How Does Cloudflare Make Money?

Amanda Postma
by Amanda Postma
Business Models - 1 week ago

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What is Cloudflare?

What once started as a way of finding sources of email spam, Cloudflare has now grown into so much more. Not only does the company focus on optimizing website performance, but it also protects websites from several attacks. The company now serves 200 cities in over 90 countries around the world, affects over 26 million Internet properties and works with more than 1 billion unique IP addresses.

So, How Does it Work Exactly?

The company depends on a global content delivery network that is highly available and designed with security measures at every layer. The network regularly reports super-fast speeds, which is why websites that use Cloudflare report loading twice as fast as those that aren’t using the company.

Those websites also use 60% less bandwidth, are more secure and receive 65% fewer requests. This type of success stems from CloudFlare’s concept of combining web security and performance-enhancing into a CDN. Seemingly so, Cloudflare is the only company that offers this capability.

So how is the company able to do this? Through a proprietary tech known as Anycast. Datacenters around the globe gather copies of your site to serve visitors in the best way geographically speaking. Anycast routes your site’s visitors to the nearest data center based on their location.

In turn, your cached website is able to run twice as fast as the average load time. Additionally, Cloudflare utilizes an IPv6 network so visitors have access to the best site speed even if your server is on the old IPv4 infrastructure.

Sounds Great, But How Much is This Going to Cost?

Well, it depends. For anyone just wanting to explore the company’s offering or for those who have a personal website it’s $0 a month. Yep, you read that right. High speeds and security for nothing. So, what’s the catch?

That’s not the company’s only option. For $20 a month, you’ll get basic security, performance and a Web Application Firewall with the Pro plan for your professional websites, blogs and portfolios. Then for $200 a month, you can get advanced security, performance, prioritized support, all-the-time chat support, 100% uptime SLA and an existing name server for your business through the Business plan.

Last, but not least, is the Enterprise plan. For pricing on this one, you’ll have to get a quote from Cloudflare directly. But whatever that final price ends up being you’ll have access to maximum performance for your company that requires enterprise-grade security, performance and emergency support with all-the-time phone support, a named solution engineer and 2500% uptime SLA.

If I Just Use the Free Version, How Does Cloudflare Make Money?

If you’re wondering if there are any hidden fees, you can relax. The free plan is free. But it can only help you so far. While the company’s goal is to help everyone benefit from faster DNS and content serving, they’re really hoping that customers will upgrade to paying accounts eventually.

So while the free version includes a range of security features, SSL encryption, access to the global CDN and stat reports regarding site traffic, it also includes weekly site crawls, an activation period and analytics updates that take a full 24 hours to take effect. The basic plan is just that, basic, and probably isn’t sustainable for anything but a personal website.

Should you use Cloudfare?

Assuming you have a self-hosted website, Cloudflare is really simple to set up. Like 5 minutes simple. All you have to do is make a few changes to your domain’s DNS settings and then you’ll be good to go. And on top of that, the company provides a Wizard that waves a wand and takes care of everything. Okay, obviously the wand part isn’t true, but the Wizard will walk you through everything step-by-step.

Some other pros to using Cloudflare is that site speed optimization and security features that protect your site from threats. Load times are much faster because of the pre-loader that pre-caches your most popular pages. And if Google Analytics is ever not working properly, the company will notify you right away.

All static and dynamic content on your site is cached immediately by Cloudflare, and that includes sub-domains, CSS, images and JavaScript. The company uses software that tracks how much traffic your site is receiving and provides you data so you know how well your site is doing. Plus, in addition to the setup process being intuitive, the user interface is also intuitive. And just in case the main server goes down, the company provides you with an Always Online feature that continues to serve a cached version of your website.

As for some of the downsides, you’ll have to pay more for advanced security features. It takes 24 hours for you to receive updated analytics data. Plus that data is pretty limited. It’s better than not having data, but it’s still scarce. As you can see, even the free plan has way more pros than cons. So maybe it is worth a shot. After all, what do you have to lose? $0 a month.

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