If you own a website or you’re hosting websites, you’ve probably used Cloudflare (or thought about using it). Although Cloudflare might be the best and most popular in its category, it’s not without its competitors. Different people and organizations have different needs—that’s where Cloudflare alternatives come in.
Cloudflare also owns one of the biggest CDN’s (Content Delivery Networks) in the world.
What’s a CDN?
A CDN is a network of distributed servers that work in conjunction with each other to deliver the content as fast as possible. But that’s not all a CDN does…
A CDN has 4 main use-cases. Let’s take a quick look below and understand what a CDN is for, then we’ll move onto the alternatives.
Improve website speed and load times
By serving the content from a CDN server that is closest to the user, the latency is reduced and the end result is a faster-loading website. Because as Google says, the probability of bounce increases drastically with every second the website takes to load. In short, a faster website results in more visitors, and visitors will spend more time on the website.
Increase content availability and add redundancy
When a website receives an unusually large traffic spike, the server might slow down because there are hardware limitations. Or in the worst case scenario, completely fail. A CDN uses more than one server to deliver the content. Thanks to that, it can withstand a lot more traffic than most servers.
Reduce bandwidth costs
This might not affect smaller websites, but it’s the main problem for large websites. Some services like AWS are priced according to the bandwidth consumed, so it might end up more expensive. Other hosts that offer a fixed bandwidth might suspend the hosting account. With the help of a CDN, your hosting provider doesn’t have to deliver all of the bandwidth alone.
Secure the website
Smaller websites are prone to DDoS attacks. A Distributed Denial-of-Service attack sends a huge amount of traffic to a website, in an attempt to overload the server to the point where it’s not usable anymore. A CDN can include DDoS protection with it. The last DDOS attack that was mitigated by a DDoS protection service was targeting Github at 1.3 TB/s. That’s terabytes!
The Best Cloudflare Alternatives
If you’re looking for a free Cloudflare alternative, you might not find it. Cloudflare offers a lot of features for free. Along with a CDN, Cloudflare also offers basic DDOS protection and free SSL. This is all for free. There also isn’t a bandwidth limit, which is very hard to compete with.
Those are all the good things. But there has to be something bad about them, right?
There was a scandal in 2017 when a researcher from Google’s Project Zero found a bug that could cause information transacted through Cloudflare to leak in plain text. This bug was apparently active for five months before it was found.
What made the cleaning process that much harder was search engines. They had already cached some of the data and Cloudflare had to ask them to manually scrub the data, just in case there’s some sensitive information cached.
If this information looks scary to you (and you don’t trust Cloudflare anymore), here are some Cloudflare alternatives you can use instead:
AWS CloudFront – Cloudflare Killer?
CloudFront is the CDN element offered with AWS (Amazon Web Services). It uses 169 edge locations that are spread through Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Australia to deliver the content as quickly as possible.
It can speed up the delivery of content, whether that’s static content, dynamic content, or media streaming. It also supports on-demand media streaming by using RTMP.
CloudFront uses a multi-tiered system for serving content. With this system, content can be cached in 11 additional regional edge caches. Cloudfront first checks if the content is cached in the closest edge location and if it doesn’t find it there, it checks the regional caches.
It works seamlessly together with all of the other AWS products, including AWS Shield and AWS WAF. This means that your website will be protected at all times and that’s why AWS CloudFront is a great alternative to CloudFlare.
There is a 12-month free version of AWS CloudFront, but it’s limited to 12 months and 50GB of storage. After that, the price is based on actual usage of:
- Data Transfer Out
- HTTP/HTTPS Requests
- Invalidation Requests
- Field Level Encryption Requests
- Dedicated IP Custom SSL Certificates Associated With a CloudFront Distribution
Akamai – Cloudflare’s Predecessor
Akamai was formed in 1998 by a student and a professor from MIT. It’s been a huge success and now has a yearly turnover of over $2.5 billion.
Their CDN is likely their most known product. In part, that’s because Akamai was the first company to develop a CDN, but they’re also the ones that serve the most data. In December 2018, Akamai announced that they reached a new volume of data at 72TB/s.
Their network is so huge that they even have servers in Antarctica. Their 240,000+ servers are spread throughout the world and grouped in 1500+ networks.
The setup isn’t the easiest thing, but they do have guides if you need help. Akamai is aimed mainly at enterprise-level clients that have most likely employed web developers for this sort of thing. Even if you still can’t figure it out, they have amazing tech support that is happy to help.
But CDN isn’t their only service. They also offer web security services, web acceleration services, media delivery, network operation services and more. You can look at all the services on their website although you won’t see any prices as they’re aimed at enterprise-level businesses. They create special pricing and packages for every business. But they do have free trials to get you started before you decide to fully commit.
KeyCDN – Cloudflare CDN Alternative
KeyCDN only offers a content delivery network, but their goal is to be accessible to as many people as possible. They’re doing this by trying to keep the costs as low as possible. Funnily enough, they’re based in Switzerland, one of the most expensive places to live in.
All of their prices include unlimited HTTP/HTTPS requests to keep the CDN affordable. On top of that, the payment is per GB and you only pay as much as you use. No hidden payments.
All of their POPs (Points of Presence) are located in premium SSAE 16-compliant data centers. They use SSD for the storage and NGINX for the best latency.
Although their main product is CDN, they also offer other things to go with it. HTTP/2 Support, Free SSL, Origin Shield, Secure Token, a RESTful API, and real-time analytics.
They also offer a free 30-day trial if you simply want to dip your toes in.
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Sucuri – Secure Cloudflare Alternative
Sucuri offers cloud-based services, mainly used for web protection. Although their first priority is web protection, they also offer a CDN, which they say improves page speed and reduces server load by 80% on average.
Their services are a little different compared to the other companies in this article. Apart from Advanced DDoS Protection and CDN, they also offer:
- Continuous Malware & Hack Scanning
- Malware Removal & Hack Response
- Brand Reputation & Blacklist Monitoring
- Stop Hacks (Virtual Patching / Hardening)
Basically, they are aiming to be the most secure solution and the services properly reflect upon their vision.
These fall under the WSS (Website Security Solutions) subscription, which is priced at $199, $299 and $499 per month, with the inclusion of a custom enterprise-level plan.
If you subscribe, Sucuri will periodically scan your website for malware and hacks. If any malware or hacks are detected Sucuri will repair the damage. This package also offers brand reputation and blacklist monitoring, which protects from blacklisting, SEO spam, and malicious redirects.
Unfortunately, support is only by ticket with the exception of the custom plan.
There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can get a full refund if you don’t like the service.
Fastly – Fast Cloudflare Alternative
Fastly was formed in 2011 and they already have some huge clients like the New York Times, Spotify, Reddit, Github, Imgur, Airbnb, Ticketmaster and more.
In the same way as Cloudflare, Fastly uses the reverse proxy model. All of your traffic is routed through its servers. The only thing you need to do to set it up is updating the CNAME record of your domain and it just works.
Their network isn’t nearly as big as some of the other services mentioned in this article, but that doesn’t mean they’re slower than the other alternatives.
Their server specifications are a joy to look at. Configured with 24TB of SSD storage, 768GB of RAM and 4 x 25 Gigabit Ethernet ports, they’ll deliver your content before you can blink. As a speed measure purging the cache from all the POPs takes about 150ms or less.
This speed is used to serve dynamic content, which is served for a short time and then reloaded almost the same moment you update it on your website.
Apart from their amazing CDN, they also offer WAF, DDOS mitigation, bot detection and mitigation, image optimizer, and video streaming.
The most interesting thing here is the image optimizer. This allows the images on your website to be offloaded to their edge cloud platform. You are also able to “resize, adjust quality, and crop/trim or change orientation, convert formats and more” whenever you wish to.
The cheapest price regions are Europe and North America at $0.12 per GB for the first 10TB. After that, it drops to $0.08 for the next 10TB.
One thing to mention is that the minimum they’ll charge is $50 per month, so if you’re not getting that kind of traffic, you probably shouldn’t subscribe to this service.
They also have managed CDN which is even more expensive. You’ll have to contact them for more info, though.
Which Cloudflare Alternative Suits You?
If you’re looking for a free service, Cloudflare is still your best bet. There isn’t a service that offers even nearly as much as Cloudflare does. It’s easy integration also trumps some of the other services on this list. It’s probably the best service for the general public.
But is it the best for you and your needs?
That’s just something you’ll have to decide for yourself.
Cloudflare does offer quite a lot of features with their enterprise package, but so does Akamai and some others. In the end, it comes down to business requirements. You don’t know the price of the custom packages until you contact the service providers.
But the good news is that the space is getting more competitive by the minute. Especially with both Google and Microsoft, it will result in faster improvements in service quality and maybe even a drop in price.