It may only be three years old, but StackPath has created a comprehensive assortment by purchasing many other major internet players: MaxCDN, Highwinds, VPN service Encrypt.me and web security experts Fireblade and Staminus.
The company has spent the last year or two expanding and integrating these technologies, resulting in a set of four web services: monitoring, managed DNS, a powerful web application firewall, and the subject of this review, a content distribution network (CDN).
StackPath’s network is relatively small and is perhaps focused on Western locations with 13 locations in North America and nine locations in Europe (the website doesn’t provide consistent figures, so it’s hard to say for sure). They are attended by four in Asia (Tokyo, Manila, Seoul and Singapore) and two in Brazil and Australia.
Features include intelligent startup shield support to provide you with a useful intermediate caching layer. Instead of each endpoint location that affects your origin with new and updated content requests, this is first cached by a single location and then presented to the rest of the network.
We chose CDN and the website led us to a very short installation process.
After asking about our website domain, we were asked to select the source from which StackPath would pull the content. This would normally be a web server, and StackPath automatically detects the IP address and the best protocol (HTTP or HTTPS), but you can also redirect the service to Amazon S3 or a Google Cloud Storage package.
We clicked Continue, the website created our website and it created a CNAME z7d4w7j9.easisol.com in the form of a website. Add this to DNS records for a domain as a CNAME record, and StackPath manages everything other, caches content, picks up requests from visitors, and then automatically presents related files from the fastest possible location.
It could really be that simple. We were not asked to verify our name, phone number or payment information, or even our email address. But our CDN was enabled, online and at least ready for use for our free trial month
If you want more control, a Settings panel gives you some useful tools. Before checking your source for file changes, you can define how long the CDN will store your content (minimum 30 minutes, maximum 8 days.) If this is a problem, you can clear specific files from the cache or instantly clean them. Everything. Performance fine settings include HTTP/2 and GZip compression support, and cors header support among more advanced extras, query string options (‘? Example = this’ queries) and host header control.
Although we don’t address them in this review, StackPath’s web application firewall, monitoring, and managed DNS services are available just a click away from the same control panel.
In general, StackPath cannot match the reconfigurability of services such as CloudFront. It’s still much easier to use, and there’s enough power here for most apps.
CDN performance can be very difficult to evaluate. Speeds vary significantly depending on location, and only a service that is average in Europe or the U.S. can be a leader in Asia.
CDNPerf can offer some useful tips because it provides a simple view of Cedexis’ user tracking data covering billions of CDN tests.
As we write, StackPath’s worldwide performance looks unusual, with the company ranked 13th out of 18 competitors. If you go into details though, you’ll find much better results in some areas. We checked the North American results and found stackpath ranked fifth ahead of big names like Azure, AWS, Cloudflare and Akamai.
Configurability can be another important aspect of a service, because customizing a service to suit your needs can sometimes provide performance benefits. The interface doesn’t seem to offer much on this front, but except for a few fine-tunings we mentioned earlier (HTTP/2, GZip support).
StackPath’s website talk about edgerules system seems more promising with rules that allow you to ‘customize your asset delivery, security measures, SEO and mobile experience to suit your needs’. It sounds good, especially as it explains that ‘EdgeRules are included in every CDN package at no additional cost’. In StackPath, control is standard. ‘
I’m afraid that’s not entirely true. EdgeRules is not included in the £10 (£7.50) CDN package per month and you will need a $20 (£15) a month Edge Delivery Pro plan to access them. This is still good value and EdgeRules is definitely worth having, but we’d be even happier if the website’s marketing side doesn’t make promises that the pricing page can’t keep.
We’ve completed our review by taking a look at StackPath’s support system. This starts with a web knowledge base that looks good but has little depth. A CDN Setup field scores to cover how to install the service with multiple popular applications, but the CDN Configuration section contains only nine articles, most of which provide bare minimum information. And for example, even if the main website redirected you to support pages for details about EdgeRules, we couldn’t find a word of them in the knowledge base.
Fortunately, StackPath scores much better with real, live, human support with representatives available 24/7 via phone, ticket and live chat. We tried the chat option, we were talking to a representative in three minutes and we got the right answer to our product question almost instantly. Combine this with up-to-date information about the network status available on the StackPath site, and you should be able to quickly understand and resolve any network problems that may arise.
We want more locations, but stackpath’s quality reporting and StackPath’s simple integration with Web Application Firewall and DNS products make it easy to set up and manage. If you’re new to CDN, sign up for a monthly trial and check it out yourself.
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