Recently I realized that I had not gotten a CDN (Content Delivery Network) to serve up You Doodle images. Every time a new user wants to download stamps or frames for You Doodle, they have to go to my servers to get the images. For people that aren’t in North America, this can be a slow and painful download.
After researching different CDN’s I decided to choose CloudFlare.com. CloudFlare offers free tiers for their CDN which is amazing. They also don’t charge for bandwidth, and they have a number of servers all over the world. Their DNS manager is great and they have robust page rules. They are conservative on the caching side in order to not break your site if it has cookies or logins, but using a page rule you can cache your entire site if you really want to. CloudFlare caches static resource extensions by default (i.e. .jpg, .js, .css, etc.).
When content is served from the CDN, it is stunning how much faster the downloads are. For example, I have a site, 99colors.net that usually takes 100-200 milliseconds for me to load a page. After switching to CloudFlare, I am getting 20-30 millisecond downloads from their cache! That is crazy fast. How fast do my You Doodle images download now? For a sample stamp that was not cached, it took me 240 milliseconds to download. When I downloaded the cached stamp, it took 25 milliseconds!
I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a 10x increase in download speed for cached content. It makes sense since you are connecting to a server that is much closer to you that can serve up a resource faster than your server can.
I’m not a CDN master by any means, but CloudFlare has made it pretty easy to setup and most importantly their support has been top notch and they have responded to support requests and emails within 30 minutes much of the time.
A few words about moving to CloudFlare are in order. Once I signed up and entered my first domain, I had to switch my name servers from my domain registrar over to CloudFlare name servers. This means that your DNS is now managed in CloudFlare and not your registrar anymore. This made me nervous at first, but I didn’t notice any downtime as the changes propagated.
CloudFlare will import your DNS settings from your registrar to help you get started, although their import tool missed a few of mine so I would encourage you to double check the import when it’s done and add any missing entries from your registrar.
CloudFlare has been great and there’s no reason I can think of not to try their free tier.