CloudFlare offers some of the most amazing features when it comes to optimizing websites & for its security for free, and all at the domain level. They were able to truly disrupt the market because prior to them, only enterprises had access to such features. They offer free CDN to all websites.
These are the following features that I use all the time:
- Security: They offer basic security features at all levels, including the free ones. However, with each plan, the level of security differs. The free plan is less aggressive in terms of security, but does a pretty decent job considering that it offers Captcha to website visitors if they feel threatened. This ensures that only humans or real traffic passes to the website and not the automated bots. It also offers web application firewall & DDoS protection, although they are available only for paid accounts.
- DNS zone manager: Because CloudFlare offers all of the optimization & security features at the domain level, it offers an excellent interface to manage DNS records. It's fast, intuitive and makes DNS management pretty easy. I manage more than 100 domains and I find no issues while managing everything.
- Flexible SSL: One of the best features of CloudFlare is that it offers a flexible certificate for all plans. That means, even if the webserver doesn't have an SSL certificate, CloudFlare enables webmasters to deliver resources over SSL.
- Page rules: Page rules give you the ability to take various actions based on the page's URL, such as creating redirects, fine tuning caching behavior, or enabling and disabling their various services. The plan level decides how many page rules you can create; the free plan provides three page rules and personally I've never had to use more than that. Using these rules, I implement flexible SSL on all my & my clients’ websites. Furthermore, it allows you to do much more than that.
Improvements to My Organization:
As mentioned, it helps me manage DNS records for more than 100 domains with ease. It helps in web page optimization & helps keep the website secure. If it was not for CloudFlare, I would have to hire a dedicated resource to manage all this for me. However, not even couple of hours a week on CloudFlare helps me offer fast & secure websites to my clients mostly for free or at a very minimal cost.
Room for Improvement:
CloudFlare is an innovative company and certainly the thought leaders in their industry. They're constantly improving their product, releasing new features, partnering with various service providers to offer add-ons. Personally, I think they're ahead of the competition and keep it that way by improving faster than the competition too.
However, what I still fail to understand is that why aren't they offering domains themselves. I'd love to buy the domain name directly from them rather than buying it from other registrars and then connecting them through CloudFlare.
Use of Solution:
I have used it since 2010; that's about 6 years. They were named as best startup at TechCrunch Disrupt and since then, I've been a user.
They've always informed me in advance about any maintenance and, personally, I haven't seen anything going wrong.
I have not encountered any scalability issues at all.
I’ve never had a reason to get in touch with their technical support.
I was using MaxCDN for content delivery network services, but have never looked back as CloudFlare offers the same feature for free.
CloudFlare is very intuitive and the setup has been straightforward from the beginning.
Cost and Licensing Advice:
Most small businesses should be good with their free plan. However, as website traffic & business grows, I think one should invest in their paid plans. It's worth every single penny.
Other Solutions Considered:
Before choosing this product, I did not evaluate other options.
Use the page rules and flexible SSL, for sure. If you have an e-commerce portal, then implement the full SSL support.
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: My company is a CloudFlare certified digital agency partner.