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Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load

Andy Vilchez
5 min read
Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load

When creating a website, one of the main things to keep in mind is that you will need to optimize it. One of the best ways to do this is to have a CDN (Content Delivery Network) service, one of the best on the market is Cloudflare. In addition to being one of the best, it also offers a totally free plan with which you can start.

A large part of the internet has its websites with Cloudflare, which causes a massive crash of its servers, which can cause numerous websites to go down. Today, we are going to tell you a little more about Cloudflare and what its main benefits are.

What is Cloudflare?

Cloudflare is a free system that has a proxy function between your site and your visitors.

One of the biggest advantages it has is that it helps reduce the load on your servers. This thanks to the fact that it is in charge of filtering all the traffic that reaches your website.

It was born in 2009 and at that time, it was not the first company to offer this type of service. However, this has been the one that has had the greatest growth.

What is a CDN?

Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load
Cloudflare and its operation.

CDNs were born as a solution to a specific problem and since then they have become a “must” for any website. When you access the website, the browser makes a request to the server where the website is located.

Maybe you are in Spain and the server may be in China, and the response time in each of them is different. To fix this, there are CDNs. These are responsible for making the user connect to the server closest to their location. Basically, they work as a kind of mirror that replicates your site on different servers.

Cloudflare benefits

Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load
Scheme of how Cloudflare works on your website.

Cloudflare has a free plan with which you can start testing the service.

In order to start using it, you will only need to point your DNS to those of cloudflare. All of this will allow you to provide fast DNS and proxy resolution. Even in the free plan, this will provide you with better performance and better security.

Here are four key benefits of using Cloudflare:

Protection against malicious traffic

All traffic going to the website goes through Cloudflare's servers. In this sense, malicious traffic, such as DDoS attacks, comment spam or content scraping, can be detected and filtered or diverted.

Latency reduction

All your website data is cached by Cloudflare, this way, when a visitor accesses your website, they connect to the closest server. With this, latency is reduced, instead of having to load it directly from your server.

Server load reduction

Another benefit of caching is that your server won't have to handle all of your web traffic. In this way, Cloudflare displays an up-to-date copy of your website, which reduces load on your server.

Universal SSL Certificate

Setting up an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) is quite common, so it can be simple, or it can be a headache.

This will mainly depend on your web server and your domain configuration. Automatically, it will provide you with an SSL certificate so that your site has greater security.

What other protections does Cloudflare offer?

Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load
Clouddflare has DDoS protection.

Cloudflare has an extremely useful feature this is "Low Attack Mode" and which can be activated in a really simple way from the control panel.

This is designed to be used only when your site is under an active DDoS attack, and it gives each visitor a JavaScript challenge that they must complete before they can proceed to your site.

Fortunately, this entire process happens in a few seconds without user intervention, to minimize the impact on genuine visitors while stopping as many automated bots as possible.

Plans for companies and businesses

Changing your nameservers may not be ideal if you already have custom DNS settings, such as for an external mail exchanger.

If you are using a custom DNS configuration, you can use the Business or Enterprise plans to configure your custom nameservers and continue to take advantage of the Cloudflare CDN.

In addition to custom nameservers, there are other specialized features offered by Business and Enterprise plans, such as additional page-by-page rules and custom SSL certificates.

What are the limitations of Cloudflare?

Cloudflare: what it is and how to use it to improve your website load
Limitations at Cloudflare.

Content delivery networks like Cloudflare aren't a magic bullet, and being aware of their limitations can help you make more effective use of them.

Here are two cases where you may not want to have Cloudflare enabled:

During the development

One of the main features of this system is the caching of your website data to allow faster loading. This, in turn, means that the changes you make to your site may not appear immediately.

Fortunately, Cloudflare has the option to disable caching for any domain when necessary. Keep in mind that this will affect all visitors to your site.

One option to avoid this without having to disable the cache entirely is to use your DNS hosts file to access your server's IP directly, rather than going through Cloudflare's network.

For real-time data

As before, the cache can work against you if your website data is continually changing, and you want to prevent your visitors from seeing stale data.

Instead of having to disable Cloudflare for your entire site, you can use cache control directives to tell Cloudflare how long to keep your site's resources.