What is Cloudflare?
Cloudflare, a global network, aims to make everything you connect to the internet secure, private, fast and reliable. The company originally got started tackling email spam back in 2004. Since then, Cloudflare has grown into one of the world’s largest traffic handlers. It has hundreds of data centers in over 100 countries and handles five to ten percent of global internet traffic.
What does Cloudflare do?
Cloudflare’s products and services are built around the follow four pillars: security, privacy, performance and reliability.
Using Cloudflare can make your website, apps and APIs more secure. It can also make it load faster with its content delivery network (CDN).
You can increase your privacy and security by adding your website’s domain to Cloudflare. By doing so hides your website server’s IP and your personal information, making it harder for your website to be compromised.
What’s best is all of these services are free. However, this is only a small sample of what Cloudflare can do for your business.
Cloudflare’s Advantages (Why You Should Use It)
Here’s a more in-depth breakdown of the products and services that Cloudflare provides and how they can benefit your business.
Better Protect Your Website with Increased Security
Cloudflare won’t reveal the origin nameservers of a domain name that is being looked up. That makes it harder for hackers and malicious bots to target your website.
After you have added your site to Cloudflare all data that is coming in or out of your site will be moved through their servers. Cloudflare can then analyze the data to determine if there are any potential threats.
Cloudflare searches for elements such as the visitor’s IP address and the request type. It also looks for the frequency of requests to filter out malicious traffic. Additionally, Cloudflare gives you the ability to set custom rules to block unwanted traffic.
Increase your DNS Security and Performance with Cloudflare’s DNS
Your site’s domain name server (DNS) is also protected once it is connected to Cloudflare. If someone were to search for your domain name, they will only see the DNS set provided by Cloudflare, and not your actual nameservers. This makes it more difficult for someone to compromise your website.
Not only does running your domain through Cloudflare increase security, but also performance. There is a delay from the time you enter a website’s domain to when it connects to the DNS. Cloudflare’s DNS is one of the fastest on the market, allowing this time delay to be shortened. This means your website can load faster if it makes use of Cloudflare’s DNS.
Get Your Website HTTPS with Cloudflare’s free SSL Certificates
Another useful feature is free SSL certificates. After adding your domain to Cloudflare, you can apply an SSL certificate to it so your website becomes HTTPS. This is a great way to get around domain name registrars that charge you for SSL certificates. You can upgrade to a premium SSL through Cloudflare if you need to.
Get a Faster Loading Website with Cloudflare’s CDN
Website owners all over the globe are attracted to speed due to the way Google works. Fast websites can rank higher in search, have higher conversion rates and provide better experiences for visitors.
Cloudflare has a content delivery network (CDN) that makes use of caching. A cache stores frequently accessed data to make retrieval faster. For example, you may visit your favorite website a few times a day. Instead of loading all of the website files each time you visit, the cache will store files after your first visit. That means when you return to the website, you don’t have to load all of the files again. This means the website will load faster when you return to it.
The downside of caching is you don’t want the cached files stored forever. If this was the case, you wouldn’t get to see updates made to websites. That’s why most caches automatically expire after a certain time period.
Another aspect that affects how fast a website loads is how close the website server is to your location. To put it in the simplest way possible, the longer a website has to travel from its server, the longer it can take to load.
This is where Cloudflare’s CDN offers a distinctive benefit. Cloudflare will distribute a cached version of your website to web servers located in over 100 countries. That means when visitors access your website, cached files will be loaded from the server that is closest to them. The result is faster website load times, especially if you are dealing with an international audience.
Save Money on Your Website Hosting Fees
Cloudflare servers are used to host parts of your website. This allows you to save bandwidth costs. Websites hosted on Cloud, dedicated hosting plans, and VPS often have to pay bandwidth. The cost savings could be substantial, especially for high-traffic sites.
Increase Your Website’s Reliablity
Cloudflare’s vast array of assets adds another dimension to your website structure. Cloudflare’s servers help deliver parts of your site. This gives you depth in redundancy.
Your site can still be delivered to Cloudflare’s nearest location if a Cloudflare server is down for any reason.
The distributed system acts as a load-balancer. You can reduce the load on your web server by having different servers host parts of your site. This will allow you to support more concurrent visitors while still maintaining the same level of performance.
What Other Services Does Cloudflare Provide?
In addition to the useful core features outlined above, here’s a few other standout services that Cloudflare provides depending on your needs.
Domain name registration
You can also register your domain names with Cloudflare. What’s best about this is Cloudflare sells domains at wholesale prices. They are also void of all the common tricks domain name registers use to squeeze more money out of you. When you register a domain with Cloudflare, you automatically gain access to all of Cloudflare’s features.
Hosting for Streaming Media
Cloudflare can deliver media files, particularly video. Cloudflare’s global network of servers makes it easy to set up such services. They can also deliver the service at very competitive rates.
DNS Resolution via 220.127.116.11
DNS resolution is a feature that all internet accounts have. Put simply, DNS resolution happens the moment you enter a website URL into your browser and hit the enter key.
Our Internet Service Providers are responsible for most DNS resolution. They don’t always do a great job, which can lead to a sub-par browsing experience. Some countries also enforce web censorship via their ISPs.
Cloudflare’s DNS resolution 18.104.22.168 will increase the speed of your browsing and bypass any rudimentary ISP-level blockages.
Cloudflare’s WARP is a significant addition to 22.214.171.124. This is an enhancement by Cloudflare to improve the security features in 126.96.36.199. It basically tunes it into something similar to a VPN.
Best of all you can download the 188.8.131.52 app for Mac, Windows, iOS and Andriod and use the service for free.
Magic Transit provides local network protection
Magic Transit is not only for protecting online networks. It can also be used to protect local networks. This solution is perfect for companies that don’t want to spend a lot on network infrastructure hardware.
Secure Network Access
Cloudflare Access provides superior access to local network application data compared to VPN setups. Although the VPN model works well for server-based applications, it does not work as well for cloud-based applications.
Instead of going through a VPN, you can connect to your corporate resources from a client or web browser. The connection then gets accelerated through Cloudflare’s edge, reducing load times. While this is happening, the connecting is checked, verified and filtered all in one pass. This results in faster application load times and increased security.
Analytics and Network Logging
Cloudflare offers a wide range of services over its network. This allows Cloudflare to offer its users analytics. You can adjust your content delivery by having a clear view of how your data flows and how it is being used.
Cloudflare Analytics is highly detailed, so you can drill down to the specific resources being delivered. Security officers can also use the logs to track data through Cloudflare Analytics.
Serverless Code Deployment
Cloudflare is a great tool for developers and companies that manage their software resources on a large scale. Cloudflare Workers can be used instead of investing in your infrastructure.
You can depend on the availability of resources on demand and not have to manage them. It is fast, powerful, cost-effective, and extremely efficient.
How to install Cloudflare onto your website
You can use Cloudflare’s services even if you have not registered your domain with them.
To begin, register for an account. After that, you’ll be given a list of nameservers. Cloudflare can be used by anyone who visits your domain control panel.
You will need to replace the Nameservers DNS servers you have with Cloudflare’s. This will start routing traffic through Cloudflare servers and also starts caching your website.
After you have done this, you can leave the default settings as they are and it will work. Cloudflare is easy to use once you are familiar with it. You can tweak some settings to improve the security and performance of your site.
Cloudflare seamlessly integrates with multiple applications, from content management systems to eCommerce platforms. These include WordPress, Magento and Google Cloud.
Cloudflare’s free plan includes:
- Fast, easy-to-use DNS
- Free automated SSL certificates
- Global content delivery network (CDN)
- Unmetered mitigation of DDoS attacks with up to 100 Tbps capacity
- Up to 100k Workers requests and 30 scripts
- 3 Page Rule
This is enough for most small business websites.
The Pro plan starts at $20/month and includes everything in the free plan, plus:
- 20 Page Rules
- Enhanced security with Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- Bot report & basic mitigation
- DDoS Alerts
- Lossless image optimization
- Accelerated mobile page load speed
- Privacy-first analytics
The business plans starts at $200/month and includes everything in the pro plan, plus:
- Web application firewall (WAF)
- SSL / TLS 1.2 & 1.3 with shared or single custom upload
- Bot analytics & advanced mitigation
- 50 Page Rules
- Minimum edge cache expire TTL at 30 minutes
- Analytics time-range at 15-minute scope
- Prioritized customer support: 24x7x365 by chat and email
- 100% uptime SLA
- Waiting Room traffic regulation
The enterprise plan is a custom price that includes everything in the business plan, plus:
- Web application firewall (WAF)
- SSL / TLS 1.2 & 1.3 with shared or multiple custom upload
- 125-page rules
- Minimum edge cache expire TTL at 30 seconds or less
- Audit logs and Enterprise Raw Logs with destination integrations
- Analytics time-range at 1-minute scope
- Prioritized customer support: 24x7x365 by phone, chat, and email support
- 100% uptime SLA up to 25x reimbursement
- Role-based account control
- Single-Sign-On support
- Network prioritization
- Enterprise Bot Management*
- Layer-3 Network DDoS protection with Magic Transit*
- Spectrum (for TCP/UDP)*
- SSL/TLS for SaaS*
- China Network access*
You can pay to add any of the following features to any Cloudflare plan:
- Argo Smart Routing
- Dedicated SSL Certificate
- Serverless Code Workers
- Cloudflare Access
- Load Balancing
- Video Streaming
- Rate Limiting
- Image Resizing
- Additional Page Rules
- Cloudflare Apps
- Cloudflare Registrar
- Automatic Platform Optimization
Summing It Up
That’s a wrap on what Cloudflare is and why you should use it.
In my opinion, every website should be using Cloudflare. Its services are an excellent way to increase your website’s performance, security, reliability and privacy for free. If you need more, you can always upgrade to their paid plans and products.
Now I want to hear what you think. Are you using Cloudflare? Do think every website owner should use it?
Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.