Alibaba Cloud CDN Review | TechRadar

Founded in 2009, Alibaba Cloud has grown into a cloud computing giant, the largest in China and Asia-Pacific (according to Gartner) and ranked No. 3 in the world.

Go through the list of products and it’s easy to see why. The company offers a range of Amazon AWS-like business services covering databases, elastic computing, security, analytics, networking, and more.

In this review, we take a look at Alibaba Cloud CDN, a virtual network that speeds up websites by delivering your content to over 2,800 edge servers.

Most of Alibaba’s network is in mainland China – 2,300 servers in 31 provincial regions – but there are still 500 in 70 countries, with a total bandwidth capacity of up to 150 Tbps, more than enough even for the largest international companies.


(Image credit: Alibaba)


Alibaba Cloud CDN is aimed more at power business users than network newbies, but you don’t have to be an expert to get started. Setting up the service can be as simple as applying a handful of DNS settings, directing website visitors to the CDN rather than your own website. Alibaba Cloud then manages the databases on its own, routing content requests to the edge server closest to the visitor for the best possible performance.

To install

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You get other acceleration benefits for free. Simple optimization tips remove comments, redundant spaces and other excess content to reduce file size, intelligent Brotli compression further reduces your traffic needs and parameter filtering (ignore text after question mark in URL? Parameter = value) ensures that the CDN does not unnecessarily retrieve content from your origin server.

Another potential performance improvement is Alibaba’s support for QUIC, the efficient transport layer protocol that powers HTTP / 3. But the company hasn’t forgotten about more common networking standards, and Cloud CDN also uses custom congestion detection and packet loss detection algorithms to improve its regular TCP connections.

Access control features include the ability to block visitors by IP address, user agent headers, HTTP referrer, etc. There is nothing particularly surprising, but you can still implement advanced protection schemes, such as using authentication keys to protect access to valuable content (documents, videos, whatever. you want to restrict.)

Confused about how to best configure Cloud CDN for your own site? That’s okay, even the experts won’t get all the details right the first time. Fortunately, Alibaba Cloud CDN provides detailed reports on every aspect of its performance, alerting you to potential issues and helping you optimize your settings for the best possible results.


(Image credit: Alibaba)


While a lot of Alibaba Cloud CDN’s features are free – or at least, little more than checking a box, perhaps flipping a switch – the service also has true expert-level configurability.

EdgeScript is a scripting language that allows you to customize every aspect of how Alibaba Cloud CDN works. Your script can inspect IP addresses, assorted client details (country, region, ISP), user agents, referrers, cookies, URLs, server names, ports, etc., then apply your own logic. business and your own rules to provide all the functionality you need.

You can use it to customize CDN caching rules. “PDFs are kept for 30 days by default, but newsletters only benefit from 7 days in this area of ​​the site and archived PDFs last for one year”: you get the idea.

But you can also use EdgeScript for more general website tasks, such as redirecting visitors from particular countries to content in their native language.

Power users can create major new features, including throttling schemes to set different request rates for regular and premium users, or custom authentication schemes to protect key resources on your site.

If your CDN needs are fairly straightforward, it may not seem relevant right now, but it’s still worth keeping in mind as an Alibaba Cloud plus. Whatever you need a CDN right now, you might need more in a year, and it’s good to know that Alibaba Cloud has the power to tackle that.

And if you’re an expert user who already has ideas on how you could use EdgeScript, check out the documentation on the Alibaba Cloud site for more details on how it works and what you can do.


(Image credit: Alibaba)


Alibaba Cloud CDN pricing varies depending on the region where your content is served and the amount of traffic you are using.

It starts at $ 0.04 per GB for downstream traffic (content delivered from the CDN to your visitors) in mainland China, rising to $ 0.07 in North America and Europe, $ 0.081 to $ 0.108 in Asia- Pacific and $ 0.2 in Africa, South America and the Middle East.

Prices go down as you reach new levels of traffic (i.e. above 50TB, 100TB, and 1PB usage), and, for example, traffic in North America and Europe in over 100TB costs only $ 0.03 per GB.

These are usually fair prices for what you get, although that depends a lot on where your website audience is. Amazon CloudFront is slightly more expensive for the US and Europe, for example ($ 0.085 vs. $ 0.07 for Tier # 1), but it can be much cheaper elsewhere ($ 0.110 vs. $ 0.2 in Africa and the Middle East.)

Unfortunately, there may be additional charges to consider, including the costs for HTTPS requests ($ 0.008 per 10,000) and the traffic generated while retrieving content from your origin server.

If you’re not sure how that might translate to your website, good news: Alibaba Cloud offers a free 1TB outbound traffic plan for three months, giving you a risk-free way to test its capabilities and get a feel for it. the location of your visitors (and the possible cost of the service.)

But if you don’t really need the power of Alibaba Cloud CDN, keep in mind that there are plenty of cheaper alternatives. BunnyCDN offers simple service at much lower prices, starting at $ 0.01 per GB in Europe and North America, and still great value for money at $ 0.06 in Africa and the Middle. East.

Product line

(Image credit: Alibaba)

Although we are talking about Alibaba Cloud CDN here, the company has a lot of related products that you can hook up to your setup if needed.

The CDN doesn’t come with a built-in Web Application Firewall (WAF), for example, but that’s only because Alibaba Cloud already has a dedicated stand-alone WAF. Add it to your site and you’ll have industry-leading protection against bots, zero-day vulnerabilities, and web attacks, detecting and blocking malicious requests in real time.

Alibaba Cloud CDN also doesn’t have the kind of built-in image and video tools you’ll see with Akamai’s CDN, but again, that’s because it has separate specialty products covering these. areas. From live streaming and video on demand to full multimedia transcoding, there are platforms for the most demanding users.

Final verdict

A highly configurable CDN, with powerful add-on services to cover all your security, network and media management needs. Worth a visit for experts or anyone with complex needs, especially if they have clients in China or Southeast Asia.

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