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!