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Money for nothing and your CDN for free

Perhaps not as glamorous as Dire Straits’ 1985 hit, a CDN for free is almost as good as learning to play guitar. No one likes to wait around on a slow web site to load. One of the big ways to make your site load faster is to utilize a Content Distribution Network. CDN’s store the static parts of your site (images, CSS & JavaScript) in geographically disperse servers. When a web browser requests your page, they get the static assets from the fastest server (usually the closest in geographical terms). It’s a great way to speed up load times for your site, but it can be expensive. Now there’s a fantastic way to take advantage of CDN speed while saving money at the same time!

Free CDN

Just a few short months ago, the thought of a company offering a free CDN was pretty absurd to me. After using it for a few months, I’m definitely a convert. CloudFlare is a CDN plus security service that offers a free tier. I know what you’re thinking, this free tier must be tiny, right? Would you consider 30TB (Yes, that’s terabytes!) per month to be tiny? I don’t. Their free tier is good for up to 100Mbps of bandwidth (30TB a month) according to this Hacker News Post. The only catch on the free tier is that you can’t use SSL certificates. So long as you’re not running a secure server, you’re good.

Free DNS

How many of you pay a service provider for DNS? Some domain registrars provide this service these days, but you don’t typically get anycast DNS service when you use your registrar’s DNS service. Anycast makes your DNS faster and more reliable. This is a service I happily paid for for many years from DNSMadeEasy.com. DNSMadeEasy is still a great service, but I barely need it now that CloudFlare provides the same thing for free as part of their base service.

So now CloudFlare is giving me free CDN and free DNS service. What’s next?

Web Performance Optimization

Now that they’ve optimized your content delivery and given your domain anycast DNS service, the next option is to optionally organize your site resources for you such that they will load quicker. This part of the service is fully optional.

If chosen, CloudFlare will take automatically minify and bundle multiple JavaScript files into one file. Minifying the JavaScript takes out extra characters that are not needed hence making the download smaller and bundling reduces the http request overhead of multiple requests.

Sometimes I use this service, sometimes I don’t. I still prefer to do it manually for best results, but sometimes it comes in handy as an option.

Security

Here’s where CloudFlare makes their money. If you have a popular service, sometimes mean people think it’s a good time to take your service offline by sending you more traffic than your equipment can handle. It’s called a DoS attack or Denial of Service attack. And then there’s DoS’ sinister cousin, the DDoS attack or Distributed Denial of Service attack. I’ve dealt with attacks like these for clients of mine for years and it’s not a fun process. CloudFlare basically shields your site from these attacks. You don’t get it for free, this is where you start to pay, but if you need it, it’s a life saver.

The Setup

The setup just couldn’t be any simpler.

  1. Create an Account
  2. Change your domain name’s name server records
  3. Start enjoying speed & security

Seriously, that’s it. It makes me smile every time I do this for clients.

Rockin it

So there you have it. You can be rocking your own CloudFlare in minutes. Go give it a shot. Then when you have your cheezer grin on after performing speed tests on your site, write them an email and tell them RubyDeveloper.com sent you. :-)

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