Speed Test from Pingdom Tools showing all files loading very quickly.

My Experience with MaxCDN as a CDN Provider

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Since starting Do It With WordPress, I’ve been on shared hosting (on the awesome HostGator of course) and originally relied on just that to serve up my site.

As things started to get a little busier, I decided that a Content Delivery Network (CDN) would help. I started out by using Amazon S3, which isn’t technically a CDN, but helped me move the static files from my server anyway. Then after a while, I moved on to Amazon’s true CDN offeringAmazon Cloudfront. They’ve served me very well and I don’t have a bad thing to say about the service.

Recently however, I was approached by MaxCDN and asked whether I would try out their service. MaxCDN are a pretty big name in the CDN arena and I already knew that they hosted several big sites like Mashable and my friends over at WPBeginner, and they clearly knew what they were doing, so I decided that nothing bad could come of it.

One of the bonuses is that W3 Total Cache, the caching plugin I have been using for years, which also helped me implement my CDN with Amazon Cloudfront, was also compatible with MaxCDN, so setup was extremely easy. All I needed to do was change my API information from Amazon Cloudfront to Max CDN. It took all of 5 minutes.

You can also use MaxCDN with WP Super Cache too, by simply entering your MaxCDN hostname in the CDN settings page.

After doing the setup, I first checked to make sure that the site was loading correctly, but I then sat back for a few days and just let the site do its thing.

MaxCDN Performance

After those few days, I decided I’d take a look to see how my site was doing. I used the trusty Pingdom Tools to run a speed test on my site. The image below shows the detailed results.

Speed Test from Pingdom Tools showing all files loading very quickly.

The long and the short of it is this:

  • My site is very fast (loading in about half a second), even though I have third-party ads, and I’m running on a VPS with little environment configuration.

As you can see from the waterfall, images, CSS and all of my static content loads extremely quickly. There’s no real bottlenecks anywhere: it’s just several files loading quickly one after another.

That basically means that the CDN is immensely successful and that my site is very fast as a result. And I’ve not really done much beyond ensuring that the CDN is in place, and I’m not on an overloaded server.

The MaxCDN service

Clearly, the biggest thing to be worried about with a CDN is the performance; if it doesn’t do its job, then it’s frankly useless.

Fortunately with MaxCDN, that’s far from the case – it’s a technically excellent service.

But I wanted to take it a little further and describe the other parts of the service. Their website for example is very well thought out and easily navigable.

It’s very easy to see your usage in both graphical and tabular format. You can get a really good feel for how your CDN is being used; you can see which files are using the most of your bandwidth and also see how your bandwidth draw is spread across all of their global data centers.

As for cost, they have a very simple pricing structure, unlike Amazon Cloudfront. It’s based solely on your bandwidth usage. As I write this, it’s $39.99 for the first 1TB of bandwidth which works out at about 4 cents per gigabyte for comparison’s sake. To give you an idea of how far that will stretch, my average daily bandwidth through MaxCDN for this site has been 140MB, which means that a gigabyte (4 cents) will last me about a week.

That’s not bad at all and the service really is worth it. But here’s the caveat; the bandwidth expires after 12 months, so if you don’t use it, you lose it. Additionally, the first 1TB is discounted, so after you use that, the cost per gigabyte initially increases (to 7 cents per GB), before decreasing on a sliding scale.

So, in order for MaxCDN to be worthwhile, you need to have a moderately busy site to avoid losing unused bandwidth, and you need to do some calculations to get a feel for how much it will cost you; check out their pricing plan to get a feel for what the cost to you will be.

If your site isn’t that busy yet, an alternative like Amazon Cloudfront would definitely be more affordable, but the service provided by MaxCDN really is second to none and if it’s a good fit for your site, then rest assured that you’ll be very happy with them. I know I have been.

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Dave has been tinkering with WordPress for many years, and he now shares his WordPress knowledge here on Do It WIth WordPress to help others realise its impressive power. He can also be hired to help with your WordPress needs. Dave, who is British, is married to his best friend, Marti, with whom he has a beautiful daughter, Ellie. When he's not dabbling with WordPress, he's probably eating Triscuits or hummus, watching an indie film or British TV show, spending time with friends or family, or exploring the world.

21 Comments

  1. Am I correct to assume that MaxCDN allows for a number of your sites to use 1 account? That way if you do have few small / low traffic websites a MaxCDN account would be well worth the price.

    • Hi Charles, that’s right and is a fair point. You can create as many “pull zones” as you want, one for each site. Hell, I suppose you could even get a few friends together and split the cost.

  2. Right now i am using cloudfront for my website. One major point that is un-answered till date is how i can move more then 2 MB mysql data from one server to another. As right now i am using shared hosting and in case of shared hosting the limit size is 2MB. Do you have any idea how to do this.

    • Well, Cloudfront is a CDN, so you’re actually hosting it elsewhere. If you have a size limit on your MySQL database, then you can export the whole thing, get a new host (like HostGator) that doesn’t have stupid limits like that, and then import the database to your new hosting provider.

  3. I think it’s well worth it to upgrade to a vps. You can find great unmanaged vps hosting for virtually the same price as hostgator shared hosting. That along with a can will make a site blazing!

    • I don’t know that I’ve seen any VPS’ quite that cheap, but for $25/mo upward, you can get something worthwhile. I’m actually going to write a review soon about VPS, following my recent conversion from shared hosting.

      • I use an unmanaged VPS that starts at $4/mo that’s pretty awesome. Keep in mind it’s unmanaged, so you need to install everything yourself or know someone that will do it for you. A managed VPS will generally come with cpanel installed and have tech support. Those generally cost more and will be upwards of $25 a month.

        If you know how to do your own tech support and installation then an unmanaged VPS can be a good money saver while still giving you a good VPS experience.

        • Wow, that’s pretty impressive, I have to say. Never seen anything that low. Where on earth do you get a service like that? I wonder what the specs are like.

          • My host is hostigation.com. They are pretty fast and stable. You can ping their site to check it out. It is a small, one man operation, but well managed. Like I said, the VPS is unmanaged, so you do need to be familiar with how to SSH in and set up everything yourself as well as do your own tech support on the software related issues. They are really good about hardware support to ensure everything is stable. One key is that the owner makes sure that they don’t oversell, so you will see that they stop sales when they are full until they get more inventory in.

  4. I have been using MaxCDN for around a year for 2 sites. One get nearly 10.000 unique visitors/ day, and MaxCDN decrease loading time by 40%.

    To me, it’s a great investment :)

  5. This is a great post but I’m still trying to understand the concept! ;-) I have 3 small WordPress websites (around 30 pages) each and host on shared servers with Rochen who are excellent by the way. I went to the MaxCDN site and looked at their pricing but found it all a little overwhelming. One the pricing page it shows $39.95 for the first 1,000 GB but there are other prices etc storage and ad-dons Are these additional costs? Do I need them? Our business is in Thailand so can I use 3 domains on 1 MaxCDN set up, will benefit as my site is small, and can anyone explain the pricing structure (lay-mans terms) and what would I expect to pat at the end of the year!

    • OK, here it is in a nutshell. The first terabyte costs $40. That should run most sites for more than a year, so your annual costs are capped at $40. If you go over that, then the additional bandwidth costs kick in. You’ll notice that the first terabyte is subsidized compared to the cost of additional terabytes, but if you check your own bandwidth numbers, you should get a good idea for how much you’ll use.

      You can create unlimited zones, meaning that you can run as many websites as you want, through the same account, so multiple websites can share your terabyte of bandwidth if you want. As for the add-ons, you shouldn’t need to worry about them, unless you have specialist applications, like SSL, on your sites. Hope that helps.

  6. Thanks for the update Dave. I have also been in contact with maxCDN and now also understand I don’t need storage as I’ll only be using the cache.

    I was also advised from maxcdn I can use other websites. My busiest website’s bandwidth this month was only 726.56 MB It looks like I wont be going over the TB this year or next although when I do hopefully it will be due to increased visitors!

    Once again great post Dave. I learned something new this week! ;-)

  7. Thanks for this post. I was searching on Google to find out how long I should give MaxCDN before the site started seeing a huge boost in speed. Just before its implementation the site was loading at about 4 seconds. Within an hour it’s already going at about 2 seconds. I’m not sure if it’s already taking effect or if the server was just bogged down before.

    Anyways, now I know to give it a few days. :)

    Thanks!

  8. Great article… thanks! DO you know if MaxCCDN works with wordpress multisite?

  9. Hi Dave,

    Quick Question – I have been using MaxCDN on of my sites and from what I can see I have the same number of ads, widgets etc (although I am more image heavy), but my site still loads slow.

    I am using WPS Catch, smushing images and many other things that supposed to help.

    I wonder, would creating a few pull zones help at all? I have noticed on a few sites where they have way more stuff on the site than my site but their sites are loading very fast and looking a bit deeper, I noticed they have 3-4 pull zones.

    I am not very tech savvy, so I assumed that was it was for. What do you think?

    Thanks in advance.

    • They probably don’t have 3-4 different pull zones, but might use 3-4 different CNAMEs that point to the same pull zone, which can help. If the CDN hasn’t helped and you’re on an image intensive site, I’d say that you probably have different issues, such as an inadequate host.

  10. I’ve been using MaxCDN or a few weeks and honestly have not noticed a big difference in speed. Ran several tests and it didn’t seem to help that much IMO.

    • Really? That’s quite surprising. Next to activating a caching plugin, a CDN is usually the second best improvement you can make to your site’s speed, and it’s usually very noticeable. That’s odd that you didn’t appear to have that same experience.

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