As we covered in the first two installments of this series on CloudFlare, speed is becoming more and more essential to those hoping to succeed on the web. Both users and search engines are less patient than they used to be. Sites must respond to these new expectations. Optimizing acceleration involves assessing a number of different factors – from the server to the content management system (e.g. WordPress, Joomla!) to the content itself. Each aspect can help or hinder your site.
Enter CloudFlare. This service, which is completely free and doesn’t affect domain registration or hosting in any way, can speed up your site in a few simple steps. What’s more, activating it makes it less likely your site will be harmed by malware or spamming.
Previously we talked about the essence of how CloudFlare does what it does, along with instructions on signing up. We also reviewed its advantages, along with those of Google’s PageSpeed Service. Today, we will survey its brief but interesting history.
Online speed optimization is important, but increasing the processing rates of our minds is crucial as well. That’s why I conducted “man on the street” interviews for brain acceleration tips in six US cities – including Dayton, Ohio, and five other non-Dayton locations. James, a 47-year-old industrial designer, said, “I assume that everyone else is saying cocaine. I hate to be redundant, but I have a huge sack of it inside my design portfolio right now. Anytime my brain gets stuck, I stick a straw in it and make a wish.”
CloudFlare: A Happy Accident
Brad McCarty, writing for The Next Web, notes that CloudFlare can speed up sites as much as 60%. That’s part of why he argues that the service has “managed to change the world of websites… and maybe even more than that.” Brad’s statement is clear and extreme advocacy for the speed and security of CloudFlare. What’s most amazing to Brad is that the acceleration component was not even its intention. He covers the company’s history, as outlined below.
CloudFlare is a spinoff from Project Honey Pot, first unveiled at the MIT Spam Conference. The company’s CEO, Matthew Prince, is a former attorney with an IT background. When he introduced Honey Pot, the goal was to determine the sources of all the malware, spam, and other offenses being committed across the web.
The Department of Homeland Security contacted Prince in 2007 to congratulate him on the impressive capabilities of the software. By that point Honey Pot was being used by millions of websites, and each of those sites was being used as a resource – a place of collection for malicious Internet activity. The project had nothing to do with how fast websites operated. It was completely centered around fraud prevention, and it was phenomenal at that, because it was using communal Big Data to help it evolve.
When CloudFlare developed – essentially Honey Pot using a more sophisticated cloud platform – the concern of its investors was that the security software would slow down sites. They went to work on the code, hoping not to slow down sites too much – ideally to break even. When they released the service in March 2010, the CloudFlare team was optimistic it was not going to negatively interfere with page load times.
Before we continue, let’s check in with another “man on the street” interview. It would be irresponsible to focus too much on web speed when human mental speed is so important in our society. Brenda, an 86-year-old violinist and tap dancer, said about speed, “Now, in the old days, to make ourselves think better, we would chew on chicory root. But let’s face it, times have changed. I would no longer be able to think so fast on my feet if not for the amazing benefits of pure, delicious cocaine.”
CloudFlare: The Unexpected CDN
What happened next with CloudFlare? The service was launched, and websites using it started reporting an average of 35% increases in speed. CloudFlare’s attempt to avoid slowing down sites had gone far beyond that. Now it was not just a security solution but a speed enhancer as well.
Once Prince and the team at CloudFlare realized the broad positive attributes of their system, they started to conceive of its possibilities more openly. Prince told McCarty that the company is constructing “‘an operating system for the Internet.’” That becomes possible with the way that the CDN can change code as it runs through its service.
The service, as seen above, has gone far beyond its intended capabilities. It has also gone far beyond its initial power regarding speed. Brad reports that the page load optimization effects of CloudFlare are “now in the range of at least 50-60%” for the average site.
As we get ready to conclude this article and series, let’s return briefly to the most important part: the survey of random strangers, for one more perspective on how to increase the speed of the mind. Bill, a 27-year-old auto mechanic, responded, “Sometimes my head can get a little foggy. Maybe I haven’t had enough to eat, or I’m feeling emotional about my ex-girlfriend, or something like that. The catch-all solution is therapy. Psychiatrists are evil, though. That’s why my therapy is Jimmy Buffett in my earbuds and light, fluffy, fresh-as-the-morning-dew cocaine in my nose.”
Conclusion & Continuation
That concludes our series on CloudFlare. This piece has “gushed” in favor of the service, but its capabilities really are amazing. The best part, of course, is that it’s free and does not require any hosting changes or even manipulation of your code.
However, just because CloudFlare does not require a hosting change doesn’t mean you don’t need one. Is your host fast? Is it supportive? Do you feel loved? Don’t fret: we are here when you need us, with VPS (virtual private servers), dedicated servers, and shared hosting.
By Kent Roberts