I’ve recently started to look into Content Delivery Networks (CDN) to help improve performance and more importantly take some of the load off my hosting plan. I initially looked into using MaxCDN alongside the W3 Total Cache plugin for WordPress, but when comparing it to some other services I came across CloudFlare.
CloudFlare doesn’t need a WordPress plugin and you don’t need to change any code on your website, this was a big plus point for me - setting CloudFlare up on your website is really simple, all you need to do is register your website with CloudFlare and change the name servers on your domain name to point to CloudFlare’s own servers instead of your own.
From there CloudFlare accepts the requests from a visitor’s browser for content, if it has the content cached on its own high speed servers it will delivery it, if it doesn’t have the content stored on their servers, it will route the request to the website’s own hosting. CloudFlare serving images, CSS and JS documents will obviously save bandwidth on your own hosting, but it will also speed up your website. CloudFlare have 23 servers in locations around the world, when someone visitors your website CloudFlare will detect where they’re from and serve the content from the nearest server - the fact this all goes on in the background in realtime when someone visits your website completely amazes me. They’re also able to protect your website from any bots of visitors that could harm your website, I don’t have this option switched on (yet), but CloudFlare are able to block potential threats and other harmful bots and users.
CloudFlare offer analytics with your account so you can see what its up to and how good a job it’s doing. I tried CloudFlare on one of my own websites — www.wormsigntshirts.co.uk — so I could experiment and try it out before offering it to my clients.
This is my first week on CloudFlare and the big statistic for me is that is has saved 742.1MB of bandwidth from my hosting, that’s around 57%. Not bad.
You can also see the threats that CloudFlare detected, mainly ‘known threats’ from the USA, altogether adding up to 109 threats from just over 3,400 visits.
Just as a guide, here are my Google Analytics comparing the two weeks of visits, the two weeks involved were really similar, so I think the stats from CloudFlare are a fair judgement on what the service is capable of. Although I’m not sure what the spike in traffic was on the 10th / 11th of October - it doesn’t register on Google’s analytics, which is strange.
I’m definitely going to be recommending the service to my clients, it has improved the performance of my Worm Sign T-Shirts - it is noticeably snappier when browsing the website - and has done the most important thing I asked of it, reduce the load on my hosting package. All this and it’s free!
Have a look for yourself here; cloudflare.com