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I am managing a small podcast website hosted on a shared server. Currently there are only eight or nine episodes, each of which are about 50 MB, so bandwidth is not really an issue at the moment.

However, looking forward, would it be feasible to use a "free" CDN like Cloudflare to serve the audio files? If so, how would I set this up?

I took a quick look at it before, and it seems you have to have your whole site routed (is that the right term?) through the CDN rather than just specific files or filetypes. I'd like some clarification on this.

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3 Answers 3

Reduce Your File Size

Before I address your CDN concerns, you should really try to reduce your file size for the podcasts. Unless your podcast episodes are 2 to 4 hours long, each, you shouldn't be reaching 50 megs per file. Try reducing the audio quality in your mp3 files (and use .mp3 file compression if you're not already - it's the podcast industry standard). If you have a 45 minute podcast, you should be able to get your .mp3 file down to around 15 to 20 megs, tops, without any significant reduction in sound quality for spoken voice podcasts. Music podcasts may be different, and you probably want higher quality, but those are the exception where voice based podcasts tend to be the rule.

On Using A CDN

No, you don't have to push your entire site through the CDN. You can put only the files you want on it. When you do this, you'll link to your files through the CDN's URL instead of through your site URL.

For example, if I'm getting a copy of jQuery, I can either load jquery.min.js in to my site directly and have it served from my services, or I can use a CDN like Google's CDN for it, and pull the file from a script that points to Google:

//ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.10.2/jquery.min.js

In this case, I am only pulling the one file from the CDN. The same idea can be applied to any file that you host on a CDN. One thing you should know, though, is that a CDN won't serve up dynamically generated content. So even if you wanted to host your entire site on a CDN, it would have to be a completely static site.

Large Files On A CDN

CDNs are not really meant to be used for very large files that are downloaded frequently, like podcast files. CDNs are typically meant for smaller files, like static HTML, JavaScript, CSS and images. You'll quickly realize just how "free" a free CDN is when your downloads get throttled down to slow speeds or your account gets shut off because you're using too much bandwidth.

Bandwidth and storage services are ultimately what it comes down to, for CDN use. It's going to get really really really expensive, really quickly. This is the main reason why you don't want to use even a paid CDN for very large files.

Of course there are exceptions to this. Amazon CloudFront, for example, talks about streaming media very specifically. So if you do want to go down the CDN path, you might want to take a look at them.

SoundCloud Has Limits On Free

Regarding the other suggestion of SoundCloud...

StackExchange may use SoundCloud for it's podcast hosting, but they don't use a free account. Perhaps they have some deal with SoundCloud where they don't get charged anything, but this type of discount arrangement is very different than the free account that SoundClod offers. From SoundCloud's website, you can see exactly what limitations you will run in to with the free account:

Free

  • 2 total upload hours

  • 100 downloads/sound

  • Unlimited playlist creation

  • Some stats (see the amount of plays, downloads, comments and favorites of your tracks)

Paid Podcast Hosting Services

You may want to consider podcast hosting services. There are a lot of great services available, including my own at SignalLeaf.com, LibSyn, Blubrry, and many more. These services start cheap - very cheap - usually with a free trial before you actually have to pay for anything.

If you want more info on the possible dangers of "free" podcast hosting, check out my blog post on When Free Hosting Isn't Free. The post is a direct response to this question, but takes a podcast hosting point of view, vs directly answering the question here on using a CDN.

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You can usually have just a sub-domain powered by a CDN, while having your main site served normally. For example, you could put your podcast files on audio.example.com and have that routed through the CDN.

You could also look into http://soundcloud.com/ which is what StackExchange uses for their podcasts

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That seems logical. Could you briefly outline the key pros and cons of Soundcloud vs Cloudflare (or another CDN) or perhaps point me in the direction of any articles that do (I'm having no luck finding any right now)? –  Bobe Aug 19 '13 at 12:02
    
I don't think that soundcloud is a CDN, it is more like "YouTube for audio" where you upload your stuff to their servers and they give you a widget to embed in your site. –  Stephen Ostermiller Aug 19 '13 at 12:15
    
I know Soundcloud isn't a CDN, I was wondering what the advantages or disadvantages of using it instead of a CDN are. –  Bobe Aug 19 '13 at 12:17

The difference between SoundCloud and a CDN is that SoundCloud is aimed for Audio. Meaning when you upload your Audio to SoundCloud you will be provided with players and other tools related to that Audio files. A CDN works a whole differently because it works like another hosting services that you have paid for or free. And it's able to host any kind of files and is here to serve those files in place of your main website hosting thus speeding it and lower the bandwidth and the cost. Hope I help clarify the difference here.

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