Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Cloudflare Review Part 2

So a couple of months ago i did a test and review of Cloudflare, it was getting popular and i wanted to check it out, so why a second part? Well 2 reasons, first instead of using it for a week, now i've used it for a couple of months on a couple of my sites, so i have a better view of the service, second cause i still have a couple of gripes with Cloudflare but also some nice tips to share.

My Hits with Cloudflare!
So like i said i've been using Cloudflare for a while now and i would say, its still a hit and miss for me, but mostly a hit, even with hosting your DNS through Cloudflare (and therefore losing control of your DNS ), but to be honest, unless you are paying for the really good DNS hosting, Cloudflare's DNS service is far superior, i know, cause i've used a lot of free and paid dns hosters and hosted my own and i checked it here, with just a couple of tweaks/added services their DNS could compete with the best.

Now in terms of site performance i would say its pretty spanky awesome, i've had sites that were literally hanging for dear life bashing the server and just by turning Cloudflare on, it not only relieved a lot of the stress on the server but also turned the site speed way up, that's by far the best thing about it, how much performance and how easy their CDN/Proxying system is.


My Misses with Cloudflare

But there are still today a couple of gripes, the first and largest is with their security settings and their intermission publicity type of thing they do when they block a user, as far as feedback from my visitors, i would say 100% of my visitors freak out when they reach a site and they are greeted with the cloudflare "you might be infected"! its just a fact, they expect to see a site, it really doesn't matter if they are infected, their network is bad or they have an unlucky ip, its just not standard web usage to go to a site and be greated with something else, it feels like a pop ad or intermission ad to force someone to do something, what sites like wiki-whatever.info/exclusive-experts.com (i made them up, but you know what kind of sites im talking about) do all the time while spamming Google, its a disaster in terms of usability and no type of customization will ever change my mind, people never expect a warning from a site, even Google disabled their "you might be infected" because people freaked out even if it was with the best of intentions.

There are also some misses with the "html,css,js..." optimizations, with external objects (javascript mostly), with search engines, 1 of my site was heavily penalized while switching to cloudflare (and yes turning it back after a week made it slowly return to normal, it was weird and it was reported to cloudflare staff), but 2 other saw a huge increase on traffic (I MEAN FREAKIN 400% more 300.000 users HUGE WAY!), probably due to getting faster, hehehe so again hit and miss.

What is the Cloudflare Structure?
Cloudflare seems to work a bit like this, they get datacenters on popular internet hubs around the world, popular in the sense that a lot of traffic goes through them, i would bet that altough they spend quite a bit on hardware, that they dont pay or pay very little for bandwith and do what most large providers do and have peering agreements, thats were the free cloudflare users come in, altough clouflare provides a free service they kinda need those users to have enough critical mass for these peering aggrements to be worthwhile for both parties, so altough we arent paying they need the free users, note that this isnt something evil, its awesome win-win for everyone.

The Economics of Cloudflare
How do they get paid! Humm i would say affiliates (through their detestable intermession security warning and through some of the plugins), and of course paid accounts, on this i wonder why they start the price at 20$, maybe they think most of their free users have only 1 site, and if they have more they only have to pay 5$ for each after that, well in my case at least for now its simply not economicaly viable to pay for clouflare pro, for 20$ a month you can buy yourself a whole lot of hosting, even with the added savings of a Pro account.

How do I use Cloudflare
  • Basic Security Level: Essentially Off (because the bonus of blocking potential bad users doesnt outweight the really horrible spammy intermission alert)
  • Caching Level: Aggressive
  • Minimim Expire TTL: 4hours (but adjust this to the update schedule of your site)
  • Auto Minify: JS=OFF CSS=ON HTML=ON (avoid the JS, until now it hasnt work in any of my sites and also makes Googles PageSpeed Apache Addon freakout)
  • Rocket Loader: OFF
  • Outbound Links: OFF
  • E-Mail Address Obfuscation: OFF
  • Server Side Exclude: OFF
  • Always Online: OFF (still a good feature, it only shows a bar on top saying that the site is currently offline, i just turn it off as a personal preference)
  • IP Geolocation: OFF
  • Browser Integrity Check: OFF
  • Hotlink Protection: OFF
Conclusion!
Yeah i disable most of the features, dont get me wrong if you need it or its good for you, please turn it On, still the only feature i really cant live with is the Basic Security Level for the reasons i already ranted about hehehe, but hey, freaking thumbs up for Cloudflare its free and it works pretty damn good, my only real gripe is with the security warnings, i would prefer pure blocking than any kind of  warning, the more transparent and white-label the better and im really waiting for their announced new pricing scheme to see if i can get a few pro accounts for a couple of my sites, but even so Cloudflare isnt perfect, well damn if it isn't pretty close.

6 comments:

aZn137 said...

Dude you hit every single point of problem I've been having with CF, and I've been using it for a week. I found myself turning off all the settings to make sure I don't run into any issue. The most annoying thing is the JS minification messed up my scripts so bad.

Only one problem: whenever the site is shared in Facebook, sometimes CF rejects Facebook user agent with a 503 error. Bad news. I'm not sure how to solve this yet. Any idea?

Either way, by combining CF with other optimization tools, I'm getting quite good performance http://www.webpagetest.org/result/120124_AR_2ZEP6/

fiend said...

yeah i've seen lately a bit of 503 gateway errors, i dont think its a facebook agent problem, when cloudflare was starting up those errors would sometimes randomly appear, so now i think its a issue of load and timeouts, if the timeout is too long and you server is having issues, cloudflare will put the obnoxious "site is offline page", but if there is glitch or timeout or load on the cloudflare proxy and normally a new page (or non cached page), it might show up the 503 error, refreshing normally fixes it... never saw a 503 error on a main page or something (cause its probably super cached already)...

Unknown said...

Just signed up for the paid account myself cause i'm guessing you get more bang if you pay, i disagree with the (get a whole lot of hosting somewwhere else for $20 though) you get a whole lot of hosting but you also get a whole lot of problems. I pay the $20 for peace of mind knowing i'm getting the better service.

However whenever i turn on page compression it turns my "text/javascript" into something like "text/jscript" so breaks my iframes so have to turn that off.

I have a few other issues but i'm sure i'll iron them out with support :)

Just to add i have all the features enabled except from html compression.

fiend said...

well did you read what i wrote? i disable most of the options, that's the only way i found to make cloudflare work good enough for me!

well regarding the "get a whole lot of hosting somewhere else for $20" thats my personal opinion, i dont think you get that much peace of mind between the free and paid, also the paid features are nice and they do give you more bandwidth, but for that price i can get a cloud hosting package or 1 nice vps or a couple of godd shared accounts or huge amounts of backupspace...

the point is not if its worth it, the point is if its worth it for me... ie i make sites, i need the hosting first, cloudflare only becomes useful when one of those sites becomes popular enough that it needs help... so yeah hosting is still more important to me than cloudflare and $20 can get you some nice hosting.

Beelal said...

The same problem as aZn137 mentioned. Sharing on facebook is a pain as facebook won't connect to my site. Was working perfectly before I activated cloudflare. On support they say they are working with the facebook engineers to get this resolved.

fiend said...

yeah anything related with javascript is a big problem with cloudflare, so facebook, ads, scripts... the latest issue is the frequent timeouts with their blank "error - nginx/cloudflare", its like random, so difficult to find fault besides cloudflare's!

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