MaxCDN vs CloudFlare: Which CDN is Best For You?

Updated Nov 18th 2016

When it comes to speeding up your website, using a CDN is one of the easiest ways to get a huge speed boost. And there are lots of alternative CDNs like Cloudflare and MaxCDN you can try.

Why try a CDN? A CDN can easily make your website so much better and faster, which will make both your visitors and Google happy (the prefer faster websites).

Of course, some of you might not know what a CDN even is, so let’s take a quick look at that first.

Note: I personally use and recommend Max CDN, which for a reasonable price can make a remarkable difference to your site load speed.

What is a CDN?

CDN stands for Content Delivery Network.

What is actually is, is a bunch of servers all around the world that are used to store and deliver content from your website.

Why is that useful? Well imagine this:

  • A Visitor comes to your website and looks at a page
  • That page has lots of large images on it
  • Instead of loading those images from your server, the CDN loads them for you
  • The CDN is far more likely to be nearer to your visitor than your server is (they have servers everywhere)
  • So your page appears to load a lot faster than it would normally

Here is what a CDN looks like, delivering files to nearby people, instead of just your server delivering to everyone:

What is a CDN?

By having a huge network of servers, each with copies of your files (images, scripts, files etc) a CDN can make your website load amazingly fast.

Not only that, but they can take a load off your server too – which means it will run faster, smoother and not upset your hosting company (who might have monthly limits on your account).

Which CDN Is The Best: MaxCDN vs CloudFlare vs KeyCDN?

There are a whole bunch of CDNs out there, but the two most popular are CloudFlare and MaxCDN. Key CDN, which is a lot newer, we will cover last.

Cloudflare and MaxCDN are great with WordPress. They allow website owners to easily set them up using plugins that are FREE.

So if you are wondering which is the best for you? Let’s take a look at each of them, what they can do, and the pros and cons.

CloudFlare CDN Review

CloudFlare has partnered with many website hosting companies so is usually an easy option for most website owners. You can turn it on from the cPanel usually with just a few clicks.

But we should have a look at what they offer you, rather than just assume it is the best, and what you need.

Pros of CloudFlare

CloudFlare is free for the basic plan, and they have no traffic limits.

It is also easy to set up via their website or the cPanel of your hosting company (if they have that option).

They also provide security for your site as all traffic goes through them first (this can have downsides too).

Cons of CloudFlare

Because CloudFlare acts as a go-between for your site (technical term is proxy) it can have some bad site effects. They certainly can and do block malicious attacks and bots, which can help reduce your site load and protect you.

But, they can also block a lot of things you want too. Like your email, your happy visitors and so on.

So although CloudFlare is free, and easy to set up, it does come with some significant risk in my opinion.

Note 2016: I also had a site (on Cloudflare) completely redirected to an address in China this year, which I did not notice for a few months (I rarely use the site). Someone somehow used the fact that I was on Cloudflare to redirect the site to theirs! Aka stole it. Not good.​ My main site (this one) is on MaxCDN and runs like a dream.

Setting Up CloudFlare

The main way to set up CloudFlare is to basically change the DNS of your site to go via them.

If you want to set up CloudFlare for your website, you can follow these easy instructions.

Cloudflare CDN Pricing

Basic Plan (Free)

- Caching of static and dynamic files (images, css, javascript)

- ​Page rules to give you fine-grained control of your caching

- ​Works with other CDNs (can be a great combination with MaxCDN)

Pro Plan ($20/month for first site, $5/month per site after that)

- ​Works with other CDNs (can be a great combination with MaxCDN)

- ​Firewall

- ​Mobile Optimizations

Pro Plan ($20/month for first site, $5/month per site after that)

- ​100% uptime guarantee

- ​Denial of service mitigation

MaxCDN Review

MaxCDN is not free but the results you get from paying only $7.50 a month can be amazing. Where CloudFlare is cheap, it is also not as good. But I will go into that more later. 

Pros of MaxCDN

They do not accidentally block any visitors like CloudFlare because they don't stand between you and your visitors.

MaxCDN are great at what they do, delivering your content from the closest location to your visitor - and making your site a lot faster. They are used by lots of big players like StumbleUpon, Washington Post, WP Engine and so on.

With the help of the W3 Total Cache Plugin, it is very easy to add it to your WordPress website.

Cons of MaxCDN

Obviously MaxCDN is not free, but if you take the basic plan for 1 year, it is only $7.50 a month. And to increase your site speed without having to mess around with other plugins, tech etc, that is a small cost to pay.

They also have a bandwidth limit per month, but for most websites the basic plan is enough (100GB).

The other main difference between MaxCDN and CloudFlare is that MaxCDN serves your content (images, javascript etc) for you, instead of acting as a go-between. So they do not provide the security that CloudFlare does. In fact, that was what CloudFlare was originally built for an excels at. So if you are looking for a security boost, then CloudFlare is a better bet. But it does come with risks (as I mention in the Cons of CloudFlare above).

Setting Up MaxCDN

MaxCDN needs a little bit more work to set up than CloudFlare, but it is not hard. You need to set up a simple area for your files within your account with them (called a PullZone) and then connect your account with W3 Total Cache.

Here is a clear set of instructions to help you with this process:

Below are the pricing plans for MaxCDN.

MaxCDN Pricing

Starter Plan ($7.50 per month)

- 100GB monthly bandwidth

- ​Support for 2 websites

Plus Plan Features ($32.50 per month)

- ​500 GB monthly bandwidth

- ​Support for 3 websites

Business Plan Features ($66/month)

- 1 TB of monthly bandwidth

- ​ Support for 5 websites


These are based on yearly payment. And additional monthly bandwidth can be purchased

The Verdict – MaxCDN or CloudFlare

Sure, CloudFlare is cheaper and you can set it up quite easily by changing the DNS of your site (even with one click on your hosting). But because it takes over your site completely it can sometimes block your visitors. I have seen many a blogger have issues with them, and I did too. So I don’t want to take the risk.

Instead, I use MaxCDN because it only copies the files it can help you with and does not specifically interrupt your server or the way your site works. It simply replaces the URL for the resources (images, files etc) and then loads them from the closest location.

I also found that when you are paying for an affordable CDN service like MaxCDN you are getting far better results with speed increases.

So if you have absolutely no money to invest in your site, then CloudFlare might work out ok for you.

But if you can afford the $7.50 per month to increase your site speed significantly, give MaxCDN a try. They have a month’s Free Trial too.

You can even use their one month trial and see how it goes. If you don’t like it you can just delete your account!


About the Author Ashley Faulkes

Ashley is obsessed with SEO and WordPress. He is also the founder of Mad Lemmings. When he is not busy helping clients get higher on Google he can be found doing crazy sports in the Swiss Alps (or eating too much chocolate - a habit he is trying to break).

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