Creating most CDNs can be complicated. You have set up your website and run it with a web host, you are looking to improve its speed, so now you are trying to connect it to a separate CDN and serve your content from the CDN.
Netlify does things differently. It is an all-in-one developer-oriented non-server platform that combines building, publishing, hosting, and CDN into one service. No need to manage web servers, connect web hosting to a CDN, or set up complicated caching rules. Simply write your website code or use the built in CMS and Netlify handles everything else.
Netlify simplifies your web development life by fully integrating with your workflow, automating tedious tasks that will be left to yourself.
Set up a new project, for example, and Netlify connects to your Git repository (the default storage and history of your project.) Push changes to Git in the future, and the service will automatically build and publish the updated site from the master branch.
There’s easy preview of changes, with Netlify being able to provide post preview URLs for each pull or merge request, and alert other team members via Git or Slack comments. No more staging limits, you can have as many versions of your site as you need.
This works for the production site as well. If there is a problem, Netlify stores every previous version of your website, and you can instantly roll back to any version you want.
Netlify uses an atomic propagation system to get your updates to the CDN and across the Internet. The site automatically detects the changed files, uploads them to the CDN, and then moves to the modified site once all the files are available. No hassles for you, it just works.
By default, Netlify sites are available in their own subdomain: name.netlify.app. Of course, Netlify also supports custom domains, and they can either be registered and managed directly from Netlify, or you can use domains maintained by another registrar.
HTTPS is also relatively simple. Each Netlify site gets a free Let’s Encrypt HTTPS certificate, or you can use your own if you need something else (extended validation, for example, or a wildcard certificate).
There are real tech surprises, too. Split testing, for example, allows you to split your site’s traffic between two or more separate publications. Select the percentage of traffic you want for each, and Netlify will route your future traffic to the match.
This is ideal for A/B testing or multi-variable testing, to see how your visitors would behave if you changed different aspects of the site. So perfect that it might be an expensive premium feature on some services, but Netlify rolls it out for free.
Frameworks and Features
Netlify’s serverless approach means that you cannot install your web and development tools in the usual way. Fortunately, Netlify’s functionality, APIs, and plugins give you plenty of alternative options.
The powerful prototyping system works without the need for any back-end code, for example. It’s easy to use and integrates with over 1,000 apps: you can fill out a Google Spreadsheet, create a Zendesk card, send an email on Gmail, generate a Salesforce lead, and more.
Netlify tightly integrates with WordPress, Drupal, Shopify, and many other top apps, giving you all the features you’d expect, and automatically publishes your site to Netlify’s CDN.
Using some custom builds of your own? Netlify also works with all modern development frameworks, including React, Nextjs, Gatsby, Hugo, Vue.js, and more.
If you’re wondering why you should trust Netlify to run your CDN, don’t worry, that’s not what you’re doing: the company uses Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean, and Yandex under the hood.
This does not mean that your CDN experience is the same. Connect a regular website to Amazon CloudFront (or any other service) and you’ll spend time setting up different TTLs for different objects, building special rules to minimize outdated content. With Netlify, every post instantly invalidates all caches worldwide, replacing every modified file.
This can be quite simple, as the content is customized based on the user’s location, time, cookies, or any other details you need. But there is room for a lot to do. Netlify has some interesting suggestions, including custom authentication schemes where credentials are checked and cached at the edge, and the ability to selectively embed elements (CSS changes, ad banners) into any element.
Plans and Pricing
Netlify’s suite of products starts with a generous free plan. This can only be used by one person (no teams allowed), limits you to 100GB of traffic per month, gives you no support beyond the community forum, and ignores a bunch of advanced features. But it does cover the basics, enables unlimited test sites to be created, and is a risk-free way to get an idea of what Netlify is all about.
(Even if you’re not a developer, you can use the free plan to create a simple personal site. There’s a blog template, for example, that you can set up and get started in a couple of minutes.)
Commercial plans are “pay as you go”, and you are charged only for the capacity and features you use. This sounds fair, but it also makes life complicated, as there are lots, lots and lots of different items that might be chargeable.
Sign up for the Pro plan, for example, and you’ll pay $19 per member (anyone who sticks to a code in Git or needs to be signed in to Netlify.) There’s a 400GB bandwidth allowance per month, with a 20GB fee per 100GB after that. You’ll also get allowances (and increased costs) for creating minutes, jobs, forms, site users, image conversions, and more.
This seems like a fair value to us, but it all depends on your location and what you’re trying to do. The Netlify Pro plan starts charging if you receive more than 100 submission forms per site in a month, for example. If your site has a simple contact form that hardly anyone uses, that might be fine; If you need every visitor to fill out a form, that could be a problem.
However, keep in mind that you get a lot for your money: hosting, CDN, a bunch of web APIs, integration and testing tools. If Netlify sounds like it might work for you, get the spinner’s free builder, this will give you a much better idea of the features you’ll be using and their potential costs.
Netlify is a polished and professional service that has all kinds of developer friendly features and tools, but it’s not your only option.
Cloudflare Pages is a relatively new service, but it still offers the same basic functionality in the same way. Simple Git integration gives you automatic deployments when you push a new code, URL previews make it easy to get feedback, there are no caps or surcharges for all team members, and all of your sites (with their free SSL certificates) are published to Cloudflare’s CDN.
There’s a free plan, too, and one that improves Netlify in a major way. It not only supports unlimited websites, but you can also get unlimited bandwidth.
what is the best? Netlify has been around for years, it has more features and a broader ecosystem to support products and extensions; Meanwhile, many of Cloudflare’s Pages features are hardly out of beta. If you are looking for power and features above all else; Go to Netlify; But if you’re not quite sure what you want, try both free plans and see what works for you.
Netlify is a mature and feature-packed serverless platform with everything your development team needs to build and publish static websites. Check out the free plan to see what it can do for you.
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