In 2010, three people, Matthew Prince, Lee Holloway and Michelle Zatlyn, came together to form Cloudflare, a company dedicated to providing web security services. The company has its roots in Project Honey Pot, an anti-spam software that Prince and Holloway previously worked on.
The company received significant media attention in 2011 for providing DDoS mitigation for LulzSec, a black hat hacking group. The partnership with LulzSec brought many controversies given its shady activities, but it also gave Cloudflare a reputation for providing top-notch security services.
Cloudflare (opens in new tab) is a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and headquartered in San Francisco, California.
Cloudflare Subscription Options:1-month plan:
- $0 per month ($0 total cost) (opens in a new tab)
Plans & Pricing
Most Cloudflare products have free tiers, which are useful but come with limited functionality. Therefore, you will need a paid plan to take full advantage of the company’s services.
Cloudflare’s pricing system is quite complicated because it offers many products at different prices. But, it offers three main plans for users: Pro, Business, and Enterprise, which bundle many features into one subscription. There are also many add-on products that require an additional fee.
The Pro plan costs $20 per month. It includes access to a content delivery network (CDN), unmetered DDoS protection, a universal SSL certificate, and the ability to configure rules of up to 20 pages.
The Business plan costs $200 per month, quite expensive but with plenty of features to justify the cost. It includes all the tools available on the Pro plan plus the ability to use a custom SSL certificate and configure rules up to 50 pages.
There are no standard prices for the Enterprise plan, so you’ll need to contact Cloudflare’s sales team directly if you’d like. It’s the highest plan that provides access to advanced features, including enterprise-grade DDoS protection, a DNS firewall, and advanced bot management.
Cloudflare offers many add-on products that require another payment on top of the main subscription plans. They include load balancing, tiered caching, and rate limiting.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)A content delivery network
refers to a network of servers distributed around the world that works to ensure fast delivery of content from the Internet. Cloudflare has an expansive network of data centers spanning more than 270 cities in 100+ countries. The company says its network can reach 95% of the world’s population in 50ms, which is impressive.
You can store your website content on Cloudflare’s extensive network of servers. This way, any visitor to your website will access the content from the server closest to them to ensure higher speed. Using a CDN is much better than having a server in a single location that any visitor to the world must connect to (which is time-consuming for people in faraway regions).
Cloudflare’s CDN caches your website content to display to visitors. So all content, including bulky ones like images and videos, doesn’t have to reload from scratch every time it’s needed.
The company is one of the few CDN providers based outside of China that offers CDN support within the country. This service is made possible by a partnership with JD Cloud, an on-premises cloud provider.
Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is a type of cyberattack in which a malicious actor seeks to make a network resource inaccessible to its users by flooding it with excessive traffic beyond what it can handle. It is one of the most common attack vectors on websites, so there is a critical need to protect your website from it.
Cloudflare offers one of the best DDoS protection services globally. Its vast network blocks billions of threats per day within seconds of discovery. Remember that the company first rose to fame by protecting the website of the LulzSec hacking group from DDoS attacks. He has extensive experience in identifying IP addresses that hackers use to perpetrate such attacks and blocking them immediately.
The company offers DDoS mitigation for web assets (HTTP/HTTP) in conjunction with its web firewall, bot management, and other security services. It also offers a similar service for other types of applications (VoIP, games, etc.) and internal network infrastructure.
Load balancing involves distributing traffic across your network so that it runs as efficiently as possible. Cloudflare’s load balancer directs traffic to your network from unhealthy origin servers and distributes it to the most responsive servers. You can manage this feature from your Cloudflare dashboard and route your traffic based on geography, latency, and availability.
You can encrypt your web traffic using Cloudflare to prevent data theft and other forms of manipulation. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) is the standard technology for establishing an encrypted connection between a web server and a user’s browser, and you need to have it on your website.
Transport Layer Security (TLS) is another cryptographic protocol for Internet communications (email, voice over IP, instant messaging, etc.) and Cloudflare provides it for enterprise customers.
There are many other features offered by the platform, for example, browser isolation, intelligent routing, corporate firewalls, and domain registration.
: Interface and in use
One of the main drawbacks of Cloudflare is its complicated user interface. The platform offers numerous features, and you can get confused when trying to navigate them. As a new user, there are many avenues for mistakes that you need to be aware of. However, it is not impossible to learn, and you can get acquainted with it with constant practice.
Support Cloudflare offers direct customer support via email, live chat, and phone. There is also an official Help Center with detailed articles and user guides covering all aspects of the platform.
Cloudflare: The Competition
Popular alternatives to Cloudflare include Akamai, Fastly (opens in a new tab), and Amazon CloudFront (CDN). We consider Cloudflare to be the best choice because it offers a more sophisticated feature set than these competitors.
Cloudflare: Final Verdict
If you need end-to-end protection for your corporate website or network, Cloudflare is a great choice, thanks to its suite of sophisticated security features. You’ll hardly find another platform that offers the breadth of features that Cloudflare offers.
The main problem with Cloudflare is its complex user interface. It’s also quite expensive for high-volume users, but it’s worth it given the features it provides.
- We’ve also highlighted the best CDN (opens in a new tab)