFront is the CDN component of AWS. CloudFront works with related AWS offerings, such as Amazon Simple Storage Service, Elastic Load Balancing and Elastic Compute Cloud. As with AWS, CloudFront can scale from small businesses up to large implementations.

CloudFront supports static content, as well as streaming media. Its security features include signed URLs, a web application firewall (WAF) and AWS CloudTrail, which provides admin user tracking and auditing capabilities through the various command line, GUI and programmed access to resources. Amazon Lambda@Edge enables users to customize content and to run code across AWS locations worldwide.

CloudFront has 134 POPs in 61 cities across 28 countries.

Amazon offers a free trial of its CDN. No contracts are involved in using CloudFront, and fees are based on usage and consumption.

CDNetworks

Founded in 2000, CDNetworks' global CDN provides services to areas of the world where website accessibility is most challenging -- mainland China, Russia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. The company is headquartered in Seoul, Korea, with offices in California, London, Munich, Tokyo, Singapore and China.

CDNetworks offers image management capabilities, with features such as watermarking and entropy detection. CDNetworks Cloud Load Balancer provides load balancing at the DNS level.

CDNetworks' pricing model is built around the number of apps and websites, gigabytes transferred and transfer speed requirements.

The company has more than 200 POPs.

CDNetworks offers a customized trial version of its CDN.

CenturyLink

CenturyLink is a multifaceted telecommunications company for which CDNs are just one of a portfolio of related businesses. After acquiring the Level 3 CDN in 2017, CenturyLink's CDN offering comprises more than 40 products that offer networking, hybrid IT and cloud, voice and unified communications, managed and IT services, and security. CenturyLink is the third-largest telecom service provider in the U.S., behind AT&T and Verizon in terms of lines served.

While CenturyLink provides core CDN capabilities, its focus is on live and streaming video delivery for companies that depend on video. The CenturyLink Vyvx broadcast video products are designed for customers that deliver huge broadcast events, including live sporting events and 24/7 TV channels.

CenturyLink also provides satellite and teleport services for originating video from any location. The company claims more than 15,000 globally distributed servers in nearly 100 major metro areas spread across six continents.

Cloudflare

Founded in 2009, content delivery is Cloudflare's primary service focus. Where most CDNs focus on enterprise-level customers and require custom setup, Cloudflare takes a simpler, self-service approach.

With a free option for personal websites and blogs, Cloudflare offers basic and inexpensive CDNs to individual and small users, as well as customizable, API-oriented services to business and enterprise users. Cloudflare claims 20 Tbps of bandwidth capacity across 154 data centers.

Its highest density of data centers is in the U.S., Europe and Southeast Asia. At the lower end, Cloudflare offers free plans for personal use, $20 per month for simple professional sites and $200 per month for sites involving e-commerce and requiring security features. Enterprise pricing is customized based on requirements and is the only pricing tier where phone support is available.

Fastly Inc.

Fastly, established in 2011, offers a balanced portfolio of CDN services that include content delivery and image optimization, video and streaming, cloud security, load balancing and managed CDN. Fastly's Varnish Configuration Language is an open source web accelerator that users can modify to customize CDN delivery to their specific needs.

Fastly pricing is based on bandwidth consumption and network requests. The company offers a free trial, with no charge for up to $50 of traffic. Fastly's global capacity is 25 Tbps.

With nearly two dozen POPs in North America, much of the company's capacity services U.S. and Canadian customers. The company has POPs in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Fastly has an aggressive expansion plan, with another 10 POPs announced.

Imperva Incapsula

Imperva Incapsula was founded in late 2009. The company was spun out of Imperva and then back into Imperva in 2014. While the Incapsula Content Delivery Network is a full-service CDN, Imperva's focus is on security. Its web application security -- the Incapsula WAF -- is the cornerstone of Imperva's offerings. Unlike many of the other CDNs, Imperva offers security as a service.

Imperva offers a free trial, as well as a basic option for businesses at $299 per site, per month. Imperva Incapsula has 50 POPs, either existing or under construction globally, with 6 Tbps of capacity. With its primary focus on security, Imperva Incapsula has DDoS scrubbing centers around the globe that can be aggregated to share the workload in the event of volumetric DDoS attacks on any of its customers.

Instart Logic Inc.

Founded in 2010, Instart uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze both application and user behaviors. It uses this information to optimize relevant components, including images, HTML and JavaScript code, to improve performance. Instart enables customers to disable various ad-blocking systems, thus allowing them to restore advertising impressions and their generated revenue.

The company's products run the gamut of CDN services and include cloud application performance, image optimization, mobile acceleration, bot protection and management, WAF and DDoS protection, and an application services platform. The services are focused on enterprise business customers. In partnership with ChinaCache, the company also provides services customized for content delivery to China.

The company has 30 POPs outside of China.

Pricing is flexible per customer requirements and can be based on bandwidth utilization or page views.

Limelight Networks

Limelight, founded in 2001, is a full-service CDN service provider. Its products include content delivery, video delivery, edge cloud, cloud security, origin storage and support services.

The company's self-service portal enables easy management and configuration changes to customer environments. This, along with Limelight's unified reporting, improves flexibility, reduces debug and troubleshooting time, and provides better total cost of ownership.

Limelight claims more than 80 global POPs in over 40 metro locations and direct connections to more than 900 internet service providers. The company has more than 35 Tbps of egress capacity. Limelight focuses on industries such as media and broadcasting, software and device manufacturing, retail and e-commerce and gaming.

Limelight offers support and a free trial of its service.

Verizon Digital Media Services

Founded in 2006 as EdgeCast Networks, the company became part of telecom operator Verizon in late 2013. Verizon Digital Media Services (VDMS) became part of Oath Inc. -- which is still part of Verizon -- in 2017. Oath is the umbrella group that also includes AOL and Yahoo brands.

As with some of the other vendors, VDMS provides what it calls self-enablement, a self-service portal that allows customers to respond to changing needs and conditions by reconfiguring their CDN services without requiring interaction with Verizon -- the benefits being enhanced productivity and total cost of ownership.

On its website, VDMS offers its Uplynk video streaming service on a separate platform. Customers that require both traditional application CDN optimization and video delivery may find this separation will complicate content delivery needs that span both categories. Within the CDN platform, VDMS offers core CDN caching and acceleration functions, along with WAF, DDoS protection, Secure Sockets Layer and Transport Layer Security, bot mitigation and related security functions.

This was last published in November 2018

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