CloudFlare is a free service that accelerates and secures your website by acting as a proxy between your visitors and HostGator servers. With CloudFlare, you can protect your website against malicious visitors, save bandwidth and reduce average page load times.
How Does It Work?
Once CloudFlare is enabled for your website, it is designated as your authoritative name servers; this allows CloudFlare to clean and accelerate your traffic as all requests to your website are now routed through CloudFlare. With network routing technology and 23 data centers around the world, CloudFlare is able to:
- Bring visitors the fastest connection possible - CloudFlare's global Anycast network routes customers to the closest datacenter, resulting in your website loading twice as fast for your visitors no matter where they are located.
- Screen your website's traffic for malicious visitors - CloudFlare receives requests for your website and analyzes them to determine if a visitor is a threat based on the visitor's IP, the resource being requested, the payload being posted and how frequently requests are being made among other things. Threats are blocked and good visitors are able to quickly access the pages they request.
- Optimize your web content - Rocket Loader technology is included in all CloudFlare plans (even the free one) and helps your website to more efficiently process requests for third party scripts like apps, widgets and tags. Rocket Loader ensures that no script blocks your page content from loading by bundling all script requests into a single request and loading them one at a time.
Advantages of CloudFlare
There are several advantages to using the CloudFlare service:
- Site Performance Improvement - CloudFlare has proxy servers located throughout the world which are located closer to your visitors; this makes page load speed improvement possible as the cached content is delivered from the closest caching box rather than directly off our servers. There is a lot of research that shows the faster the site, the longer a visitor stays.
- Mobile Device Optimization - Various technologies, such as Rocket Loader and AutoMinify, come together to make your pages as fast and efficient as possible no matter what device is surfing your site.
- Bot and Threat Protection - CloudFlare uses data from its own community, Project Honey Pot and other third party sources to identify malicious threats online and stop attacks before they even get to your site. You can see which threats are being stopped by accessing your CloudFlare dashboard.
- Spam Comments Protection - CloudFlare leverages data from third party resources to reduce the number of spam comments on your site.
- Alerting Visitors of Infected Computers - CloudFlare alerts human visitors witth infected computers that they need to take action to clean up the malware or virus on their machine. Visitors can then enter a CAPTCHA to gain access to your site.
- Offline Browsing Mode - In the event that HostGator servers are unavailable, visitors should still be able to access your site since CloudFlare serves visitors a page from its cache.
- Lower Resource Usage - As fewer requests hit HostGator servers, the overall CPU usage of your account is reduced. Even during a traffic surge, your server will stay online as CloudFlare absorbs the requests.
- New Site Stats - CloudFlare gives you insight into search engine crawlers, and threats and legitimate traffic in easy to read formats.
- CloudFlare Apps - CloudFlare offers a single marketplace where the web's leading apps can be quickly and safely installed on any website with just a few clicks.
Limitations of CloudFlare
Before enabling CloudFlare for your website, you may want to consider the following:
- Currently, requests must be directed to www.yourdomain.tld instead of yourdomain.tld which means you may need to make some configuration changes (WordPress installations are automatically adjusted).
- CloudFlare caches static content from your site. While this reduces the load on your server, it means that if you make a change to an existing static file, like an image, there may be a delay before the change appears. While you are updating your site, you can put CloudFlare in Development Mode so that changes appear immediately.
- CloudFlare's basic mode cannot handle SSL certificates. If you need to use an SSL certificate, the part of your site that needs it will need to be on a subdomain that is not protected by CloudFlare.
How to Activate CloudFlare
Currently, Shared and Reseller plans may enable CloudFlare services via cPanel. CloudFlare is also available on VPS and Dedicated Servers upon request; however, this service is not available on Windows servers.
To enable CloudFlare through cPanel on Shared and Reseller plans:
- Log into cPanel.
- Under the Software/Services section, click the CloudFlare icon.
- Enter your email address, and click the checkbox to accept CloudFlare's Terms of Service.
- If you wish to add the domain to an existing CloudFlare account, simply enter the email address for the desired account and you will be prompted to provide the password.
- Click Signup Now! You will automatically be redirected to the Activate CloudFlare page.
- To set a password for your CloudFlare account, click the Generate Password link; or you may set your password later.
- Next to the site on which you wish to enable CloudFlare, click Edit.
- Under CloudFlare Status, click on the gray cloud to enable CloudFlare for the domain.
- The gray cloud will change to an orange cloud, and a message will appear at the top of the screen confirming successful activation.
Once CloudFlare is enabled, you can access reports and modify settings for your site from cPanel or from your CloudFlare dashboard. For help retrieving your user name and password, please see the article below: