So by now you’ve probably heard of “the cloud”, but you might be vague on what the cloud actually is. That’s OK, the cloud is by nature vague. In short, it’s just a name that applies to what the Internet has been trying to do for a long time: information without location. You put a photo up in the cloud, and it’s just “out there”, not on any particular server, not in any particular data center, not in any given country. Could be there are copies of it all over the place, and when someone wants to look at the picture, The Cloud serves up the copy closest (in Internet miles) to the person who wants to see it.
This requires a lot of expensive equipment. Google and Amazon are the biggies in the cloud, but there are others as well, who, for a price, will host your data in a ‘cloudy’ way. In return, people around the world can load your stuff faster.
This humble blog is in the cloud. When you load a page here, roughly half the time the request doesn’t even reach my server (protected in a bunker somewhere in Nevada), but is instead served up from one of CloudFlare’s data centers around the globe. It’s pretty sweet, and has reduced the strain on my server (not that it’s working that hard anyway) while improving the Muddled Experience. The cost for this service? Nothing. It’s free.
I totally win.
CloudFlare also blocks a few hundred spammers each week, before my server has to go to the trouble of blocking them. They compile usage stats and provide other interesting information, and cut the load time for the blog about in half.
They’re a friendly bunch, too; when I suggested upgrades to their interface they wrote back with specific questions as well as thanks. A site they hosted was attacked from China a while back, and it brought down part of their network. They were right up front about the issue and what they were doing about it, and advised people on how to ‘de-cloud’ until the crisis was over. Not everyone was happy, but I was impressed. Soon after reading those communications I signed up.
How can they offer something like this for free? It’s the upsell, of course; they offer premium services. In addition they create a platform for other companies to sell stuff to me. Some of those services are pretty cool, too, though I haven’t dipped my toe in those waters yet (for instance, there’s a free service that checks your site now and then to see if it’s been hacked).
Overall, I can’t think of any reason NOT to use CloudFlare. Check ’em out and tell them Jerry sent you!
I should have mentioned re: the China attack, that CloudFlare now has more data centers and a lot more redundancy, so a similar attack in the future would be much less damaging.
It’s the way they handled the crisis that impressed me, with open communication and useful information, not just damage control.
Oh, and speaking of clouds, my employer will be sticking the inevitable ‘i’ in front of one this fall. iCloud is coming, and may be pretty sweet.
Two things have happened as a result of this post. I sent a link to CloudFlare, secretly hoping they would feature it and send traffic my way, but mainly I thought they might like to read nice things about themselves. Hey, we all do.
They wrote back and offered to send me a t-shirt. So, after the fact, I did gain from writing this article. Soon I will be able to advertise CloudFlare with my clothing.
Also, I was contacted out of the blue by Incapsula, which in my brief look-see appears to be a competitor to CloudFlare, with a stronger emphasis on security. They also have a free base service and offer many of the same benefits as CloudFlare. So if you’re in the market for something like this, you might want to check them out as well.