Using Cloudflare for Your Website
What are your thoughts on Cloudflare’s service?
This question was answered on July 19, 2018. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.
Anyone that relies on a website to conduct business either online or offline should always be on the hunt for improved security and reliability, so Cloudflare is certainly worth the consideration.
A typical webserver that’s connected directly to the Internet is a much easier target for the bad guys, so services like Cloudflare create a line of defense that removes you from the ‘easier to exploit’ crowd.
What Cloudflare Does
The infrastructure setup by Cloudflare is known as a Content Delivery Network (CDN - https://goo.gl/wdZ4At) with a host of security layers added for protection.
When your website is hosted on a single webserver, if anything happens to that ‘single point of failure’ or if the traffic spikes too high, your company can effectively disappear from the Internet (404 Not Found).
A CDN duplicates your website’s information on a wide variety of webservers around the globe (151 data centers in Cloudflare’s case), which will generally improve the speed at which your site comes up no matter where in the world your user is coming from. It will also reduce your bandwidth costs because your primary webserver is no longer serving every request.
Imagine if Facebook tried to serve the needs of over 2 billion users from one webserver…it would never work.
Powerful CDN’s were initially for websites with lots of traffic - and deep pockets - but they’ve become very affordable for any size business these days.
Another benefit is that should your primary webserver ever go down, the cached versions on the CDN will continue to deliver your information to visitors even though your webserver is down.
Cloudflare has enhanced their CDN with security features that can help if your website becomes the target of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack (https://goo.gl/yJi29X). DDoS attacks are designed to take a website down by overloading it with excessive traffic from a large number of computers.
It denies service to legitimate visitors of your website because it’s too busy trying to serve all the fake visitor traffic.
Think of it as trying to call a radio station during a contest when everyone else is trying to call as well…you’re going to get a busy signal unless you’re really lucky.
Cloudflare also allows you to create customized ‘page rules’ such as blocking specific countries or IP addresses to further secure or improve performance of your website.
There is no hardware to purchase and it doesn’t require you to move your website, so the setup is pretty simple and quick. You just need to sign up for an account, scan your domain’s DNS records and then choose the ones that you want to start using Cloudflare on and follow the instructions to update the nameservers for your domain.
It can take up to 72 hours for the updates to propagate, which they’ll confirm with an email. During this transition period, everything will work as it always has, so there’s no downtime to get it started.
Free vs Pro
Cloudflare makes it pretty easy to evaluate because their basic service is free. Their Pro plan -which we’ve been using on our website for years - is $20 per month and adds several very useful features and capabilities (https://goo.gl/56SbKB).
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Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on July 19, 2018