Akamai vs. Amazon CloudFront: What’s the Difference?

Published 2019-12-23T06:00:04 by Bryan Miller

A CDN refers to a content delivery network wherein a group of servers are used for the purpose of quickly delivering internet content. When implemented, a CDN can help you rapidly load internet content, which includes everything from JavaScript files and HTML pages to videos and images. On the modern internet, most of the more popular websites like Microsoft and Facebook use a CDN to make sure that content is always loaded quickly before site users become frustrated. If a CDN is properly implemented into a website, it can also make the website more secure against such threats as DDOS attacks.

The main reasons that you should use a CDN is because it will shorten load times, lessen the costs of bandwidth, improve overall website security, and make it easier to deliver significant amounts of traffic. Two of the more popular CDN’s that can be used by website owners include CloudFront and Akamai, both of which have proven to be highly effective and reliable.

There are some core differences between these two types of CDN’s. It’s also important to understand that there are many additional CDN’s that you can decide to use for your website.

The following article will go into detail about the main differences between Akamai and CloudFront.

Akamai Overview

akamai logo

Founded in 1998, Akamai is among the oldest CDN’s in existence. They are currently responsible for the serving of around 15-30 percent of all traffic on the internet. While they are based out of Cambridge, MA, they have a vast network of servers all over the world that can be accessed by website owners at any time. Since these servers are located in different areas of the world, Akamai delivers content quickly by sending the content through a server that’s located nearby the user who is accessing the content.

While there are more than 140,000 businesses that currently use Akamai for their CDN needs, some of the top companies that use their servers include Adobe, Fox Sports, IBM, IKEA, Microsoft, NBC, and Verizon.

Akamai is known for having a network of more than 240,000 servers that they can deliver content with. These servers have been deployed in more than 120 countries, which means that almost everyone in the world should have content quickly delivered to them when accessing a website that’s powered by Akamai.

Over the past two decades, they have also acquired dozens of technologies and smaller technology companies in order to bolster the efficacy and strength of their CDN services. If you want to use the CDN services that they provide, you should first understand that Akamai uses a pay-as-you-grow system, which means that the pricing for the servers that you require scales in accordance with what you need and how large your business is. However, you will need to make a contract with Akamai that’s at least 12 months long if you want to use the services that they offer.

Custom Features of Akamai

The CDN services available through Akamai consist of three primary features or components, which include Aura Edge Exchange, Aura Control System, and Akamai Federation.

  • The Aura Edge Exchange assists Akamai in delivering video content quickly and without much upfront costs.
  • As for the Aura Control System, this is a comprehensive set of tools that’s designed to provide users with a sleek interface for controlling all of the systems and products that are offered through the Akamai network.
  • Akamai Federation is a tool that gives businesses and operators of Akamai servers the ability to easily handle the global delivery of their content.

Additional features of the Akamai CDN include:

  • Dynamic content delivery
  • Image optimization
  • Anti-DDoS functionality
  • Video-on-demand

Akamai is special because the services that they provide have proven to be effective at quickly delivering content to users all over the world. They are believed to be the largest global CDN, which means that they know how to handle any CDN needs that a company requires.

Some of the primary uses of Akamai include:

  • Improving load times on your website
  • Improving security for your website via DDoS mitigation
  • Reducing the costs associated with bandwidth consumption
  • Increasing the amount of content availability

CloudFront Overview

amazon cloudfront

CloudFront is a popular CDN that’s offered directly by Amazon Web Services and was initially founded in 2008. Their edge servers are located in 107 different locations, which are situated on five continents. While CloudFront isn’t the largest CDN out there, it’s known to be in competition with other giants in the industry like Limelight Networks and Akamai. The content delivery network that they provide is known to be fast with high transfer speeds and low latency.

This CDN is unique in that it’s integrated directly with Amazon Web Services, which allows it to operate seamlessly with additional AWS services like elastic load balancing and DDoS mitigation. Along with the deep AWS integration, the CloudFront CDN is also known for providing extensive security without requiring you to pay extra. Some of the top companies that use CloudFront include Pinterest, Airbnb, Spotify, and Dropbox.

Custom Features of CloudFront

CloudFront is comprised of an extensive array of features because of how it’s integrated with the rest of AWS. When you begin to use CloudFront for your CDN needs, some of the custom features that will be available to you include:

  • AWS CloudFormation
  • AWS Shield
  • AWS Management Console
  • Elastic load balancing
  • AWS Certificate Manager

The AWS Shield feature offers a significant amount of DDoS mitigation. This service operates on a pay-as-you-go model, which means that there are no upfront costs and no requirements to sign a long-term service contract.

The bulk of the edge servers that are maintained by CloudFront have been positioned across North America, Europe, and Asia. However, they also have some edge servers in South America, Australia, Africa, and the Middle East. One aspect of CloudFront that users enjoy is that it provides reports and analytics, which gives you the ability to see how traffic is getting to your website.

Some uses of CloudFront that might be applicable to your website include:

  • Static asset caching
  • On-demand and live video streaming
  • Security for your website
  • Customizable content delivery via Lambda@Edge
  • API acceleration and dynamic content
  • Software distribution

Advantages of Akamai vs. CloudFront

turned-on black computer monitor

The many advantages of using Akamai include:

  • Leader in the CDN market, which means that they typically offer the best performance
  • Adaptive media delivery and download delivery
  • Provides media acceleration products
  • Servers in well over 100 countries
  • Media services and media analytics
  • Advanced security features
  • Excellent customer support via 24/7 phone and e-mail support
  • Cloud-based DNS

The many advantages of using CloudFront include:

  • Can purge cached objects in one minute or faster
  • Includes purge, analytics, and configuration API
  • Can use the CDN domain for free
  • Restricts geographic distribution of your content
  • Offers public service documentation and API documentation that make it easier to solve problems when they occur with the CDN
  • CDN is able to scale well
  • Extensive security features are available through AWS Shield Standard and AWS Certificate Manager
  • Highly programmable for your specific requirements

Getting Started with Akamai or CloudFront


If you want to get started with Akamai, you should know that you can’t instantly sign up with the service online. Instead, you will be required to get in touch with an Akamai representative to set up your account. A representative can be contacted by phone, by email, or via online chat, the latter of which is likely the best option if you want to get started quickly. Make sure that you have information about your website with you when you contact the representative. While you are unable to start using Akamai instantly, the process of signing up for the services that they provide is relatively straightforward and should be hassle-free.


If you find that the features available through CloudFront are more appropriate for your website, you can get started with their services by going to this link and clicking the “Get Started with Amazon CloudFront” button. From here, you would be required to create an AWS account, which will provide you with 12 months of free-tier access. Once the free access has ended, you will be provided with pay-as-you-go rates, which ensures that the pricing scales with the size of your business. If you currently have a WordPress website, getting started with CloudFront is as easy as installing an AWS for WordPress plugin.

Since these are the two foremost CDN services on the internet, the one that you use largely depends on which feature-set you prefer and what the budget for your company is. If your website is paired with the WordPress content management system, you might want to think about using CloudFront. The CloudFront CDN can be easily integrated with WordPress, which isn’t always the case with Akamai.

On the other hand, Akamai is considered to be the most popular CDN on the market. If you need help with the performance of your website, the Akamai CDN offers an extensive suite of tools that may be beneficial to you. It’s also important to note that every plan with Akamai is custom-built to make sure that it meets the exact needs of the client. However, using CloudFront gives you access to the comprehensive Amazon infrastructure, which can be very helpful for your business.

If you have a WordPress website and believe that your site would benefit from CloudFront, check out this article to find out how to set up CloudFront with your WordPress website.

Need Help? Contact Our Team!

In the event that you need help in identifying which CDN is right for you and your business, contact our team at Bryt Designs for some assistance or to learn more about the many services that we provide.

Bryan Miller

Bryan Miller

Bryt Designs

Bryan Miller is an entrepreneur and web tech enthusiast specializing in web design, development and digital marketing. Bryan is a recent graduate of the MBA program at the University of California, Irvine and continues to pursue tools and technologies to find success for clients across a varieties of industries.

Subscribe to our newsletter



Ready to make something great?

Let's chat about how we can help achieve your web goals

Let's Chat

Bryt Designs

Web Design, Development, & Search Marketing Insights