About the author

Jay Holtslander is the Technical Director at Skunkworks Creative Group. Prior to joining Skunkworks he was a CompTIA certified owner/operator of an I.T. services firm, and more recently founded Canada's first PCTIA accredited coding school. Jay's has been working with the internet since 1995 and his first computer was a Tandy TRS-80 Color that had cassette tapes for a hard drive.


Cloudflare is the preferred nameserver provider of Skunkworks because many independent tests have shown it to be the best managed DNS solution available. Cloudflare comes out on top in comparisons even when matched against other top tier providers such as DNSMadeEasy, DynDNS, Amazon Route 53, and Google Cloud DNS. Source, Source, Source

With investments made by Microsoft and Google, Cloudflare has built one of the most state-of-the-art DNS systems in the world which adhere's to CIRA's "Seven Best Practices for External DNS".

It is a freemium service that acts as the authoritative nameserver for a domain and accelerates and secures websites by acting as a proxy between visitors and the hosting servers. With CloudFlare, domain owners can protect their website against malicious visitors, save bandwidth and greatly reduce average page load times that will help the client's website rank better.  

Aside: Cloudflare also provides the worlds fastest recursive DNS service as well but it does lack the controls of OpenDNS.


The key take away for I.T. folks

Full access to DNS is maintained by your I.T. company. It's just one more login for your client record. More technical details on what you can expect can be found here.


Why?

Many registrars like GoDaddy, Register.com, or Network Solutions provide authoritative DNS service for domains you register with them. Unfortunately authoritative DNS is often underinvested in and servers allocated to it are overloaded. 

See also: Why a firm should have their own Cloudflare account

Advantages of CloudFlare

There are many many benefits to using CloudFlare over a registrar's or hosting provider’s service.

  • Site Performance Improvement - CloudFlare has proxy servers located throughout the world which are located closer to site visitors; this makes page load speed improvement possible as the cached content is delivered from the closest caching box rather than directly off your host’s servers.
  • Mobile Device Optimization - Various technologies, such as Rocket Loader and AutoMinify, come together to make web pages as fast and efficient as possible no matter what device is visiting the site.
  • Bot and Threat Protection - CloudFlare uses data from its own community, Project Honey Pot and other third party sources to identify malicious threats online and stop attacks before they even get to your site. You can see which threats are being stopped by accessing your CloudFlare dashboard.
  • Spam Comments Protection - CloudFlare leverages data from third party resources to reduce the number of spam comments on your site.
  • Alerting Visitors of Infected Computers - CloudFlare alerts human visitors with infected computers that they need to take action to clean up the malware or virus on their machine. Visitors can then enter a CAPTCHA to gain access to the site.
  • Offline Browsing Mode - In the event that your hosting’s servers are unavailable, visitors are often able to access the site since CloudFlare serves visitors a page from its cache.
  • Lower Resource Usage - As fewer requests hit the host’s servers, the overall CPU usage of the hosting is reduced. Even with a traffic surge, the server will stay online as CloudFlare absorbs the requests.
  • Site Statisticss - CloudFlare gives insight into search engine crawlers, and threats and legitimate traffic in easy to read formats.
  • SSL Support - Basic SSL from Comodo is available for free through CloudFlare.
  • Superior Architecture - Learn more.
  • Access control and User Management - Learn more

How does CloudFlare work?

Once CloudFlare is enabled for a website, it is designated as the authoritative name servers; this allows CloudFlare to clean and accelerate web traffic as all requests to the website are now routed through CloudFlare. With network routing technology and 23+ data centers around the world, CloudFlare is able to:

  • Bring visitors the fastest connection possible - CloudFlare’s global Anycast network routes customers to the closest datacenter, resulting in a website loading twice as fast for your visitors no matter where they are located.
  • Screen your website’s traffic for malicious visitors - CloudFlare receives requests for a website and analyzes them to determine if a visitor is a threat based on the visitor’s IP, the resource being requested, the payload being posted and how frequently requests are being made among other things. Threats are blocked and good visitors are able to quickly access the pages they request.
  • Cache static content on your site - CloudFlare caches static content on websites like images, JavaScript and CSS, but not HTML or PHP. Cached content is refreshed frequently and delivered directly to visitors from a local CloudFlare data center at an extremely fast speed. Even when data is not cache-able, CloudFlare is able to respond to requests just as fast by using premium routes.
  • Optimize your web content - Rocket Loader technology is included in all CloudFlare plans (even the free one) and helps websites to more efficiently process requests for third party scripts like apps, widgets and tags. Rocket Loader ensures that no script blocks web page content from loading by bundling all script requests into a single request and loading them one at a time.

Security features

Performance details

The Google PageSpeed score which is factored into Page rank can improve instantly by 10-20 points simply by utilizing CloudFlare. This makes CloudFlare an enormous boost for the website's SEO. 


A real world example


Before
After
Load time
17.56s
5.89s
Perf. grade
75
81
http requests
83
31
Page size
6.1 MB
3.2 MB

The site above still needs much love to bring it closer to the desired 2 sec. or less load time but at least it got to the several year old benchmark of under 6 seconds.


Below you can see how CloudFlare’s free offering compares to a premium "Business grade" offerings from another providers.

(Lower values = better.)


Other features


Caveats

Cloudflare's free SSL Certificates from Comodo work with modern browsers and operating systems but older browsers may not be compatible. This is because they don't support SNI. Learn more: What browsers work with Cloudflare's SSL certificates?

This Microsoft support article also may be of help for IE 9 & 10 users.


*