Sep 272011
 
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When Arcostream contacted me asking me to review their CDN Speed Cache WordPress plugin and CDN offering they knew I would put it through it’s paces and measure performance up against many others.  First of all if you are a WordPress blogger on any type of hosting account, but especially one where you are charged by the amount of bandwidth usage every month you should consider using a CDN or Content Delivery Network.

What is a CDN

A CDN basically stores and serves all of your static files for you so that the content served doesn’t come from your hosting web servers directly, a good CDN network will serve content from the closest locations possible to the users computer.  This means that when a user visits your site from Japan for instance that the static content served to that user comes from servers in a datacenter in Japan or much closer in geographic location than where your web server maybe hosted.

Why use a CDN

A good CDN has vastly more servers in their infrastructure than any average hosting plan and therefore can handle a much greater load all the while serving content faster than hosting it on your own web servers.  This also means your own web hosting can handle a greater load as less bandwidth and load is put on your actual servers with all of the static content hosted on a CDN.

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CDN Speed Cache

CDN Speed Cache is by far the easiest CDN service I have ever configured on a WordPress blog.  The only steps involved are simply to visit the WordPress plugin page and download CDN Speed Cache, then go to the CDN Speed Cache settings and pay the $29 initial (and per month) rate for the CDN.

CDN Speed Cache configuration before you pay for it:

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CDN Speed Cache after you pay for it:

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The only thing you actually have to setup is adding any additional directories you want added to the CDN besides the default of wp-content, wp-includes such as any custom directories which host media or image files.  In my case I have a separate /images folder at the root domain that I wanted added to the CDN.

You also can exclude any specific file types like *.php…etc if you don’t want those files served from CDN.  Know that .php is the default, but you could add other file types.

How Fast Does CDN Speed Cache Make Your Site?

I took baselines of my site JustinGermino.com before CDN Speed Cache but with only W3 Total Cache enabled and configured for Page Cache, Object Cache and Browser Cache (No minify, no CDN configured)

Pingdom showed my site having around 17-20 second pageload times total end to end without anything but W3 Total Cache.  I tested 2 times and one full month between tests to show they were consistently around the same mark.

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I installed and configured CDN Speed Cache and in about 2 hours it was up and running.

NOTE:  If you use W3 Total Cache you will need to do a Cache Flush and make sure you do not have CDN enabled in W3 Total Cache for CDN Speed Cache to take effect.

Speed Test Results with CDN Speed Cache

 

The results were amazing and just by turning on the CDN my WordPress log pageload times with Pingdom went from 17-20 seconds to between 3.8 and 5 seconds on average.

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Even WhichLoadsFaster showed my site loading at 1.5 seconds pageload time, and showed JustinGermino.com with CDN Speed Cache was 95% faster than ProBlogger.net and their site was no slouch at 2.9 seconds.

whichloadsfaster-cdn

I decided to go one step further and perform some user load testing against my site with LoadImpact which I do fairly regularly and was astonished to find out how well the CDN SpeedCache held up performance under load.

loadimpact-cdn

We are talking about load tests from 10 to 50 concurrent user loads and in every single test had the load times in less than 1 second with 0 timeouts, and the load test was from Stockholm with my hosting provider in the U.S.

Not even this site DragonBlogger.com fares so well with Load Impact averaging about 55% higher load times under the same load.

In Summary

Without a doubt for WordPress beginners who want to improve the load times on their site without having to do any manual configuration other than type a folder or two and click to purchase, CDN Speed Cache by Arcostream is the fastest, easiest solution I have ever seen to setup a CDN with WordPress.

I will also say that the Acrostream CDN service provided from CDN Speed Cache is faster than other CDN networks I have tested and I did tests behind Kroxy and Gomez Instant Test Pro using various locations around the Globe.

If you want to increase your pageload times for your WordPress blog, then CDN Speed Cache is the way to go.

The $29 per month plan gives you 100GB of bandwidth per month, and is not a pay as you go plan but there are no contracts required and you can cancel at any time.  I will honestly say that it isn’t the cheapest CDN on the market, but can say with certainty that is the easiest to setup and the best performing CDN I have ever tested so far.  You get true enterprise level CDN service for a fraction of enterprise CDN cost with this plan.

-Dragon Blogger

 

Update:

I did several other site comparisons with my JustinGermino.com blog against Mashable.com among other sites and the CDN SpeedCache showed my pageload times were pretty fast.  That isn’t to say that my site is faster than all other sites, I still am using a shared hosting provider and caching doesn’t stop all SQL queries and PHP code from executing.  Also my sites do host external ads like AdSense, Amazon Banners, Facebook buttons…etc which increase my load times a bit.    So comparing some sites is a little like apples to oranges.  This is why I do most of my benching on my own sites using other combinations of CDN compared to CDN Speed Cache so I have baselines before and after for the same site.


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Justin Germino
Working in the IT Industry for over 13 years and specializing in web based technologies. Dragon Blogger has unique insights and opinions to how the internet and web technology works. An Avid movie fan, video game fan and fan of trying anything and everything new.
Justin Germino

@dragonblogger

Technology, Gaming and Wordpress blogger who runs gadget giveaways, helps others with blogging tips, monetization, earning and more!
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Justin Germino
  • RanceCosta

    This plugin works great! $29/mo per site for this level of service isn’t right for everyone, but it’s right for my properties! Pro bloggers who don’t want to spring for a dedicated server should take a hard look at this tool.

    • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

      @RanceCosta My experience is that it serves content faster than CloudFlare, Amazon S3 and even MaxCDN (By a smaller margin) it runs great but it is also a bit higher than other smaller CDN offerings. As mentioned it is enterprise quality and any site getting like 100k+ traffic per month should consider it. I am about value, and I was truly impressed with the speed/performance of CDN Speed Cache, however my sites are too small and don’t bring in enough revenue to afford the $30 per month cost for 100GB of bandwidth usage.I think the service should have a pay as you go plan, or similar 1TB package plans like MaxCDN, they can be recurring based on consumption (pay what you eat plans) instead of monthly recurring. I think $75 for 1TB would be much more competitive and easier to swallow as this could be $15 per month for mid sized blogs, 1 year for small bloggers, or 1 month for much larger blogs. Considering MaxCDN offers $39.99 for 1TB pay as you go right now, they need a plan that is more attractive to the small to medium sized blog sites.

      • http://www.cravingtech.com/ Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com

        Hm. I have 100k+ traffic per month though so far I’m quite happy with CloudFlare (though I’ve never really compared that with this one). If it’s not too big of a difference (as I tested with Google’s), I’d prefer to save the money and use it somewhere else though

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com Cloudflare is a great free option though I have noticed there are more statements with Cloudflare showing “Site is unavailable and served from cache” I have seen more erratic site down errors when Cloudflare enabled to but it definitely works. I have shown in previous post that CDN can be faster than Cloudflare especially for International users, some CDN’s have more geographic datacenter locations and can serve content faster.

          Cloudflare also had a minor annoyance of blocking some of my readers from Vietnam and Philippines and I had to manually add some IP blocks to the whitelist to grant them access initially.

        • http://www.cravingtech.com/ Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com

          @Dragon Blogger Sounds like trouble! I haven’t encountered that when I browsed your blog so far last time but I guess it’s sort of come and go

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com I am glad to see readers don’t see it as much, as my sites are on Shared hosting and my hosting provider limits 15 simultaneous SQL connections maximum, I often encounter database issues with this site but it only affects users who are logged in because I have caching disabled for logged in users and admin screen always makes DB calls all the time.

          So occasionally if myself and a few of my writers are in at the same time we will trip each other up with database connection errors which is annoying.

        • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com/ bkerensa

          @Dragon Blogger@Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com Cloudflare is a CDN in fact its better than a CDN because it uses Anycast to route all traffic… The Cloudflare unavailable message is just their Always Online feature meaning the edge (customers server) is offline.

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @bkerensa@Michael Aulia @CravingTech.com I know Cloudflare is a CDN, a darn good free one. The only reason I front Cloudflare behind another CDN occasionally is to reduce bandwidth usage on a pay as you go plan for another CDN. Cloudflare also has other features a CDN doesn’t like threat analysis, blacklisting…etc.

  • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com/ bkerensa

    I’m willing to do a side by side with anyone running this plugin…. I run W3 Total Cache and I’m pretty confident my site can smoke any other blog…. My average load time is 1-2 seconds tops

    • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com/ bkerensa

      I just did a side by side DragonBlogger.com vs my blog and here is a visual in load times:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0Ke4LL0hIc

      • speedcache

        Ouch. Well, it’s not a good comparison being as how the CDN Speed Cache plugin is not enabled on DragonBlogger.com. Viewing source would show this quite obviously.

        Second thing, you have no ad networks on your site (a known source for delayed page loading) and it is quite a bit ‘lighter’ as it were than DragonBlogger.com due to wayyyy less images… Do an apples to apples comparison and you’ll find our services are elite compared to any other discount CDN.

      • RanceCosta

        @bkerensa Try against rancecosta.com! Let me know what you get :)

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @RanceCosta I show a bunch of garbage characters against your site, looks broken

      • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

        @bkerensa Right now CDN Speed Cache is running on http://www.justingermino.com and MaxCDN is on DragonBlogger.com. Test with Pingdom.com tools and use whichloadsfaster.com to do the comparison test from an incognito or cache/cookie cleared browser.Also, I did a compare with my site and yours and the diff is 1.7 seconds for mine vs 700ms for yours. I agree with Speedcache statement is you are not sourcing any external script to delay load time. My AdSense, Amazon Banners and other external js codes do hurt my load time a bit. Check out this image to see the snapshot -> http://www.dragonblogger.com/images/justinbenjamincompare.PNGTwo other things if you can do for me:

        How many WordPress plugins do you have installed and active?

        What type of hosting service do you have (Shared, VPS or Dedicated)?Run the LoadImpact test against your blog as well, let me know the results.

        • http://www.benjaminkerensa.com/ bkerensa

          Whichloadsfaster.com Test Repeated 5x shows my blog as 54% faster

          http://imgur.com/LWUrF

          I have 13 plugins and I have a Virtual Private Server with Balancing ;) But I’m more than willing to throw up a default WP install and compare apples to apps with CDN Speed Cache vs. My setup. Part of the reason my site loads faster is I bundle my javascript and minify (remove whitespace, commenting) I have optimized CSS and all my images are smushed. I do use external scripts if you view my page source you can see a few.

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @bkerensa I love a good compare, I just disabled all my plugins except for CDN Speed Cache, W3 Total Cache, WP125 Ads, and Cloudflare. Now my site loads in 400+ ms compare now http://imgur.com/IGMU5 I ran 5 tests consecutively.I will leave in this configuration until tomorrow morning, go ahead and run your own tests now. I did also enable Minify in my W3 Total Cache which I had disabled previously as well.

        • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

          @bkerensa Okay, ran it with 29 runs, http://i.imgur.com/j5hDC.png it isn’t an anomaly. I forgot to mention that my EASYAZON plugin which embeds Amazon affiliate from images right on the homepage was a big slowdown for my site. I also can’t usually run Minify with W3 Total Cache as it cuts out the comment lines needed for some pay blogging programs. This was just an example that my external scripting crap was causing my pageload time increases.

  • Mark K

    Using a CDN is just a first step to get very low page-loading times. Another big delay is page rendering – on the server by PHP and on the client-side, by the browser.

    To decrease the former you should cache rendered pages, such as with W3 Super Cache plus. Bonus points if you cache rendered *and* compressed pages. ;-)

    To decrease the client-side delay(s) you should tweak your design (decrease the amount of images and videos, for example), concatenate Javascript and CSS files (to drive down the amount of reuqests the browser has to perform) and use image maps as well as embed very small images into CSS and HTML.There are tools for that, and you can do that by hand: http://mark.ossdl.de/2011/02/tips-for-http-request-minimizations/

    I will try to convince ArcoStream to integrate caching facilities into the next major version of the plugin for WordPress. Stay tuned. ;-)

    I for one (disclosure: I am the author of the plugin) love about their services that there are no hidden costs. For example, you pay per request using Amazon’s Cloudfront. Just imagine what happens when a malicious user runs a script to load images from your CDN over and over again.

    • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Dragon Blogger

      @Mark K You make a really good point about caching the resources and making sure calls don’t continue to drain bandwidth if they are served up from cache. W3 Super Cache is highly recommended no matter what CDN solution a WordPress blogger uses.

  • Chris Haught

    Hi Justin, came across this great post while researching the plugin, are you still using it and happy? Thanks

    • http://www.dragonblogger.com/ Justin Germino

      No, this product was good, but MaxCDN had the same benefits and was cheaper for new bloggers at $39 for initial start up for 1TB, which last a whole year. With the ability to use Incapsula or Cloudflare for free, and gain the security benefits of these cloud services they have somewhat reduced the need to use a CDN, a CDN will still serve content fast and is a good option if you have the budget, but now I just recommend a site put themselves behind Incapsula or Cloudflare and use W3 Total Cache, a CDN is only really needed if you are serving up a lot of “media” content like videos/files hosting directly from your site in my opinion.

      • Chris Haught

        Justin, Thanks so much for the quick and helpful response! I was looking at Cloudflare, that helped me to decide, appreciate all your great content!