How to speed up, protect and secure your website with CloudFlare – for free!
- CloudFlare is not particularly a very new player in the Content Delivery Network (CDN) game, but they do lots of things well and boast and brag that thay have more customers than Akamai and Amazon CloudFront combined (about 35% market share they say, as of March 2018, protecting 7,000,000 websites)! That is not a small claim!
- I suppose a contributing factor to that is that they offer a simple and basic set of services for free and offer upgrades for more advanced features. Nevertheless, for a small or start-up business website, the basic and free services are quite useful and help introduce you to the wonderful world of the CDN.
This blog-post will show to you how you can quickly set up CloudFlare and put it in front of your website, in order to save and protect it, speed it up, secure it with a free SSL certificate and more.
1. What is CloudFlare anyway?
- The name that stuck for CloudFlare so far seems to be the ‘Next Generation CDN‘ – but it is a lot more than ‘just’ a Content Delivery Network. Even in the basic or the (free) plan they offer a great set of services aimed at accelerating and incrementing and protecting your website and its visitors from the internet hazards and threats.
- CloudFlare works by taking over your website’s Data Network System and routing all incoming requests through their own network. They don’t host your website for you, they just protect it and for the most part, you don’t actually have to make any changes to your website to activate it!
- If you activate CloudFlare for your own website and configure and customize the DNS properly, the visitors to your website (and most importantly, the attackers) will not be able to see or view and connect to your server’s IP address directly, since CloudFlare sits in front of it and routes requests to your site as if it were hosted on the CloudFlare ‘s personal servers. This prevents the attackers from, for instance, running a DDoS attack on your website that hit your server upfront.
2. Will I need to move my website?
- No, not at all! Cloudflare is not a hosting service, and you do not have to make any changes to your current website or your hosting website. The migration to CloudFlare is just a name-server change for your domain name and then you easily manage your DNS on the CloudFlare’s medium instead of the one you have presently (for example GoDaddy).
- Here are some of the main headlines with the services you can activate easily from the CloudFlare dashboard:
- Long story short, some of the advantages and features that CloudFlare offers you are:
Protects your website and conceals your real server from any threats or attackers
- By taking over your Domain Name Service (DNS), Cloudflare is easily able to hide your real server’s IP address so that the attackers can’t target or aim at it directly. All the traffic goes through Cloudflare’s network and using intelligent analysis and rules and guidelines, it is able to identify if a certain visitor is a regular person, an attacker, a bot, and take action accordingly.
Installs, maintains and updates a free SSL certificate for your web-server or site
- Cloudflare will easily activate a free universal SSL certificate on your website and keep it updated automatically. This means that all of the traffic between your website and your visitors will be securely encrypted and protected from snooping – even without you actually having to install and maintain a SSL certificate on your own server.
- In the year 2020, Google started to rank the websites that use SSL certificates a little higher and now considers ‘https’ to be the standard, instead of the http. CloudFlare’s free SSL certificate achieves just that and it’s absolutely pain – and cost – free! Just ensure that you change your website’s root URL to use https:// instead of the http:// for all of your requests, after you activate CloudFlare.
Protects website against attacks or threats by limiting or challenging suspicious visitors
- CloudFlare is easily able to identify the suspicious traffic or IP addresses with a bad reputation and, depending on your particular selection, you can ask visitors to confirm they are legitimate users and not bots by presenting a challenge page or prevent or retain them from accessing your website for a custom time period. You can easily adjust your security level and even switch to a very tight mode called ‘I’m under attack!’. It enables you to also whitelis or blacklist various IPs (using the IP firewall) or set rules for a Web App Firewall that checks and identifies the integrity of the browser headers and more.
Accelerates and boost traffic and speeds it up by employing caching
- CloudFlare automatically identifies the content from your website that can be cached on their own network and serve that a lot faster to your visitors from the ‘edge’ locations. These are servers in Cloudflare’s network spread around the world that can store your static content, enabling them to actually serve it to your customers from the nearest or the closest location to them – ergo speeding up access and saving you bandwidth.
- You can easily see how many requests have been served from the cache and how much bandwidth they are saving you from your statistics dashboard.
There are plenty of other features that are provided to the users and customers by CloudFlare.
- In this blog-post we took a peek at some of the features that are provided to you by CloudFlare and why you should choose it.
- I hope that I was of some help to you. I hope that I was able to explain to you what CloudFlare is. Have a wonderful rest of your day!
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