When I first heard about Cloudflare years ago, I was like, “Why the heck do I need to use it?” My site was loading just fine. Moreover, I had read of too many issues back then.
In 2014, after the WPEngine hosting started charging my site for extra visits, I started using Cloudflare to get rid of unwanted bots and spam visits. That’s how I started with Cloudflare, and after using it for years now, I’m so positive about this free service that I recommend to all the readers of ShoutMeLoud.
If you are not using Cloudflare or have never heard about it, this guide is for you. Even if you don’t have any technical skills, you can make the most out of this guide. So, let us get started with this detailed tutorial and learn about Cloudflare.
4 Benefits of using Cloudflare to manage your DNS:
1. Cloudflare stops brute-force attacks and hacking attempts:
Cloudflare filters out most of the spam attacks at the Name-server level, and such requests don’t even hit your server. It protects your website from DDOS attack, SQL injection, comment spam. This provides a secure environment for your website.
In the past, many users have complained that their readers were unable to access the site after using Cloudflare. Well, that is because they might have chosen the security level to be medium or high. I would recommend to keep it low to ensure visitors from all part of the world can access the site. You can learn more about Cloudflare security here.
2. While changing hosting, no need to wait for the propagation:
This is one benefit which I learned when I was moving from WPEngine to Cloudways hosting. When you are using Cloudflare, you don’t have to wait for DNS propagation to happen.
All you need to do is change the IP address of the server from your Cloudflare dashboard, and your domain name will start pointing to the new host immediately.
3. Free CDN:
One significant benefit of CloudFlare is free CDN. It’s easy to integrate, and it doesn’t change your image URL or show URL such as cdn.domain.com. I have been using Cloudflare CDN for years now, and have never faced any performance or SEO related issues.
In fact, after using it for ShoutMeLoud, all my other sites are now Cloudflare CDN enabled. Cloudflare caches your static file (CSS, JS, Images) and serves it from the nearest location. In this Network map, you can see where all CloudFlare servers are. If you are not sure what CDN is, read about CDN (Content delivery network) here.
Using Cloudflare CDN will increase your site performance by almost 50% and also help your site load a lot faster.
4. Save server bandwidth:
A majority of web hosting in today’s date offers unlimited bandwidth, but there are many hostings like WPEngine which changes the bandwidth based on hits. Cloudflare filters out spam bots traffic, hence you save a lot on your bandwidth. From the above image, you can see I have saved a massive 375.6 GB data for ShoutMeLoud in the past few months.
What is Cloudflare and how does it work?
To explain Cloudflare, let’s first understand how the Internet works. Let’s say there is a website ShoutMeLoud.com hosted on a web-server with I.P “188.8.131.52”. Now, when you type ShoutMeLoud.com in your browser, your browser sends a request to DNS and get the result “184.108.40.206”, and that’s how you can access the site.
When you set up CloudFlare, you add Cloudflare Name-server to your domain.
Now Cloudflare starts filtering (bad bots, hack attempt) all the request coming to your website. There are few more things involved in between, but in short, all the traffic which comes to your site goes through Cloudflare, and it blocks any spam or illegal access, thus protecting your website at all times.
Do remember, when you integrate Cloudflare with your website, nothing in terms of technology changes.
Only the traffic coming to your website gets filtered. Here is an image which explains what happens with and without Cloudflare:
I recommend each one of you to start using Cloudflare as it’s free to use and you can always upgrade to paid plans (as and when you require). Here, I’m sharing the benefits of using Cloudflare which should compel you to use it right away.
Important Cloudflare Features
Here’s the deal:
I’ve listed some features and terminologies that will help you make the best use of Cloudflare.
- Apps – Cloudflare provides a range of free and premium apps that can enrich your user experience. Some of the best apps offered by Cloudflare includes SmartErrors that replaces the dull 404 pages with a list of suggested pages to visit thereby reducing the bounce rate. UserVoice is another great app that enables you to receive feedback and suggestions from your visitors. You may also offer rewards like free coupons to your loyal visitors using the PunchTab app. Most of these apps can be installed by simply toggling the on/off button.
- Analytics – The analytics lets you see detailed analytics on your website that includes information about page views, number of pages crawled, amount of bandwidth saved by using Cloudflare and many other features.
- Threat Control – The threat control feature lets White List and Black List IP, IP ranges or an entire country to prevent attacks on your website. A list of IPs is also shown which were challenged and failed. You may then choose to Block them.
Important things to know:
When you are making any theme changes on your site (when Cloudflare is enabled), you need to purge Cloudflare cache under settings and enable the Development mode.
WordPress users can use free Cloudflare plugin, using it you can purge cache manually, or it automatically purges cache when you publish a new blog post.
After using Cloudflare for over three years, I highly recommend you to use it. Setting up Cloudflare may sound a bit technical initially, but it’s fairly simple (watch the video below).
Moreover, it works perfectly with any cache plugin which you have enabled on your blog, and so far I haven’t had any issue with Cloudflare.
Watch the video below to learn setting up Cloudflare for your website:
Make sure you check your website’s loading time before and after setting up Cloudflare to see the performance difference yourself.
If you are using Cloudflare and know of any significant advantage, do let us know via comments.
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