How Can Cloudflare
Help Your Website
Cloudflare is a service that you’ve likely heard of before but not really understood just HOW this service can improve your website!
Did you know that Cloudflare powers this blog? It’s part of what helps it stay loading well – and what helps it handle so much traffic!
Cloudflare is a multi-part software that all starts with being an an intermediary DNS provider. Once you set up the DNS, you unleash lots of cool utilities such as:
- Cloudflare CDN
- Cloudflare Website Optimizer
- Cloudflare Security (And DDOS Protection!)
- and Cloudflare Apps
The company offers a range of packages starting with a very useful FREE version that is actually all most small bloggers will need. Then they move up into packages that handle SSL, multiple domains, advanced optimization and more.
What’s nice is that, for the most part, Cloudflare is reasonably fast to set up, really pain-free to live with, and works well when used in conjunction with your Security plugins and with W3 Total Cache.
Adding Cloudflare via W3 Total Cache
While you don’t need a plugin for the DNS – you will need a plugin to take advantage of the optimization benefits. Fortunately, since you’re likely already using W3 Total Cache, you’re all set!
The DNS tools kick in as soon as you transfer your DNS. In your W3 Total Cache plugin, go to W3 Total Cache Extensions, add the Cloudflare one, fill out the details of your pre-created Cloudflare account, and the optimization tools are then ready to go!
Tip: Skip Rocket Loader until you’ve had time to test it. And be sure to only enable Cloudflare minification if you are not using W3 Total Cache’s built in minification.
Using a DNS intermediary like Cloudflare sure gets you spoiled when you have to change IP addresses. Because they are a distributed relay, they have routers all over the world, and thus you get your IP address to resolve in only a handful of minutes. Compare that to resolving DNS directly from the host and waiting 12hrs on average.
The only time Cloudflare REALLY gets in the way (but isn’t its fault) is if you have to add that domain name to a NEW (rather than restored) cPanel account – and cPanel freaks out and thinks the domain isn’t pointed to the server. So then you have to momentarily take the domain OFF of cloudflare, add the domain to cPanel, and then add the domain back to Cloudflare. (This is cPanel’s confusion.)
Cloudflare CDN & Optimization
Because Cloudflare maintains servers – and data copies – all over the world – using Cloudflare optimization can substantially speed up your load times for your visitors. Often Cloudflares servers load faster than your own – partially because they serve data at the same time as your own resulting in more data served faster to the viewer.
Is Cloudflare CDN the best CDN? No – but it’s the easiest to set up and the most affordable! If you’ve avoided the big headaches a CDN can be – you definitely need to try Cloudflares!
But, in addition to rapidly resolving the DNS, the benefit of cPanel being an intermediary, is that it blocks many bots, dangerous IP addresses, and other threats to your website. In fact, it’s one of the best ways that small businesses can thwart a small-scale overwhelming brute-force attack that becomes a DOS attack simply because our servers are too small to handle such an attack.
You do need to remember to check the box to use “development mode” in Cloudflare if you are going to restore sites, edit sites, or generally do anything related to code.
Cloudflare Down-Time Protection
If your server ever goes offline, CloudFlare will serve a limited copy of your cached website to keep it online for your visitors. CloudFlare builds the Always Online version of your website, so your most popular pages are represented. CloudFlare is caching pages when you see the crawler in your logs.
Cloudflare crawls (and thus caches) free customers once every 7 days, Pro customers once every 3 days, and Business and Enterprise customers daily.
There are a TON of apps available and they can be a super fast way to add your Google Analytics code, Clicky codes, and all sorts of goodies if you don’t feel like installing them manually. There’s lots of cool things to test out and you can turn them on and off with just a click.
The best part?
And the best part? Most small businesses only need the free package to get started – and many small businesses never need anything more.
It’s a great service up at CloudFlare and if you’re not taking advantage of it, you really should be!
Check them out here: https://www.cloudflare.com/
Got questions? Ideas? Think I left something out? Let me know in the comments below!
~ Kim ~
Simple Tech Tips For Marketing
PS: Don’t feel like setting it up yourself? Adding Cloudflare to your WordPress site falls under our one-hour support services and is something we’re happy to help you with. In addition to adding it to your site, we’ll also make a brief walk through video for you to show you where the important settings are located so you are empowered to manage your business!