5 Reasons Why You Should Be Using a CDN with WordPress

By Jacco Blankenspoor
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Nowadays it’s relatively inexpensive to use a Content Distribution Network (CDN) for your WordPress website, some are even free. While there are many benefits of using a CDN, they should be taken with a grain of salt.

In this article you won’t find only hallelujahs for using a CDN, but I will give you 5 good reasons why you should be using a CDN with WordPress.

One important note: Even if you’re saying you are not using a CDN, you probably are. Almost all of the third party apps running on your site, like Facebook or Google Analytics are using CDNs to load their scripts. Craig gives further insight in his article about CDNs.

In this article I will focus on the CDN you actively turn on yourself however, which is quite easy if you use a WordPress caching plugin.

1. Speed

Let’s start with what most people consider the main selling point of a CDN: Speed. It is widely believed that using a CDN will increase the loading speed of your site.

While in many cases this is true, what you really should look at is the speed improvement. Going from 15 seconds to 6 seconds loading time after switching on a CDN might seem impressive, but still about 4 seconds longer than needed. It basically tells you your code sucks, even though some of your files are loading faster.

Going from 6 to 2 seconds however is a great improvement, and if it can be fully attributed to the CDN then it’s a useful addition. In this case your site is probably well optimized, and you need the CDN to speed up loading your heavier or large number of files.

What’s also very important is the capabilities and configuration of your web host. More often than not, a premium web host already has an internal CDN-like setup, where they serve up your static files from optimized file servers.

For example I am using a WordPress specialized host for one of my personal sites in the UK, where they have one of their data centers based in London. These guys have optimization running through their veins and it shows in the results I see. This is a good case of paying extra for a higher quality service.

GTMetrix Performance Test

The above tests were performed at GTMetrix.com. The homepage has quite a lot or photos on it, which makes it in theory, ideal for a CDN. The site and images are fairly optimized though, and turning on a CDN gave a load time improvement of about… 0.3 seconds. Yep, that’s what you get for spending a bit more on hosting.

Lesson learned here: Make sure you actually need a CDN.

2. Load Reduction and Consistent Speed

Another main reason for using a CDN is for load reduction and the resulting consistent speed it gives you, especially when traffic spikes. When running your own server or using shared hosting, you might notice things slow down during these times. A CDN can help you to reduce or even prevent this effect.

Because CDNs are designed to handle massive loads of traffic, they won’t break when you suddenly become very popular. We used to call this the Slashdot-effect, and later the Digg-effect, back in the days. This was because becoming popular on these social platforms typically brought your average shared hosting account to its knees.

As with speed, using a CDN alone won’t always prevent downtime during traffic surges. If your main site/server is still required for loading dynamic files, it may still go down. Caching is the key here. Once you’ve enabled caching, then you can add a CDN. Always perform real load testing to make sure you’ve got it working correctly.

3. Going Global

The situation where you definitely should be using a CDN is when you want to reach a global audience. A decent CDN provider has servers spread out all over the globe, so there’s always one within a relatively small distance from where you’re connected to the Internet. This means even visitors in a country far, far away can experience your site as if they were sitting next to it.

Of course, this still depends on the coverage of your CDN provider. I have one site with a surprisingly large amount of visitors from India. You would expect a benefit from using a CDN here. Well there is, but it doesn’t help that the files need to come all the way from Singapore, which is the closest location. It’s still closer than the UK, but quite a long way if you have to walk it. So make sure you check the coverage map of a provider first, taking into consideration that Point of Presence alone doesn’t always guarantee complete local coverage.

Various page speed tools support testing from various geographic regions. So if you’re in the UK and your visitors are in the US, run your tests from the US.

4. Cost Savings

Adding a CDN sounds expensive, so how can using a CDN actually save you money? Load reduction is a big one, especially when running your own servers. Using a CDN is, in most cases cheaper than adding more CPU or RAM. The same applies to shared hosting, there may not be a need to upgrade to a higher plan if you reduce your resource usage.

Geo-distribution is another money saver. You could set up web servers in different data centers around the world, but utilizing a CDN is way cheaper.

There’s even a way to get a quality CDN for free, you can use CloudFlare. I’ve written about CloudFlare before and also covered a service called Incapsula. They offer a free CDN too, but focus more on security.

CloudFlare is basically an advanced CDN. You have all the benefits of a regular CDN like optimized servers, parallel downloading (since you’re using a different domain for your CDN) and DDoS protection.

Apart from their core features, CloudFlare also adds their own special sauce, which they use to optimize your images and CSS/scripts (minification). There’s even an option to load your scripts asynchronously. The cost of all this juiciness? $0. You can literally save hundreds of GBs without spending a cent. Their coverage is quite good as well.

5. WordPress Loves CDNs

It’s very easy to integrate a CDN with WordPress, due to it’s simple file structure.

There are many CDN plugins available at the WordPress Directory, and most providers offer their own plugin as well.

Alternatively you can use one of the popular WordPress caching plugins, which not only gives you easy CDN integration but also provides other optimization features for your site.


As you can see there are many great reasons for using a CDN for your WordPress site. There are hardly any downsides of using one.

Always remember to check the coverage of the provider you intend to use. Also make sure you actually need a CDN, and never rely on it solely to speed up your site. Keep that in mind and your site should be loading in lightning fast times.

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  • ChristineDMcKinnis


  • Very good, excellent reasons to continue using CDN.

  • lucasrolff

    “So make sure you check the coverage map of a provider first, especially for Asia.”

    I don’t know what you’re trying to say here :) There’s no golden rule saying, if we have a POP near the city the visitor is located in, it will be faster..

    Actually – it’s rarely the case – a very good example, is the majority of cities in brazil has a lower latency to Miami than to any city within Brazil due to the way routing and cabling internally in the country is done.

    Same goes for big parts of Asia by the way – so that sentence doesn’t even make sense :)

  • This is a good point. Sometimes CDN can even slow down the website. I have experience the same in Asia.

  • Thanks for the feedback. Good point and I’ve reworded that sentence to be a bit clearer. I’ve seen similar weirdness when I would assume a POP would be all that’s needed. Someone shared this with us the other day http://tools.maxcdn.com/, do you know of any other tools or methods to help test?

    • lucasrolff

      tools.maxcdn.com pings your domain – gives no insights into how the CDN actually performs, sure – their network can be ok, but if the servers serving the files has a long TTFB – then again it’s pointless..

      The best way to do comparison of CDNs is to use something like cedexis, that specialises in benchmarking CDNs both on a network but also server level, based on RUM data (which is what we care about anyway), this takes a lot of factors into account, such as different internet providers etc, catchpoint is another good solutions to constantly test performance of websites, DNS, network etc – giving you the possibility to see which routes is taken, and due to the amount of test locations they have, you can often also spot issues if a specific internet provider is having routing issues etc.

      I can’t really recommend a free tool, to test real performance, that actually give you enough insight into your network based on actual users.

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  • Thanks for the info. Will check out Cedexis and Catchpoint :)

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  • Awesome article Jacco. It is very much important to have a website that helps to increase user engagement. WordPress is a platform that can fulfill any business requirements using inbuilt modules and supporting plugins. With increasing on page content, it is important to optimize the website that loads quickly. CDN provides a bunch of servers all over the world with a unique logic worked into them that helps to improve site performance for large businesses. Using CDN with W3 cache decreases the loading time and provides full value for the money.