Slow-performing websites make people abandon them – a principle proven by our own behavior. Every second matters in a modern world overwhelmed with virtual content that appears closer to us than it actually is. Content takes various forms and is broken into bite-sized pieces for quick consumption, making time an ever more pricey asset.
The second doctrine that we hear a lot is that search engines (with Google being the main player holding over 90% of the market share) prioritize fast-loading sites over slow ones on the SERPs. If you’ve wondered how exactly Google knows about your site’s performance, here’s the shocking truth: Google tracks all users’ click and hover history on its search pages for the past 13 months, accumulating billions of data records daily to learn how users react to search results. If you have a slow site, users will not like it. Google will notice that and not offer it when the next matching query appears, aiming to show more popular results on the search pages. Thus, having a slow site will not just make people leave it quicker; eventually, people will not see it, no matter how relevant your content is.
Fortunately, there are tools to monitor and enhance website performance and load speeds, with Cloudflare hosting being one of the most notable, especially for WordPress sites. Let’s explore what this service offers.
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What Is Cloudflare?
As a reverse proxy, Cloudflare stands between a website’s visitors and the hosting server, offering a blend of performance enhancements and security measures. Cloudflare setup enables efficient content delivery and robust protection against online threats. Widely popular, especially among WordPress users, Cloudflare’s seamless integration enhances site speed and user experience without complex configurations.
The Cloudflare services offer many features that address the performance and security of websites, including WordPress websites. Among all the high-tech processes that can be managed by it, I’d like to point out the following:
- Content Delivery Network. Cloudflare CDN service distributes the website’s content across a global network of servers called Cloudflare Edge cache servers. This data delivery method ensures faster page load times for visitors regardless of their geographic location. Caching content closer to users reduces latency and minimizes server load, which can be particularly beneficial for websites with a global audience.
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Protection. Too much fake traffic, which happens during DDoS attacks, makes the website stop working. When traffic heads towards a website, it first goes through Cloudflare’s network. Here, Cloudflare analyzes this traffic to determine whether it is legitimate. That’s where AI-based technologies are employed to identify characteristics of the attack. The suspicious patterns include unusually high numbers of requests from a single source or traffic that appears to be automated. Legitimate traffic is allowed to the website, while malicious or suspicious requests are blocked. This way, Cloudflare ensures the website remains accessible to genuine users, even during a DDoS attack.
- SSL Encryption. The Cloudflare services facilitate the implementation of SSL, encrypting data transmitted between the website and the user’s browser. This encryption is critical for protecting sensitive information and is key to Google’s SEO ranking. Users will also see the padlock icon in the browser’s address due to the SSL encryption.
- Performance and Security Analytics. Cloudflare’s analytics feature provides comprehensive insights into your website’s traffic, security threats, and overall performance. After implementing Cloudflare, you’ll see detailed statistics on your site’s performance, observing noticeable changes. This includes tracking the number of requests your site receives, the bandwidth used, and the geographical distribution of your site visitors. Additionally, Cloudflare identifies and reports on potential security threats to your website. You’ll also have access to key performance metrics like response times, helping you gauge your site’s efficiency and make informed decisions for further optimization.
WordPress Cloudflare plugin benefits
The Cloudflare WordPress plugin streamlines the integration of Cloudflare services with a WordPress site.
Cloudflare plugin serves two primary functions:
- Automatic configuration. The plugin auto-configures vital settings, optimizing the WordPress site’s performance with Cloudflare.
- Dashboard management. Users can manage key Cloudflare settings directly from the WordPress dashboard. This includes cache purge, security level, image optimization, and viewing analytics like visitor counts and threats blocked.
This functionality eliminates the need to navigate to the Cloudflare.com dashboard, making the process more efficient and user-friendly.
What is Cloudflare APO?
Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) is a paid service introduced by Cloudflare in 2020 and designed specifically for content management systems like WordPress. This feature significantly enhances website performance compared to standard Cloudflare services, especially if the websites contain lots of dynamic data.
APO costs $5 monthly for users of the Cloudflare free plan and is included in all paid plans.
How to Start Using Cloudflare WordPress Plugin
Creating Cloudflare account
First, visit the Cloudflare website and sign up to create your free Cloudflare account. Then, you’ll need to enter your WordPress site’s domain name. Cloudflare will prompt you to select a plan, where you can choose the free option, which offers ample features for most sites.
The next step involves a scan of your site’s DNS records. Make sure the main domain name shows an orange cloud next to it.
Cloudflare will then provide you with a set of new nameservers. These nameservers are crucial as they connect your domain name to your web hosting, and switching to Cloudflare’s nameservers allows Cloudflare to direct traffic to your site and filter out malicious traffic. How you update your nameservers will depend on where your domain is registered. After updating the nameservers, return to Cloudflare to confirm the changes. Remember, the update might take up to 24 hours, so be patient during this period.
Configuring Cloudflare basic settings
There are several basic settings in Cloudflare that will enhance any website’s security and performance:
- Choose the “Full” SSL option to activate HTTPS. This encrypts data between your website and users, also enabling a green padlock in browsers, indicating a secure connection. Remember also to update settings on your WordPress site, which includes updating URLs to reflect the HTTPS protocol. Additionally, enable the “Always use HTTPS” setting to redirect all HTTP requests to HTTPS automatically.
- Enabling the minification during the initial Cloudflare installation will reduce the size of the site’s code. However, if the website already uses a WordPress plugin for minification, avoid enabling this in Cloudflare to prevent conflicts.
- Activating Brotli, a server-level compression tool, helps compress web content, making your site faster to load.
After configuring these settings, monitoring the changes and ensuring that your website functions correctly with these new configurations is essential.
Installing the Cloudflare WordPress plugin
Configuring the Cloudflare WordPress plugin involves a few key steps.
First, install the plugin by searching for “Cloudflare” in your WordPress dashboard.
Then, go to Settings > Cloudflare and click the “Sign in here” link. Enter your Cloudflare account email and API key, which can be obtained from your Cloudflare profile under the API Tokens tab.
After saving your API credentials, you’ll see an option to ”Optimize Cloudflare for WordPress.” Click ”Apply” to automatically adjust the Cloudflare settings for your WordPress site, and that completes the setup.
Cloudflare plans offer various pricing options suitable for different needs.
- The Free plan provides basic performance and security features.
- The Pro plan, aimed at professional websites and blogs, offers enhanced security and performance features and costs $20 monthly.
- The Business plan caters to businesses requiring advanced security and performance, with added customer support, and costs $20 monthly.
- Finally, the Enterprise plan provides comprehensive solutions with advanced features and personalized support tailored for larger organizations with specific needs.
Due to its multifaceted nature, Cloudflare and, subsequently, the Cloudflare plugin can be compared to a wide range of services that offer CDN and aim to strengthen the WordPress site’s security and optimize performance. Here are several Cloudflare alternatives, each having its own advantages and disadvantages.
Sucuri Security is a versatile security plugin for WordPress, offering both free and premium versions. The free version includes features like security activity auditing, file monitoring, malware scanning, blacklist checks, and basic DOS/DDOS attack protection. The premium version, priced between $200-$500/year, adds advanced protection against automated and brute force attacks, enhancing site performance through caching.
Compared to Cloudflare, Sucuri stands out with its malware scanning and cleaning capabilities, while Cloudflare offers superior DDoS protection and a global CDN.
KeyCDN focuses on speeding up website content delivery and reducing latency. It offers a range of features like real-time analytics, DDoS protection, and a user-friendly control panel. While KeyCDN does not have a dedicated WordPress plugin, it is compatible with WordPress and can be integrated using various caching plugins, such as WP Rocket and Super Cache. The service offers competitive pricing, charging based on the bandwidth used and region, starting from $0.01/GB.
KeyCDN and Cloudflare both include CDN services, but they have different focuses and features. KeyCDN offers speed and efficiency with a pay-as-you-go pricing model. It’s particularly user-friendly and cost-effective for those with varying bandwidth needs.
Cloudflare, on the other hand, provides a broader range of services, including advanced DDoS protection and a web application firewall, in addition to its CDN. Cloudflare’s free tier also makes it an accessible option for small businesses. Finally, Cloudflare perfectly integrates with WordPress websites, enabling managing its services from the website dashboard, while its APO functionality increases loading speeds for dynamic websites.
While lacking high-end security features, it’s user-friendly with a simple signup process (just provide your email address) and a helpful dashboard. The pricing varies by region, starting from $0.01 per GB in Europe and North America. Bunny.net is a cost-effective, easy-to-set-up option, particularly suitable for beginners exploring CDN services for their WordPress sites.
Cloudflare is a service that improves website performance and security. It acts as a reverse proxy, sitting between visitors and the website’s server.
Yes, Cloudflare offers a basic free plan that includes essential features like Cloudflare CDN and basic security. There are also paid plans with additional features for advanced needs.
Automatic Platform Optimization (APO) for WordPress is a paid feature by Cloudflare that enhances the performance of WordPress sites by caching dynamic content to reduce load times.
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers distributed globally that work together to provide fast delivery of Internet content by caching data closer to users.
DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service, is an attack where multiple compromised systems flood the bandwidth or resources of one or more web servers to make them unavailable to users.
Cloudflare stands out as the best overall CDN solution, offering free WordPress CDN services. Indeed, it features the widest network of servers worldwide compared to all other alternatives.
Acting as a preliminary guard between the site and the Internet environment, it excels in protecting sites from bots, viruses, and malware before they can enter. This protection is powered by AI technologies, enabling Cloudflare to continuously learn and filter out harmful elements, thus shielding the site from the consequences of DDoS attacks.
Cloudflare also integrates seamlessly with WordPress, managing its services through a user-friendly plugin. Its APO technology, included in all paid Cloudflare plans, is specifically designed to meet the needs of dynamic WordPress sites. However, Cloudflare is not just a regular security plugin focusing on speed latency; it’s best used in conjunction with dedicated security and anti-malware plugins.