I originally stumbled upon CloudFlare when I originally published this article back in 2012. I have been obsessed with page speed and doing what I can to get the site to load as quickly as possible. I’ve since learned a LOT about optimizing WordPress and making it load fast. I’m also concerned about security and all of the recent DDOS and hackers that are attacking WordPress sites. This free CDN service has been a huge part of fixing load times and keeping the bad guys at bay. Take a look at the updated CloudFlare review – and find out if it really does work or not.
Note: I did not receive any compensation for this review. These are my 100% honest views of the product/service I am reviewing. There are affiliate links on here – but not for CloudFlare. If you do click on the other affiliate links listed I will receive a small commission to help keep things running and put food on my table.
Chasing WordPress Load Times
Read More: How to Speed up WordPress Load Times
Why Get a CDN – Content Delivery Network?
I happened to first see CloudFlare from browsing around on other people’s blogs. I decided to do some research and found that they offered a FREE service! I thought there was some sort of catch or I would have to plaster their logo all over the place. But as it turns out not only was it simple to setup – there was not catch! It really is FREE. But not only do they offer their CDN services check out the other features they offer:
Another feature of using a CDN is for the service to save you on the amount of requests and bandwidth being used. Although it is getting cheaper. If you use a managed hosting service? They keep tabs on how much you use. CloudFlare shows you in their report how much they save you from using their service. There are other optimization tricks you can do locally to help as well.
Additional Layers of Security
Add another layer of security from Spammers, SQL Injection attacks, and DDOS attacks from the script kiddies. By having to go through their CDN first it is just another layer of protection to keep your site and your visitors safe! It also offers services like obscuring email addresses and preventing hot linking of your images.
Block by Country of Origin
You can even block entire countries of origin if you wish. (Or by IP Address) I have setup CloudFlare to block those countries which I receive the least amount of traffic and presented the largest amount of threats. In my case it was Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Egypt, Iran, Syria, and a few others. Of course if they still want to visit there are ways around it. So I do suggest that you review your web hosts server logs (raw access) and see if you have anything strange going on.
CloudFlare offers you some awesome stats to see how your site is performing. I take them with a grain of salt though. Although Google Analytics uses java script to track visitors, Cloud Flare’s numbers will be greatly inflated showing you more of a “raw data” indicating almost 5-10x more traffic then you are actually receiving. This will include bots, crawlers, and search engine traffic. Which you will notice is a lot higher than visitor counts found in Google’s reports. If you notice low visits with Google and high traffic spikes in CloudFlare? You will need to review where the traffic is coming from from your hosts logs and figure out how to block them from visiting your site (if needed).
The service does offer a lot of different third party applications that you can use through the CDN’s Dashboard. You can even setup your Google Analytics and have it run through them instead of pasting the code inside of your website. A few of the applications/services offered:
- Code Guard – I use this service to help backup this website and I love it! You can read my review here.
- VigLinks and SkimLinks – These are in-text advertising that will automatically replace keywords found on your website and replace them with product listings. If you do a lot of reviews of products/services, but are unable to get an Amazon Associate account? These are great alternatives.
- Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools – You can easily integrate these tools from the CloudFlare dashboard now quickly and easily.
- Clicky – This is another great analytics tool if you don’t wish to use Google. To unlock all of its features though you will need to pay for it.
- Site Lock – Let your visitors know your site is secure with Site Lock. This is a much cheaper version than purchasing other site certificates.
- Pingdom – Find out and receive notices whenever your website goes down with this free heartbeat service.
- PunchTab – Although I only use them for giveaways now. It is a great way to provide incentives for users to re-visit your website. You can read more about it here.
And a lot of others that would require another article to list/discuss them.
Implementing Cloud Flare
So with a ton of forethought and planning (i.e. I’m full of crap) I decided to go for it. So how did I implement it? Seriously it was probably the easiest setup process I’ve ever gone through!
- First I signed up for my CloudFlare account. After I received my confirmation email I then signed onto CloudFlare.
- I then imported my DNS settings. CloudFlare actually did the work and initial setup for me automatically. Always double check to make sure that everything looks correct. Good news is you can always go back to add/change DNS settings later.
- After I had everything setup with CloudFlare I then went to my GoDaddy account and changed the DNS settings to point to the CloudFlare DNS Servers instead of my web host. Although GoDaddy warns that changes could take up to 24 hours. I’ve found that they can be updated as soon as within a few minutes after updating.
- After all of that all I had to do was see if I could still see if the website was up and running and *poof* I had implemented CloudFlare onto my site.
- When this is all completed you can go back into the CloudFlare dashboard and finish tweaking the settings by enabling applications or making any necessary changes to your DNS. (I had to manually add things like FTP and SSH that I had forgotten about.)
Do You Really See An Improvement (Updated!)?
Do I notice an improvement since I’ve been using CloudFlare? Well, of course I do! Both locally and now throughout the world! Of course there are a lot of other WordPress optimizations being done as well as using another CDN Service – Max CDN to help me get there. You can see the results from Pingdom below:
Warning: Your own results will vary. Although I was able to get the site speed down to around 2-3 seconds with HostGator. It was VERY inconsistent and depended on how taxed the server was. The only real way to fix this type of issue? Move to a different hosting service – which I strongly recommend doing.
Also – I am using MaxCDN along with CloudFlare which helped things out even more. And if that wasn’t enough? I went through a site re-design, audited all of the plugins I was using and a lot lot more to get the speed down. Is it worth all of the effort? From an SEO standpoint – minimal. But by lowering your load times – you are providing a better overall experience to your visitors, will reduce your bounce rate, and should help convert to more sales and traffic.
CloudFlare by itself isn’t a magic pill. Its another of many tools in your toolbox to help provide a great user experience to your website!
What About Performing Site Updates?
I had a fellow blogger Bryan from www.thehobbyblogger.com ask about how the CDN refreshes the site if I make changes.
If you are going to implement small changes to your blog? They will take place ‘on the fly’. I have not had any issues performing basic site updates/maintenance. If you are doing extensive updates? You can either temporarily disable Cloud Flare through their control panel by clicking on the “Development” option. Or disable Cloud Flare altogether. I do recommend using the Development mode as that will only temporarily disable the service for a few hours.
People have told me horror stories about potential lost traffic or visitors getting blocked to their sites. I have done a short test with my own site and I can say I did not see any noticeable difference in traffic with the service off or on. I would suggest though that if you think you are losing traffic? You should conduct your own testing. This can be done by either:
A) Adjusting the Security settings from what you currently have it set at to a lower setting.
B) Disable Cloud Flare altogether and test to see if your traffic changes dramatically.
Also please note I do not have a huge traffic site. So your results may vary.
What About Transferring A Website to a New Host?
I recently moved from Host Gator to a new host Big Scoots. How fast did it show up after I moved the site over and ‘flipped the switch’ as it were? It was immediate. Another great reason why you should setup CloudFlare outside of your hosts control. If you ever decide to move? All you need to do is go into CloudFlare’s DNS settings and point the site to the new IP address for the new host. And *poof* it was pointing to the new location.
Note: I do recommend clearing the cache inside of CloudFlare and any other CDN service you might be using in conjunction with it.
So Is a CDN For You?
Well, that depends really. If you don’t get much traffic and if your site loads quick as it is? Then um, no? But if you want the added security and speed you get with a CDN then I say sure! I’ve never had huge amounts of traffic for the website. I have seen it spike to about 30-40 users on at a time with no discernible issues that I noticed. So for small to medium sized sites (Lets say up to 15-20,000 visitors a day.) the service should be great. I’m sure if you start getting up to a certain mark in your traffic they will come knocking on your door asking for you to upgrade your service package.
For me the benefits outweigh any negatives using CloudFlare might bring.
And did I mention all of this is FREE already? For larger sites they do offer paid plans that offer additional functionality such as their Railgun service – but for most folks the free plan will definitely do the trick!
Other Resources/Additional Reading
I am suggesting that you read these two articles to help you make a decision as well. Why? Well I respect the sites and more importantly I want you to have a better overall opinion rather than some little blog you happened to run across while searching for information. Both will give you a more technical explanation and I found them interesting.
- dzone.com – ClouFlare Review – Not Snake Oil?
CloudFlare is a fantastic option for bloggers on a budget. From what I’ve researched on the web CloudFlare is considered “CDN-lite” by some folks. All I know is that it works! I might look into using a different CDN later on but for now CloudFlare is an awesome solution! If you want to get started using this awesome free service then click here to get started today!
Update: When I initially wrote this CloudFlare was a pretty young company. Now it has become one of the top CDN services out there. I still use them to this day for this site. Not only for its Cache service. But to protect my site from potential bad guys as well. I still highly recommend using CloudFlare for any website you have today.