CloudFlare

http://www.cloudflare.com

‘Sorry about the break dear readers. I got knocked about by the flu this week and spent all of my blogging time curled up in bed with some lovely drugs and my misery. But I am back with a great service. CloudFlare was a bit of a surprise for me. My initial gut reaction was “another service leveraging the term ‘cloud’ to capture headlines” but something caught my eye and I decided I had little to lose.

CloudFlare is a website acceleration service. Essentially it is an automated reverse caching proxy and content delivery network (CDN). It takes over control of your DNS and serves up everything it can directly and passes through to your website what it cannot. Images, videos, CSS and Javascript files and any static HTML files will be served up from the “closest” web server CloudFlare operates and only what must be served from your server will be. This takes load of your server and network and even allows you to serve some content while you are offline.

For the moment, I choose to host my websites on a cheap and nasty shared hosting service. I host the most critical parts of my technology (such as DNS and email) on better quality service providers and generally speaking I am satisfied with the cost-value trade-off. Having said that I am quite aware that the website is a little laggy and could use some performance tweaking but I hadn’t got around to doing it.

So I was asked by a friend (Martin) to take a look at CloudFlare, which I did and in about 15 minutes time my site was setup and I just had to wait for the DNS change to propagate (about 24 hours or so). The result was not life changing but it was definitely noticeable. In particular the time from clicking a link to the finished result is “much faster” and thats all I wanted. As a bonus CloudFlare is now serving 50% of the data and 50% of the files instead of them coming off my server. I would imagine results will vary depending on what you are serving up, where you serve it from and where your audience is but thats the fun part.

You can pay for enhanced functionality and reporting but for a free service its a sweet offering.

I can’t find anything identical but there are a number of similar alternatives: