Should You Be Using Cloudflare? Benifits and Disadvantages of Cloudflare
Cloudflare is very Popular CDN (Content Delivery Network), one of the very few free CDN that actually work, it has a free service along with paid ones that lets you add your website to a free CDN.
What is a CDN?
Instead of using the original source, the client receives content from the CDN’s server.
Why do this?
- The content delivered has to cover a smaller distance, since cached version of files were already stored in the nearest server, the signal has to travel a shorter distance, effectively reducing the server response time for the user, making the website faster. (This is the main reason why a CDN is used)
- Using CDN reduces the chance of downtime, since there are more than one servers, if one of them goes down, other servers can cover for them.
- Distributes the load between different servers.
Cloudflare is kind of a free CDN but with many other things, it offers more services than just a CDN, most of them security related. There are 2 main reasons to use cloudflare
- Reducing the server bandwidth requirement.
- Having a CDN to make your site faster.
- Security against unauthorized access, reducing the chances of DDOS attacks and addition of an extra layer of security.
There are some some reasons Cloudflare must not be used for some applications which will be discussed below.
Why use Cloudflare?
Cloudflare is free, cheap for paid users and a well known CDN, their servers are one of the best in the world right now, and they offer a lot of services that other don’t. It is most popular for it’s free service. Cloudflare is basiclly a security provider, along with being a CDN.
Here we only focus on the free version of Cloudflare for interest of most users who just want an additional boost to their website rank without incurring an additional cost. Not that paid service is not good, it is required for larger websites with heavy traffic or smaller sites with too much content.
Free members get benefits of a CDN, a free SSL and reduction in bandwidth, ever wondered using a TOR browser how most websites require you to fill a captcha before you can access them, that is a security feature to avoid potential unauthorized or unwanted access. High traffic websites, or websites which are prone to attacks, such as free listing websites, sites allowing comments by a user, sites alloeing user to add or review content must use Cloudflare to reduce the risk of robots eating up their server resources and making their website slower. Cloudflare requires a captcha fill if it finds out bot like behavior or access from a flagged IP address.
It makes your website faster, although using the free service only a few users might see a significant difference, most users do see some difference. It depends on the website, if its a dynamic website with a lot of users like a social network, it probably should avoid using Cloudflare.
It gives you a free extra security layer, it adds SSL to your website, no need to purchase it, also security is good for SEO.
There are certain limitations, it sounds too good to be true, an easy way to optimize your website without spending a dime! Yes, Cloudflare is like that, but it might also create some problems for certain applications that you won’t be willing to compromise over the benefits it provides.
- It stops direct communication with the user, i.e the IP address of the user cannot be easily determined by the website server, instead cloudflare’s IP address is shown, this makes it difficult to operate websites using user’s IP address
- Changes made to website might not reflect to all users for a long time, since cloudflare will use cached versions stored on its server, a change might reflect long after its origin
- User experience might be affected if its a highly dynamic website, this is because everytime a change is made cloudflare will have to access the new information from the main server, load it to its server and then present it to the client, taking longer time, hence slowing down the website even further
- For security related websites, the SSL offered by cloudflare is not as reliable, because there is no security layer between the main server and cloudflare’s servers, its only between Cloudflare and the client
So, these applications have to work around these obstructions to use cloudflare, although these types of website applications are uncommon, one should always check the performance with and without cloudflare or similar services.
Cloudflare is recommended for most websites and they should at least test it out before rejecting the idea, but there are some disadvantages of using it, which might cause problems to an owner of the website using it.
- Their servers are overloaded many times, now with a large number of free users sharing their resources
- They have not been able to completely stop DDOS, actually a website might be adversely effected if another website is attacked under the same network. When one of the server is down, the traffic is distributed over to the rest of the network, slowing down the entire network.
- It is charging for the best of its services, obviously the company exists to make profit and offers a much better service to paid users, they have to reserve a lot of resources for paid users, free users only get a small share of resources which becomes insufficient when under attack, this is why using free service by Cloudflare is no alternative for a real CDN.
Despite if these limitations, using Cloudflare is really recommended, for most of the time, it saves a lot of resources and speeds up the website, it is better than nothing, if you are not willing to get a CDN, SSL and a good cache plugin, using the service have good chances of being effective.