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Why I Stopped Using CloudFlare

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CloudFlare is a content delivery network (CDN) that has gained a lot of popularity because of their alleged ability to supercharge your website. A lot of so-called experts (and even some web hosts) claim that implementing CloudFlare can help your site can gain a dramatic amount of boost in terms of speed and security!

Sounds pretty awesome, right?

While that might have been a fact a few years ago, there’s no truth to all of that anymore. It’s all just BS now. To me, CloudFlare is nothing but a buzzword that helps hosts attract customers who want speedy websites (i.e., everyone).

CloudFlare Makes Websites Slower, Not Faster

I used to implement CloudFlare on all my websites and it served its purpose well during the first few years. As CloudFlare became more popular, more and more webmasters used CloudFlare’s free plan. This is when performance started to suffer, and CloudFlare was no longer something that can help speed up your site with just a few clicks.

I noticed that my CloudFlare-enabled sites became much slower and they would often time out. Email notifications from my uptime monitor were common. The emails basically said my sites went down for a few minutes because of a CloudFlare timeout (error 522), and I got these notifs several times a day.

When I dropped CloudFlare, timeouts were a thing of the past and an improvement in terms of speed was apparent! So much for CloudFlare being able to “supercharge” websites…

How About Bandwidth Issues?

CloudFlare never failed to do wonders in terms of saving a ton of bandwidth, but speed and uptime weren’t things I was willing to compromise especially since there are other ways to save bandwidth. Simply implementing my own caching rules helped a lot and it’s been working well for me ever since.

Are you using WordPress and you’d rather not tinker with .htaccess and other settings to implement caching? I recommend you use a plugin such as W3 Total Cache. W3TC is a really powerful caching solution and as far as I know, it has more caching options/settings than CloudFlare. It helps a lot in saving bandwidth AND speeding up your WordPress site!

If you’re really inclined in utilizing a content delivery network to offload bandwidth, I suggest you try MaxCDN , KeyCDN,or Amazon S3. While these are paid providers, I personally think they’re much better than CloudFlare.

Should You Use CloudFlare or Not?

If you’re hosting with a really bad host with toasters as servers (and severely overloaded at that), then you might benefit speed-wise from CloudFlare. However, you should also be looking for a new web host!

If you’re with an excellent host who utilizes a reliable network and knows how to manage their servers well, then I think you’d be better off dropping CloudFlare for good.

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29 responses to “Why I Stopped Using CloudFlare”

  1. You have posted this on Jan 4 2015 and I’m saying the same from past 3 years, at least from 2012 that how BS cloudflare is and its nothing but a marketing buzz, but seems like people still believe in the holy grail of cloudflare. Good to someone who believe in facts, not in marketing buzz (like me).

  2. Phongpanot Phairatwetchaphan says:

    I went to th.uncyclopedia.info and several times I try to get to this site from Google says Error 522. I try to get to this site several times before it was normal. I tried to get to this site today and got this same error once again.

    • BFeely says:

      522 is Cloudflare’s error message for a dead backend. If they didn’t have Cloudflare your browser would simply display a connection error.

  3. Cloudflare has become popular. That’s where the problem is. It provides a free plan however, it’s servers are now overloaded. That’s why most of the time, most of the blogs get a timeout error.

    A viable alternative would be using Incapsula. Like Cloudflare, it has both free and paid plans.

    • BFeely says:

      Oddly enough I benchmarked them last year, and not only did I have no visible improvement, but u actually experienced lag spikes.
      Incapsula does not support HTTPS on their free plan, so you will need a backup plan if your website has any logons.

  4. Chris Rusch says:

    Stay away from Cloudflare! Their support is non-existent. I signed up with them to stop DDoS and they did much more harm to my site than the hackers ever could! I was down for days. A total disaster and a waste of time.

  5. Indeed, Cloudfare started to spike for years now
    I had several sites with them but decided to go another way because timeout problems were appearing more and more

    • Bitsum says:

      If their customer support is still like it is today, they will try to find something – anything – to blame it on outside their purview and then close the ticket, because that is all they can really do. The engineers are engineering ;).

  6. Andy says:

    Thanks, that link to leverage browser caching was very useful!

  7. It would appear that my domains that run through Cloudflare have become slow and often give server errors. Ditching Cloudflare because of terrible service. Tried a lot of research and a lot of settings. Wasted a lot of time and likely frustrated a lot of customers away. Cloudflare has likely cost me thousands of dollars.

  8. I have had nothing but good experinces with CloudFlare, and as a Web Hosting Provider myself, most issues people faced when I was helping them was user configuration error.

    I do agree at one period in time CloudFlare was at that “teen like” awkward stage where it was becoming big, yet was not able to support it’s new influx of users fast enough, I do not find this to be the case anymore.

    I use CloudFlare on every single domain I own, even if the domain is not directly for the use of HTTP services, their DNS is free and one of the best solutions I can find. They (at the time of posting) host 43% of of the “top 1 million websites.”

    Their proxy and security services are great too, all websites I use with CloudFlare often face a 500% performance increase. At the time of writing they are almost at 50 datacenters/PoPs and having a CDN service like CF is essential for international targeted websites, as my server could be located in Chicago, yet a user in the Netherlands can access a server less than 40 ms away from them, and have their connection load a lot faster. The Railgun software offered can make 200ms difference in website load times as well.
    If your website is slow, be sure to give CloudFlare some time to cache it normally and make sure you have your configurations setup correctly. I reccomend CF to all my customers and partners because of the great work they do for me.

    I would also like to point out that CloudFlare’s caching options are meant for easy setup for most general users, I always think setting up your own caching rules will make a huge difference.

    I also forgot to add, I have not once had downtime on my websites from CloudFlare. Nearly all my websites use a third party status tracker, which sends me emails and keeps a month long record of downtime. I have also never experinced any performance problems from first joining CF

  9. Akemi says:

    This happens to every single service ,when it’s free and popular. so if you know something free ,then don’t let it be popular. at least it’s free packages.

  10. I am using Godaddy managed WordPress hosting. My hosting provider suggest me not to use cloudflare as it may misbehave with server. Whilst my site loads perfectly and fast with Godaddy managed WordPress no CDN required.

  11. Brian Stanback says:

    I generally agree – Cloudflare is fine as a CDN for static content and I haven’t ran into too many timeout issues as of late. The problem is if you’re serving dynamic content, you essentially double the number of trips the data needs to take. I would only consider using them in a pinch if I had trouble mitigating a DDoS or other form of attack. So much of the web is dependent on Cloudflare now, and the lack of diversity is a little concerning if issues like CloudBleed (or worse) become more of the norm not to mention annoying for users of Tor.

  12. I’ve had so many buggy issues with my site since using Cloudflare. I had to disable it and everything is all good now.

    • BFeely says:

      Did you attempt to use Flexible SSL? If so you may have confused your server scripts and caused them to produce http resources causing mixed content.
      Full and Full Strict do not run into this compatibility issue as those modes use the same protocol as the request to talk to your server.

    • csandreas1 says:

      cloudflare is good it provides ssl certificate and security. It can increase gtmetrix scores dramatically

  13. Bart Read says:

    Do you know, I’m not sure this is entirely fair because you’re talking about the *free* plan as opposed to paid plans. I use a Cloudflare paid plan (lowest tier thereof) for one of my sites and, for me, the jury is still out. When serving up dynamic content it seems like TTFB takes a hit. As Brian Stanback has said, this will be because there’s effectively a double-hop in there. I’m actually in the process of writing an article on HTTP/2 performance and am currently taking measurements with Cloudflare enabled. At best it doesn’t seem like it’s any faster than without Cloudflare BUT I’m expecting a spike in hits on the site when I publish the article and, at that point, I should start to see more value from it because it should significantly reduce load on my web servers during that spike and keep the site responsive for all users.

    • Jeff Brooke says:

      Yeah, I think the problem is that it’s not a one trick pony. To get the most out of any CDN you have to access how they work, and where they can and cannot potentially help you. I do think the article focuses a little too much on just the fastest way to serve a static site from point A to point B.

      However there is a lot of truth to the fact that that aspect of cloudflare has slowed down a lot in recent years. There are some reasons we know of – some service providers are charging cloudflare way over normal market rates for bandwidth (cashing in on their near monopoloy). To counter that cost, the free accounts are routed around those expensive links between nodes. That’s fair enough, but it can of course add to the distance the data has to travel, which will affect speed.

      Now here’s the stinker – several people now have noted that even the pro accounts are getting routed around some of these expensive link providers. The worst case I know of is Australia, where we have never had net neutrality. Teltra Optus and TPG heavily charge cloudlfare, so they allegedly route even pro accounts via the Singapore datacentre. That’s thousands of K’s away.

      That aside, you definitely have to look at what a CDN can and cannot offer you. I run or work on a small number of websites,and the decission to cloudlfare or not cloudflare is made case by case. For example, three websites I’m involved with – a flying school, a community group and a car repair centre all focus on their local area and are really really unlikely to get DDoS’d. So I don’t use cloudflare, we also use the closest data centre we could get and use caching. Nothing is beating that speed.

      Conversely two sites I do use cloudflare for – one free and one paid do benefit from it, even if it’s a bit slower. One of them is just a video game community forum type site. We’re small, but incredibly likely to get DDoS’s – it’s happened before, usually because a mode has posted something someone else didn’t like. It’s stupid, it’s petty, you can regulate after the fact, but still the fact remains that in this day and age, if you try and moderate a community, someone’s going to DDoS you when they don’t like your decision. That site benefits relatively little from cashing, given that most traffic centres around dynamically changing content, but it’s worth cloudflare for when the much hits the spinny thing.

      The second one is just a blog & news site. The team’s all based in Australia, but being a general English language audience site, it’s hosted in the US. Whilst cloud-flare is slowing it down for people in California near the server, for the staff working on the site in Australia, and readers in the UK it’s massively speeding it up. There’s obviously quite a bit cache-lag for adding new content, but it’s one thing to have to wait for content to spread through the cash, it’s quite another for every page load to by hit by a several second tax for having to travel 10,000K’s.

  14. Alexandra Tilbrook says:

    GetDeb/PlayDeb is using this crap. NOW I CAN’T update Ubuntu MATE because of this…

  15. Mâster Zěuş says:

    Cloudflare is nothing but a sham. They try to attract users and give you free reverse proxy to hide your IP address. If you have DDOS protected hosting with nginx. Trust me, you wont need any cloudflare. Ask your hosting company to provide anycast ip to get geo targeted better latency for DNS.

  16. Bitsum says:

    I agree. It gets much deeper than this. The Cloudbleed parser error revealed what *could* happen when we let millions of site aggregate through a single provider like this!

  17. Salad Fingers says:

    CloudFlare’s main selling point is security, not speed. If your server doesn’t suck a CDN should generally bring no benefits when it comes to speed.

  18. CloudFlare is really good, have used it for more than 100 sites and the free tier itself is worth a lot!!

  19. Fran Roura says:

    Hello, I come from the future. It’s 2018 and there are still websites using this awful CDN.

  20. You’re right. I thought I was the one who was having a different observation from others in the industry.

    Switching to CF reduced by website speed significantly. I had to opt not to use and but instead optimize the site using GTmetrix.

  21. Alex says:

    Recently I have used Cloudflare free offer to get https for all my websites. Just after a week someone (I believe my competitor) sent a complaint to cloudflare telling one of my sites has a virus. My account and ALL websites got immediately routed off cloudflare , without even trying from their side to look into the problem.
    My communication with support have been short , I was served rudely and told they don’t like the name of one of my sites, so they will block all my other sites as well! Also they sent an automated complain to my hosting service telling I do host a virus (while nobody did bother to show any real proof).

    I have lost many hours of my time, my reputation with my hosting company (no complaints for 10 years), lost Google positions and visitors due to impossibility to open https pages.. And that’s all thanks to FREE service from cloudflare! Stay away is the best you can do sith this unreliable and unresponsible company.

  22. Adrian says:

    I’m glad I found this review. I’m new to business websites and experiencing 502 errors and massive timeouts coming from cloudflare. Not worth the effort and the support takes days to reply. I’m now looking into Keycdn.

  23. anon kin says:

    I’m not terribly surprised. It is, after all, a free service, and they have to make money somehow. You will notice that they’re selling a service called “Argo” that’s supposed to speed up your sites by giving them priority on Cloudflare network. If you don’t pay, you get slower speed.

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