Akamai VS. Cloudflare: Which One to Choose


By Ann Oliver

With over 900,000 new internet users worldwide each day, websites must be fast and device-friendly. Are you struggling to choose between Akamai and Cloudflare for your website’s CDN needs? You’re not alone.

CDNs (Content Delivery Networks) play a crucial role in enhancing visitor experience by speeding up website loading times.

A CDN is a network of web servers and data centers that reduce website loading times. It does this by storing static content and serving it to users from the closest location, known as a Point of Presence (PoP).

Let’s closely examine Akamai and Cloudflare, two top CDN providers, to help you pick the best one based on their services and features.

What is Akamai CDN

Since 1998, Akamai has grown into one of the market’s leading CDNs, trusted by top companies like Facebook and Twitter.

Akamai holds the prestigious tag of being the world’s largest CDN provider, serving around 15%-30% of web traffic worldwide. 

Akamai CDN Features

Let’s have a look at the unique features of this high-performance CDN service:

  • Route Optimization: Akamai’s Sure-Route technology quickly directs user requests to the nearest server for faster access.
  • Dynamic and Static Content Caching: While most CDNs can cache only static content, Akamai stands out from the pack by caching and optimising dynamic content delivery besides static one, which, in return, boosts download speed.
  • Robust Security: With multiple protective layers, Akamai ensures your users enjoy secure browsing, and your origin server is untouchable by malicious requests or IPs. Its features include WAF, DDoS attack mitigation, SSL/TLS certificates, and real-time analysis for identifying suspicious users.
  • Pre-Fetching: With its cutting-edge pre-fetching feature, Akamai ensures better browsing to your site users by pre-fetching a file that is in high demand. 
One of the great features of Akamai CDN is supporting live streaming video.

Pros of Akamai CDN

Some of the notable pros of this leading service are:

  • Supports live video streaming
  • Available cloud storage via Akamai Net Storage
  • Real-time content-analytics 
  • 2.3 TB/second bandwidth for DDoS mitigation

Cons of Akamai CDN

  • Expensive than other third-party CDN providers
  • Its vast infrastructure slightly slows down security updates.

What is Cloudflare CDN

Serving over 200 cities of 90+ countries, Cloudflare is another high-performance service in the CDN industry with more than 20 million internet properties on its geographically scattered network. 

With its surpassing security and top-notch features, Cloudflare is serving over 172 companies currently, including ParkerGale Capital, Great Rail Journeys, etc. 

Cloudflare CDN Features

Some of the surpassing features of this CDN Provider are:

  • Easy to Use: Integrating Cloudflare with your CMS is effortless. It features a user-friendly interface that enables web owners to modify the DNS and control the system better.
  • Highly Customisable: Cloudflare offers an incredible customisation facility by enabling you to control the content caching process.
  • 100% Uptime Guaranteed: One of the surpassing features of Cloudflare CDN is that it guarantees 100% uptime. If your origin server goes down, Cloudflare’s edge servers keep your static content available to visitors.
  • Top-notch Security Options: Like Akamai, Cloudflare edge servers also protect your end-users and site from bad bots and DDoS attacks and SQL injection with WAF and its high-end algorithm. 

Pros of Cloudflare CDN

  • It offers a free plan, also has premium plans
  • 2-factor authentication for better protection
  • Robust, secure, and speedy DNS
  • Free SSL certificate

Cons of Cloudflare CDN

  • No technical assistant and image/video optimisation for free plan
  • Web traffic analytics are limited to premium plans
Cloudflare lacks traffic analytics and insights for free plans

Akamai VS. Cloudflare: The Differences Based on Various Criteria

Now that you have an in-depth overview of both Akamai and Cloudflare services, let’s go through some of the differences between them:

TCP Connection Packet for Better Performance

As performance is a significant criterion to influence your buying decision, let’s analyse both Akamai and Cloudflare performance based on TCP connection packets. 

While Akamai has 16 TCP (Transmission Control Protocol) packets, Cloudflare has only 10

The larger TCP packets a CDN has, the more successfully and efficiently it can transfer data packets over the internet between devices.

  • Result: Akamai wins the race of performance.

The Difference in Security Options

Akamai is a high-performance CDN that ensures top-notch cloud security for enabling businesses to keep their system and users secured. Employing the Prolexic PLXedge route, Akamai keeps your application and site secure from DDoS attacks, besides alerting you of imminent attacks. But Akamai CDN doesn’t offer a free SSL certificate or two-factor authentication. 

Cloudflare has its reputation of mitigating even 300 Gbps DDoS attacks. Its resilient and robust security system keeps abusive bots, cyber threats, bad traffic, malicious IPs, and layer 3 and 4 DDoS attacks away from your API, application, and website to ensure a more secure network infrastructure. 

To ensure high security, Cloudflare provides a free SSL certificate and 2-factor authentication.

  • Result: While considering the security options, Cloudflare beats Akamai offering extensive DDoS protection and a free SSL certificate with its plans.

Pricing: Another Factor to Consider

The best part of Cloudflare CDN is that it offers a free plan with quality features. However, if you want upgraded features, they have plenty of cost-effective options: pro, business, and enterprise plans. Don’t worry if you require enterprise-grade security with customisable settings coupled with more advanced and robust tools, reporting, and support. You have the enterprise plan!

Unlike Cloudflare, Akamai doesn’t have a free plan but offers pay-as-you-go pricing. It means that your bill will be scaled based on your traffic load. To get a comprehensive idea about the Akamai pricing process and how it works with startups, you can opt for a quick call with their customer support, and they will be happy to assist you!

  • Result: Offering unbeatable features with the free plan and giving a clear view of the pricing process, Cloudflare again wins the race considering the cost. 

PoPs Location

The location and number of PoPs are two significant factors when you consider a CDN for purchasing. While both offer global coverage, Akamai leads with 325,000 servers across more than 135 countries and about 1,435 networks.

  • Result: Akamai, with its highly distributed servers worldwide, is the clear winner when considering geographic coverage. 

Akamai vs. Cloudflare: Which One to Choose

Both Akamai and Cloudflare come with impeccable features and functionality to match your business needs. You have to choose the best one that meets your specific case. 

For instance:

  • If you require a CDN to ensure scalability to the website of your large business, Akamai, specialised in optimising the performance of websites with massive traffic, can be your ultimate choice. 
  • If you run a middle/small-sized business or blog website, the most viable solution for quality features and top-notch security can be the Cloudflare free plan.