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August 30, 2020

CDN services are an excellent compliment to low end hosting packages/VPSs, effectively mitigating your server's inability to handle large spikes in visitor traffic by serving static files for you. Fortunately, in 2020, many providers offer a free tier of their services!

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One always need exercise caution when using a free CDN service, as in cases like Incapsula (now called Imperva) you may be left high and dry if your service provider decides to shut down their free tier. That being said, money is often short of hand when bootstrapping a project. This is a round-up of all the free content delivery network services available at the time of writing. I've summarized the run-down and linked to each section individually below.


Cloudflare is the major player in terms of free content delivery network and DNS services. They offer technically unlimited bandwidth, though they only cache static resources. Cloudflare is probably your best choice if you are looking for a free image CDN for websites with many images. The setup is painless and Cloudflare tends to be very reliable, and can be combined with a free image CDN for added bandwidth savings.

Free plan features
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • DDoS protection
  • Free shared SSL certificate
  • Web application firewall, rate limiting
  • IPV6, HTTP/2, SPDY, WebSockets
  • Content scraping and spam protection
  • Basic analytics
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Cloudinary is a free image CDN who have been around for a number of years. They offer a very nice free plan with seamless integration via a WordPress plugin. Cloudinary will automatically optimize image dimensions and quality before serving images to your visitors. They can also perform video transcoding and adaptive streaming if you deal with a lot of video content.

This service is used by large companies like Shutterstock, so it is pretty reliable. Usage is calculated based on credits, with 1 credit being equivalent to 1000 transformations, 1GB of storage, 500 video processing seconds or 1GB of bandwidth.

Free plan features
  • Excellent free image CDN
  • Transform images and videos on-the-fly
  • Up to 25GB bandwidth monthly
  • Automatic backup/revision tracking
  • Analytics
  • Attentive support
  • WordPress plugin
  • Extensive documentation
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Jetpack Photon

Photon is the free image CDN module of Automattic's Jetpack WordPress plugin, which has recently expanded to also serve CSS and JS files. This is a WordPress-only option, but features tight integration and unlimited storage and bandwidth. The only downside with Photon is that you need to install the whole JetPack plugin to get it- it's not a small plugin and increases your attack surface considerably, even if you do disable the modules you don't require.

Free plan features
  • Unlimited storage
  • Free image, CSS & JS CDN
  • Wordpress plugin
  • Numerous other features provided by Jetpack
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ArvanCloud is a German CDN and DNS provider who provides a similar featureset to Cloudflare. Their paid plans are significantly cheaper than many competitors, and the free tier includes a generous 50GB of traffic, and 1 million requests monthly. ArvanCloud employs a usage based pricing model, which is perfect for saving money in the short term.

Free plan features
  • 50GB bandwidth/1 million requests monthly
  • DDoS Protection
  • Web application firewall
  • Free VoD (video) CDN, 10GB storage
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Hostry is a hosting, CDN and DNS provider based in Cyprus who offer a very nice free plan. Similar to ArvanCloud, Hostry charge based on usage, which keeps costs lower than fixed-pricing models. They offer 10GB of traffic/month from their edge locations in US/EU, and 5GB of traffic from the rest of their nodes in South America and Asia. Although they have comparatively fewer features their pricing is probably the most attractive of any on this list.

Free plan features
  • 10GB bandwidth to US/EU nodes, 5GB bandwidth to South America/Asia
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Shift8 CDN

Shift8 is a WordPress hosting and design agency based in my hometown of Toronto, Canada. They offer a very nice free image and static asset CDN with global presence, and generous bandwidth allocation for up to two websites. They offer a number of integration options and are a relatively new service.

Free plan features
  • 1TB bandwidth monthly
  • Laravel integration, WordPress plugin, Drupal module in development
  • Two unique websites per account
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Library/Framework CDNs

There are also a number of open source library hosting CDN services which you can take advantage of to further decrease the pressure on your server. If you are using stock libraries such as JQuery or Bootstrap, you can offload these to one of the services below.

  • JSDelivr

    JSDelivr features projects from npm, github and the wordpress plugin/theme repo. If you can't find it here, you won't find it anywhere! Excellent interface as well.

  • Google Libraries

    Google Libraries hosts fewer libraries but are probably your best option if you needed to hardcode into an app or local intranet. Although all of the library CDNs are very reliable, Google is reknowned for the rarity of its' downtime.

  • cdnjs

    cdnjs is a library CDN hosted by Cloudflare, among others. They have significantly better coverage than Google but still pale in comparison to JSDelivr.

  • BootstrapCDN

    BootstrapCDN hosts Twitter's Bootstrap UI framework for public use. There really is not much else here, but since everything is built with bootstrap these days you could get by with this alone!

With the wealth of free options available today, there's no reason you should let every visitor hit your server directly, especially if you're trying to eek out an existence with a cheap or free hosting package. Using one or several of the options listed above can extend the longevity of such a low end setup for thousands of unique views per month!

Sherman Caine

Sherman is a professional full-stack web developer living in Toronto, Canada, who has been working on websites in one form or another for over 15 years.