Cloudflare

Cloudflare is an Internet company offering various services that contribute to building a better Internet. Their most well-known offering is their content delivery network (CDN), though they also provide additional security and performance services.

Their CDN operates over 250 data centers to accelerate web page load times for visitors globally and protect websites against distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS).

What Is Cloudflare?

Cloudflare is a website performance and security company with the mission of “Building a Better Internet.” They have established an expansive global network of servers designed to speed up web pages, offer security services, mitigate DDoS attacks and ensure visitors enjoy an exceptional experience on your site. Often known as a Content Delivery Network (CDN), Cloudflare also offers many additional services to make loading times faster, while making security greater than ever before.

Cloudflare provides an answer by hosting website data closer to visitors’ computers.  This method, known as Edge Computing, drastically decreases the time required for data to reach user computers.

Once a visitor makes a request to the Cloudflare server, they’ll search their cached version of your page before providing it directly to them.  This can drastically cut loading times and ensure they have an optimal experience while giving your own web server time to deliver any other necessary content not cached yet.

Cloudflare system also provides additional filtration for security. By acting as an intermediary between website visitors and host servers, Cloudflare can block malicious traffic, detect DDoS attacks, remove bot traffic, limit spam and block malicious attacks.  This gives your website protection from bad actors while remaining accessible to all visitors, regardless of any censorship policies in their ISPs or policies in other places.

Cloudflare works best when seen as a reverse proxy with extra features. Virtually every website relies on DNS resolution services provided by its ISP to translate names into numeric addresses used for transmission over the Internet.  This process may be slow and unreliable, but with Cloudflare’s 1.1.1.1 DNS resolution feature you can experience faster response times with unrivalled redundancy.

How Does Cloudflare Work?

Cloudflare works by caching your static content across servers worldwide and then providing it directly to visitors based on their location, which significantly decreases site load times. Furthermore, their network offers protection from malicious activity, as well as restricts bandwidth hogs who could compromise the integrity of your website.

At its core, website visitor browsers make a request of your web server that your server then processes and sends back. This cycle continues each time someone visits your website putting strain on web servers as they must download all assets (HTML, CSS, JS and images) each time someone comes online.

Cloudflare stores a copy of all your website assets (HTML, CSS and JS) across its global network of data centers for easy retrieval by visitors. When someone visits your site, Cloudflare serves up its page from one of its nearby data centers to save processing time and bandwidth use, as it loads quickly compared to downloading from your server directly.

Cloudflare provides more than just caching services, they perform numerous other tasks to optimize website performance and security.  These include DNS (Domain Name System) caching to ensure Internet users access the correct servers through easy-to-remember names instead of numbers, DDoS protection, email obfuscation, and threat blocking as security services provided as a part of its Security as a Service offering.

If you’re ready to give Cloudflare a try, the first step should be creating a free account on their website. Next, change your domain’s DNS settings so all traffic passes through Cloudflare network, this should take a few hours.  Afterwards your site should load faster, while security should also increase significantly! 

Cloudflare Benefits?

Cloudflare is a content delivery network (CDN) and reverse proxy server that can provide many performance and security benefits to your website, including protection from DDoS attacks which could prove devastating without timely prevention. While most sites use Cloudflare free, paid upgrades are available.

The primary advantage is speeding up your website, which can play an essential role in visitor satisfaction and SEO. Furthermore, DDoS attacks and other forms of hacking have become more frequent over time and may force unprotected websites offline for extended periods.

Cloudflare also makes your non-dynamic assets available quickly, which can reduce visitor bandwidth usage significantly and speed up site performance, by eliminating the need for browsers to contact servers every time they need something from them.

Cloudflare can help your website gain an SSL certificate, which is beneficial both in terms of SEO and security. However, be mindful that traffic between your servers and Cloudflare will still be visible on the public Internet backbone, something which could pose problems if you run an ecommerce store or host sensitive client data.

As for other benefits, they provide robust security options like Web Application Firewall on premium plans to enhance performance and security on websites. In addition, Always Online feature ensures visitors will see a cached version of your website, should your main one go down due to technical difficulties or downtime.

Cloudflare also provides apps that can add extra functionality to your site, including SmartErrors which replaces dull 404 pages with suggested links, and UserVoice which enables you to collect feedback from visitors. In addition, there are apps designed specifically to optimize websites for mobile use.  RocketLoader automatically asynchronously loads JavaScript resources, while AMP assists your site appear in Google search results on mobile devices.

How To Set Up Cloudflare?

Cloudflare setup begins by changing your domain nameservers so they point directly to them (using those they provide). This is not an instant process, as local internet service provider DNS caches have to update before these nameservers take effect. Once changed, be sure to check their functionality by visiting Cloudflare tab and clicking “Check nameservers.”

Once your domain is set up with Cloudflare, their edge servers will start serving its content from around the globe, speeding up page loads significantly while also offering security and performance features like Smart Routing, DDoS protection, image optimization, and more to improve visitor experiences.

Cloudflare features are free, though if you want more advanced settings enabled you’ll have select a paid option. One key feature is probably Web Application Firewall which protects websites against DDoS attacks and other threats.  Other helpful features are Flexible SSL, which enables visitors to choose whether to access via HTTP or HTTPS connection, and Speed Index which enables you to determine how fast web pages load for each visitor.

One of the great features of Cloudflare is how easy it is to customize its settings by creating page rules. This enables you to quickly apply specific Cloudflare settings to different parts of your site, which can be particularly helpful if it generates dynamically-generated websites. Furthermore, you can configure image optimization, development mode settings, and much more!

Cloudflare also offers additional features to make your site even more efficient, such as Crawler Hints (which avoid wasteful crawls of your site by only sending search engines the most recent version), and Rocket Loading (which reduces how much data is transferred between web server and visitor browser), both of which you can find more information on by visiting their website.

DDoS

DDoS stands for Distributed Denial of Service, a malicious attack that aims to overwhelm a target system, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate users. These attacks are orchestrated by a network of compromised devices, often referred to as a botnet, which flood the target system with an overwhelming amount of traffic, rendering it unable to function properly.

Direct Denial of Service (DDoS) is a specific type of DDoS attack where the attacker directly floods the target system with a massive volume of traffic. Unlike other forms of DDoS attacks, which utilize a botnet to distribute the attack traffic, direct denial of service attacks are executed by a single source or a small group of sources. This makes them relatively easier to detect and mitigate compared to their distributed counterparts.

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