Cloudflare – Most Popular CDN (Content Delivery Network) for Web

Cloudflare is one of the most popular CDN (Content Delivery Network) that speeds up the delivery of web content to users by making use of an edge network to minimize latency.

Essentially, it is a massive network of servers that work together to deliver content and information closer to site visitors based on their geographical location. It caches the version of a website and delivers it to visitors on their edge locations by leveraging its 155 data centers that span 250 cities in over 100 countries.

In doing so, Cloudflare minimizes the distance between website visitors and the website they are browsing, which in turn reduces latency, and bandwidth consumption and improves page load times.

In addition to improving website performance. Cloudflare also protects web applications against attacks such as DDoS attacks and malicious bots using a powerful web application firewall that sits between website visitors and the host.

It proxies the DNS records of your web server such that any DNS lookup to your server resolves to Cloudflare’s Anycast IP addresses. This masks the IP address of your web server from potential attackers.

Let us have a look at what makes Cloudflare tick.

Cloudflare Security Solutions

As we mentioned earlier, Cloudflare not only optimizes website performance but also safeguards it from nefarious entities and a myriad of threats. Let us brush over some of the security solutions it offers to ensure the online safety of your applications.

1. Cloudflare DDoS Protection

DDoS attacks are one of the most debilitating cyber security attacks. In these attacks, hackers flood your webserver with malicious internet traffic which takes down your site and renders it inaccessible to other users. Such attacks inevitably cripple your online business.

Cloudflare’s industry-leading DDoS protection safeguards your web applications from DDoS attacks and at the same time ensures that legitimate traffic to your applications is not compromised. And it’s not just web applications, but also applications and services riding on the TCP/IP protocols such as SSH, FTP, gaming, and so on.

Cloudflare DDoS Protection
Cloudflare DDoS Protection

It boasts a powerful 121Tbps edge network that works in tandem with WAF (Web application Firewall) to ward off approximately 86 billion threats a day.

2. Cloudflare WAF (Web Application Firewall)

Cyberattacks are evolving as attackers’ level of sophistication grows with each passing day. This implies that websites are invariably at risk of falling victim to these attacks and breaches. It’s not uncommon to hear of stolen credentials and other confidential information which soon find their way to the dark web.

Cloudflare’s WAF (Web Application Firewall) offers advanced zero-day vulnerability protection with OWASP Core Rule Sets that block the most common attack techniques. Zero-day protection from attacks, in turn, allows companies more time to enhance their worn internal security control.

Cloudflare WAF (Web Application Firewall)
Cloudflare WAF (Web Application Firewall)

WAF Machine Learning complements these Rule Sets by intelligently detecting nefarious traffic and blocking it from accessing the applications.

With WAF sitting between your applications and site visitors, you can rest easy and have peace of mind about the security of your applications.

3. Cloudflare Bot Management

Malicious bots can steal sensitive information such as credit card information, pollute data, spam your site, and even launch a DDoS attack that impacts your revenue growth.

Cloudflare’s bot management solution uses behavioral analysis and fingerprinting to classify bots and distinguish the good from the bad in real-time and with high accuracy. Its machine learning algorithms also monitor the behavior of billions of requests sent to applications and reliably map out a bot score for every request.

Cloudflare Bot Management
Cloudflare Bot Management

Cloudflare bot manages and leverages low-latency bot defenses with a latency as low as 0.3ms. You can easily deploy a fast bot management solution that will, out-of-the-box, recommend rules for bot management. No complex configuration is required.

4. Cloudflare API Shield

API traffic has recorded steady growth in the past couple of years thanks to the ubiquitous nature of APIs which are used by a wide range of smart devices and web applications to make API calls. As such, APIs are usually ripe targets for abuse and data theft.

The API shield is a product launched in 2020 by Cloudflare that incorporates all security solutions to protect API traffic. It provides an intuitive UI that users can use to protect web and API traffic using schema validation and mTLS authentication to prevent APIs from exposing sensitive information.

Cloudflare API Shield
Cloudflare API Shield

5. Cloudflare Page Shield

Page Shield is a client-side security product that is designed to safeguard against threats aimed at your customers by actively monitoring your website’s JavaScript dependencies for malicious code.

Attackers can inject malware into the dependencies and once the infected code is requested by end-users, it executes and fetches sensitive user data such as payment credentials which is then sent to hackers.

Cloudflare Page Shield
Cloudflare Page Shield

The information can then be used by the hackers to launch other attacks or sold on the dark web. With Page Shield, your customers are safe from browser attacks.

Cloudflare Performance Solutions

Cloudflare also goes a step further to optimize your online assets and make them more reliable. This improves the overall user experience and boosts reputational image.

Here are some of the ways it enhances the performance of your assets.

1. Cloudflare CDN

Cloudflare’s CDN (Content Delivery Network) is an ultra-fast and secure global network of data centers that speed up the delivery of content at edge locations. The vast network of servers caches website content close to users and delivers dynamic content over the most reliable and super-fast backbone links.

Cloudflare CDN
Cloudflare CDN

In doing so, caching reduces the number of requests made to the origin and minimizes bandwidth consumption leading to increased savings.

2. Cloudflare Load Balancing

Overutilized and far-flung servers can lead to high latency and degraded user experience which can eventually lead to high website bounce rates, reputational damage, and loss of revenue.

Cloudflare’s Load Balancing boosts application performance and availability by redirecting traffic from overutilized and unhealthy origin servers and distributing it to the most responsive and available server pools.

Cloudflare Load Balancing
Cloudflare Load Balancing

In doing so, site visitors are routed from sub-optimal servers to healthy and ultra-fast servers. Whenever a pool of servers encounters a downtime, requests are proxied through Cloudflare and re-routed ensuring zero downtime.

3. Cloudflare Smart Routing

Network congestion can lead to slow page load times and poor user experience. Argo smart routing is a feature provided by Cloudflare that detects congestion in the public internet in real-time and routes requests across the fastest and most efficient network links. This boosts website performance by up to 30% and improves user experience.

Cloudflare Argo Smart Routing
Cloudflare Argo Smart Routing

In addition, all traffic routed by Argo is encrypted with end-to-end encryption, thereby protecting traffic from malicious actors.

4. Cloudflare Website Optimization

Boosting website performance does not only involve caching content and moving it closer to site visitors. It also has to do with optimizing how a website renders on the screen.

Cloudflare uses image optimization algorithms to accelerate the delivery of high-quality images to users based on the devices they are using.

Cloudflare Website Optimization
Cloudflare Website Optimization

Cloudflare resizes and reduces image size by applying lossless compression without compromising the pixel quality of the image. This greatly improves page load speeds and reduces bandwidth costs.

Summing up

In summation, we see that Cloudflare plays two major roles – securing and accelerating your apps, websites, and APIs by routing your DNS to Cloudflare. It leverages its large network of servers to provide enterprise-grade security features such as DDoS protection, WAF, API security, and bot management while at the same time optimizing your site’s speed.

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I am an experienced GNU/Linux expert and a full-stack software developer with over a decade in the field of Linux and Open Source technologies.

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