CloudFlare CDN – Website Hosting Sacramento
Website Hosting and Website Maintenance in Greater Sacramento, CA with enhanced CloudFlareare Security
Enhancing site performance, reliability and security is forefront in the mind of any website developer or anyone hosting their own website. That’s where CloudFlare Web Hosting comes in.
This popular CDN (Content Delivery Network) was created to address issues relating to website load times and website security. At FrontStreet Media, we use CloudFlare Web Hosting for our WordPress web design and eCommerce web design clients with positive results. If you have any questions about the marketing and design services we provide at Front Street, please reach out anytime.
Let’s take a closer look at CloudFlare CDN Hosting to see what all the fuss is about and if you should consider using CloudFlare on your site(s).
What is CloudFlare?
CloudFlare is a Content Delivery Network (CDN). Well, sort of. According to one of its founders, Matthew Prince, CloudFlare does employ CDN technology but it is much more than that:
“Traditional CDNs…only receive the requests for some subset of requests and require users to choose what content to host on the CDN’s network. Traditional CDNs can be accurately described as massively distributed hosting, where CloudFlare is more accurately described as a caching reverse proxy. What this means is that, unlike traditional CDNs, CloudFlare handles all requests to a website.”
CloudFlare is described by Prince as a “next generation CDN.” It optimizes websites delivery through caching on a multitude of servers to enable faster rendering of web pages and improves website performance. It also protects websites from spam-bots, spammers and hackers. Over 2 million websites utilize Cloudflare and our sites fall in that 2 million.
How CloudFlare Works?
CloudFlare works like a typical CDN but it is much easier to setup and configure. Once you add a website to CloudFlare, you are provided with two CloudFlare nameservers that will become the authoritative nameservers for your website’s domain.
Switching to the CloudFlare nameservers does not modify your existing website. You will still be using the same registrar, same DNS (Domain Name Server) and hosting providers that you had before setting up CloudFlare.
With the designated CloudFlare nameservers updated for your website, CloudFlare will begin to accelerate and clean up your web traffic. Through a network routing technology known as Anycast, initial DNS lookups for your website’s domain are routed to the CloudFlare data center that is closest to the visitor browsing your website.
This data center responds to the request by providing an IP address which will direct all subsequent requests by the visitor to the best data center.
CloudFlare caches some static parts of a website, such as images and CSS – in order to boost the response times for requests on their servers. CloudFlare is particular about the parts of a website that it does cache in order to preserve dynamic content. CloudFlare never caches HTML. CloudFlare refreshes the cache frequently.
CloudFlare claims to save over 60% of bandwidth and cut average page load times by 50%. These are some seriously big numbers, folks.
Setting Up CloudFlare
One great thing about CloudFlare is that setup takes less than five minutes and is pretty straightforward. You do not need to install any special hardware or software or change your site’s existing code.
Below are the steps to take to setup CloudFlare for your site:
Create a CloudFlare Account
At www.cloudflare.com, click on the “Sign Up” button on the top of the page. Enter your email and password and click “Create Account Now”.
Add Your Website
Enter your website’s domain name and click “Begin Scan.” CloudFlare will scan your DNS records, which takes about a minute or so. Once the scan is completed, click on “Continue.”
Add DNS Records
Choose the subdomains listed that you want to enable CloudFlare on and bypass those subdomains that you don’t want CloudFlare enabled on. You can also add any additional records you want. In most cases, you will only have a single domain name with no subdomains. Review your selections and then click on “Process and Continue.”
Choose CloudFlare Plan
Here is the best part, CloudFlare offers Free, Pro, Business and Enterprise versions. Select the type of CloudFlare plan you want and click on “Process and Continue.” CloudFlare free gives you so much of what you need from a CDN. The details are a mile long in this section, so we will wait to a later point to elaborate.
Update Nameservers (If not on Siteground)
CloudFlare will provide you with nameservers for your domain. Log in to your registrar account and update your nameserver with your CloudFlare nameservers. If you ever need to retrieve your nameservers, you can find them listed under Overview in your CloudFlare dashboard.
The status of your site might read “Pending” on your account page as CloudFlare resolves all your DNS settings. CloudFlare advises allowing up to 24 hours for all changes to be processed, but it usually takes about 10-20 minutes, similar to DNS propagation.
Setting Up CloudFlare on Siteground
One great thing about CloudFlare on Siteground is that setup takes even less time than without. For setting up CloudFlare on Siteground, it is literally a three click process and CloudFlare is Enabled.
- Step #1 – Log Into your cPanel
- Step #2 – Click the CloudFlare Icon
- Step #3 – Activate the free or paid version of SiteGround
After running through these steps, CloudFlare will automatically be enabled through your cPanel on your domain name. Your domain name will also automatically appear in your CloudFlare account (pretty sweet right!). With this method, there is no messing around with nameservers which is awesome because you can always access, adjust and change your DNS without any effect to the CloudFlare layer on your website.
After you have enabled CloudFlare on your website and access the control panel, now adjust your CloudFlare settings.
There is a wide variety of options in the CloudFlare control panel. Going through every setting would cover an entire blog post, so we will save that for later.
The basic Free Settings on CloudFlare
- Limited DDoS protection
- Global CDN
- Shared SSL certificate
- I’m Under Attack™ mode
- Access to Cloudflare Apps
- 3 Page Rules included
For most users, the free option on CloudFlare should be enough.
What You’ll Get with Free CloudFlare
If you are working with a tight budget, you still get to enjoy some awesome CloudFlare benefits without spending a dime. Below are some features you can enjoy with a free CloudFlare membership:
CloudFlare brings your website closer to visitors by caching content across its global network. It reduces load times on your servers which, in turn, boosts performance and is a huge plus for user experience and Search Engine Optimization.
Shared SSL Certificate
CloudFlare encrypts traffic to prevent data theft and stop outside meddling with personal information. Within CloudFlares platform, they further increase protection on top of sites running HTTPS (SSL – Secure Socket Layer) which is crucial when you are running an eCommerce Website Design project.
Limited DDoS Protection
With the increase in DDoS attacks, it is important to keep your website secure from such threats. CloudFlare offers DDos protection for your website. CloudFlare offers increased DDoS protection on upgraded and paid plans.
CloudFlare offers regular analytics so that you can monitor your website’s performance. You can track visitor traffic, threats and search engine crawlers.
Website Content Optimization
Page rendering on CloudFlare is fast due to CloudFlare’s website optimization features which include accelerated mobile links, HTTP/2 and cache header optimization. This is an awesome feature for helping your SEO campaign and Conversion Rate Optimization campaigns.
Bandwidth is eaten up when images on your website are linked to on another website. CloudFlare saves you bandwidth by offering hotlink protection for your images. Hotlinking images is when someone takes your image file path and hosts it directly on their website, taking your bandwidth. It’s borderline stealing because they are chewing through your bandwidth and server load. We see it happen all the time and it’s rather annoying.
Email Address Encryption
To prevent hackers from viewing your email address, CloudFlare offers email address encryption.
These are just some of the free benefits you can enjoy with CloudFlare. CloudFlare also offers Pro, Business and Enterprise versions. We recommend the free version of the platform for personal websites and blogs.
The “Pro” plan is best-suited for professional websites, portfolios, and blogs. It will cost you $20/month for each domain and offers basic security and performance features.
The “Business” plan costs $200/month per domain. CloudFlare recommends this plan for eCommerce websites and websites that require advanced performance and security as well as PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance. It offers advanced DDoS protection and Custom SSL Certificate which would also covere any type of SSL, like an Extended Validation SSL.
The “Enterprise” plan is recommended for businesses that require enterprise-grade security and performance. To get pricing for this plan, you can contact CloudFlare directly.
Our Review of CloudFlare
Websites that use CloudFlare see a number of benefits. We would recommend that any website on the internet utilize a CDN for a wide variety of reasons. All of our websites use CloudFare and most importantly, our eCommerce website projects. eCommerce websites thrive and excel in fast/secure environments, especially for eCommerce SEO campaigns.
As previously mentioned, we recently started using CloudFlare on our sites. We compared sites before and after using CloudFlare and have gotten varying results, mostly positive.
For one, we did notice that CloudFlare saved a little under 15% of bandwidth usage when we switched one of our sites to the free version of the platform onto Siteground from GoDaddy Dedicated Hosting. Granted, this is not the “over 60%” bandwidth usage reduction that CloudFlare claims you will get but it is still a respectable amount of bandwidth saved, especially as you are not paying a dime for savings you’ll enjoy in bandwidth usage.
CloudFlare only caches static elements on a website. Most websites are dynamic which means that CloudFlare has little effect on server load for such most dynamic websites. We have a collection of both static and dynamic websites, so the server load does decrease on static websites and stays consistent on dynamic websites.
Maximum File Upload
The free version of CloudFlare only allows you up to 100MB for file uploads. This is usually more than enough for most users and shouldn’t be a problem. Upgrading to a premium version of CloudFlare will increase the maximum amount of MB for file uploads, should you need to. If you’re a site admin, it is possible to bypass the CloudFlare proxy by creating a grey-cloud DNS record so that you can access your site instead to upload files.
Setting Up CloudFlare
Setting up CloudFlare was very easy and took a few minutes, especially on Siteground through cPanel. We did not experience any problems during set-up on Siteground. However, we did experience some problems setting up CloudFlare on a domain we had outside of Siteground with an SSL.
If you are setting up CloudFlare on a domain with an SSL and it is not enabled through Siteground cPanel, you may have some unstable issues serving over HTTPS. The issues with SSL can be worked out through a variety of settings that CloudFlare offers in their control panel.
Outside of set-up, we’ve found CloudFlare’s interface and control panel to be intuitive, straightforward and really easy to navigate.
Google’s PageSpeed Insights & Pingdom Speed Tools
CloudFlare Technical Support
Should you encounter any problems while using CloudFlare, CloudFlare’s website provides an extensive database of support articles to help you navigate the platform. We’ve also contacted CloudFlare with questions to see their response times and were impressed with how quickly they responded to questions submitted to their support team.
Our Final Verdict?
There’s no denying the saved bandwidth you will enjoy when you use CloudFlare on your site. We’ve seen an average of 45% savings in bandwidth using a premium version of CloudFlare on our sites. On the other hand, since our sites are typically dynamic, we do not see much server load reduction on our websites.
In terms of security and performance, we’ve noticed improvements in page rendering speeds and statistics show a boost in protection from spammers and hackers.
Overall, we highly recommend using CloudFlare on your websites. The free option of CloudFlare comes with many benefits, as we’ve discussed in this article. For more advanced websites, the premium versions will enhance the performance, reliability and security of your websites.