How my website has improved using Cloudflare CDN

I have recently added my website to Cloudflare and speed has improved drastically. Overall performance has increased and loading time was reduced in several regions.

The server of my website is located in Germany which lead to great speed accessing my website and blog from Germany and neighbouring countries. Nevertheless there are several visitors outside Europe and even I access it from Thailand where speed has been notably too low. In a recent post I have mentioned already that I would like to focus on user experience after the base development for the blog has been finished and moving to a CDN would be one step ahead.

Site performance before Cloudflare

Before powering my site with Cloudflare I have made a few test to confirm my impression and get the current status.

It turned out that the site loads quick in Germany and Netherlands for example lower than 3 seconds which is the minimum to expect since most visitors waiting limit is at around 3 seconds.

Page loading time from Amsterdam before Cloudflare — by pingdom

Running a test from the US or Canada turned out that loading time can be around 5 seconds or higher. This is about the same I have experience browsing my website here from Thailand.

Page loading time from USA before Cloudflare — by pingdom

Besides I have run gtmetrix report on the website which turned out to be ok but certainly with space for improvements. Especially the Yslow rating showed a non-satisfying score for me whereas use of CDN is one of the Yslow factors.

Gtmetrix score before Cloudflare

YSlow score before Cloudflare

Switching to Cloudflare

All in all my site was certainly lacking speed and required the switch to an either very expensive and powerful server or simply make use of a free CDN such as Cloudflare.

Next to AWS the service by Cloudflare is probably the most popular and since it has a free plan, it is quite appealing for the small to medium sites with world-wide visitors.

The setup and configuration of Cloudflare takes indeed around 5 minutes just like it is advertised. Of course you should know how to change your nameservers for your domain in order to have the setup done quickly.

Cloudflare settings to take full advantage

Even in the free plan Cloudflare offers a good range of settings for your site to improve security and performance.

The default settings are rather basic and just improve the delivery of static resources without extra goodies to improve the speed. For the performance settings you can choose between CDN only which is the default option or CDN + Basic optimization or CDN + Full optimization. The optimization includes benefits suchs as minifying your JS, CSS and HTML and for example the auto-merging of your JS delivered asynchronized while loading.

Result of switching to Cloudflare

I have tried all 3 options and the third option with CDN + full optimization satisfied me the most with high rating at gtmetrix and notably improved performance browsing my site from Thailand. Also the JavaScript on the whole site and blog was still working as expected even the Rocketload feature is still in beta.

As a result my gtmetrix scores went from 94% to 95% for page speed rating and from 79% to 95% for YSlow grade.

Gtmetrix score with Cloudflare

Besides my feeling did not get me wrong and also confirmed that loading speed has been improved from 5.57s to 2.01s accessing from the NY in the US. Loading time in Europe seems to be more or less the same but still not the CDN itself but the auto-merge and minify features proved to increase performance for Europe too.

Site loading speed from US with Cloudflare

Not only the loading time has been reduce but also the number of requests has gone down from 43 to 37 and as well the page size from 730KB to 687KB which has a good impact on the server load.

I would strongly recommend to make use of a CDN if your visitors come from different regions and you want to keep loading time low. The quick setup and configuration options convinced me using Cloudflare. For me Cloudflare seems to be good as it’s image and after using it for a few weeks now, I am glad I have made the switch.

Go to Cloudflare yourself and power your site just like I did (no commission for me but a true advise).

Did you try Cloudflare yourself already? What is your experience?

Let me know in the comments.