CDN for WordPress: Key features to look for

Content delivery networks (CDNs) make WordPress sites much faster and more reliable.

Learning Objectives

After reading this article you will be able to:

  • Describe how a CDN helps WordPress sites
  • Identify the best CDNs for WordPress
  • Understand how CDNs protect sites from DDoS attacks

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How does a CDN help WordPress sites?

A content delivery network (CDN) is a distributed network of servers for caching web content close to end users. CDNs serve content on behalf of a website's regular servers (or origin servers) in order to accelerate the delivery of that content. Basically, they make websites load faster, just as a network of delivery trucks makes for a faster delivery service than a single truck trying to deliver packages to everyone. WordPress websites can benefit from using a CDN in several ways:

How do CDNs integrate with WordPress sites?

CDNs are proxy networks: this means they sit in between website hosts and Internet users, forwarding network traffic to and from the two sides. A CDN can serve content on behalf of any website host. The best CDNs have a global presence, which enables them to easily cache and serve content anywhere in the world.

Some WordPress hosts offer a built-in option for activating CDN services. Other CDN services require WordPress site owners to sign up separately. Others offer a WordPress plugin. Regardless of the method used, turning on CDN services for a WordPress site is usually a simple, beginner-friendly process.

How does a CDN protect WordPress sites from DDoS attacks?

A DDoS attack is a flood of network traffic directed at a website or server, with the goal of overwhelming that website or server so that regular users cannot receive service. Sometimes the website or server crashes as well.

Because CDNs process all traffic before it reaches a website, they are well-positioned to identify and block DDoS attacks. Thanks to their many servers, CDNs are able to absorb or remove extra traffic without crashing.

Protection from DDoS attacks is a must-have for most WordPress sites. DDoS attacks can slow down service or take websites offline for hours or days at a time. Some DDoS attackers even use these attacks to extort website administrators for money (these are called "ransom DDoS attacks"). Robust DDoS protection ensures that WordPress websites remain available and reliable even in the face of large attacks.

What is the best CDN for WordPress?

The best CDNs for WordPress should offer the following features:

  • Easy integration with WordPress: A CDN should be designed to natively integrate with WordPress, rather than requiring complex configuration.
  • High cache hit ratio: Cache hit ratio measures the percentage of content requests that a CDN can serve from its cache, instead of querying the origin server. A CDN should have a high cache hit ratio, which allows it to serve content faster and more reliably to website visitors.
  • International presence: A CDN with a global presence can deliver content faster to all website visitors, no matter where they are located.
  • DDoS protection: A CDN should be able to absorb DDoS attacks to ensure website reliability.
  • WAF integration: A web application firewall (WAF) blocks attacks directed at web applications, keeping both the site itself and its users secure. Without a WAF, websites are vulnerable to cross-site scripting, SQL injection, and other attacks that put users and data at risk. CDNs are an ideal way to deploy WAFs: they already proxy all traffic to a website and can therefore inspect and block malicious traffic.
  • Caching static and dynamic content: A lot of web content is static, meaning it does not change. Some web content is dynamic, changing based on information about the user, the time of day, location, or other factors. A CDN should offer the ability to cache and serve dynamic content as well as static content.

To see an example of a CDN with these features, learn about the Cloudflare CDN.

Can a CDN host WordPress sites?

CDNs are not usually used for hosting. Instead, they sit in front of the host and accelerate delivery of the hosted website. While the Cloudflare CDN can host certain types of content (in particular images, video, and static webpages), WordPress sites are usually hosted separately from the CDNs they use.

What is Automatic Platform Optimization?

Site owners should optimize their websites to load quickly since performance affects everything from SEO to conversion rates. CDNs boost performance, but there are a ton of other optimizations possible for WordPress sites.

Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) is a Cloudflare service that intelligently caches dynamic content, so both static and dynamic content can be served from the Cloudflare global network. APO keeps WordPress sites fast, even when updates and slow plugins would otherwise hinder their performance. Learn more about Cloudflare APO.