How to start using Cloudflare to improve your site
Speed, reliability and security are some of the most important facts to ensuring happy customers. Today we will look at what Cloudflare is, and how you can use it to improve all of these factors for your own site.
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Table of Contents
What is Cloudflare?
Cloudflare is one of the world’s biggest CDN’s (Content Delivery Network), responsible for securing and improving more than 13% of the entire world’s sites. Due to it’s free plan it’s extremely popular among WordPress site owners, even if there are alternatives out there.
Services include high quality video streaming, intelligent page caching and distributing, load balancing, advanced protocols plus protection against DDoS attacks and hacking attempts. However, buzzwords don’t give us an idea about how it can help us.
As Cloudflare explains in this article, instead of having all requests to your website go directly to where it is hosted, it instead travels through Cloudflare’s global network first. Cloudflare can then use clever technologies to decide what requests don’t have to be retrieved from the site’s servers every time, and can instead be acquired from Cloudflare’s global network. Think stuff like images, that don’t ever change.
Using this method, and putting these files in more than 200 cities instead of the one server, page speed can drastically increase. As well as this the load on the site’s servers is greatly reduced in times of heavy traffic.
In a similar way, this intelligent analysis can be used to identify and stop DDoS and hacking attempts.
Should you use Cloudflare?
Whether you should bother using Cloudflare (or similar CDN) on your own site depends on several factors. While it certainly won’t hurt to use a CDN, it’s possible that it isn’t worth doing. In case you are simply running a very small text site for personal use, it won’t matter much in speed. If all your visitors are local, a worldwide caching network won’t be of much use.
If your specific situation applies to any of the following, it’s probably worth using a CDN of some kind.
- Your site gets visitors from many cities / countries
- Your site is made with WordPress or other site builder
- Your site gets a good amount of traffic per day
- Your site has been attacked in the past
How to start using Cloudflare
Now that you understand what Cloudflare is, what it does and have decided that you want to use it, let’s look at how.
Luckily adding a new site to Cloudflare is quite a straightforward, and shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. Do remember however that updating DNS nameservers is an automatic process that, depending on your registrar, can take up to a day. If you are looking at registrars yourself, check out this article.
- Visit Cloudflare.com and sign up for an account
- Log into your Cloudflare account
- Click on Add site top right in the navigation bar
- Enter your site’s root domain (example.com instead of www.example.com)
- Wait for Cloudflare to identify your current DNS records
- Click Next
- Select a plan (for personal and small business sites the free plan suffices)
- Confirm your plan
- Go over your automatically added DNS records and make sure none are missing
- Click Continue
- Copy the two nameservers provided and click Continue
- Change your current domain name servers to Cloudflare (read below)
Cloudflare is now ready to receive the data from your site, which has to be done with one last step. In order to forward all data to Cloudflare your must edit your current domain nameservers to those that have been provided.
This is done differently depending on what registrar (company at which you bought your domain) you use. In order to find out how to do it for yours, navigate to this page and scroll to the list of registrars. Or, in case you use NameCheap or GoDaddy, use these quick links instead.
Once you have followed the steps listed by your registrar, it is simply a waiting game. Once the changes have been processed (remember, can take up to 48 hours in cases), you will receive an email from Cloudflare confirming the migration.
That’s it! Your site is now ready to take advantage of all benefits that Cloudflare’s global server network has to happen.
In this article we learned what Cloudflare is, and how it can improve sites. In case you choose that Cloudflare can benefit your personal site, we also went over how to get started with it.
If you have any further questions about any topics discussed in this article, or questions in general, leave a comment here, contact us on Twitter or send us a support ticket!