Content delivery networks or CDNs are responsible for the delivery of content all over the Internet, from articles on news sites to videos on YouTube. These networks are designed to reduce latency, which is a delay that takes place from when you click to load a page to the moment the content appears on your screen.
The delay is caused by a number of factors, quite a few of which are specific to the page itself. However, in every case, latency is also affected by the actual physical distance between the server where the website is hosted and the user’s location.
A CDN shortens the distance by storing cached versions of the webpage’s content on servers in multiple geographical locations, also known as points of presence or PoPs. Thus, the website’s content is stored in multiple locations concurrently, which means users are able to access it faster. So, for example, when someone accesses a website hosted in the United States from Milan, it is done through a local Italian PoP.
Max CDN and Cloudflare are among the top five providers of CDN services in the world. While you could argue that there are better providers, such as Amazon and Akamai, these services target enterprise clients with big corporate websites. On a retail scale, Cloudflare and Max CDN are two of the best CDN providers, with their services targeted at small-scale clients yet able to handle large-scale websites.
Their pricing is affordable, and their services are scalable, regardless of whether a website has 100 monthly visitors or 100,000.
In this article, we will be comparing Max CDN and Cloudflare to determine which content delivery network is best for the needs of your website. As usual, we signed up for their services to conduct hands-on testing.
A Little about Cloudflare
Created in 2009 by Lee Holloway, Matthew Prince, and Michelle Zatlyn, Cloudflare is a US-based content delivery network. Ever since its founding, it has grown exponentially and has become known for the security features it offers.
For example, in February 2014, Cloudflare was able to mitigate a DDoS attack that peaked at 400 Gbit/second per second, making it the largest recorded attack in history at that time. In November of that same year, the company reported yet another large attack that peaked at 500 Gbit/second.
A Quick Intro to Max CDN
Max CDN was known for their high-speed content delivery network services. The company was recently bought by StackPath, which is an American firm based in Dallas, Texas that was founded in 2015.
At the moment, StackPath continues to offer max CDN as a separate service, though both use the same in-house technologies and hardware. StackPath has stated they will integrate Max CDN into their own service, so in future the two will be merged into one, but they haven’t specified a timeframe, which means it could be a year or two, or even more before this happens.
At the moment, StackPath is offering the same services as Max CDN, with the addition of a number of security measures. However, if you try to access the official Max CDN website, you will be redirected to StackPath to make the purchase.
If you try to find the Max CDN website via search, it only appears as a subpage of the StackPath website. In other words, as a new customer, you will have to sign up through StackPath to obtain Max CDN services. Only existing Max CDN customers have access to the old website, though this won’t last since they’ll be migrated soon to StackPath as well.
In terms of performance, Cloudflare reduces latency through load-balancing, offers Railgun, and has 152 data centers across 74 countries. It should be noted that only business and higher-end plans are offered access to all of these data centers, whereas the free and pro plans have limited access.
Reducing latency through load-balancing means that network traffic is distributed across multiple servers, thereby ensuring that a single server isn’t put under too much pressure. By spreading out the traffic over multiple servers, the website responds faster.
It should be noted that Railgun is only offered with the business plan, which costs $200 per month.
The advantage is that all these content optimization features are built right into Cloudflare and customers don’t have to install any third-party plug-ins to ensure that the content is optimized and cached to deliver the best performance.
Moreover, Cloudflare’s Pro plan is inbuilt into SiteGround and Bluehost web hosting for free. That means you get free access to Cloudflare when you buy SiteGround or Bluehost web hosting. And Cloudflare can be integrated with just a few clicks with the above two web hostings.
Performance: Max CDN
As Max CDN was bought out by StackPath, they use the latter’s server network, in which all servers are equipped with SSDs. As solid-state drives offer the fastest write/read times, as well as excellent data resilience and improved uptime, this results in excellent performance.
Similar to Cloudflare’s load-balancing feature, Max CDN offers a global traffic management feature, which ensures traffic is directed through the best available routes to reduce latency by minimizing the distance the data has to travel.
While Max CDN doesn’t offer any content optimization features, they do offer a guide on how webmasters can optimize their own content using third-party plug-ins such as WP Super Cache and WP Rocket. In terms of speed, they offer the same features regardless of the plan you use.
Like Cloudflare, Max CDN is inbuilt into WP engine web hosting for free. Therefore, WP Engine is a good choice if you are planning to choose MAX CDN as your CDN provider.
Speed Comparison: Max CDN versus Cloudflare
We tested the two services by using the same website hosted with the same provider but using different accounts, with one to test Max CDN and the other to test Cloudflare. With the latter, we signed up for the Pro account, which is similar to the free account, but offers access to more data centers.
We didn’t exactly understand the differences between the plans, so we got in touch with the company and spoke to a customer service rep. The latter explained it as follows: if we connected from Italy to a site on a free plan, it would use the Germany node, which was not close. However, if the website upgraded to Pro, then Italy nodes would be used.
We do find this a little confusing because Italy’s bandwidth costs aren’t mentioned as being expensive, which is why we don’t know why it’s a Pro-only feature. It would be nice if they mentioned somewhere which nodes were free and which nodes were part of the pro plan.
In any case, we tested the speed from multiple locations around the world and below you can see the results.
As you can see, Max CDN consistently delivers better load times than Cloudflare, meaning that in terms of speed Max CDN, soon to be StackPath, is the better option.
Security Comparison: Max CDN versus Cloudflare
Max CDN doesn’t offer any built-in protections to keep their customers safe. Instead, their engineers are constantly monitoring the network and applying measures to mitigate any attacks their customers come under.
However, as already noted, Max CDN is now the same as StackPath, and if you sign up through StackPath, you’ll get the same speed Max CDN offers.
However, you all also get the additional security measures provided by StackPath, such as layer 7 DDoS protection, malware defense, and excellent physical security of the data centers with features such as biometrics, cameras, and human monitoring to safeguard your data.
The DDoS protection StackPath offers involves multiple layers of security that are able to automatically detect and mitigate any form of attack targeting resources at the application layer and layers 3 – 4. The system uses intelligent prevention, which means that the entire network across all data centers is immediately updated on IP addresses so that the attacks can be blocked on a global level, regardless of where they start.
Cloudflare, on the other hand, specializes in security. In fact, they are better known for the security they provide rather than increased performance in terms of speed. Some of the features they offer include:
Advanced DDoS protection against attacks with a network that has the capacity 15 times larger than the largest attack on record, meaning it can handle any such attack with ease. The shared network intelligence feature ensures that the network learns and, combined with the company’s IP reputation database, it is able to identify and block any new and evolving threats.
Cloudflare takes a layered security approach that uses a number of DDoS mitigation features such as:
- identifying abnormal traffic and providing protection with automatic mitigation rules
- improved control to protect applications
- protecting against direct attacks via a secure tunnel between the data center and the origin infrastructure
- protecting the origin infrastructure
- anticipating attacks thanks to the shared intelligence across the entire network
- protecting all TCP ports from DDoS attacks through Spectrum which proxies traffic through the company’s data center.
Blocking malicious bot abuse by using multiple security approaches. Thus, Cloudflare prevents any disruption a bad bot could cause while permitting good bots, like the web crawlers from Google, to get through, thereby ensuring content is readily available yet protected.
Prevention of customer data breaches by protecting against DNS spoofing, snooping of in-transit data, brute force login attempts, and malicious payload exploits, as well as many other potential attacks.
Argo tunnel protects web servers from direct attacks by creating an encrypted tunnel between the origin server and the closest Cloudflare data center, without having to open any public inbound ports. Thus, attempts to breach data are completely blocked.
Max CDN offers relatively good security features and you can be certain your website is secure when you use their services.
However, Cloudflare is constantly developing innovative security measures to protect their customers.
So, if you’re looking for maximum security, then Cloudflare is your best option.
Customer Support Comparison: Cloudflare versus Max CDN
The quality of customer support is a vital factor when comparing two services. The fact is that you need to be able to quickly contact your service provider and resolve problems that could arise, such as:
- your website going down
- requiring additional bandwidth
- discovering that your website is slow from certain locations
- experiencing problems setting up the CDN service with your website.
When you set up a content delivery network for the first time, you might have some problems changing the DNS name or setting A and CNAME values to propagate your website correctly. If you don’t know how to do these things, only support can help you because if you do it wrong, your website can go down for hours.
We contacted the customer support team of each company and compared them based on a number of factors, including response times, knowledge, and friendliness.
Max CDN offers the best customer support service, and they have a reputation for providing outstanding support. They immediately answered our questions, were very knowledgeable, and incredibly friendly. They were even helpful enough to solve a website issue that was unrelated to CDN.
We’re actually using Max CDN for this website and their support is top quality. They are ready to help you with any website-related issue, even if it is not directly connected to their service.
Below, you can see how fast Max CDN responded to our queries in setting up MAX CDN for our test website.
Cloudflare, on the other hand, doesn’t provide great support. If you have their Pro plan, which costs $20 and is around the same price as Max CDN, it takes about a day to get a reply. You only get priority support for the business plan, which costs around $200 per month.
Below you can see Cloudflare’s response to the same question. They were efficient, however, they were not as fast as Max CDN with speed of response.
Price, Plans and Features
Previously, Max CDN’s plans were based on the amount of bandwidth the website used with the basic plan costing $9 per month and allowing for 100 GB, while their high-end plan was for 25 TB at $100.
After their acquisition by StackPath, their pricing changed and became more flexible. Thus, you can now get 1 TB of bandwidth at just $10 per month, considering that previously it would cost $10 for 100 GB.
Their more advanced plan that has additional security measures such as WAF rules and an uptime monitoring service costs $20 per month.
WAF or Web Application Firewall helps to differentiate legitimate traffic from illegitimate visitors by examining HTTP requests and applying filtration rules.
You can learn more about the Max CDN plan below.
Cloudflare offers a free plan that is very popular and is a great way to test the interface, the basic speed, and their content delivery network features.
However, you can only get the advanced speed optimization features, such as Railgun and Argo Smart Routing with their business plan. The free plan has essentially no security measures, while the Pro plan only has basic firewall features.
So, if you’re looking for the security Cloudflare is famous for, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay $200 a month for their business plan, which is far more expensive than Max CDN.
It should be noted that some of the Points of Presence Cloudflare offers are only available via the paid plans because some of their providers are so expensive that it simply doesn’t make sense to offer them for free.
Thus, the plan you opt for will depend in large part on what location your website is targeting. If your audience is mainly in an area with high bandwidth costs, your only option will be to go with the paid plan.
Below, you can see the interfaces offered by both companies. They’re relatively simple and quite intuitive, though familiarity with how CDNs work is helpful.
Max CDN User Interface
Cloudflare User Interface
If you’re looking for speed, Max CDN is definitely the better option. On the other hand, Cloudflare is far better in terms of security. To get the best of both worlds, you could use the two services in combination.Set up your website with MAX CDN now.
However, Max CDN now offers better security features since they were acquired by StackPath, and they also offer a free one-month trial to test their services.
While Cloudflare might have an unlimited free plan, it is very basic with few features and unimpressive performance.
Also, consider that Cloudflare’s premium plan that comes with all the nifty security features starts at $200 per month, compared to Max CDN that offers quality speed and security at only $20 per month. For this reason, we feel Max CDN is a far better choice overall.