Better WordPress Websites With CloudFlare

Better WordPress Websites With CloudFlare

Improving Your Website With CloudFlare

CloudFlare is a free Content Delivery Network (CDN) service that can help optimize and secure your WordPress website.

Up until just recently, I was under the impression that CDNs were for paying customers only. CloudFlare, along with a few other companies, now offer CDN services for free which help to improve website performance and also provide an extra layer of security for your website. This service works alongside your usual hosting which makes it very easy to get started.

Here’s how it works. After creating your CloudFlare account, you enter the domain name of the website you want to optimize with CloudFlare’s CDN. CloudFlare scans your DNS records and shows them to you, then allowing you to add or edit the records. Once you have verified the DNS records are all correct, you simply change the name-server records on your domain to point to CloudFlare’s (they give you a primary and secondary name-server to use). Your website can now take advantage of CloudFlare’s features:

  1. Your content is distributed around the world to CloudFlare’s servers, ensuring your site content will be relatively close to your visitor’s location. This reduces the loading time of your site and you benefit from all the good things that come along with that (better SEO, better retention, etc)
  2. CloudFlare can optimize your content by minifying JS, CSS and HTML files as well as asynchronously loading scripts that can cause longer page-render times. It will also concatenate (merge) Javascript files into 1 file which reduces the number of HTTP requests to the server.
  3. You benefit from enhanced security as CloudFlare leverages the knowledge of a diverse community of websites to help identify and block threats such as comment spam, excessive bot crawling, malicious attacks like SQL injection and denial of service (DOS) attacks. CloudFlare provides automatic security protection against all of these types of threats.
  4. In addition to other analytics applications such as Google Analytics, CloudFlare also provides insights into your website traffic. In particular, you are able to easily view the search engine crawler traffic as well as threat monitoring.
  5. Since CloudFlare now serves some of your website’s cacheable content, you also save bandwidth on your usual hosting provider. This isn’t usually an issue these days as many hosting providers don’t set limits on bandwidth; however, it could be useful in some cases.

If you’re interested in adding an ad banner or installing Google Analytics (assuming you haven’t yet), CloudFlare also provides one-click installation of a fairly lengthy list of web apps that can ad more functionality to your website.

What really impresses me about CloudFlare’s service is its uber-simple setup process, the amount of web optimization you get and of course the fact that it’s free!

If you’re running a WordPress website and are already using a caching plugin, that’s ok; CloudFlare is complimentary to those optimizations. It is recommended that you install CloudFlare’s WordPress plugin, which, among other things, allows you to put your site into “development mode” which by-passes CloudFlare’s accelerated cache and lets you see your changes right away. Note that this is only necessary if you’re making changes to “cacheable content” likes images, CSS or JavaScript. If you’re simply posting a new page or blog article, this content is pulled dynamically from your usual server and you will see it published immediately regardless of whether you are in development mode or not.

With all the advantages CloudFlare provides in terms of performance and security (and at the right price-point no less!), I highly recommend it for your WordPress or non-WordPress website.