Every now and then you come across a company whose service or capabilities blow you away. CloudFlare is such a company in my opinion. This article is quite technical, but if you own a website, it’s in your best interest to give it some thought.

What happens when you visit a website?

One web page usually consists of several files. When you visit a web page, the web server will usually send an HTML document to your computer (or smartphone). This contains the necessary code to tell you exactly what is on the website, but it will also instruct your computer to download other files. Think of images and other pieces of code.  One single web page usually consists of several files (often between 50 and 200).

The main problem is that your computer has to wait for that first HTML file before it can download all the others. The faster you can receive this file, the faster the other files can be downloaded. And that first file often takes the longest.

This website, for example, runs on WordPress. Behind the scenes, a number of things have to be done before the web server can send an HTML page to a visitor. All these calculations take quite some time, and it’s kinda pointless to perform them again for every single visitor.

And that’s where CloudFlare APO (Automatic Platform Optimisation) can help.

What does CloudFlare APO do?

Caching

CloudFlare stands in between your computer and a web server (which has to make the calculations). When you visit a page on my website, you will first request it from CloudFlare. If you are the first person to request it, CloudFlare will in turn request it from my web server, and then send back it to you.
But at the same time, CloudFlare will store the HTML on its own super fast servers. A second person requests the same page? Then CloudFlare will send its cached version back to that visitor, without asking a single thing from my server. A lot faster.

Reduce latency

In addition, the distance between different web servers and devices causes a certain delay. Someone from Belgium visiting a website hosted on a web server in Tokyo will have to wait longer than if that person were to visit a Belgian website. After all, the data on the Internet is still sent through cables in the sea.

Here too, CloudFlare can offer a solution. CloudFlare has servers all across the globe. When CloudFlare stores a web page from my website on one of its servers, this page will immediately be shared and stored on all CloudFlare servers. That way, my web page is not only available on a server in France, but from now on also in Canada, Tokyo, etc.

So if an Australian requests my website, he won’t have to wait for an answer from Belgium, but an Australian CloudFlare server will be able to serve it immediately.

How to activate CloudFlare APO?

CloudFlare APO is a product from CloudFlare and was created for websites using WordPress. APO can be activated through their plugin.

How much does it cost?

Those who already have a paying account with CloudFlare can activate CloudFlare APO for free. Paid CloudFlare accounts start at 20 euros. Those who don’t have a paying account yet will have to pay 5 euros a month for it. A small cost for what is, in my eyes, a robust technology.