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What are the Best Strategies to Optimize CDN Costs?

Michael Hakimi
March 15, 2024

There are several ways to optimize CDN costs, using both the technical and business aspects of content delivery networks. Some of these strategies are easy to apply while some can be a bit more complicated. However, using the following tips, you will be able to reduce your costs by a few percentiles. 

I’m applying these methods daily, and have received tangible results with my clients, so I’m confident it’ll be of value to you too!

1. Optimize CDN Settings

One of the first steps in reducing CDN costs is to optimize CDN settings. This involves configuring browser cache TTL (Time To Live) settings to maximize content caching on users' browsers, thereby reducing the amount of data that needs to be delivered by the optimized CDN infrastructure

Furthermore, optimizing cache keys and segmenting traffic can prevent unnecessary content delivery to regions not targeted by your services, thus saving costs​​.

2. Use Multiple CDNs for Different Content Types

By cherry-picking the best routes and services from each vendor, your business can optimize for cost without compromising on service quality​​. 

Your static content (images, videos, etc), can be handled by a cheaper CDN, while your dynamic content (user settings, preferences, etc), can use the intelligent routing of a more premium CDN option. 

You can also compare costs across each CDN provider to find the cheapest of the bunch, having some of that negotiating power when discussing rates. 

For more details, check out this guide on Reducing CDN Infrastructure Expenses.

3. Mix Standard and Premium CDNs

Not all CDN services are created equal, and sometimes, a mix of standard and premium CDNs can offer the best balance between cost and performance. 

Premium CDNs may offer advanced features like enhanced security, but for many applications, standard CDNs are more than sufficient. 

If an X CDN provider offers cheap and robust services for image delivery, while also serving costly options for services like video streaming, you will have the option to switch that bit to a different CDN provider, resulting in significant cost savings!  

4. Commit to a Certain Capacity

This method involves entering into agreements with CDN providers for a predetermined level of bandwidth or storage over a set period. Such commitments are mutually beneficial: businesses secure lower rates by guaranteeing a consistent revenue stream for the provider, and in return, CDN providers offer substantial discounts or more favorable terms. 

This arrangement not only locks in savings but also ensures predictable costs, facilitating better budget management. When considering capacity commitments, it's necessary to accurately forecast your needs to avoid overcommitting or underutilizing the agreed-upon capacity, as this can affect the cost-efficiency of the arrangement.

5. Separate Static and Dynamic Traffic

Static content remains unchanged over time and can be cached at the network edge. This caching strategy minimizes the need to fetch this content from the origin server, reducing load times and bandwidth usage. 

On the other hand, dynamic content requires a different approach due to its changing nature. Through separating the handling of these two types of content, you can implement caching and delivery strategies that maximize efficiency for static content while employing more sophisticated, possibly costlier solutions for dynamic content only when necessary. 

6. Longer Cache Lifetimes and Image Optimization

Extending the cache lifetime of assets and optimizing images can reduce the bandwidth needed to deliver content, directly impacting CDN costs. 

Techniques such as choosing the right image format and size for the delivery device can make a substantial difference​​.

7. Review and Negotiate CDN Features and Pricing

It's extremely important to regularly review the features and pricing models of your CDN provider. Paying for unused features or sticking with a pricing model not suited to your traffic patterns can lead to unnecessary expenses. 

Usage-based pricing models, where you pay exactly for what you consume, can offer more flexibility and cost savings​​.

8. Advanced Caching and Optimization Techniques

These techniques can help you squeeze that extra bit of performance, which in turn keeps the resource utilization down, saving costs in the long haul.

  • Use Cache-Control Headers: Set Cache-Control headers in your server responses. For static assets that rarely change (e.g., logo, CSS files, JavaScript libraries), use a long max-age directive, such as Cache-Control: public, max-age=31536000 (1 year). This tells browsers and CDNs to cache these assets for a long time, reducing future requests for these assets.
  • Leverage Browser Caching: Configure your web server to serve assets with appropriate expiration times. For instance, you might set images to cache for a month, CSS and JavaScript for a week if you frequently update your site, or longer if updates are infrequent.
  • Edge Caching: Utilize Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to cache content closer to your users. This reduces the distance data must travel, improving load times and reducing latency.
  • Cache Invalidation Strategy: Implement a cache invalidation strategy that allows you to update content on your site without waiting for cache expiration. This often involves versioning your files (e.g., adding a query string or version number to the file name) so that updates can be immediately fetched by the browser or CDN.
  • HTTP/2 or HTTP/3: Utilize modern HTTP protocols like HTTP/2 or HTTP/3, which include improvements like multiplexing and header compression to improve loading times over networks.
  • Text Compression: Enable compression on your web server (e.g., using Gzip or Brotli) for HTML, CSS, and JavaScript files. This can significantly reduce the size of these resources, making them faster to transfer over the network.