CloudFlare is a cloud-based service that makes your website faster, safer and smarter. It works like a middle man between your website and visitors, by this way, it protects your website from malicious threats and also improving its performance by caching the website content and distribute it on the cloud based system around the world.
One of the greatest point of this service is it has a Free plan for us to use, also, you can upgrade your plan to Pro or Enterprise which have more security features, that will cost you around $20/month (https://www.cloudflare.com/plans.html). However, their Free plan is still best for many of us and it’s very easy to setup for your website, just 5 minutes of DNS changing to Cloudflare server.
Lets look at this diagram and you’ll know how Cloudflare works:
Why do you need CloudFlare?
Site Performance Improvement: CloudFlare uses proxy servers located over the world to deliver your website content, these must have some proxy servers placed nearer to your online visitors, which means they will likely see page load speed improvements. As this point, CloudFlare take a role like other CDN networks like MaxCDN, Amazon CloudFront.
In my point of view, I thought I can use Cloudflare to manage my domains DNS record, it updates very fast!
Protect your site from hacker: CloudFlare uses data from Project Honey Pot and various alternative party sources to identify malicious threats internet and stop the attacks before they come to your website. CloudFlare will show the antibot page which has Captcha protection to verify the legitimation of these visitors.
Lower server CPU Usage: By serving your website from proxy cache, CloudFlare helps your site has a fewer requests hit to the server, this lowers the entire CPU utilization of your hosting account. When using CloudFlare, I noticed that my website bandwidth consumption is lower too.
And how to install it?
CloudFlare is now supported by many great web hosting company such as: Hostgator, CoolHandle, SpeedySparrow … (https://www.cloudflare.com/hosting-partners.html) therefor, you can setup your CloudFlare in these hosting admin panel. However, I recommend you install the W3 total cache WordPress plugin, this is my favorite plugin for blog caching (also, it’s trusted by countless sites like: mattcutts.com, mashable.com, smashingmagazine.com…) then follow the setup instruction in this plugin admin panel.
Some limitations of the CloudFlare system
These information is summarized from Hostgator admin panel:
- Requests must be directed to www.yourdomain.tld instead of domain.tld (which means you may need to make some configuration changes) – so, you can do a 301 redirect from yourdomain.com to www.yourdomain.com.
- CloudFlare caches static content from your site. While this reduces the load on your server, it means that if you make a change to an existing static file, like an image, there may be a delay before the change appears. While you are updating your site, you can put CloudFlare in .Development Mode. so changes appear immediately.
- CloudFlare’s basic mode cannot handle SSL certificates. If you need to use an SSL certificate, that part of your site needs to be on a subdomain that is not protected.
Tips & Tricks with CloudFlare
After your domain is ready with CloudFlare, you can go to the “CloudFlare settings” tab to customize your needs. Some people say that their readers were blocked by CloudFlare system, so in this case, you can change the “Security Level” to Low, that means CloudFlare will only challenge the most threatening visitors.
And I think you don’t want to miss the CloudFlare Apps section, there’re many awesome services that you can use without installing anything on your website like Apture, Uservoice, CDNJS, CodeGuard ..