BelugaCDN is a straightforward content delivery network which sells itself on being simple and affordable.
The company has 28 points of presence (POPs) and 9 SuperPOPs strategically placed around the world. Most of these are in the US, with only four locations in Europe, but a strong presence in Asia includes two POPs in Tokyo and three in Singapore.
Once set up, the service caches the static (not dynamic) content you specify, automatically serving it to visitors via the nearest POP to them. IPv6 support may further improve speeds by 20% to 40%, according to the website, while instant purging removes defined content with a click.
SSL support is basic. There’s no free shared SSL, and although you can set up your own SSL for free, it’s not as straightforward as you’ll sometimes see elsewhere.
Other security features include hotlink protection, and geofiltering to block the countries you specify. URL signing enables creating secure links for authorized users, for example to protect paid content.
Elsewhere, real-time and historical data is on hand to help you monitor and manage your traffic, and a RESTful API enables fine-tuning service operations.
Every level of account gets basic support for working hours only (9-5pm, Monday to Friday, EST). Priority response is available for accounts spending more than $500 (£400) a month. If you’re unimpressed by that, keep in mind that some services don’t include any support at all unless you pay a subscription – it costs $29 (£23) a month for Amazon Cloudfront for example, and others charge similarly.
BelugaCDN is priced at a maximum of $0.01 per GB of data transferred, up to 500GB per month. That seems to be great value – even budget providers might charge four or five times as much.
The company doesn’t charge extra for traffic from some regions, and there’s no premium for HTTPS.
Purchase more bandwidth and the discounts kick in. $20 (£16) a month gets you up to 2.5TB at $0.008 per GB, and a high-end $1,000 (£800) a month Enterprise account gives you 200TB traffic for $0.005 per GB.
If you exceed 5,000 requests per GB transferred, BelugaCDN charges an overage fee of $0.0035 per 10,000 additional requests. That’s unlikely to kick in unless your most commonly requested files are small (under 200KB). We wouldn’t worry about it: even if that’s an issue for you and you somehow need an extra 30,000 requests, your final bill will still be a fraction of most of the competition.
BelugaCDN’s minimum charge is $5 (£4), equivalent to 500GB of data transfer. That also compares well with other low-cost providers. KeyCDN charges $0.04 per GB, but requires spending a minimum of $49 (£39) upfront.
The only issue we have is the lack of a free trial. There’s no 30-day period to sample the service, no free bandwidth allowance and no ‘money-back guarantee’. Still, you can’t expect too many extras at this price, and $5 (£4) isn’t a lot to spend on testing this kind of service.
Clicking Sign Up on the BelugaCDN website displays a single form requesting your name, phone number, email address and password, along with your credit card details. There’s no support for PayPal or other forms of payment, unfortunately, which is a concern as you have less control over possible future charges.
We submitted our details, and moments later a startup page walked us through creating our first CDN. We chose a CDN subdomain (cdn.mydomain.com), entered the location of our source files (content-origin.mydomain.com) and were given a domain in the form axcul47976gqlvw.belugacdn.link. The site explained that we could use the belugacdn.link domain immediately, or update our DNS records to use something more personalized and less cryptic, like cdn.mydomain.com.
These details are well presented, and you’re given plenty of options. Experts can click a button to get the core details only, plus there’s an option to have detailed instructions sent by email, and if you’re entirely lost, a final option opens a support ticket.
One annoyance is the site demands that you complete these setup steps immediately, including updating DNS. We were left on a final page which displayed the required details for our CNAME record, along with a ‘Check my DNS records’ button, and we weren’t able to complete the startup wizard until the DNS changes propagated. Explore other links and you’ll find you can browse the rest of the control panel immediately, but that isn’t obvious.
Once you’re finally set up, BelugaCDN gives you several configuration options in a lengthy Settings panel.
Simple cache control tools allow setting the default object expiry time and deciding what to do about URLs with query strings (grab content once per URL, or treat every combination of query strings as a different object).
Client Header and Origin Header boxes can reconfigure exactly which headers are sent to the user. That can be useful if you know what you’re doing, but the website provides no guidance on how it can be used. Other CDNs offer significantly more help.
BelugaCDN’s access control features are more straightforward. You’re able to block requests by country, IP addresses, or by referrer to protect objects from hotlinking (you can set up authorized domains that are allowed to access your files).
A Token Authentication feature defines a shared secret to set content permissions and expiration. This could allow blocking access to some content unless the user has an authorized link.
Simple rate limiting sets the download speed for all or specified site resources. We couldn’t see any way to limit speeds by country, despite that being mentioned as a feature on the front page of the site.
A separate Cache Invalidations panel enables purging cached objects by URL. Unusually, there’s no simple Purge All button. You can use wildcards – https://cdn.mydomain.com/*.* – which is certainly flexible, though not as convenient. There’s no mention of wildcards in the interface, either, so beginners might initially be confused.
If you have questions about caching or anything else, you could browse the support site, although it’s so short on information that you’re unlikely to find anything useful. The core user-level documentation looks like it was written in a weekend, and several key features – SSL certificates, cache invalidation – are only covered in terms of the developer API.
Fortunately, BelugaCDN has a responsive support team, and that’s probably more important. We created a support ticket with a simple question about cache invalidation, and an accurate and helpful response arrived in under 15 minutes.
CDN speed is important. That’s obvious – it’s most probably why you’re looking to integrate your site with a content delivery network in the first place.
How does BelugaCDN compare to the competition, though? It’s very difficult to say. There’s no way we can measure what it’s able to do for you, because that depends on your web applications, files, cache expiry scheme, the geographical spread of your visitors, and more. It’s also not monitored by data providers like Cedexis, meaning we don’t even have basic figures on response times.
If we look at the service specs, the pattern of locations shows BelugaCDN has less POPs than usual in Europe, and more than most of the competition in Asia. That won’t necessarily make it faster – it depends on the server power, bandwidth and more – but it’s not going to hurt.
On the downside, the lack of configuration settings and content optimizations (image compression, file minifying) gives you less ability to fine-tune the service for the best possible results.
Whatever results you see, of course, it’s worth bearing in mind that they’ll be costing you less than 25% of many budget competitors. That’s going to appeal to many people, and at these low prices there’s little risk in trying out the service for yourself.
BelugaCDN is cheap, but you can sort of see why: there’s no trial, a basic feature set, barely any documentation, and so on. Still, if you’re on a tight budget it might be worth spending $5 (£4) to find out what the CDN can do for you.