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What Is Cloudflare: How it Works & If It’s Right For You

UPDATED
June 17, 2024

 

What do popular hosting companies such as NameCheap and SiteGround have in common? Well, to start, they all use Cloudflare.

 

While the majority of people might not hear much about it, cyberattacks from all around the globe are on the rise and have left a good many companies crippled for weeks. Your site’s security isn’t something that should be taken lightly, especially if you have important information you don’t want to disclose.

 

Luckily, a lot of web hosting companies use or allow you to enable Cloudflare to protect you from these attacks. What’s more – it can also help you speed up your website!

 

Here’s everything you need to know about them.

 

 

What is Cloudflare?

 

Cloudflare is a content delivery network or CDN for short. CDNs are essentially a distributed network of servers that cache or store website content, bringing it closer to the users’ locations and drastically reducing loading times for your audience.

 

Cloudflare itself was founded in 2009 by former members of the Project Honey Pot project to remove the source of email spam. From then, they’ve continued to evolve and have served millions of consumers with DNS and security services.

 

Beyond speed – Cloudflare i’s also a web security service that acts as a shield against numerous cyberattacks such as DDoS attacks and malicious bots. In fact, Cloudflare is so popular that they even protect well-established websites and eCommerce stores such as Canva, Amazon, Nike, and H&M, just to name a few.

 

While it’s not the first thing you’d think of when it comes to website security, Cloudflare is one of the best-known CDN services out there that can. At one point, they’ve even protected numerous websites from 26 million request per second (RPS) DDoS attacks.

 

 

How Exactly Does Cloudflare Work?

 

cloudflare diagram

Cloudflare blocks malicious traffic and only allows safe ones.
(Credit: Rackspace Technology)

 

Cloudflare has a massive network with web servers spread across over 100 countries, covering more than 200 locations around the world. These servers act as both a firewall and as data cache servers on a massive scale.

 

When users visit your website, cached data will be sent from their nearest location through Cloudflare servers. What this means is they’ll receive data much faster compared to data coming directly from your website.

 

At the same time, Cloudflare servers keep track of every bit of data that passes through them. With this, they can keep your website safe by blocking potential attacks and filtering out bots and crawlers.

 

 

Does Cloudflare Provide Web Hosting?

 

web hosting

Cloudflare isn’t a web hosting service.

 

No – Cloudflare doesn’t provide web hosting. They shouldn’t be confused with web hosts like Hostinger or Bluehost.

 

However, this doesn’t make them any less than web hosting services. CDNs such as Amazon CloudFront, and Cloudflare are the backbone of the modern internet.

 

With this, most popular web hosts will offer Cloudflare and or easy Cloudflare integration to make sure your website is in top shape and that your audiences are getting the fastest possible loading experience on top of whatever speed features your web host provides. Faster website – happier readers!

 

What’s also great about Cloudflare is that it’s easy to set up if you’re already hosting a website. All you have to do is sign up with Cloudflare and then add it to your domain’s control panel. From there, you pretty much don’t have to do anything anymore. All the data from your website will get cached in multiple locations from around the world through Cloudflare servers.

 

 

Are There Other Services That Cloudflare Offers?

 

cloudflare services

Cloudflare offers a variety of services.

 

Besides protecting and optimizing your website, Cloudflare also offers other services, namely:

 

  1. Defense against DDoS attacks
    Cloudflare protects applications, websites, and entire networks from DDoS attacks. With a network capacity of 59 terabytes per second, they’re able to block over 57 billion assaults per day.
  2. Global CDN with load balancing
    To ensure that bottlenecks don’t happen, there are around 200 data centers worldwide that have intelligent load-balancing mechanisms.
  3. Static content caching
    For quick data delivery and low latency, content is cached on edge servers that are placed strategically.
  4. Argo smart routing
    Through the use of Argo’s intelligent routing algorithm, Cloudflare can intelligently route traffic through the fastest network paths.
  5. Geo-based routing
    Visitors of your website and application will receive content from the servers closest to them thanks to global load balancing.
  6. Streaming
    The on-demand streaming service platform provided by Cloudflare is affordable and easy to use.
  7. Mobile optimization
    Thanks to its virtualized and lazy-loaded graphics, Cloudflare Mirage knows what type of browser users are using and automatically adapts to it, optimizing for performance.
  8. Argo tunnel
    With the use of Cloudflare’s Argo Tunnel service, you can create a secure connection between your origin server and the closest data center.
  9. Deploying intelligence to identify new threats
    Cloudflare’s smart AI can instantly improve all other sites’ protection by applying what it has learned from attacks on one site to all other sites.
  10. A China network
    The only truly global network with solid connections in China is Cloudflare. This gives your consumers secure, fast, and reliable experiences both inside and outside of China.
  11. Analytics
    With comprehensive product-specific dashboards and the option to construct custom dashboards using GraphQL and the Analytics API, deep insights and intelligence take a detailed approach to your cached data.

 

 

What are the Advantages of Using Cloudflare?

 

Cloudflare is a great tool for any website. Here are the advantages of using it:

 

1. Optimized for lower latency

 

Speed is everything in the digital age, and slow loading times are one of the last things you’d want your consumers to experience. Thankfully, Cloudflare has numerous servers all around the globe which would reduce latency.

 

2. Enhanced security and protection

 

Cloudflare can mitigate DDoS attacks, prevent spam and filter out malicious bot activity. Because Cloudflare can distinguish between legitimate and malicious traffic, it helps safeguard your online presence and uptime in the case of a DDoS attack.

 

3. It’s very user-friendly

 

A lot of people prefer Cloudflare simply because of how easy it is to set up. All you have to do is sign up to Cloudflare and add it to your domain host with a few clicks. Some domain hosts even have them already set up, so you don’t have to worry about integrating it into your domain.

 

Plus, with Cloudflare’s user-friendly interface, you don’t necessarily need any technical expertise to use it.

 

 

Are there any disadvantages to Cloudflare?

 

While Cloudflare is great, it isn’t perfect. Here are its disadvantages.

 

1. Not enough information

 

There isn’t much information on data that is cached. This leads to a false perception that your website is always running at fast load times.

 

Additionally, the stats and analytics are also limited. You’d find that the statistics for things such as threats and attacks don’t show who or what the specific cause of the problem was.

 

For instance, you just see something flagged as a threat, but don’t really know why or what they tried to do. This makes it hard to see what level of protection you need to protect yourself from future attacks.

 

2. User data is cached

 

A potential drawback of using Cloudflare is that it will cache user-submitted data alongside your content. Though most users may not be affected by this, some websites might encounter problems such as slow loading times.

 

3. If Cloudflare is down, your website will also be down

 

You can think of Cloudflare as a middleman between your website and your users. So if Cloudflare is down, your website will also become inaccessible to users. Thankfully, this rarely happens since Cloudflare has numerous servers in case something does go wrong. However it does happen (and has even happened to us before! It wasn’t fun).

 

 

What Alternatives Can I Use Instead of Cloudflare?

 

Whilst many would tout Cloudflare is the best one out there, there are some alternatives you could look into:

 

  • Akamai
    This CDN offers a lot of security features such as Edge DNS and Page Integrity Manager.
  • Imperva Incapsula
    One of the bigger competitors of Cloudflare and they fundamentally offer the same features as them.
  • Amazon CloudFront
    This CDN can be seen as a traditional CDN while Cloudflare can be seen as a CDN with a reverse proxy.
  • Google Cloud CDN
    This CDN is considered by many to be the fastest and most secure CDN in the market right now.
  • Microsoft Azure CDN
    They ensure speed, security, scalability, and a good experience for web visitors.
  • Alibaba Cloud CDN
    You can monitor web resources in real time.

 

Note

Do explore our review on the best CDN hosting!

 

 

How Do I Know if Cloudflare is Right for Me?

 

is cloudflare right for me

Cloudflare is great, but there are some things to consider.

 

Well to be honest – you probably have a lot to benefit from Cloudflare – especially if you’re an eCommerce site or you’re trying to grow your website on a global level.

 

Whether you’re a small or large business, you’d want to make sure that users get the best experience when visiting your website. Slow load times can make people click off your website, and go straight to your competitors. This results in less traffic and fewer conversions – which no one wants.

 

Plus, alongside faster loading times, Cloudflare also makes sure that you’re protected. As the owner of your domain, you’d want to guarantee not just your safety, but your customers’ safety as well. And with a reliable CDN, you can potentially prevent hackers from stealing information from all parties, which could lead to disruptions in your operations.

 

But despite all of these benefits, you might get turned off by simple statistics and analytics. Because Cloudflare is meant to be user-friendly, they’ll only show you data at a base level.

 

So if you need more information about what’s going on, other CDNs such as Google Cloud CDN have more advanced analytics that’ll show you specific trends.

 

 

Wrap up: Cloudflare Is A Fast Website’s Ally

 

Almost any website can benefit from the features that Cloudflare offers. The best part is that it’s extremely easy to use, making it a great choice for both new and experienced website owners alike. So, it’s really no surprise that Cloudflare is consistently a top pick for website protection and speed.

 

With all that said, CDNs in general are a great way to expand your business and give your website visitors a great experience, regardless of whether you choose Cloudflare or not.

 

 

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