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Cheap CDN: How to choose wisely

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Comparing prices of various CDN providers, you may discover that the final cost of one calculation can be up to 10 times more than another. Does this mean that the first CDN is ten times better than the second one? Does this mean that the most affordable CDN in this comparison will have totally poor service?

Not necessarily. The reality is much more complicated.

This brief article highlights the most common pitfalls of choosing a cost-effective CDN provider and explains how to discover a genuinely inexpensive service among all the marketing buzzwords.

If you need to refresh your knowledge of what a modern CDN can do for your website, check out our post about what a CDN is.

What are the reasons for a CDN being cheap?

From a value chain perspective, a “cheap CDN” means a product with limited customer value. CDN providers can adjust the product cost structure by cutting off extended features and additional functionalities.

Here are the main reasons why you might encounter a cheap CDN service:

  1. Content delivery only. This category of products is focused on its primary function—static asset delivery. You only pay for the traffic going through the vendor’s caching servers. All other functions stay out of its pricing.
  2. Limited performance. There is a constant tradeoff between price and performance. A CDN provider should invest a lot in network monitoring, peerings with partners, server hardware, and commutation appliances to keep performance at a decent level.
  3. Third-party infrastructure. Today, many CDN providers don’t have their own infrastructure at the backend. They can rent virtual servers for running CDN software or even resell the service of some of the large CDN providers. That’s totally ok, but it limits them in managing incidents and controlling performance.
  4. Poor customer support. Having a customer support department in-house significantly affects your product cost structure: you need to hire, train, and motivate staff, set up specific software, and organize their overall operations.

All these points help you to be more informed about what stands behind a cheap CDN solution. But there’s still more to learn!

Things you need to know about a modern CDN service

CDN is becoming affordable

Do you remember how costly a 1TB of enterprise HDD was ten years ago compared to what it is nowadays? The same thing has happened with CDN services. Technologies are becoming more affordable every day.

The availability of hardware and software components for CDN services is increasing. And many opportunities to start a CDN business easily (like a white label or reselling program) have appeared. All these things increase the competition between companies that offer CDN as a product and push down the pricing level for this service.

But at the same time, customers are becoming more demanding.

More than just content delivery

Content delivery itself looks like a very straightforward service compared to other managed infrastructure products. So, competing with each other, CDN providers strive to enrich their primary offer with additional value.

Embedded security features, free monitoring add-ons, dynamic content acceleration, advanced compression or image optimization utilities—having this range of features within a CDN tends to make the product a more versatile and complex cloud solution than as originally presented.

According to this trend, CDN’s caching servers are evolving into multifunctional edge units that could run additional software closer to end-user devices. That is how conventional CDN is gradually transforming into an edge optimization platform.

Variety of pricing models

As we noted above, today’s CDN pricing could consist of not only bandwidth costs but also of many additional features vendors develop for making their offerings more appealing.

When the overall industry is heading toward creating more enhanced edge optimization solutions, there is an attractive opportunity to have your business stand out by providing the least-expensive CDN product on the market.

Figure 1. Example of the modern CDN pricing comparison

Some features could be included in traffic costs, but some may not be — you’ll need to pay for them additionally. In some offerings, you can pick traffic precisely from the region you need, while in others, there is only a flat global rate. Taken together, all of these aspects create plenty of pricing models for different groups of clients.

So, comparing them directly, you may easily miss something important and lose sight of the full picture.

How to choose a CDN which saves your budget

Know your traffic

Knowledge about how much traffic per month you have gives you the primary input for further calculations. Depending on volume, you can probably find a solution when your amount of traffic is included in a very inexpensive or even a free CDN plan.

Choose regions thoroughly

Also, you should check the geographic allocation of your traffic. Since many CDN providers have geo-based traffic prices, you can select the best offer according to your audience’s location.

Figure 2. The difference between single global pricing and pricing by region

Global pricing could be an extremely significant factor when you’re looking for the best price on behalf of an enterprise-grade client.

Check included features

If you know exactly which features you need and which of them you can easily sacrifice, look for a vendor with the appropriate pricing model and assess which features are included in its basic plan.

Assess the risks

Keep in mind that saving on some security features creates a risk of being damaged by malicious attacks or incidents. It could be more obvious when you’re maintaining a website for your client according to established SLAs, and every disruption will charge you extra.

Consider a multi-CDN approach

Multi-CDN strategy makes sense when you’re working at a large scale (and probably not looking for a “Cheap CDN” 😀), but it could provide you with a huge cost reduction in the long run.

Learn more about the benefits of the multi-CDN approach in our white paper.

Ask for discounts and compare terms

Don’t hesitate to ask for custom terms and personalized discounts. These are made available not only for large enterprises but also for mid-size businesses, so you can grab an attractive offer that significantly cuts your costs.

Gcore CDN: free service for everyone

Gcore CDN is a next-gen content delivery network that you can start using without any payments or linking a credit card. The free plan includes 1 TB of traffic and 1,000,000,000 HTTP requests*—that’s more than enough for many personal websites and small web projects.

We’re developing Gcore CDN with small businesses in mind, offering them the same level of reliability and performance as global digital brands.

Since Gcore was created as an infrastructure project to support tremendous gaming workloads, we are leveraging our own network of servers across the globe with more than 110 Tbps of total capacity.

* Сheck actual plan terms on the product page.

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