How CloudFlare Can Help Your Site

I’m here to introduce (re-introduce for some) the CDN (Content Delivery Network) service we started offering our customers a last year. We partnered with a company called CloudFlare http://cloudflare.com to offer the CDN.  CloudFlare is a cutting-edge CDN provider – and CDN is only one of the many great features they offer.

If you aren’t familiar with CDN, check out the highlights here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Content_delivery_network.

Let me know when you’re done reading.

Are you finished reading yet?

Now?

Ok, so if you didn’t have time to read that article, I’ll go ahead and outline the impact of a CDN.

First, let’s look at web requests without a CDN. When someone makes a request for your site, they have to wait for a single server to respond – no matter where the visitor is making a request from. For example, if I’m  vacationing in New Zealand and make a request for my website, I’ll have to wait for my server in Los Angeles to return the data. Hopefully that made sense. Since a picture is worth a 1000 words, let’s look at the illustration below. As you can see, no matter where the request is made, they all route to a single server.

sydnor1

On the other hand, let’s look at a CDN setup. Imagine that your online business has grossed over 2.38 gazillion dollars. So,you’ve got a bottomless pool of money to invest into your infrastructure. You’re able to have web servers all over the WHOLE WIDE WORLD. The CDN allows you to do just that!– but at an exponentially cheaper cost!

Here’s a diagram of a CDN:

sydnor2

Notice that several servers handle requests for your website. CloudFlare currently has servers in over 23 data centers around the world.

 

Here is the CloudFlare network map:

network-map

The server that responds to your request is dependent on your geographic location. This should improve (decrease the time) the response time for your site. In some cases, response times are cut in half. Also, CloudFlare CDN is capable of serving both static and dynamic content. That’s pretty full of awesome! Wouldn’t you agree?

So far, I’ve described how CloudFlare could make access to your site faster.  But that’s only one of the many benefits of the service. CloudFlare also has tools in place to help minimize attacks on your website. The service has a layer of security that helps prevent the following types of attacks:

  1. Comment spam
  2. Content Theft
  3. Email harvesting
  4.  SQL Injetion
  5.  DDOS Attacks:

In the event that your server goes offline, CloudFlare has a feature called “Always Online.”  The name speaks for itself; if your site goes offline, visitors are presented with an option to view a cached version. I’m sure you would prefer a cached page over an ugly error message on the screen. ;) Now we’ve come to the difficult part of the conversation.  Brace yourself.

You’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, how much is this service going to cost me?”

Well, I’ve got good news for you:you’ve got two options with this service. There is a “Free” and “Plus ” version. Also, there aren’t any bait-and-switches going on here. The Free version of CloudFlare includes all of the features I discussed, plus many more. You’re welcome to enable the “Free” version of CloudFlare on as many domains as you’d like.

The Plus version of CloudFlare includes all that I discussed, of course and there are a few additional bells and whistles. This version has capabilities to optimize content for mobile devices. CloudFlare Optimizer automatically detects the visitor’s browser type, and delivers content in a way that optimizes performance for a particular platform. Your pages look exactly the same as they did before, including any mobile version you’ve created, but they’ll be optimized for the platform. What this means is that your website will be fast on both computers and mobile devices. The Plus version cost only $9.95 a month.

You can learn more about what CloudFlare has to offer with DreamHost here: https://dreamhost.com/partners/cloudflare/

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this article and are intrigued to give CloudFlare a try.

Setting up Cloudflare is fairly simple. You can signup directly through the Domains/Manage section of our Panel https://panel.dreamhost.com/index.cgi?tree=domain.manage&

syndor3

Signing up is really easy! If you sign up through us, its very simple and can be done completely through your control panel integration. There is no hardware or software to install; you don’t need to change your site’s existing code. If you’re ever unhappy, you can turn CloudFlare off just as easily as you enabled it!

Try it out and let us know you what think. If you need help or run into problems, email me at brians@dreamhost.com and I‘ll gladly take a look.