November 4, 2021

Fastly vs. Cloudflare

Written by

When choosing a content delivery network (CDN), it’s important to compare products in terms of their ability to work for your company on the front end, as an intermediary, and on the back end. The right CDN will optimize your website, deliver rich content at high speed and quality, have load balancing, reduce bandwidth consumption and costs, and ultimately keep your customers happy. 

Here, we’ll compare Fastly and Cloudflare, as they’re both highly customizable, offer security features, and are capable of serving up dynamic content. 

Fastly Overview

Fastly CDN is a cloud-based content delivery service that major companies, such as Shopify and Slack, rely on for e-commerce, streaming, cloud security, and much more. It can be easily scaled up or down, based on your company’s bandwidth needs and geographical coverage. Fastly offers flexible, scalable Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Web Application Firewall (WAF) that secure data storage and transfer without compromising on site performance. Fastly has a portfolio of TLS solutions to meet the level of security complexity that your company needs, whether it be for a single domain or for multiple properties. 

Cloudflare Overview

Cloudflare CDN is also a cloud-based content delivery service that specializes in cyber security, particularly against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and boasts a network that spans more than 250 cities and more than 100 countries. Cloudflare supports TLS as well as HTTP/3, the latest security protocol to emerge in 2021. HTTP/3 runs on QUIC, which is a new internet transport protocol that automatically encrypts and authenticates data, making it faster than data transfer that happens via TLS. 

Fastly and Cloudflare are both scalable. If your users are limited to a particular geographic region, you can find a scaled-down option with both. Nevertheless, if your audience grows, both vendors offer scalable options to accommodate broader reach while driving down bandwidth costs. Cloudflare touts its breadth of geographic reach in particular, so it may be more suitable for websites with an international audience. 

Comparing Fastly vs. Cloudflare

API capability and customizability: Fastly vs. Cloudflare

Seamless, customizable API capabilities give you control over how your website is cached and how your apps/website communicate with other products, which play an important role in user experience. 

Fastly’s Deliver@Edge products were built to flexibly support nearly any custom API to ensure smooth integration and granular control over how your site’s content is cached. Fastly is compatible with common CI/CD tool chains, features configuration management tools, and includes code repository systems. Via API calls with Fastly’s products, you can get rid of old content to free up space and make your tech stack more efficient, switch on new features, and reset Times to Live (TTL). Fastly’s products are fully programmable.

Cloudflare also takes an API-first approach to CDN, allowing customers to exert fine-grained control over content caching and purging. For instance, Cloud Workers allows customers to customize their caching preferences to fit their needs. Moreover, using Page Rules, you can determine caching settings for individual URLs. Cloudflare’s Cache API not only lets you control how your site’s content is cached but also includes advanced routing and URL canonicalization. 

Video content management: Fastly vs. Cloudflare

To drive user engagement and conversions, you’re likely hosting dynamic content, such as videos, on your website. There’s nothing more annoying and off-putting for customers than skipping, buffering, distorted or fuzzy audiovisual content, leading to quick user drop-off from your site and thus also decreasing revenue for you. To optimize user experience, you’ll need a CDN that supports high video content quality. 

With Fastly you can stream video with low latency and minimal re-buffering, thanks to its 145+ Tbps capacity. Fastly’s platform supports all major HTTP video streaming formats, thanks to its vendor partnerships with Brightcove, Wowza, Videon, and others. By adding Media Shield, you can centralize your content management by designating a single origin point for multiple CDNs. The fewer origin servers you have that are handling the same amount of traffic, the more you can reduce costs. 

With 100+ Tbps capacity, Cloudflare also supports rich content, including MPEG-DASH, HLS, and CMAF files to ensure shorter video startup times and less buffering. Cloudflare boasts its Concurrent Streaming Acceleration feature that optimizes live video content to multiple requesters at scale, and it can do all that with minimal end-to-end latency. You can also handpick video files to instantly purge from Cloudflare’s network cache. 

Analytics and reporting capabilities: Fastly vs. Cloudflare

Fastly and Cloudflare both offer analytics tools for insights into web traffic, user behavior, and other information that informs your company’s overarching marketing strategy.

Fastly allows you to detect security and performance issues before they impact user experience. Fastly shows real-time logs and affords you control over your CDN configuration. You can instantly change configuration and security rules to swiftly address security and performance issues. 

Cloudflare features a dashboard for easy visibility into all aspects of your CDN, making it more user friendly than Fastly in this regard. For example, you can see which content is or isn’t being cached, instantly update your settings, and get a better grasp of your website’s performance to see where requests are coming from and how they’re getting served. You can even filter out and pull graphs on specific URLs for caching activities and other metrics.

Choosing between Fastly and Cloudflare

There are a lot of factors to consider when choosing the right CDN, such as the kinds of data that you’re managing in your CDN, third-party apps you work with, size and distribution of your network, and the kind of content you’re serving up on your website. 

As cyber security threats become increasingly sophisticated, it’s crucial to choose a CDN that offers the right level of security for your company, depending on what kinds of data are being stored and transmitted between and among servers. Both Fastly and Cloudflare offer extensive security features, however, Cloudflare wins out on this aspect because it received the highest possible scores in various security criteria

Both offer high API flexibility and customizability, though it’s worth finding out which third-party apps these vendors are most compatible with. 

In the vein of customizability, Fastly and Cloudflare both offer video content management solutions. You really can’t go wrong with streaming capabilities of Fastly or Cloudflare, as both support a range of file formats and provide various add-on products to boost streaming performance. 

Both will be able to show you actionable insights through their analytical capabilities, though Cloudflare’s website explains in depth what kinds of tools you can employ to achieve birds-eye down to worms-eye view of the CDN and individual URLs, respectively. Plus, with its dashboard feature, Cloudflare will likely be more user friendly than Fastly’s log generation.

Fastly or Cloudflare are great options to start comparing when deciding on a CDN. To dig a little deeper, check out our product selection tool or reach out to unbiased Technology Advisors who will give you a list of the best IT solutions for your company’s needs.