Do cheap CDNs really deliver?

This morning I signed up with MaxCDN, but I canceled a few hours later because the performance of my site with the CDN was worse than without it. To judge the performance I used,, and also YSlow FireFox plugin.

I also wonder about how many servers in various locations do they really make available to us. To view IP addresses of servers from which your site’s content is being served to visitors in different geographical locations across the world, you may use As an example, let’s have a look at in the following test:!&vtt=1297209459&vhost=_&c= Unfortunately, at this moment, I only see content being served from the same single IP all across the globe.

After canceling MaxCDN, I signed up with VPS.NET, but after already 7 hours, they still have not set up my account and I have not yet been able to test the performance. But I’m not holding my breath. I’ve searched, and I found a website ( ) of one of the users of their CDN (Level 3) service. I ran his CDN url via,!&vtt=1297212363&vhost=_&c= but while I do see various server locations serving content, they all seem to be located in the USA, even those serving to visitors in Europe, Asia, etc. This is disappointment. I’ll wait till I can test my own site on this VPS.NET myself, before deciding what to do next.

I’ve also considered, even though it costs more than I will likely be willing to pay ($150/mo for 50GB/mo). However, two chat requests have gone unanswered, and no one seems to be there to answer the phone when I called their sales and even customer service. There doesn’t seem to be a way to sign up / purchase on line.

Anyone know of any CDN for not much more than $100/mo that actually manages to speed up a website, and actually manages to serve content from servers geographically close to the visitor?

Couple of questions:

  • Where is your web server?
  • Where are your customers (primarily)?
  • Do you have performance tests of your site before and after implementing the CDN?
  • When you ran the tests, did you do several runs to make sure the edge caches got populated?
  • Does your static content have long expiration times set so the CDN can cache them?

You can see where MaxCDN’s nodes are here: (just the edge nodes, the peering locations are just network peerings).

It’s unusual for a CDN to make a site slower, particularly from multiple locations but it’s certainly possible if it can’t cache the content for some reason and has to go back to the origin server for every request. The only other cases where it can usually be slower is if there isn’t enough content to justify the additional DNS lookups (if the site is only a couple of requests) or if you have a user base that is geographically close to your server already.

Also, MaxCDN uses a TCP Anycast network so you’ll only ever see a single IP address but thanks to BGP the network will take care of making sure the traffic is always routed to the closest edge location. It’s difficult to get right but it’s WAY better than the ip-based geo-location that most other providers use.



btw, you can tell that the anycast routing is working on the justping test if you look at the ping times from various locations:

Amsterdam: 0.8ms
Ashburn VA, USA: 2.5ms
Santa Clara CA, USA: 13.2ms

They all have the same IP address but the times show that the traffic is being routed correctly where they have edge nodes and all of the ping times in the US and Europe are as fast as you’d expect (I do wish they’d deploy their Asia POPs already though because that’s a pretty big gap in coverage).

I think VPS.NET is an Akamai reseller (the only one if I recall correctly) and you won’t find better geographic coverage than with Akamai but you’ll generally have to pay quite a bit for it (and their IP geolocation can have issues but it works pretty well).

Pat, thanks for your quick reply. The server for my site is in Texas. Just going by memory here, but I think around 75% of visitors are in USA/Canada, the remaining 25% is the rest of the world, mostly Europe. Yes, I did numerous tests before, and several tests after. I do not know what the expiration times are on my static content.

I’ll share my experience with VPS.NET Level 3 CDN hopefully tomorrow (if they set up my account by then). If that doesn’t work out, I’m willing to even try the much more expensive (Akamai) service, but so far I have not been able to contact them.

As Patrick said, this is highly unusual. If you would like I would love to be able to look at your account and see why it was slower. If Billing has not fully deactivated your account just send me a PM with your account information and I will take a look and see what caused it.

We tend to see quite a bit of improvement when using us and are always looking at ways of improving our service, any times that we see something that is not correct, we like to look at to help improve it for everyone.

[edit: It’s late and I hit save too fast :)]


I’m Terry Myers, the Chief Evangelist for VPS.NET. Has your account been activated now? If not, send me an email at terry(at) and I’ll make sure it is done immediately. Typical activation times are shorter than 3 hours, but sometimes we have to verify a few things before we can activate your account.

VPS.NET is a Level3 CDN reseller; we previously resold for Akamai, however we’re no longer doing so. Level3 does have POPs located in Europe. Our CDN customers are able to customize their configuration a bit, which may be why you’re seeing Yoast use USA locations only. You do however have to pay extra for the APAC regions, as the cost of bandwidth is the Asian regions is significantly more than USA/Europe.

Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.

Thanks Pat, Billy, Terry for your replies. Sorry, I’ve been very busy today, and I have not been able to reply to this post and to the PM either.

I regret and I apologize for canceling MaxCDN so quickly, without giving it a fair chance by identifying why the performance appeared to me not satisfactory. I may still test the service again in a few days, but at the moment I’m going to give VPS.NET a try.

The beauty of MaxCDN is that a user can configure everything himself/herself. With VPS.NET, who is a reseller of Level3 service, the user has no access to the configuration, but I can understand the reasons why, so I’m trying to be patient.

The only configuration the client does is the CNAME record change, the rest is done by VPS.NET. I’ve done my part, but the service still doesn’t seem to be up and running. I suspect my account at Level3 hasn’t (yet) been properly configured. I submitted a ticket (#76907) about three(!) hours ago at VPS.NET, but to this moment no one has replied. I updated the ticket twice in the mean time, to make sure it gets noticed, and to add additional info, but still there has been no reply.

It scares me to think that if my site were to be down because of the CDN service, that I would be at the mercy of someone answering or not answering a ticket in three, four, or five hours. And there is no telephone contact available… Can we really take such risk?

One thing you might want to consider is having the CDN as a configuration setting (if it’s not too much work). I’ve only ever had to trigger it once but if I’m having a problem I can go in and disable the CDN and serve all of my content directly from the origin server (and it’s done by dynamically creating the urls for the static content so I don’t have to wait for a DNS change, it’s an instant switch). That way regardless of the vendor you have some control over a fallback.

does provide an instant switch… but creates other problems :-

  1. Users with files in cache wl need to download everything again due to new url.
  2. Bad for SEO. Say you serve images via CDN… new urls would confuse Google Image Search.

Should only be used as a temporary fix while DNS propogates.

I use Django web framework, and it is very very easy to change the urls of the media files.

Thanks everyone for very useful feedback.

  1. The reason I was experiencing issues not being able to use VPS.NET’s CDN was purely of my doing. It was due to a misconfiguration of the CNAME record. Now I’m up and running :slight_smile:

  2. Pat was absolutely correct. There was no reason for me to so quickly leave MaxCDN. The same problems I experience there are will me now at VPS.NET, and they will stay with me no matter how expensive CDN service I switch to.

Pat and I exchanged PMs, and this is a part of what he suggested after looking at my site:

I will have to address this before I can enjoy improved performance. With MaxCDN, I think it is possible to adjust these settings right from the user control panel. With VPS.NET, I’m pretty sure these settings are not available to me, so I may need to work on this with my hosting company instead.