Comparing The Best CDN Providers: Azure, CloudFront, Cloudflare, and Beyond
The online video streaming marketing is growing quickly, and live streaming is making up the majority of that growth. Countless businesses are getting involved in this industry by building their own video streaming platforms.
This requires the support of live streaming CDN providers to deliver high-quality video content to viewers in diverse geographical regions.
In this article, we will be comparing live streaming CDN providers, including Microsoft’s Azure CDN, Cloudflare CDN, and Amazon’s CloudFront CDN. We’ll look at the features, pricing, and pros and cons of each provider. We’re also going to discuss the benefits of accessing a CDN through an online video platform.
Table of Contents
- What Are Live Streaming CDN Providers?
- The Importance of CDNs for Online Video Streaming
- Comparing the Top 3 CDN Providers
- Microsoft Azure CDN
- Amazon CloudFront CDN
- Cloudflare CDN
- Accessing a CDN via an Online Video Platform
What Are Live Streaming CDN Providers?
Simply put, a CDN is a network of servers that can deliver your content quickly and reliably across a large geographic region. This is essential for large audiences, OTT video, and maximizing quality.
A live streaming CDN provider is a company that sells access to its network of servers. Some providers sell access directly to broadcasters that are using a self-hosting model, while others partner with online video platforms to help them serve their audiences.
The Importance of CDNs for Online Video Streaming
The broadcast video market, which has traditionally been dominated by TV, is increasingly moving online. This is often described as the OTT transition or “cutting the cord.” OTT stands for “over-the-top.” Typically the term refers to a video delivery method that distributes content directly over the internet.
This distribution method poses a solution to the fact that digital video files are large and difficult to process. They can place a major strain on servers, mobile networks, and distribution systems.
For this reason, OTT and other online video efforts are key considerations when comparing live streaming CDN providers. CDNs distribute a load of video use between many different servers, speeding up connections and reducing problems such as buffering and lagging.
A CDN makes all your video strategies and streaming solutions much more effective. CDNs enable performance and delivery at scale, especially under high-stress situations. Massive traffic, random spikes in viewership, server outages, and hacking attacks can all be managed with a CDN.
Given that companies that use video grow revenue 49% faster than those that don’t, using a CDN-enabled service is a no-brainer.
Comparing the Top 3 CDN Providers
Each CDN is different. Different CDN providers have different focuses, and therefore each CDN has a different collection of features. They also have different prices, ease of use, and levels of support.
Let’s take a look at three of the top CDN providers on the market. These include Microsoft Azure CDN, Amazon CloudFront CDN, and Cloudflare CDN.
1. Microsoft Azure CDN
Microsoft’s Azure CDN is a top-tier CDN provider that offers a wide range of services. Their Media Services division is focused on video, including encoding, video player, content protection, and both on-demand and live streaming content delivery.
The Azure CDN has 116 points of presence (PoPs) in over 100 large cities around the world.
The Azure CDN is well-suited for users who need Microsoft integration. For example, integrating this service with Azure storage is simple. The Azure platform can be accessed via PowerShell or with a .NET SDK, or with a RESTful API and Node.js.
- Secure streaming
- Scalable coverage
- Bandwidth analytics
- Several options for integrations
- Large delivery capacity
- Global content delivery
- 100% uptime
- Azure CDN integrates with other Microsoft services
- Video analytics
- Widespread PoPs
- Can be expensive compared to budget services
- Complex setup and management
- Cheaper plans have limited features
- Technical support is only available for an additional fee (
Microsoft Azure uses a complex pricing structure based on zones and usage, which can make the pricing confusing. General pricing for North America, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa starts at $0.081/GB for low-usage plans. High-usage plans start at as little as $0.023/GB.
We recommend checking out their pricing page to learn more about costs based on your unique broadcasting needs.
2. Amazon CloudFront CDN
Amazon’s CloudFront CDN is another popular provider to consider when comparing live streaming CDN providers. As an easy-to-use option, CloudFront is quite popular. For video and OTT broadcasters, CloudFront integrates RTMP ingestion and distribution, as well as encoding and video distribution.
CloudFront is configured via an easy-to-use web panel which allows a lot of customization. It also integrates with other Amazon Web Services, which is a plus for some businesses that have already invested in S3 or other elements of that ecosystem.
CloudFront includes over 225 PoPs in 90 major cities around the world.
Additional services like SSL certificates, Web Application Firewall, and DDoS protection are integrated for free.
- Security Protection against network and application layer attacks
- Edge Computing
- Real-time Metrics and Logging
- DevOps Friendly
- Full-featured APIs and DevOps tools
- Free data Transfer between AWS cloud services and Amazon CloudFront for origin fetches
- Global content delivery
- Lots of options to customize
- Innovative technology
- Relatively easy to use
- Free SSL certificates
- Confusing pricing
- Technical support is only available for an additional fee
- Not the fastest CDN
CloudFront pricing is on-demand and based on geographic region, bandwidth usage, and the features you need. CloudFront offers three tiers:
- Free trial plan for 12 months, which allows 50 GB of transfer-out data and 2,000,000 HTTP(s) requests per month
- On-demand pricing tier based on data transfer out (internet/origin) and HTTP/HTTPS requests
- Discounted pricing tier for customers who are willing to make certain minimum traffic commits (typically 10 TB/month or higher)
On-demand pricing starts at $0.085/GB in the United States and Europe, with prices per GB decreasing as the volume of data increases. However, streaming with CloudFront can be quite a bit more expensive in other regions, especially those that are more remote.
3. Cloudflare CDN
Cloudflare CDN is a CDN provider that uses an innovative serverless delivery technology that allows the company to deliver content without a physical network of servers. This is different from Amazon CloudFront and Azure, which both use physical servers at a variety of PoPs.
This provider has digital “servers” in 193 cities around the world, making its coverage quite impressive. This serverless system is capable of both dynamic and static content delivery.
Another notable aspect of this innovative CDN provider is that it offers set pricing plans for broadcasters that want their costs to be predictable. It also uses an API-first approach that allows users to customize and automate their streaming delivery.
- Global content delivery
- Serverless delivery
- Static content caching
- Instant full cache purge
- Min Cache TTL Expiry
- Custom Cache Keys
- Argo Smart Routing
- China Network
- Accelerated Mobile Links (AMP)
- Mobile Optimization
- Key-value Storage with Workers
- Simple pricing
- Free tier for personal websites
- DDoS protection for secure streaming
- Fast and reliable delivery
- A bit technically complex
- Some complaints about the platform being difficult to use
Cloudflare has simple, transparent pricing plans. Their packages have four pricing tiers:
- Free plan: available for personal websites, but it doesn’t support video hosting.
- Pro plan: $20/month
- Business plan: $200/month per domain
- Enterprise plans: customized pricing for each user
Accessing a CDN via an Online Video Platform
When accessing live streaming CDN services, there is an alternative option that’s, in our opinion, the best approach. This alternative involves using an online video platform (OVP) that integrates with a live streaming CDN directly.
Broadcasters can consider a professional OVP a Swiss Army Knife for online video hosting. These services take the highly technical live streaming process and package it into a user-friendly platform that eliminates the need for much technical experience.
The main perks of accessing a CDN through an online video platform are usually more cost-effective and images the process significantly easier.
Powerful Content Delivery Through Dacast
Here at Dacast, we offer a unified streaming solution with support for both live and on-demand video hosting. Our platform includes support for video monetization, white-label streaming, global content delivery, and more.
Dacast uses a multi-CDN approach to combine the power of some of the top CDN providers in the world. This gives Dacast users access to a global network of more than 165,000 servers to deliver content to users. These servers are located in over 130 countries around the world.
Choosing Dacast allows users to access a top-tier CDN and access a toolbox of online video features without having to manage multiple contracts. This partnership comes at an affordable, competitive price.
Some of the other features that we offer are:
- User-friendly streaming platform
- Instant provisioning of live channels from anywhere in the world
- Embed your OTT video to your website or to social media
- White label system
- Integrated video player
- Paywall supports pay-per-view or subscription monetization
- Advertising support
- Organize VODs through packages and scheduled playlists
- Video APIs
- Geo and referrer restrictions as well as other security features
- Analytics dashboard to track the performance of live streams and VODs
Using a CDN is essential for most professional online video streaming. However, choosing a live streaming CDN provider can be confusing. We hope this article has helped you differentiate between some of the biggest CDN providers on the market.
We’ve concluded that using an online video platform, such as Dacast, is the best way to build a video platform for your business or organization. It’s a more feature-rich and affordable option than using a CDN directly and will provide better performance.
We offer a 14-day free trial so you can access all of our powerful features to see if Dacast is the right solution for you. Click the button below to start streaming live today. No credit card is required.
Any questions, comments, or ideas? Let us know below. We enjoy hearing from our readers and will get back to you when we can. For regular tips on live streaming and exclusive offers, feel free to join our LinkedIn group.
Thanks for reading, and as always, best of luck with your live streams!