MaxCDN Review – Does NOT Improve Site Speed

I had the opportunity to try out MaxCDN which is a consumer CDN (content delivery network) service that is run by NetDNA.  To help others I thought I would post this MaxCDN Review for those who are thinking about signing up.

First off I should disclose that I utilized a Black Friday MaxCDN deal where all plans were 50% off.  (It extended for several days.)  I choose the 1.2 Terabytes of bandwidth starter plan for 1 year which is normally $90 dollars.  Since it was 50% off though I paid $45 dollars for the 1 year plan.

Since site speed is a ranking factor Google takes into account now, be it a small one, and improving your websites speed makes it more likely for users to stay on your site longer I wanted to try it out for Adam Yamada and Singing Dogs.  If MaxCDN worked well I thought I'd also pay the extra money to use it for my auto blog and CarNewsCafe.

For those that don't know what a CDN does it basically takes static parts of a website, like images, and stores those on several servers.  Let's say a visitor from Maryland wants to visit your website and you using a CDN.  The CDN will show images from the nearest server location they have available resulting in a better experience for that user.

Ideally a CDN should improve site speed but using MaxCDN for a few weeks I found it didn't.  Checkout screenshots I took of the many speed tests I ran using WebPageTest.org.

maxcdn review maxcdn review

If you notice the first column “Load Time” is a measurement of how long it takes to load all the elements on a given page.  My times are quite slow and I was expecting that MaxCDN would cut a lot of these times in half.   These metrics are not much different to the performance and Load Times I was experiencing before implementing MaxCDN on my websites.  Also if you notice on the right it says “Effective use of CDN” and there is an X.  I should make it clear despite the “X” I spent about 2+ hours with tech support getting the MaxCDN configured.  The tech support rep said it was configured properly and what I saw in the MaxCDN backend reflected my sites were using their servers.  Sooo… not sure what I was paying for as it was setup and cofingured properly but didn't improve speed.

In addition to WebPageTest I used Google's Developer testing tool as well.  I didn't see that much of a noticeably difference in page loading speeds either.

Along with the speed tests I also pay for a service called StatusCake, an uptime monitoring service.  (FYI there is also Uptime Robot which is free but  does send false postives.  I haven't had that issue with the StatusCake paid account.)  StatusCake pings my sites and will report how long it took to get a signal back from the server.  Did I see a noticeably improvement in site speed when I was using MaxCDN?  No, I did not.

At least the backend MaxCDN dashboard is fairly straightforward and the layout is nice.

maxcdn dashboard

Some of the support documentation could be alot easier and simpler to understand in my opinion.  Surprisingly they don't have good WordPress documentation which I always view as vitally important for any service or plugin nowadays.  A lot of is confusing and was clearly written by engineers with negative writing skills.

MaxCDN is a service that a lot of people that run WordPress and other websites use due to it's low cost and aggressive marketing.  I just did not feel it was worth even the $45 dollars.  If all the tests and data I ran were not improving the site speed noticeably, what was I paying for?  What can I say, this isn't a good MaxCDN Review, I'm especially pissed since I spent a significant amount of time configuring MaxCDN with the tech representative and all that was for nothing.  MaxCDN  wasn't useful to me as it didn't improve site speed and the whole point of the service it to speed up your site, a lot.

If you got value out of my MaxCDN review or have an opinion about using CDN's feel free to leave a comment below.

Free Website Monitoring with Uptime Robot

website monitoring

For anyone that has a blog or website on the internet it is important to know your website's uptime, which means when it is working properly.  What you really want to know though is if your website has downtime, which is when your website is not working. Website monitoring services and sites are the best way to let you know the reliability of your hosting company and to alert when your website is down.

Website monitoring services are useful since they check your website at set intervals throughout the day to make sure it is up.  A single person can't obviously monitor a website every minute of every day.  It is just not possible unless you have some super human powers I don't know about that allows you to not sleep.

These site monitoring services and ping services are extremely useful and great for the testing the reliability of your hosting provider.  While extremely useful a lot of website monitoring services cost quite a lot of money each month.  Generally the high monthly expense is not worth it for a small businesses or someone with a personal blog, or anyone who has to be tight with their money.  (Let's be honest who isn't tight with money in this economy?)  Is there a good solution for people who don't have money for an expensive website monitoring service? Yes, the answer is Uptime Robot!

Uptime Robot is a completely free website monitoring and free ping service that was started in January of 2010.  If this sounds too good to be true or you think being “free” comes with a catch… it doesn't.  Uptime Robot allows you to monitor up to 50 websites and checks them every 5 minutes to make sure they are up.  If your website is experiencing downtime you can choose to get alerts via a text message, email, Twitter, RSS (Really Simple Syndication), or push notifications for the iPad or iPhone.  Uptime Robot also has a keyword monitoring tool and has networking monitoring features as well.

A lot of people are probably familiar with what is known as the Freemium model.  A Freemium business is when a company or person offers a service for free, but premium services you have to pay for.  The majority of supposedly “free website monitoring” services usually work from a Freemium model.  You can monitor one website for free but anything else you will have to pay for.  Typically the other free services check your site at intervals that are 30 minutes apart, which is not often enough in my opinion.

Not only is Uptime Robot completely free (just had to mention that again) it is easy to use and setup the monitors.  The dashboard user interface is friendly for even non-tech inclined people.  It only took me 10 minutes to setup website monitors for all of my sites with Uptime Robot.  As well to make sure the IP addresses and domain for the Uptime Robot servers were not being included in my Google Analytics stats.  (It is important to exclude the IP addresses for any analytics applications if  you are using website monitoring services or it could affect your visitors stats to make it seem like you are getting a lot more visitors than you actually are.)

A few weeks ago I got an email and text alert that my auto repair blog was down.  I went to check and sure enough I was getting an error when trying to visit my site.  I tried a few different browsers on my computer and then checked my smartphone to see if I could access my auto blog.  Nope, it was down and was not working!  I went to Isup.me to see if it was maybe something wrong with my internet connection or that Uptime Robot was sending a false positive.  Nope, my blog was definitely down.  Luckily before I had the chance to contact Site5 support about the downtime it was already fixed.  The downtime was only for about 25 minutes or so and I got an email from Uptime Roobt when the server for my sites was back up and running.

It was extremely useful for me to know about the downtime I am confident that even though Uptime Robot is completely free, it is a reliable service.  At least that is what I have experienced.

A friend of mine said that Uptime Robot sent him a couple of false positives for his sites, saying they were down when they were not.  I have never had an issue using the service though.  If you have had an issue with Uptime Robot leave a comment below or if you have great experience leave a comment too.  I mean, you get what you pay for! 🙂

I am not sure how Uptime Robot stays completely free but I LOVE that for now it is.  I mean 50 monitors per account and the fact it checks your site every 5 minutes is amazing. The two designers and developers that are behind Uptime Robot, Umut Muhaddisoglu and Daniel Rimille, are pretty awesome guys to offer this.

Currently Umut and Daniel are not accepting donations to keep Uptime Robot operational but I think they should. Personally I would be willing to chip-in a few bucks to keep Uptime Robot going since I think it is such a great service.  I know that it takes time, hardwork, and dedication to keep a service like this up and running.  I just hope they are not spending too much time or their own resources to keep Uptime Robot up.

To keep updated with Uptime Robot developments and new features check out the blog and follow them on Twitter @UptimeRobot.

Catch me on Twitter @AdamYamada … if you can!