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CloudFlare: Blazingly Fast Websites


CloudFlare popped up in our inbox not too long ago, and we were thrilled to find it. CloudFlare is a free content delivery network for websites. They’re called CDNs, and they’ve become a very popular way for large websites to speed up their loading times.

Here’s an example of how a CDN works. Let’s say you’re in Chicago, like us, and browsing a website that’s located in San Francisco. When an image loads on the site, the data has to move from the site in San Fran to your laptop in Chicago. There’s a delay that’s not really noticeable, that is until you begin downloading many images, stylesheets and javascripts, across multiple pages. A CDN puts all of those content pieces like images and javascripts on servers throughout the web. Then, people visiting a website from Chicago could download content from a server in Chicago. The closer proximity plays a role, but spreading content throughout the web also reduces bottlenecks.

CDNs help speed up websites and help handle traffic spikes since they’re well equipped to transfer the load between many areas. The big guys, like Facebook, Amazon and Apple, all use CDNs. But CloudFlare wants to bring those same capabilities to smaller players.

Once you register for a free account on CloudFlare, just update your domain name’s DNS to point to their servers. The service begins collecting those static content pieces like images. When people visit your website, CloudFlare can serve your content, which means less bandwidth on your end, and a faster web experience for your visitors. Since the service covers a network of sites, it’s able to identify hacking attempts on one and block them from the network.

CloudFlare offers tiered plans, with the first being completely free. Larger websites can step up and unlock more in-depth reports, heightened security and faster load speeds. We think they’re offering a valuable service for web startups, and we think you’ll like them too.

If you’ve tried CloudFlare or another CDN, let us know your thoughts in the comments.