Cloudflare CDN Beginner Tutorial

In the battle for speed, every millisecond counts online. In today’s post, I want to walk you through one of the best things you can do for your website’s speed and security. It’s called, Cloudflare – it’s 100% free, and 100% helpful to improving your website’s performance.

Interested? Thought so. Let’s go!

The problem of the World-Wide Web

The internet is a beautiful thing, bringing the world’s information to your fingertips.

When you first get set up with your hosting provider, you get your own little hard drive in the sky. A computer that lives somewhere in a data-center, that will spread your website, your message, and your inspiration to the world.

While this all seems magical at first, there is a slight wrinkle in the ointment.

The Ping Problem – It’s a big world out there

And attention spans are getting shorter. This introduces the problem of ping.

Ping is the time it takes for your visitor’s computer to find and connect to your website. The farther away your visitor is from your web host’s physical location, the longer it can take to connect.

Makes sense, right?

So if your data center is in Chicago, but your visitor is coming from Thailand, it will take much longer for them to find your website than if your web host was also in Thailand.

This can add several seconds onto the load speed of a website, and can impact people actually sticking around to seeing your awesome content.

While it may seem like a problem without a solution – CDN’s come in to save the day!

What is a CDN?

A CDN is not some oil that makes all your troubles go away… but I guess you could say it is the internet equivalent of it! CDN stands for Content Delivery Network, and it does exactly what it sounds like.

Your CDN will create a network of computers that all work together to optimize the delivery of your website.

In other words, it will take the content from your main web host, and duplicate it all around the world.

So now, when someone from Thailand visits your site, your CDN will smartly look for the best server to serve your site from, and it will speedily serve it right up!

Awesome and simple visual of the speed benefit of CDNs

What are the benefits of a CDN?

While speed is a major benefit, it is definitely not the only reason to plug into one. CDNs also help you use less bandwidth (saving you hosting money), increase your security, and enhance other apps in your WordPress site. Let’s take a quick look:

Reducing site bandwith through CDNs

Most web hosts charge you more as your traffic and bandwidth increase. Using CDNs, you can offload a lot of that bandwidth to the network of computers that are storing your site. This reduces the burden on your own host and allows you to stay on my entry-level plans for longer.

This benefit multiplies if you have client sites that you manage, as you are able to keep all the bandwidth on your host low.

How a CDN secures your website

When you first start out, security probably isn’t your first concern. But as your site grows, it becomes increasingly important to ensure your site is protected from any malware and malicious bot.

Luckily, CDNs come to the rescue here as well.

Because CDNs like Cloudflare serve such a large percentage of websites through their distributed networks, they have learned a thing or two. They have built up a massive (and ever growing) list of malicious domains, IP addresses, and other identifiers that indicate a threat to your website.

So if a bot or hacker tries to get into your site, the CDN can step in as a first line of defense and prevent the bad guy from ever getting to your actual server. Pretty neat!

A CDN can prevent downtime to your site

Most web hosts have solid 99%+ uptime, but nobody’s perfect. But if you have a CDN installed, your visitors will think you are!

That’s because if your site goes down – your CDN will be able to keep the most recent copy in its own memory and serve that to your users.

So while your actual website my have gone down, you have hundreds of duplicates that are humming along just fine!

Why Cloudflare vs the others?

This article is focused on Cloudflare, but there are definitely other players in the space:

  • MaxCDN
  • Amazon CloudFront
  • Akamai Edge
  • Fastly
  • and many more

Which one should you use? Well if you are first starting out with CDNs (which you probably are since you are reading this), costs matter.

And Cloudflare offers an incredibly valuable service for free. No limits on bandwidth, no limits on the number of sites that can be protected, and it provides all the features you would need when just getting started.

MaxCDN is another popular provider that starts at $21 / month, but I honestly have been happy with my Cloudflare experience and have no need to shop around any more.

Cloudflare also integrates with a ton of other plugins and services. When you install popular caching or optimization plugins, you will likely see Cloudflare’s name somewhere in the settings.

For example, ShortPixel (a popular image optimization plugin) will connect directly into Cloudflare to make sure that the most optimized images are being served to your visitors around the world. Very useful!

What are the problems with CDNs like Cloudflare?

With every additional feature you add to your website, you are going to add a small amount of complexity.

When you add a CDN to the mix, you are essentially going to change where the internet is looking for your content. I have seen small reports of a short-term SEO dip when first enabling a CDN, but I wouldn’t let that really concern you. Online business is a long term game, and increasing the stability and speed of your site is an easy trade-off to make.

The other consideration is on general complexity. If you have a caching plugin like WPRocket or W3 Total Cache, you will now have 2 different places to clear your memory: Your plugin cache and your Cloudflare cache:

Clearing Cache, step 1…
Clearing Cloudflare Cache (Step 2)

There is a useful WordPress plugin that attempts to keep your Cloudflare settings in sync with WordPress that you can also check out if you’d like.

How to install Cloudflare?

The video below will walk you step by step the entire setup process to put Cloudflare onto your site. Enjoy!

Timestamps for video:

  1. What is a CDN and why should you get one? (0:45)
  2. Sign up for free Cloudflare account (4:45)
  3. Enter your domain name to add to Cloudflare (5:05)
  4. Update your DNS name servers on your domain registrar (6:30)
  5. Explore Cloudflare (7:30)
  6. Warnings when you are first starting with Cloudflare (8:30)

Wrap-up

There you have it – everything you need to know to get started with Cloudflare. Now go improve your site speed, security, and overall awesomeness!

Your turn: Do you use a CDN on your site? Which one do you think is best? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Video Transcript

what if I was to tell you there is a

magic service that makes a website

faster more secure and saves you money

on your web hosting and it’s 100% free

well there is and in this video I’m

going to tell you all about content

delivery networks let’s go ahead and

dive in everybody John here from end can

mesh comm my goal is to help you find

the perfect tool for your next project

and in today’s video we are going to

upgrade one of my dummy sites one of the

sites I play around with by installing a

brand new CDN called CloudFlare but

let’s take a step back and talk about

what a CDN is why it’s important why it

saves you money and why you should

really be considering installing it on

every single one of your websites that

you own ok let’s go for it ok so first

things first what is CDN and what does

it stand for well a CDN is a content

delivery network and what that means is

that instead of having a single web host

a single computer on the cloud that

serves all your information to your

visitors of your website you’re able to

distribute all that information across

hundreds of data centers a hundreds of

computers across the world so that you

can intelligently route your website to

your visitor based on whatever is more

convenient and faster for them so that’s

a really awesome thing right there and

we’ll be talking about CloudFlare in

this video but there are many CDNs

available that you could sign up with

CloudFlare it has amazing support it has

amazing integrations with a bunch of

plugins and WordPress tools and hosts as

well it’s also 100% free for unlimited

bandwidth they make their money because

I have other upsells and you know

additional bells and whistles you can

tack onto the service but for beginning

entrepreneurs it really is not needed at

that stage in the game and if you pair

up a CloudFlare service with a caching

plug-in maybe an image optimization

plug-in you will be doing incredibly

well for your page speeds and your load

speeds so why am I talking about this

today well I ran a speed test report and

honestly this is a terrible result this

is one might play websites and it’s

partially because I upgraded to

Gutenberg and maybe I did that a little

too soon it really seems to have hurt my

performance but when you’re running

speed tests one of the things that they

recommend that everybody does on their

speed test is to use a content delivery

network

they also say that’s a medium priority

it’s not a high

priority like images or making fewer

external HTTP requests but it’s a pretty

important thing to do and that’s because

CDNs reduce the amount of ping or

latency that your visitors have to

experience before they can get your

content and what that basically means

it’s the time lag between when they hit

the enter button to find your website

and they actually make contact with the

server that has all your files and then

the the downloading can happen from

there so reducing ping is one of the big

things that a CDN can do for you another

thing that CD ends do is they help you

by protecting your site against kind of

malicious people you know bad bad people

that are out there and it does that

because hold on let me just find that

page real quick let’s go to cloud

players home products CDN and so here

you can kind of see a visualization of

that so this is how CloudFlare works and

basically your origin server may be

somewhere here in the middle of the

country but it’s going to distribute

that content all to all these other data

centers so that wherever your visitors

are coming from they’re always going to

get served the information from the

closest possible place which reduces

your ping there which is that 9

milliseconds here this is kind of the

standard version here whereas

everybody’s pinging that one web host

and this is going to do really two

things one is it going to slow down the

time they’re gonna get the information

they’re looking for but it’s also going

to you know greatly increase the number

of requests they’re being made from your

host server so if you are you paying by

the bit you know we all kind of have

caps on how much bandwidth we can have

with our web hosts what it’s happening

on this CloudFlare version is it’s

actually sending versions of your

website out to CloudFlare every now and

then but not that you know not so much

not with so much frequency that it

really hurts your overall bandwidth but

here every single time some is going

into your server is making another

request so that can add up to bandwidth

over time and I kind of shows that as

well and the other thing that is really

beneficial is some of the security

measures that are kept in place with C

DNS and essentially because so many

hosts use these content delivery

networks to protect their content these

CloudFlare is able to build up this huge

database of all the know knows all the

bad people that are out there and are

able to intelligently protect you from

them as they’re going along so that’s

enough benefit of the content delivery

networks I have more details in the blog

post I’ll link in the description below

but let’s go ahead and actually install

this guy into one of my new websites so

to do that we’re just going to go to

CloudFlare comm we’re going to sign up

for a new set up it’ll ask you to get

started and I’ll put in my email address

here and then you can if you want to get

their information or not you can click

there and create an account and that’s

pretty easy so no even need to go and

confirm your website at this point you

probably will at some point though we’ll

add our site and I’m gonna add

conversion sandbox

to this guy it’ll add that in and what

this is going to do at this point is go

and kind of explore kind of look to see

all the different things you have going

on with that website and it’s doing it

all on its own

no technical need for you at the moment

so that’s what it’s just saying it’s

gonna figure out automatically importing

all your DNS records so we’ll go ahead

and hit next here and then you select

your plan I’m gonna go with the free

plan on this one you can see it gives

you that global content delivery network

unmetered mitigation of DDoS this is one

of the security attacks that can happen

on your on your site and a free SSL as

well so if you look at what you get

additionally you know firewalls mobile

and image optimization so image

optimization is awesome but for $20 a

month you can get a awesome plugin to do

that on your website as well and then

additional page rules so not a whole lot

more to go to that $20 per month which

is why I recommend just get started with

the free plan and then grow it if you

need to will see one free website and

confirm okay so now it’s going to go and

find all the DNS records here and I yeah

so you got all these different records

here and if you are techy you can try to

you know adjust these or make it

whatever you needs to be I am NOT so I’m

gonna go ahead and continue let’s take a

look at it real quick I’ll say continue

and now it’s going to give you to all of

these name servers it’s gonna give you

two name servers this is the most

technical side of the entire process

so what you’re gonna want to do here is

get log in to where you registered your

domain not necessarily your web host so

you may use GoDaddy or Namecheap to

register your domains but then host your

websites with SiteGround at Bluehost or

one of those so you need to find your

domain registrar for this website for

whatever reason I have it a registered

at in motion hosting so I’m gonna go

here and go to point my domain and you

can see this is where my is pointing to

Bluehost I’m gonna remove those guys and

go back into CloudFlare and take Fiona

and put Fiona into my primary and take

Zeus and take the Zeus into my secondary

and I’ll submit those okay so now I see

that my request has been completed on my

domain registrar’s side let’s head back

to CloudFlare comm and say continue and

there’s some help here if you need help

getting started there but we’ll say

continue and boom so you are literally

done with the setup here so what’s going

to happen is it’s going to take some

time for the internet to realize you

made those changes and it’s going to

start populating CloudFlare and doing

all sorts of cool things so give it a

day or so normally doesn’t take a full

day but give it some time to propagate

but we’re gonna go ahead and just kind

of poke around here and what you’ll be

able to see which we can probably see in

my other accounts here but we won’t go

into that right now but you’ll be able

to see exactly how much CloudFlare is

saving you you’ll be able to see how

many requests are being made through

CloudFlare how many of them are cached

and how many are uncashed and uncashed

basically means it’s having to actually

hit your real web hosts but the cached

are ones that never that traffic never

even hits your web host it’s pretty

awesome you’ll see the bandwidth you’ve

saved by doing this and all sorts of

cool things and your you’ll even be able

to set up different speed settings so

minification all these different things

which you know I’m not the most

technical to be able to go through what

all these do but I will kind of give you

a word of warning here you have to be

careful if you have w3 total cache or WP

rocket or one of those caching plugins

or maybe even caching provided by your

host like I know site ground has their

site ground optimizer as well the more

time you stack the same thing on top of

each other so for instance it you’d

stack minification on

one tool and the minification on

CloudFlare you can start to get some

weird results so leave the default

settings on for at first make sure you

get CloudFlare running and see if your

websites are responding as it should and

then if you want to go and continue to

tweak to your heart’s content

do one setting at a time and just check

to make sure that it doesn’t do any

damage to your website okay a little

public service announcement that’s

lessons I’ve learned the hard way okay

so really we’re done at this point and

let me show you a website that is

running with CloudFlare as well let me

go back to here to the speed testing and

so income mesh is running on CloudFlare

and i also upgraded this guy to

wordpress 5.0 so i think my performance

is actually going to be not very

exciting I was getting right around one

second load times and then today they

started to get three second load time so

not thrilled with that but let’s see how

it looks today okay again

not a very exciting result 4.1 seconds

not thrilled with that but you can see

that once you’ve implemented CloudFlare

it will show you that you do have a

content delivery network and that will

increase some security increase a lot of

benefits for your website okay so I hope

that was helpful so kind of to wrap up

this quick video CloudFlare is a content

delivery network that will help speed up

your website by making sure it’s

delivering on the best hardware that’s

out there your website to your visitors

as quickly as possible

it’ll also increase your security by

being able to run all your traffic

through their very advanced filters to

make sure that only good people are

trying to access your website it will

also save you money by reducing the

number of queries and number of polls

that get sent over to your actual web

host by routing as much of their traffic

through their caching systems as they

can I’m John from in kamesh com if you

enjoyed this video be sure to subscribe

and hit the bell be notified when I come

out with more content like this and

leave a comment below do you use

CloudFlare or a different CDN let me

know what you think about CloudFlare and

what you think about this tutorial and

the style that I’m presenting I want to

make sure that I make this content as

relevant and as useful to you as

possible I’ll see you guys in the next

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