Loading time is a very important factor for any website both in terms of SEO and user experience. The loading time depends on various factors like web hosting, cache, page size etc. Many of you must be using few well-known techniques like using a cache plugin like W3 Total Cache or optimizing your Images, reducing page size. Using these along with a content delivery network like CloudFlare would just work like a charm for you website loading speed. I have been using this for a while now and highly recommend to all of you.
There are other methods using which you can setup a CDN, for instance, using W3 Total Cache and MaxCDN which works perfectly but only if you can afford MaxCDN. CloudFlare does the same work for free using the Free CDN. Here is a step by step guide which will help you setup the Free CloudFlare CDN to your WordPress blog easily.
What is CDN: Content Delivery Network?
Before knowing about CloudFlare, you should be able to understand what CDN is and how it is useful for your blog. People from technical background might already know this and understand it, but for the people who do not know this, let me explain you in a very simple way.
All of our WordPress websites are hosted on a remote server placed in some particular location. For example, assume that the server of AllTechBuzz.net is placed in Singapore. This location is nothing but a data center which holds all the files of your website. So whenever a user opens the site, the files are called from Singapore data center and the site loads. This happens at a very fast rate depending up on the various internet protocols. But in the process, there are many nodes and high number of ping requests which leads to the delay in the fetching of files which is nothing but the loading time of the site.
This delay or the loading time also depends on the distance at which the server or the data center is located from you. So the site may load faster for me than for the person in Portland, because the data center at Singapore is closer to me.
So, in order to resolve this issue a concept called content delivery network has been developed which can be integrated with your website. After adding your blog to CDN, whenever someone opens the site the files are fetched from a different data center which is located closer to you. This reduces the ping requests and the time delay between the simulation and response, there by improving the loading time of the website.
Benefits of CDN:
Distributed data centers depending on the visitor location.
The files are pre-cached.
Faster loading time.
Reduces the load on the server, saves bandwidth.
Offers valuable analytical information.
Extra security layer which protects you from attackers.
Free of cost.
How to Setup CloudFlare On WordPress Site:
Setting up Cloudflare on your WordPress site is a lot easier than you thought. You just need to follow the steps which I listed below.
1. Create Cloudflare account
Create a new Cloudflare account by signup up here. Make sure you enter a valid email id as you will receive a verification mail.
2. Add Website to Cloudflare
You can do this by simply clicking on the “Add Site” option on the top menu. And then begin the scan. It will take 60 seconds to scan the domain. Continue setup.
3. Manage DNS Settings
You are now redirected to the DNS settings where you can see all the DNS Zone files of the domain. You can change the values here directly. You can even choose if a particular value or subdomain has to be passed through CloudFlare or not. The orange cloud determines that it is passing through CloudFlare and is being cached where as the grey cloud determines that the requests are hitting the web server directly.
4. Choose Plans
Once you are done with the DNS settings, you will be redirected to a page where you have to choose among different CloudFlare plans. You can always choose the FREE plan, which gives you the basic functionality and features. Or you can buy a plan which offers you additional features. I would recommend you to go with the Free plan initially and later upgrade if you really need it. I personally use the free plan itself.
5. Change Your Nameservers
The next step is to change your domain nameservers. You will be provided with two CloudFlare nameservers which have to be replaced in your domain provider dashboard. Wait for them to propagate properly; this might typically take 24 hours but will be done within few hours.
My take on CloudFlare
I recently observed that few sites are throwing 504 Gateway Timeout Error when it receives high traffic, caused due to CloudFlare. And also HTTP to HTTPS redirecting issue for few sites sometimes.
However, CloudFlare is one of the best free CDNs available in the market today. It provides good caching and also increases the security by adding an additional mask, protecting your site from brute force attacks. You choose the basic free plan which provides you all the basic necessary features, but if you need more security from attacks like DDoS and 100% uptime you might have to shift to a higher plan. You can go for it!