We use Cloudflare on every website we manage. You should too.
Cloudflare is an incredibly powerful tool. When a visitor to your website makes a request to view a page, Cloudflare is the first to intercept it. If your website is a busy intersection in a big city, Cloudflare is the the officer directing traffic.
In their role as gatekeeper to your site, Cloudflare can perform all manner of tricks to improve the experience for your website visitors. At they same time, they can neutralize many kinds of attacks and intrusion attempts.
In other words, Cloudflare makes the internet — and your website — faster and safer. That’s why we personally use Cloudflare on all of our sites. Here are the top four reasons we think you should do the same.
1. Changes to your zone file propagate immediately.
If you are building or managing websites, then updating your zone file is an important task. For example, perhaps you are changing email service providers from Google to Microsoft. Or maybe you simply need to add a DKIM signature to improve email deliverability. In these cases, updating the zone file for your domain is imperative.
Unfortunately, working with your zone file using the DNS record editor at your domain name registrar can be frustrating. Changes can take hours or days to spread or propagate across the planet leaving you and your client in a state of limbo. What’s more, there is no notification system to let you know when propagation is complete.
But once a site is set up to work with Cloudflare, changes to your zone files are sent around the Cloudflare network in near-real time. It makes the entire zone file editing experience fast and easy. And allows for rapid experimentation when learning or troubleshooting a DNS problem.
2. Your site is protected from many kinds of attacks and intruders.
Cloudflare includes a solid web application firewall that can protect against a great number of attacks and intruders. Often, suspicious requests to your website don’t even reach your server as Cloudflare intercepts them.
The security area also includes a rule builder that helps you protect, for example, the admin login page and create rules to ensure that you and your team retain access to all areas of the site.
Finally, Cloudflare helps protect against denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks and even tracks the number of threats to your site over time. This lets you examine the attacks for trends such as common IP addresses so you can further protect your site and maximize uptime.
3. Your site is faster everywhere people use it.
Using a CDN thus improves your site load time as the static resources are loading in parallel to the rest of your site and from a second server/network.
Cloudflare includes a CDN absolutely for free. And since Cloudflare has an extensive server network —what they call edge servers — the static resources on your site will load from the edge server geographically closest to the website visitor. This is much faster than if the same assets had to be sent over great distances.
Finally, WordPress users can also take advantage of Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) to speed up their sites. In short, APO is a CDN for the dynamic parts of your site (similar to the static asset CDN described above).
With the Automatic Platform Optimization service, we put your website into our network that is within 10 milliseconds of 99% of the Internet-connected population in the developed world, all without having to change your existing hosting provider.blog.cloudflare.com
APO is a $5 per month addon for free Cloudflare accounts.
4. It’s free!
With the exception of Automatic Platform Optimization, everything noted above is free.
You can also upgrade to a paid plan, or add individual paid features as you prefer, for even more speed, protection and features. But for many sites, the free plan is an easy option that you can upgrade to on a per-site basis as needed.
Other free tools for web designers
If you’re building websites, check out our curated list of free tools for web designers and developers.