What Is Cloudflare: A Simple Guide In 5 Points

Ajay Ohri


With the internet reaching the farthest corners of the globe, it brings a twofold problem for those businesses which want to reach out to people anywhere on the globe, fair speed of access to your business website with minimum geography-related latency and the threat of break-in or security breach. There are several ways to handle latency issues over the internet, one of them being CDN (Content Delivery Network). A CDN requires you to deploy several data centres across the globe and have a DNS system route your requests to the nearest edge server, delivering high availability with minimal latency issues.

The way you mitigate security risks is to add a software layer or filter to screen web requests before they are actually serviced by your systems. Both approaches require massive investment in both time and money. This opened up a big market for companies who are able to offer data centres with a global outreach and security features that mitigate most of the risks with minimum investment. Some of the players in this market are, Amazon CloudFront, Fastly, Microsoft Azure CDN, Imperva Cloud Application Security, and the market leader Cloudflare.

  1. What is Cloudflare
  2. How Cloudflare works?
  3. Features of Cloudflare
  4. Advantages
  5. Disadvantages

1. What is Cloudflare

So, what is Cloudflare? What problem does it solve for businesses with a global outreach or even otherwise? Cloudflare is an integrated security and performance suite for web-based applications, that tries to eliminate the problems that we discussed in the primer above. Cloudflare was created in 2007 by Matthew Prince, Lee Holloway, and Michelle Zatlyn offering security services to websites. It acts as a reverse proxy, a term used for a technique on the internet that helps in reducing the load on the internal servers by caching static content in data centres located strategically across various geographic locations.

Today Cloudflare offers sophisticated CDN, security, and privacy services-based solutions for enterprises, developers, teams, and individual consumers. Cloudflare even operates its data centres in China to ensure businesses can tap into the huge market that it is. It is quite likely the webpages that you are flipping through right now are getting screened or cached on Cloudflare servers, with over 25 million internet properties across the world

2. How Cloudflare works?

Acting as a reverse proxy, Cloudflare is the wall that requests have to go through to reach your site. Cloudflare works on 3 verticals of Security, Performance, and Reliability offering the best to both you and your visitors. Cloudflare shores up security, by scanning the requests that are targeted at your web application, looking for malicious content based on suspect IP addresses, the kind of resources requested, the request payload and its frequency, and a firewall that includes rules defined by you, the customer.

On the Performance vertical, Cloudflare uses several techniques to deliver smooth content to your visitors, by caching static content on Cloudflare data centres and forwarding requests to origin sites in case of dynamic content. Cloudflare also uses intelligent routing over its 200 strong data centres, strategically located across the globe.  On the Reliability front, ClouFlare turns out to be one of the most reliable in the industry with 738 billion DNS queries resolved per day across 25 million internet properties., that include major e-com sites, govt agencies, and enterprises. 

Technically Cloudflare acts as a reverse proxy, which means all traffic will be routed via Cloudflare servers which are spread over 200 cities worldwide.  The figure given below will shed more light on how Cloudflare is set up to secure and enhance your web assets.

3. Features of Cloudflare

  • Mitigate DDoS attack

Offering robust protection against DDoS for websites, applications, and entire networks, CloudFlare blocks over 57billion threats per day.

  • Globally Load Balanced CDN

Intelligent load balancing strategies spread over 200 data centres across the globe, ensure minimal chances of congestion.

  • Static Content Caching

Strategically located edge servers, cache content for faster delivery, reducing latency issues.

  • Argo Smart Routing

Cloudflare makes use of Argo’s smart routing algorithm to intelligently route traffic through the fastest network paths.

  • Geo-based Routing

Global Load Balancing ensures your web application visitors get served content from the servers closest to them.

  • Streaming

Cloudflare offers an economical and easy-to-use, on-demand streaming platform.

  • Mobile Optimization

Cloudflare Mirage, through its virtualized and lazy-loaded images, detects the type of the browser on the user’s machine and automatically adapts, optimizing for performance.

  • Argo Tunnel

Cloudflare can help you create an encrypted tunnel between the nearest data center and the origin server to ensure fully secure communication.

  • Deploy Intelligence to Identify New Threats

Cloudflare comes with intelligent systems that learn from attacks on any site and extend improved protection based on this learning to all other sites instantly.

  • China Network

Cloudflare is the only truly integrated global network with strategic partnerships in China, that delivers fast, secure, and reliable experiences for your customers both inside and outside of China

  • Analytics

Deep insights and intelligence that takes a granular approach to your cached data, offering rich product-specific dashboards, also allowing custom dashboards using GraphQL and Analytics API.

4. Advantages

Primarily a CDN, Cloudflare boast of a more than 200 strong data center across the globe, speeds up site speed, also offers rich security features to go along.

Enjoy advanced analytics using rich dashboards and deep insights from analysis of cache data use at a granular scale.

Easy to set up and an intuitive user interface make it a favorite in the industry.

Ensure your site is always available to your customers by serving a cached version of your website, even when the origin server is down.

A free trial version lets you test out Cloudflare for your setup with some basic features.

5. Disadvantages

DNS zones are managed which is not exactly what some users want.

SSL certificates are issued to sni.cloudflaressl.com and are only one level deep.

Most of the other disadvantages are related to the non-availability of the feature in a free version.


Cloudflare was one of the first CDN providers to integrate security and performance enhancements into a single solution. With a reliable base of over 200 data centres, Cloudflare consistently hits over 7 billion requests. Cloudflare is also quick to plug security holes pointed out as has happened in the past. It also runs a reward program for pointing out a new vulnerability, showing a strong commitment to protect customer data in all possible ways, and stay a market leader for some time to come.

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