CloudFlare Review: Bad Logo, Amazing Service

I host several projects on MediaTemple DV plans for the stability, flexibility, and top-notch support. (I'd rather not be troubleshooting server issues for clients at 3AM.) You can certainly use CloudFlare without MediaTemple hosting, they've just made it a one-step add-on service that you'd have to be a drooling idiot to mess up. I warily enabled the service for a static site, which involved signing up for a free account (email address, password) and enabling the service in MediaTemple's control panel. A CNAME record was automatically created in the DNS settings, and that's it.

I visited said site and it had an immediately-noticable zing. Excitedly, I added the service to to see how CloudFlare would cripple the ExpressionEngine setup. I was sure it'd fail and I'd have to revert, but I tried it anyway. I was blown away: CloudFlare seemed to have absolutely no effect but to dramatically speed up page delivery. Below is my non-scientific evaluation... results, before CloudFlare (MediaTemple DV4.0, Virginia datacenter)

Locationmin. rrtavg. rrtmax. rrtIP
Singapore, Singapore262.2270.5286.572.10.32.198
Amsterdam2, Netherlands84.785.187.572.10.32.198
Florida, U.S.A.25.926.
Amsterdam3, Netherlands84.485.290.572.10.32.198
Hong Kong, China233.3235.8237.372.10.32.198
Sydney, Australia233.8234.0234.
Munchen, Germany96.496.596.772.10.32.198
Cologne, Germany86.686.786.772.10.32.198
New York, U.S.A.
Amsterdam1, Netherlands88.688.688.772.10.32.198
Stockholm, Sweden118.6118.7118.872.10.32.198
Santa Clara, U.S.A.88.288.789.
Vancouver, Canada87.787.988.
London, United Kingdom78.579.079.372.10.32.198
Madrid, Spain132.1150.2167.572.10.32.198
Padova, Italy107.3107.7109.
Austin, U.S.A.58.158.358.672.10.32.198
Amsterdam, Netherlands85.685.785.972.10.32.198
Paris, France98.899.
Melbourne, Australia254.3255.1256.472.10.32.198
Shanghai, China208.2208.5208.772.10.32.198
Copenhagen, Denmark108.1108.2108.472.10.32.198
Lille, France82.486.893.
Zurich, Switzerland108.5108.7109.
Mumbai, India192.6203.0227.372.10.32.198
Chicago, U.S.A.32.332.432.972.10.32.198
Nagano, Japan177.3177.3177.572.10.32.198
Haifa, Israel149.6150.9153.372.10.32.198
Auckland, New Zealand200.2205.7218.472.10.32.198
Antwerp, Belgium92.492.592.872.10.32.198
Groningen, Netherlands87.788.088.772.10.32.198
Moscow, Russia136.4136.6136.972.10.32.198
Dublin, Ireland97.697.697.772.10.32.198
Oslo, Norway112.6115.2136.772.10.32.198
Kharkov, Ukraine156.0156.4160.
Manchester, United Kingdom80.180.482.
Vilnius, Lithuania119.1119.3119.672.10.32.198
Bucharest, Romania132.8133.0133.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia253.4253.7254.
Jakarta, Indonesia283.9284.7290.672.10.32.198
Cape Town, South Africa226.1226.2226.372.10.32.198
Glasgow, United Kingdom85.486.897.672.10.32.198
Lisbon, Portugal117.6117.7117.772.10.32.198
Chicago, U.S.A.31.331.431.572.10.32.198
Dallas, U.S.A.35.535.736.
Buenos Aires, Argentina156.6156.9157.
Istanbul, Turkey137.5137.7138.
Gdansk, Poland114.5116.2128.972.10.32.198
Beijing, China295.4307.4314.772.10.32.198
Belgrade, Serbia113.8118.4137.872.10.32.198
Toronto, Canada22.522.823.
Novosibirsk, Russia190.3191.3192.
Athens, Greece135.3135.7136.972.10.32.198
Frankfurt, Germany92.593.494.972.10.32.198
Sofia, Bulgaria118.4118.8119.472.10.32.198
Budapest, Hungary109.8114.0127.472.10.32.198 results, with CloudFlare

Locationmin. rrtavg. rrtmax. rrtIP
Singapore, Singapore176.3186.3193.1173.245.60.113
Amsterdam2, Netherlands1.21.51.7173.245.60.40
Florida, U.S.A.26.727.027.5173.245.60.113
Amsterdam3, Netherlands0.71.01.2173.245.60.113
Hong Kong, China2.12.53.2173.245.60.40
Sydney, Australia157.2157.6158.4173.245.60.113
Munchen, Germany19.119.320.0173.245.60.113
Cologne, Germany4.85.15.3173.245.60.113
New York, U.S.A.
Amsterdam1, Netherlands0.71.01.4173.245.60.113
Stockholm, Sweden24.625.025.5173.245.60.113
Santa Clara, U.S.A.
Vancouver, Canada75.476.377.8173.245.60.113
London, United Kingdom10.310.711.0173.245.60.40
Madrid, Spain34.638.449.1173.245.60.40
Padova, Italy26.132.157.8173.245.60.40
Austin, U.S.A.29.729.930.0173.245.60.40
Amsterdam, Netherlands0.91.11.6173.245.60.40
Paris, France90.591.091.9173.245.60.40
Melbourne, Australia123.9124.8126.3173.245.60.113
Shanghai, China267.0273.3278.1173.245.60.40
Copenhagen, Denmark15.616.517.3173.245.60.40
Lille, France17.226.833.1173.245.60.113
Zurich, Switzerland14.514.815.2173.245.60.113
Mumbai, India76.477.077.7173.245.60.40
Chicago, U.S.A.
Nagano, Japan6.06.16.4173.245.60.40
Haifa, Israel91.196.7100.4173.245.60.40
Auckland, New Zealand149.9150.1150.4173.245.60.40
Antwerp, Belgium11.011.311.8173.245.60.40
Groningen, Netherlands4.45.05.6173.245.60.40
Moscow, Russia46.446.747.1173.245.60.40
Dublin, Ireland18.718.919.3173.245.60.113
Oslo, Norway32.032.232.6173.245.60.40
Kharkov, Ukraine104.0104.4108.0173.245.60.113
Manchester, United Kingdom13.213.814.4173.245.60.40
Vilnius, Lithuania36.537.442.1173.245.60.40
Bucharest, Romania35.236.141.9173.245.60.40
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia195.6196.1197.1173.245.60.40
Jakarta, Indonesia48.648.949.3173.245.60.40
Cape Town, South Africa231.4231.7232.1173.245.60.113
Glasgow, United Kingdom20.720.921.3173.245.60.40
Lisbon, Portugal58.859.159.5173.245.60.40
Chicago, U.S.A.
Dallas, U.S.A.
Buenos Aires, Argentina152.6153.2156.3173.245.60.113
Istanbul, Turkey38.839.239.7173.245.60.113
Gdansk, Poland42.042.242.7173.245.60.40
Beijing, China377.7393.9406.0173.245.60.40
Belgrade, Serbia32.839.963.2173.245.60.113
Toronto, Canada13.813.914.2173.245.60.113
Novosibirsk, Russia99.499.9100.4173.245.60.113
Athens, Greece66.567.170.8173.245.60.40
Frankfurt, Germany13.614.315.3173.245.60.113
Sofia, Bulgaria39.139.239.4173.245.60.40
Budapest, Hungary29.832.750.5173.245.60.40

As you can see, ping times were easily improved across the board. Remember that this is less than an hour after enabling the service.

Pingdom Full Page Test

I use Pingdom to monitor my own website and client web apps, and they've got all kinds of great tools. Here I used the Full Page Test to compare page load time. This test loads an entire page and basically gives you an overview of the process: how long it takes, what assets are loaded, the order in which things stack up.

The result: page load from 4.7 seconds to 1.8 seconds.

I did nothing but switch on the service. I'd say that's a significant plus for a product that's totally free.

Wordy Conclusion

Yesterday I could have cared less about CloudFlare, but today I suddenly can't live without it. I'm thoroughly impressed and hope this post is helpful to somebody. I don't work for CloudFlare or get any sort of incentive for writing this post, but I would certainly take incentives if they were offered. I've already been experimenting with Amazon S3 as a CDN, and Rackspace CloudFiles – both offered inexpensive performance gains with minimal setup, but CloudFiles is another thing entirely! The pro and enterprise upgrades offer increased protection and fine-tuning along with a variety of genuinely-enticing features. As of this moment I'm still using the free account, which is serving pages much faster and allegedly adding a layer of protection from various types of attacks. Once they fix that placeholder logo of theirs I'll be proudly recommending it to everybody I can find!

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