Cloudflare, by definition, is a Content Delivery Network (CDN) consisting of hundreds of data centers located in over 100 countries. Since its founding in 2009 by Matthew Prince, it has grown past only being a CDN platform, expanding its services to include networking and security.
Understanding Cloudflare CDN
A CDN refers to a geographically distributed group of servers that work together to provide fast delivery of internet content.
CDNs have grown in popularity over the last few years, with over half of all web traffic now served by a content delivery network. The adoption of CDNs by major sites such as Netflix, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter, has further highlighted how the technology has become part and parcel of the internet’s infrastructure.
Cloudflare CDN, when properly configured, is also handy when it comes to protecting your website against common malicious attacks such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks.
How does Cloudflare CDN work?
CDNs are networked servers that are connected together with the goal of delivering content as quickly, cheaply, reliably and securely as possible. To achieve this, CDNs are able to track the location of web traffic requests and deliver the content using the nearest servers from that location.
By making connections to the nearest servers, Cloudflare CDN is able to reduce costs and transit times in high-speed data delivery, improving a website’s response time. It is also designed to withstand internet congestions and various types of internet failures that might be associated with a spike in traffic or attacks from DDOS.
Understanding Cloudflare Asset Caching
One of the most important features of a Cloudflare CDN is its ability to store static assets for you in their mega servers once they are requested for the first time. This storage of assets on Cloudflare servers, and away from website servers is called asset caching.
To put asset caching into perspective, assume your website has 300 hundred visitors who are requesting a blog post with 10 images on it. Each of these images is at least 1Mb, therefore, each time a user requests the blog post, your server has to process 10 Mbs of image data, plus handle other requests from the user. These requests multiplied by 300 users create a huge strain on your bandwidth and can impact the performance of your website for other users.
When the remaining 299 users make the same request for the blogpost, what they will get is not the assets from the servers of the website they are making the request from but from Cloudflare servers. This means that the website server will only process a small load of the content being requested, and everything else including image asset delivery will be handled by Cloudflare servers, thereby reducing your server’s bandwidth usage and load time and improving your website’s speeds.
Cloudflare firewall and protection against DDOS
Besides being the leading CDN platform in the world, with almost 10 percent of all global internet traffic going through its servers, Cloudflare also offers protection against brute force attacks and threats against your site. With over 12 million websites already using Cloudflare services, it becomes easy for the platform to identify malicious bots and users more easily than any other firewall or operating system and deal with the problem.
One of the services that the Cloudflare firewall uses to block malicious users, bots and DDOS attacks is using challenges such as CAPTCHAs. These challenges are not displayed to normal users who have not been flagged on your site and are still able to access your website normally. However, suspected malicious users and bots are redirected to a page with these challenges and they are denied to proceed using the site until they are able to solve these challenges.
Cloudflare team are also always coming up with new ways to confront emerging internet security measures, helping websites that use their services become more secure and protected.
DNS management services
Cloudflare also offers Domain Name System (DNS) management services to their clients. This may sound a little complicated, but DNS management services offered by the platform can be accessed and controlled through an Application Programming Interface (API).
When you type a website URL on your browser, it is the DNS records of your website that tell the browser where to go get the destination of the URL request. With Cloudflare, websites are able to keep their DNS records updated, saving time needed to change your server or add a verification record such as those required by Google Search Console.
Benefits of using Cloudflare
Some other benefits that a Cloudflare user enjoys include:
Free SSL: secure sockets layer (SSL) protocol is used to protect websites through authentication, encryption and decryption of data sent over the internet. With a Cloudflare account, users are able to enjoy a free SSL universal certificate, making their website more secure and more likely to be ranked higher by Google search engine which has added SSL to its ranking signals.
Image optimization: Cloudflare polish can help you optimize your website images, increasing the speed it takes to load them.
DNS security: enabling DNSSEC (Domain Name System Security Extension) can help mitigate the request forgery vulnerability and improve your website’s security.
Browser cache management: Cloudflare also manages the website’s browser cache, helping your regular customer to have their websites load faster.
Websockets management: You can be able to forward your web socket traffic to your origin server without any manual configuration needed. Cloudflare WebSockets management also supports SSL.
Load balancing: Cloudflare is also able to distribute your web traffic to multiple servers around the world in a process called load balancing. This also helps in your website optimization and increases the speed of your site.
Still not sure if you should use Cloudflare on your website. Contact us today for a free consultation on Cloudflare and how such a service can help your website and online business to become safe.