Can Cloudflare Make WordPress Sites Load Faster and Perform Better?

What Does It Do?

The question on the lips of everyone who has run, is running, or ever will run a website is: “How Can I Make My D*!#$ Site Load Faster!”  Cloudflare believes it has an answer.  To quote directly from their website copy:

CloudFlare operates out of 14 data centers around the world. Our CDN automatically caches your static files at our edge nodes so these files are stored closer to your visitors while delivering your dynamic content directly from your web server. CloudFlare then uses a technology called Anycast to route your visitors to the nearest data center. The result is that your website, on average, loads twice as fast for your visitors regardless of where they are located.

I decided a little while ago to try it out on a site of mine and see what would happen.  If you are curious how to install Cloudflare, check out this tutorial.

Test #1

Does Cloudflare work with WordPress?
Testing It Out On My Site. What Could Go Wrong?

Installation went reasonably smoothly.  One thing must be noted, though.  When they say five minutes to set up, they are not counting the time it takes for the new name servers to propagate.  So pick out a low traffic time to handle the install unless you enjoy using the flurry of emails from disappointed users as a way to connect with your customer base.

The results:

  • Significantly decreased comment spam.  Comment spam that previously was caught by Akismet just doesn’t reach my site anymore.
  • My site did, in fact, load faster.  Not twice as fast, as they might have suggested, but certainly faster.
  • More hits!

Wait, what?  More hits?  No, Cloudflare does not attract or invent new users (much as one might hope).  When you look at the new analytical data that Cloudflare provides, though, you will notice that there is a mismatch between what Google Analytics may say were the number of visitors and what Cloudflare says.  What is going on here?  Google Analytics uses JavaScript to record the arrival of each user.  If the user has Javascript disabled in their browser or does not wait for the page to load, though, they are not recorded as having visited.  Cloudflare, on the other hand, logs each request to the name server for a more accurate profile.

Reservations

Does Cloudflare work with WordPress sites?  WPMU?
That Cloud Looks Threatening!

There are a couple of things that a potential user should be aware of.   The first is that changing name servers can be a big deal and have unintended consequences.  Installing Cloudflare on another of my sites caused a very tricky error that took a while to isolate.  The second issue that could come up is that of SSL certificates.  If you have installed an SSL on your site, Cloudflare will break it.  If you want to continue to use an SSL on your site, you will need to upgrade to the Pro version.  Again, an issue I learned the hard way.

Does It Work With WordPress?

Yes!  In terms of installing it on your WordPress site, there are a couple of options.  This is the basic single site plugin.  For multi-site, there are a couple of plugins as well – one free and the other not (an informative and link-rich discussion on the topic can be found here).  I installed the basic single site plugin on one of my own sites and I am sad to say that I found it doesn’t actually do an awful lot extra for you that isn’t done better with other plugins (I am looking at you, Database Optimization).

The primary benefit of installing the plugin is for the customer base, as a whole.  If you report a comment as spam, then the spammer’s info will automatically be added to the blacklist for all sites that use Cloudflare.

For more info, check out their website or their too-cute-by-a-half video that more or less explains what they do.

Comments (6)

  1. I have been using CloudFlare since they came out, and must say, they are awesome. Got they pro version some weeks ago and if i was happy with the free version, with pro i’m just amazed… it’s sure one of the essential stuffs any blog should have (:

  2. I tried Cloudflare and tested in thoroughly. No improvement whatsoever. I’m using W3TC with Amazon Cloudfront and APC opcode cache. Cloudflare also broke TimThumb images. I also didn’t like having to change from DNS – you’re right, that can cause lots of unintended consequences. .

    There are lots of ways to speed up a website. Cloudflare is at the bottom of my list.

  3. I use Cloudflare in combination with W3 Total Cache and almost all of my sites load under 2 seconds so I’m happy. A couple things to note though. If you use W3TC, you don’t need the Cloudflare plugin as Cloudflare is integrated with W3TC. Also, if you want to use your own SSL certificates, you have to purchase the Business or Enterprise plans. The PRO plan will only give you an SSL that verifies Cloudflare NOT your site.

  4. I have a WordPress site that is frequently hacked with re direction links to infected sites, causing Google to blacklist my site. A friend recommend me to use a WAF (web application firewall) I searched and found CloudFlare´s service. I see that the CloudFlare Pro includes a WAF and other security options. I want to know if someone recommends this for my problem.

  5. My Experience on different WordPress Installation using Cloud flare both Free and Premium service is not providing any positive recommendation for CloudFlare. There facts that shows how cloud flare ruins SEO because of Type of IP range they have adjusted and can’t be fixed. However CloudFlare is very useful if your host is Godaddy, Perhaps no-one knows that Godaddy hosting service is not reachable in Many countries and territories cause Godaddy thinks has to put sanctions against those geolocations; How ever if your host is Godaddy and you use cloud-flare DNS service then your website will reachable through whole the World Wide Web cause Cloudflare By passes Godaddy’s restriction. Honestly I think Godaddy dose limit some geolocations in its hosting service to save bandwidth :) But A site hosted on Godaddy is never reachable through whole WWW.

  6. What I found is cloudflare free is caching statics like jpgs, css, js and calling my server for every content request. Now timthumb returns a image/jpeg but since its a php file, its not cached as other true images and calls still come to my server. Have not found a solution to this issue.

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