Cloudflare DNS etc. Will this CDN speed up your website?
Summary: This blog post investigates whether Cloudflare will actually speed up your website, and if so, under what circumstances. It analyses Cloudflare DNS setups, free and paid versions and other considerations.
What is Cloudflare?
Cloudflare is a Content Delivery Network (CDN). It optimises delivery of content via a network of international servers and has other features like DNS, security and many other features.
Why we are conducting this experiment
Earlier this week, my web host, an Australian company, announced it will be discontinuing the cPanel Cloudflare plugin and Railgun. I was devastated. However, they reassured me that I will see more benefit not using Cloudflare than using it, at least in an Australian context. They claimed that on a website on their server loading in 0.86s, it takes 2.14s once you use the plugin and Railgun. Shocking! Isn't Cloudflare supposed to make the internet work the way it should? (i.e. make your website faster). Hence, I decided to do my own experimentation and see if this was true.
What we will be analysing
This blog post seeks to analyse whether Cloudflare does indeed speed up websites, and if so, under what circumstances. Some things to note before we analyse are:
- We are using an Australian web host/server
- Other countries may yield different results
- There are other factors such as the way the website was built
- In our tests we generally only used one website
- We only use the document loaded time
We will be using this website for speed testing: Web Page Test
Here is a video summary of our tests and outcomes:
<div style="position:relative; width:1px; min-width:100%; padding-bottom:56.25%"><iframe allow="autoplay" class="vooplayer" allowtransparency="true" style="width:1px; min-width:100%; height: 100%; position:absolute" allowfullscreen="true" src="https://classdigital.cdn.vooplayer.com/publish/MTYxMTg1?fallback=true" frameborder="0" scrolling="no"> </iframe></div>
First scenario: No Cloudflare
With our test website, without Cloudflare, the loading time in Australia was: 5.509s
Second scenario: Partial Zoning & Free Tier
Partial zoning is when you use the Cloudflare plugin in cPanel to connect the website to Cloudflare and the web host maintains control of the DNS. This is the load time in Australia for a partially zoned website on the free tier: 7.215s
This is a very poor result. Using Cloudflare in this way has slowed down the website by nearly 2 seconds.
Third scenario: Full Zoning & Free Tier
Full zoning is when the website uses Cloudflare nameservers and Cloudflare manages the DNS. This is the Australian load time for a free, fully zoned website: 5.989s