CloudFlare Review

Update: CloudFlare has added new features to help websites load even faster! They can now automatically minify HTML, JavaScript, and CSS, the Rocket Loader can asynchronously load external and inline JavaScript, and apps can help you add more functionality to or monetize your site. CloudFlare can also work alongside your existing CDN, picking up resources that it leaves behind (and adding a layer of security on top).

w3techie is a low budget website; there’s no use hiding it. I think I know better than most people how important it is to have a site load quickly. Fast sites increase sales, they have lower bounce rates, their visitors are happier. At one point I was obsessed with getting w3techie to load faster. I did lots of optimization and I tried many different paid CND solutions; I didn’t like any of them for the money I was paying.

Today I found CloudFlare, a free CDN and website security service. When I first saw it I couldn’t believe it. CloudFlare gets your site to load faster, it reduces your requests and bandwidth, and it stops spambots and website attacks. It also makes sure your site is always online, even if your servers temporarily go down. It’s also easier to set up than all the other CDN solutions I’ve seen; all you need to do is change your domain’s DNS settings. It’s simply amazing!

It took me less than 5 minutes to setup from the time I began registering to the time it was active. Pingdom speed tests already show the advantages of using CloudFlare. It’s designed better than the paid solutions I tried and it’s cheaper; I mentioned that I was using a free version which gives me faster site performance, security protection, and enhanced uptime. CloudFlare pro is cheap (only $20 per month for an account with $5 extra for every added website) and offers even more advanced security protection, virtually real-time statistics, and smart preloading of subsequent resources that may be requested.

If you have any questions about the service you can take a look at their FAQ or send a question to their support (they got back to me in less than 30 minutes when I asked the questions below). These are some other questions you may have:

An illustration which shows how CloudFlare works. Good visitors and crawlers are let through but attackers are blocked.

Are there any plans to make CloudFlare a paid-only service?

We plan to always offer a free service with at least the features it has

today. If anything, we hope to move more of the features in the paid service
to the free service over time.

Will legitimate users ever be asked to enter a captcha code to reach a website? (Detected attackers are shown a captcha)

We try very hard to ensure that legitimate users don’t ever get
challenged. When a user who is not running an infected computer gets
presented a CAPTCHA we consider that a failure on our part. Our system gets
smarter over time, so these false positives inherently decrease. We’re
pleased with the low false positive rate we have today, but we continue to
get smarter and better over time. If a particular website is seeing more
false positives than they are comfortable with, they can always reduce the
security level from the default (HIGH) setting to either MEDIUM or LOW. On
the LOW setting, only the worst of the worst visitors are challenged.

Are there any limits to the bandwidth an account can use before prices are raised? Or can all sites – no matter how big, use CloudFlare for the same free or pro prices?

There are no limits to the bandwidth so long as you abide by our terms of
service. For example, we are not a file storage service and our algorithms
optimize what is cached based on seeing the entire HTML stream. If we find
that a site is serving only image files through CloudFlare without any HTML,
that would likely result in us sending a note to the site owner to figure
out what is going on.

Does the preloader use native prefetching in HTML5? Or does it only use javascript?

The PRO prefetching service currently uses Javascript in order to make it
cross-browser compatible. To be clear, the way the prefetcher works is if
you have two pages: A & B. Page A requires resources 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Page B
requires resources 6, 7, 8, 9, 10. If you’re a PRO user we look at the
traffic patterns to your site continuously. We know, for example, the
probability that if a visitor is on Page A that they’ll go to Page B. If
that probability is high enough, we’ll use ASYNC Javascript to lazy load
resources 6 – 10 in the background while they’re reading Page A. If they do
click to Page B, it will load almost instantly. We also make sure that the
prefetched resources are all cached with CloudFlare, so this doesn’t cost
the site any bandwidth/load if the visitor never goes to Page B.

CloudFlare helps smaller sites like w3techie load quickly and ensure maximum uptime without spending thousands on hosting services. The average website will load 30% faster, use 60% less bandwidth, and make 65% less requests to your server with CloudFlare. Not only are you offloading your resources, you’re also blocking spambots from your user-generated content submission forms. It will also help your site’s search rankings. There’s no reason not to sign up and start using the service now.

Edit: We have not seen one spam comment on the blog today. There have been no spambots at the forum. It’s amazing that CloudFlare is stopping all the bad guys before they even get to the site.

CloudFlare

Reviewed by w3techie.

Rating: 4

  1. NuclearCoding12-31-2010

    It's amazing that they make this service free. I was going to ask how they managed to keep this service free until I saw that they have a premium type service.

    I have definitely noticed a slight increase in page load time for both the blog and the forum, and I guess this comment serves as a testimonial to their service as well as a general comment. Good job Techie.

    • Techie12-31-2010

      I hope you mean to say you saw a decrease in page load time 😉 lol. Yesterday I was reading an article that gave tips on how to "increase" your Alexa rank. We're just so used to thinking increasing is good that we write it without thinking about it.

  2. soe01-12-2011

    It is good idea for protection. But when some one doo DDOS, what do you think about this?

    • Techie01-12-2011

      I think this should already protect you from denial of service attacks from attackers, but on their website they say that protection from denial of service attacks is a feature coming soon.

  3. Andrew Lippert04-06-2011

    First, I love the idea behind CloudFlare. The service options are impressive and the protections provided from a security perspective extremely valuable – especially the spam protection. Unfortunately, CloudFlare is not ready for supporting business critical websites. They are a fabulous solution for the many amateur blogs and informational sites on the net – think 97-98% availability, not 5 – 9's. But, if your business depends on the availability of your site for revenue, you should look elsewhere.

    I've been a paying customer of the CloudFlare service since their beta. Sadly, I've been able to use the service during about 10% of the period I've been a customer. The team, while responsive to tweets, is missing something rather fundamental from a prioritization standpoint.

    They are hosting DNS. If their service is down, your site is unreachable. From a support perspective, however, the mission criticality of their service is lost on them. During a recent outage (one of many) this is the response I received a full 5 1/2 hours after reporting a problem:

    Thank you for the email.

    The engineering team hops on these issues as quickly as possible &

    generally resolves them in thirty minutes or less. As far as 24×7

    support for service goes, this is something we will likely address in

    the future. I do apologize for the temporary inconvenience.

    Now, my initial report to them was via Twitter where they seem to have a very responsive presence – but not at 2:30 in the morning. I followed that up with their tech support contact form. I was alerted to the problem at 2:00am in the morning. The issues were not addressed for over 2 hours and the company hasn't let their customer base know about the issues by acknowledging the corrective action taken publicly. In fact, the status page rarely reflects the actual issues customers experience with the service. The typical response is 'we have 5 data centers so the impact wasn't that bad.' In my book, an unacceptable response.

    I've had lengthy exchanges with the organization detailing additional problems I've experienced when using their service. I've provided server logs, traceroutes, analytics and the same from customer sites in attempts to isolate issues and get them corrected. Each exchange has emphasized the fact that they should be detecting and responding to problems before I am alerted. Sadly, they are still apparently the last to know in many instances.

    Indeed, the team is much more interested in adding functionality instead of addressing some business fundamentals. DNS is the backbone of the Internet. A proactive mechanism must be implemented for detecting and correcting issues when they occur – whenever they occur! There also needs to be a mechanism for customers detecting problems to get the attention of the CloudFlare team focused on problem resolution 24×7. Until these issues are addressed, you should be looking elsewhere for this sort of service.

  4. Ray04-06-2011

    I have been checking out cloudflare the past few days. Reading up on the info they have on their web site as well as checking out reviews such as this one here on this site.

    I understand the concept, but a lot of the info on their web site is a little on the confusing side. I obviously would like to avoid down time as much as possible which there will likely be some when changing name servers.

    I would likely try their free option to see how it goes. I was thinking maybe use the free cloudflare option with a low traffic site to see how it performs before adding a higher traffic site.

    Some of the reviews I have read seem to be mixed where some like the service and others did not.

    Guess there is only one way to find out, give it a test drive and see what happens. The free option is a plus and I guess I wouldn't be out anything other than a little time.

  5. Dustin04-24-2011

    I recently installed Cloudflare on my site and everything had been going great, that is until tonight when I experienced my first downtime since my dog weight website was first launched. I'm waiting to see if this affects any of my rankings, and whether it's a common problem before changing my dns settings back, but I am certainly considering it if it's not back up soon. The post above may be correct in saying it's not quite ready for mission critical use just yet, just waiting to see for myself right now.

  6. Muhammad05-07-2011

    Did any one read their TOS? Because it says this

    "

    SECTION 7: YOUR CONTENT

    CloudFlare may modify the content of your site.

    Add tracking codes or affiliate codes to links that do not previously have tracking or affiliate codes.

    It seems that they will add their affiliate links to our links. Who wants to do that?

    • Techie05-08-2011

      The tracking/affiliate codes will be if you opt-in for email protection or to track outbound links. It won't hurt your SEO, they're not that type of links. Personally I don't use that feature so it's ok 🙂

  7. Gary07-13-2011

    It’s a shame about their DNS problems, as you say, without that then there is no service. Anyone have any updates or actual data on these downtimes?

    • Techie07-13-2011

      I tried it again but went back to my default hosting. It was doing something strange to the forum and slowing down replies; I have no idea why.

      I found that using an actual paid CDN is relatively cheap and the results are much better. CloudFlare would be great for a small blogger’s website but I think I’m just running so many different things that I want complete cache control over that I can’t rely on it. I’d rather have my webserver create HTML pages to serve and have resources served through Akamai.

  8. John Clark09-25-2011

    Techie,

    You might make a note in the original post pointing out that you’ve since reconsidered how great you think CloudFlare is, at least for your needs. Yours was the second result in my search for ‘cloudflare review’, and if I hadn’t read the comments, I would’ve thought you were still completely enamored of it!

    • Techie09-26-2011

      Maybe I should. I’ve been on and off of CloudFlare though. My host re-did their simultaneous user caps on my account so now I’m back on CloudFlare. I guess I should form an option and update the post.

  9. Gabriel02-12-2012

    I must say one thing! I read lots of bad reviews about cloudflair and there services but yes they are the best!

    We do have a website with 12 servers load balancer and huge firewall! the DDOS kept on hitting on us till we went down…

    Had no choice i moved to CloudFlair and i was thinking okay they will kick us after few hours… Guess What? They didnt!

    Our site is faster and we are more then pleased with CloudFlair, we will go with them on Enterprise solution.

    CloudFlair will put you in clouds.
    Regards,
    Gabriel

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