Cloudflare – what it is & why it’s good for you.

In a previous article about the differences between website, DNS, email etc we said Cloudflare plays an important part in how we secure and make steadfast our client’s WordPress websites. In this article, I would like to drill into some of the key reasons here.

CloudFlare has variety of pricing tiers including FREE, PRO BUSINESS (plus they offer some add-ons).

Free is fine, though we often recommend the $20 a month PRO account (I’ll explain why later). I’ll also touch on a key add-on of interest as well.

DNS

At its core, Cloudflare is a DNS service.

DNS is all about resolving answers to questions such as “which IP address do I find the website for GlassMountains.co.uk?’ – which is a question that your web browser (e.g. Apple’s Safari, or Google Chrome) will ask when you try to visit a website.

Having a rock-solid DNS service in place is essential. Flakey DNS is terrible for website uptime and for SEO.

The DNS service offered by Cloudflare is very reliable (and free!). For this reason alone, it’s worth moving to Cloudflare.

Outer Perimeter

However, Cloudflare does not just tell your web browser the IP address of the website and step out of the way; no, Cloudflare can inspect every single request to your website.

Why is this important?

Well for one thing this means CloudFlare can automatically intervene if your website comes under the threat of a DDOS attack. Such attacks can easily overload websites, essentially taking them offline. You may think “why would anyone want to DDOS target little old us?” – some attacks are random; so don’t confuse your obscurity with safety!

Content Delivery Network (CDN)

Cloudflare have an excellent video on this so I’ll spare you the super technical stuff here and simply say this: the further a website visitor is geographically located from where your website is physically located, the longer it will take to load.

And, as we know, any increase in website load time, means a corresponding increase in impatient website visitors abandoning our websites.

A CDN helps to automatically distribute parts of your website’s assets across the globe so they are geographically closer to your website visitors; which means faster load times.

SSL/HTTPS

By default, your website should be served up via HTTPS/SSL – this means that the conversation between the website and the web browser is fully encrypted and therefore not prone to any eves dropping from ne’er-do-wells.

Cloudflare can handle all of this HTTPS/SSL aspect for you. Lessening the configuration you need to do on your website host and perhaps making it even easier to switch website hosts if you should need to.

(I believe you need the Pro plan for this).

Web Application Firewall (WAF)

If you remember, we said earlier that Cloudflare gets to look at all the traffic before it gets to your website. This puts Cloudflare in a very good position to scrutinise traffic, and intercept any harmful requests before it ever gets to your website. Think of it like a nightclub bouncer.

You have to bear in mind that (especially with WordPress) that pattern of a hacking attack can be quite predictable – and if it is predictable then Cloudflare can build firewall rules around it, helping protect your website.

Cloudflare’s Web Application Firewall is part of their $20 a month Pro account and we typically always advise this to our clients as part of an overarching security strategy.

Note: even on Cloudflare’s free account, we believe you’ll get some aspects of WAF protection for free (albeit it invisibly, and not configurable as if you had a Pro account).

Page Rules

Cloudflare’s Page Rules facility allows you to do things like put redirects in place if one of your web pages changes. However, it can do a lot more than that – though it’s probably to much to go into detail here.

The End

And there are even more services which are worth looking at e.g. their Advanced Platform Optimisation forĀ  WordPress, and their website analytics.

Hopefully that convinces you why Cloudflare is a good fit. If you need any help with getting it up and running, please just get in touch.

 

Joel

 

 

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