Using CloudFlare to protect and speed up your website & brain


Wow! If you run a forum you need Cloudflare - ...
Wow! If you run a forum you need Cloudflare - it cut my webserver CPU usage in half!

Speed: it’s crucial online. The rate at which a page loads is important both to keep customers happy and to keep them from leaving your site. However, your site’s speed is not just about UX (user experience) but about search engine rankings. That latter factor is becoming more and more important as the Google algorithm weighs it more heavily. Tumblr’s servers, for example, do not meet Google’s standards for speed.

Obviously the speed at which your site populates content depends on a mixture of diverse factors. For example, how many images do you have on your page? Are they compressed? What type of hardware are using (server, etc.)? Are there a lot of WordPress plugins on your site? Simple sites running off of great equipment load very quickly, and complex sites on clunky equipment don’t. However, there is a cheat.

CloudFlare is that cheat. It’s free. It makes your site faster. It makes it more difficult for spammers to harass you. It strengthens the security of your site. I know… It sounds implausible. In this three-part series, we will look at CloudFlare from a variety of different angles.

Today, we will look at how it works and how to use it so you can improve your site in all of the above areas. In the next post, we will compare CloudFlare to PageSpeed Service regarding speed of WordPress sites. In the third post, I will cover the basic story of CloudFlare, which is interesting because of its basis in a happy accident.

You also are probably wondering how to speed up your mind. I will be surveying various individuals throughout this piece in “man on the street” interviews, about the best way to speed up one’s mind. According to Miguel, a 42-year-old electrician, the best way to think faster is to “snort a pile of cocaine.” Shaking and seemingly distracted, Miguel continued, “Get as much as you can, and get it all inside your body as fast as you possibly can. Then go do electrical wiring for eight hours.”

How Does CloudFlare Do Everything it Does?

Lucy Beer, writing for web training wheels, noted the basic aspects of the content delivery network that allow it to serve its tripartite function: speed, spammer protection, and security. (Note that we will get into more of the details later in this series.)

Citing the CloudFlare website, this is the gist of how the CDN achieves each of its objectives:

  • routes traffic through a worldwide network designed to improve security
  • thwarts hackers and spammers by combining the knowledge of a broad community
  • prevent bots from using up your bandwidth, CPU, and RAM.

Note that though this all sounds amazing, there is one catch. Cloudflare is free unless you have an SSL certificate. That’s not to say the paid version is not worth it, but since SSL is a security parameter and many of the security-conscious sites out there running online stores have one installed, it’s good to be aware of that upfront.

Let’s go to another “man on the street” response to how to speed up the human mind. Nancy, a 28-year-old veterinarian, had this to say when I asked her how to speed up mental processing: “Cocaine, cocaine, cocaine. It’s an easy, fun, and exciting solution to a complex problem. We all want to fit 28 hours of activity into the 24 hours of the day. You want to work your way through 16 dogs in an hour? That’s how you do it.”

5-Minute CloudFlare Activation

Lucy notes that it may take more like 10 minutes to actually complete this process, but CloudFlare says it takes 5. Either way, it’s fairly fast.

  1. Fill out their form.
  2. Configure your DNS: This is generally simple to do, if you’ve never done it. Note that if you set up more than one site and already have an account, the information will pre-populate.
  3. Choose the settings: You have a few different options here, but Lucy recommends the “CDN + basic” for optimization and “medium” for security.
  4. Changing nameservers: This aspect is even easier than step 2. You will copy and paste the server information from CloudFlare into the account with your registrar. Do it when traffic is low if possible (late at night in most cases).
  5. If you are a WordPress customer, get the CloudFlare plugin. You will need to grab the API key from the account you just created when installing the plugin.
  6. Wait a few hours, and then you’ll be able to see the effects, both on your site directly and with analytic information in your CloudFlare account.

One more discussion with a real human being before closing up this post. I spoke with Bobby, a 59-year-old teacher, about how to think as quickly as possible. He replied, “Well, I thought everyone knew that you snort a ridiculously massive pile of cocaine off of the papers that you’re grading. Then you grade them really, really quickly. Rule of thumb: everyone gets a B+. Don’t get excited and fail everyone or give them all A’s. B+’s for everyone.”

Conclusion & Continuation

That should give you a basic sense of how CloudFlare works and how to set it up for your site. Next in this series, we will compare CloudFlare to PageSpeed Service for use with WordPress. Finally, we will look at CloudFlare’s story – how a security company became a speed optimization and anti-spam company as well.

Wait, wait: one more thing. No matter how large your site is or what your requirements are, we have a full spectrum of web hosting solutions: VPS, dedicated, and shared. Let us know any questions or if you would like to reply to our continuing “man on the street” survey (we seem to keep getting the same response).

By Kent Roberts

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