Posted by: Vala Shahabi | November 11, 2011

What is CloudFlare and Does it Really Work? Accelerate Your Website for Free

I love startups. I love the new ideas and new angles a startup brings to the marketplace. I recently stumbled upon CloudFlare, which I was told will change the game in the CDN market. Working for the best CDN out there, I’m always interested to see what our new competitors can offer. In short, CloudFlare is a CDN and web application security offering rolled into one very easy to use and implement solution. Their Marketing and web design team gets an A for putting together such a slick interface. It really takes just a few minutes to get started and the best part is their offering is FREE!

I was able to talk my friend who runs Los Angele’s hottest Hair and Beauty Blog, L.A. Hair, to give CloudFlare a try.  I told him we can setup 3rd party performance tests prior to activating CloudFlare so we can measure how much performance improves.  Since CloudFlare injects at the NameServer level, it is not possible to run concurrent tests like other CDNs. We setup two performance tests, one in US only and one Global. The test would request www.losangeles-hair.com/home every hour from over 50 agents globally distributed.

Men Lie, Women Lie, Numbers Don’t. Let’s take a look at the results:

Without CloudFlare -

Red – Global Average:8.99s

Blue  – US Average: 4.38s

With Cloud Flare:

Red – Global Average: 7.28s

Blue  – US Average: 3.80s

Looking at the two charts, we can see that with CloudFlare in the picture, we are getting a more reliable and flatter results, which is key for giving users the same experience every time they visit the site.  Looking at the numbers, CloudFare improved the blog 13.2% in the US and 19% Globally. I would hardly call these results “Supercharge” of my website as they claim, but you get what you pay for and in the case he didn’t pay a penny and got some ok results.

Where did CloudFlare improve and where did they not improve.

Most Improved areas:
Ottawa, Canada (5.57s reduced to 3.02s)
Seoul, Korea (8.53s reduced to 5.39s)
London (7.16s reduced to 5.37s)
Munich (7.33s reduced to 3.99s)
San Jose, Costa Rica (11.36s reduced to 2.74s)

Areas with little to no improvement:
China
Hong Kong
Seattle
Sao Paulo
Palo Alto
Vancouver
Sydney (actually got slower)
Auckland
New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta

While I would say these results are sub-par for CloudFlare to compete with any legit CDN, my friend is happy for L.A Hair and will keep the free service on. I think this is a great service for anyone to add to any website that doesn’t currently have a CDN or doesn’t generate revenue. If your site generates revenue I would used something a little more powerful because Google ranks based on page load speed.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for the review!

    “I would hardly call these results “Supercharge” of my website as they claim, but you get what you pay for and in the case he didn’t pay a penny and got some ok results.”

    Quick note: Caching does take a few days or so to build up, so things should get progressively faster over time.

    “Sydney (actually got slower)”
    This is due to the fact that we don’t have any datacenters in that region & might introduce some latency for visitors from AU (looking at adding one in that region).


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