Last Updated on November 12, 2020 by Christopher G Mendla
Using the Free version of Cloudflare provided by my hosting company (Westhost) dramatically improved the speed and reliability of the WordPress sites on my shared hosting plan. Updated Sept 2019.
I have five sites on Westhost’s preferred shared hosting. To be honest, that is pushing the envelope a bit. Cpanel was showing a lot of faults. Mainly CPU and Entry Processes. Right now, the sites are fairly low traffic. I’m trying to incubate them. I let the sites go dormant for a year and decided to try to get them back up to speed. As I worked with the first site, I realized it was responding like a drunken pig. (No offense meant to inebriated swine).
It was unfeasible switch to a VPN plan at this time both in terms of cost and the time involved in migrating. I was looking at Content Distribution Networks. We use a lot of AWS at work. That seemed like overkill. I started reading about Cloudflare. Cloudflare is a content distribution system. This will minimize the load on your server while also providing some redundancy in case of certain outage.
I was getting ready to set the service up directly with Cloudflare when I noticed that Westhost offered it on their Chi dashboard. I decided to try one of the sites to see how much was involved in setting it up and if it really boosted performance.
Before you consider trying something like Cloudflare… BACK YOUR SITE UP in a way that you can recover if things go nasty. Another thing. BACK YOUR SITE UP.. And one final thing BACK THE STINKING SITE UP!!!
You can also do some benchmarks using tools that will show the page metrics such as Pingdom Tools. I printed the results to PDF files and saved them in a folder. That way, I can tell if there is a change in performance. Another useful benchmark tool is Google’s Lighthouse/Pagespeedinsights tool.
Also, look at your cpanel. The home page on cpanel shows usage. You can refresh that page to get a feel for the average load on your server. You can also take a look at the CPU and Concurrent Connection tool to get a baseline for how your hosting is responding. In the example below, we are well within the limits of our server’s capabilities. These results constantly change. A browser refresh will show fresh stats.
Run a ping on your sites so you know what IP is associated with your current hosting company.
You need to examine your plugins and look for any plugins that might be re-writing your .htaccess files , doing any kind or redirection or forcing SSL.
Disable any plugins that meet the issues above. I disabled:
Add a plugin designed for Cloudflare. I added Cloudflare Flexible SSL (Assuming your site is using SSL which it should be).
In the CHI control panel, you go to Domains, then look for Cloudflare. You can set up one month or one year free (as of April 2019). Choose the one year plan.
You need to enable the WWW subdomain at least. I would suggest leaving the settings at the defaults until everything is stable.
The TTLs are usually set to about 1 day. I found it helps to shorten the TTL (Time to live) for your domain’s A record and Cname – IOW, I set the A record for chrismendlatech.com and the cname record for www.chrismendlatech.com to one hour.
Keep a close eye on your site Make sure it is responding. DO NOT EXPECT AN IMMEDIATE CHANGE IN RESPONSE TIME. The site has to propagate through the Cloudflare system.
This is tricky because of DNS caching. It is tricky to determine if the site really has migrated. Here are some tools that will help you.
Give it a couple of days or a week. Then check your performance on the benchmarking sites you used at the beginning. Also, check your Google Analytics, error logs, Adsense and whatever other indicators you have. You should see a performance increase.
Once you have a stable configuration of Cloudflare, you might want to try optimizing your site with tools such as Autoptimize
Activating Cloudflare really sped up my sites and reduced the number of CPU and Entry Process Faults. The setup was not that difficult. However, optimizing site speed requires constant monitoring and tweaking
I’ve been running the free version CloudFlare on Westhost’s server since April 2019. The experience has been great so far. I’m able to squeeze some performance out of an inexpensive hosting plan.
The redundancy provided by CloudFlare has helped during the rare times when I had an issue with the Westhost hosting.
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