Newbie Sprout

How to Setup Free Cloudflare CDN for your website in 5 minutes

Before we jump into the setup, let me tell you why I chose Cloudflare over other CDNs. I will show you an overview of the Cloudflare dashboard so you have a better understanding on it’s benefits and how to use it.

I had a few websites hosted with a couple of web hosts but they were hacked quite a number of times. I was looking for a solution and that’s when I came across Cloudflare. 

Cloudflare, in simple terms, restricts all spam bots and hackers from accessing your website.

Your website protected with Cloudflare

The other thing that attracted me was that,

It’s FREE.

Yes, you heard me right.

The free plan does come with all the necessary features to protect and speed up your website. I haven’t faced any performance issues so far. You can upgrade to the paid plan as and when required. 

In their Data Center Map, you can see where their edge servers are located in different parts of the globe and their operational status. This is another reason why a major share of websites on the internet use Cloudflare. 

A website using Cloudflare uses 55% less bandwidth, 60% fewer requests and loads twice as fast and is more secure.

How To Setup Free Cloudflare CDN For Your WordPress Blog

Simply follow these instructions to setup your free cdn with Cloudflare.

First, sign up into cloudflare with an email id and password. 

Add your website url as shown below.

Cloudflare enter website

Select the plan that provides the security and performance you need.

Cloudflare Plans

I would recommend starting with the free plan because it covers almost everything a website needs when starting up. 

Cloudflare will now scan your existing domain and pull the necessary records. You will now be directed to a page to review your DNS records. Just make sure that DNS records are configured correctly before moving to the next step.

Cloudflare DNS records

The Proxy status showing an orange cloud means that that the specific subdomain will be cached and served through Cloudflare. 

5618 830027

I have hosted my site on Namecheap. You need to login to your hosting and replace the existing nameservers with Cloudflare’s nameservers.

Cloudflare change namerservers

Nameserver 1 and Nameserver 2 need to be copied and pasted into custom DNS.

The interface might look different if you are hosting your site with GoDaddy or other web hosting service providers.

namecheap nameservers

Your Cloudflare nameservers will look something like this.

Note: Your site won’t go down while changing the name servers. The DNS propagation happens immediately once you point your domain name to the new host.

Cloudflare Nameservers

If you already have an SSL certificate with your web hosting that is signed by a certificate authority, I would recommend you choose Full SSL – Strict. The certificate authority must be the one trusted by Cloudflare. This is the most secure connectivity option you would ever opt for.

If it’s a self-signed certificate, it won’t work with Full SSL – Strict.  In that case, you will need to select Full SSL. You will also need to configure your server to answer the HTTPS requests from your visitors.

Turn on “Always use HTTPS” option so all the requests will be redirected to https version of your website.

Cloudflare SSL - Full SSL and Full SLL - Strict
Cloudflare Auto Minify and Brotli Compression

Auto Minify your javascript and css files which will help load your website faster. This is part of the SEO optimization process as well. Website Speed is a factor in SEO ranking and which in turn will reduce the bounce rates. People tend to bounce back if the site loads slowly.

Note: If you have caching plugins installed on your website, I would recommend you to turn it off as you already have an option in cloudflare to minify your Javascript and CSS files.

Keep your Brotli compression turned on. It’s a compression algorithm like GZip which compresses data which results in faster transfer of files between the server and the end user.

Well. That’s it. You have completed the setup.

It might take a few minutes for the nameservers to be updated.

You will be notified via email once the domain transfer has been completed.

domain transfer complete

There is a Cloudflare wordpress plugin if your site is running on wordpress so you can access it’s features from your website’s admin dashboard itself.

Cloudflare Dashboard Overview

I won’t be going into each and every detail as most options can be enabled for only Pro, Business and Enterprise plans. Here are some of the options you will find on the free plan of Cloudflare.

The overview page will show you the amount of visitors for your website and the amount of data cached for the last 30 days. You can see a detailed view in the analytics tab.

Cloudflare Dashboard Overview

Under Attack Mode

If your site is under DDoS attack, you will need to turn on Under Attack Mode. This will essentially present the user with an interstitial page for about 5 seconds during which they make sure it’s a real human who accesses your website. 

Note: Your visitors will need to enable Javascript and cookies to pass the interstitial page.

Cloudflare under attack

Enabling this mode won’t block Search Engine crawlers and will not affect your SEO rankings.

Cloudflare under attack mode to medium

Cloudflare by default sets the security level to medium.

Security Level Threat Scores Description
Essentially Off
Greater than 49
Only challenges IP addresses with the worst reputation.
Low
Greater than 24
Challenges only the most threatening visitors.
Medium
Greater than 14
Challenges both moderate threat visitors and the most threatening visitors.
High
Greater than 0
Challenges all visitors that exhibit threatening behavior within the last 14 days.
I’m Under Attack!
N/A
Only for use if your website is currently under a DDoS attack.

Development Mode

By Enabling Development Mode, caching and minification will be temporarily suspended. So basically you won’t be seeing cached content but rather in real time. Any changes made to CSS, Javascript or Images will be observed immediately by the user. All requests will be fetched directly from the origin server by bypassing the edge servers.

API Token

Scrolling down, you will see your Account ID and Zone ID which is used to integrate with other plugins or applications. You can create an API in your account profile under API Tokens tab. 

Cloudflare API

For example, you can see that I have created an API key for Shortpixel plugin which is used to optimize your image. Here I have given this plugin the permission to purge the cache. So this plugin will work along with Cloudflare to serve optimized images to the users.

That’s pretty much it.

I have just gone through some of the basic settings in Cloudflare and this will be enough for you to get started. 

Do share if you have any suggestions via comments. Also, share the article with your Facebook and other social media community so that they will also benefit as well.

See you in the next one.

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