Am I misunderstanding what cloudflare is for?

I recently gave up on my major corporate webhost who, for $250/year, couldn’t keep my website running. I have a 100Mb/s connection at home so I set up an apache server and mograted my wordpress site to my living room. It’s a big image-heavy site, and serving it from home, even over a connection that’s capable of simultaneously streaming full-res video to 4 TVs at once It was, obviously, not as fast as having it served from my former big corporate webhost (on the rate occasions when the big corporate webhost’s servers were working) so I signed up with a CDN, thinking that the idea was that a CDN hosts my assets out there closer to the people loading my site in their browsers, with faster connections, and generally, is just faster.

…and now, it is ten times as slow.

There is no way anybody is going to wait around for my site to load now. I can barely stand to, and it’s my own site. I thought with a CDN the assets get cached somewhere out there on servers that are faster than the little mac mini in my living room. Worst of all, being Wordpress, the solution to everything is “add a plugin!” I finally tonight went through and removed all my “performance” and “caching” plugins in hopes that the site would finally speed up.

It didn’t . There is no possible way anyone is going to sit and wait this long for pages to load. It’s not 1994 anymore.

I even went through and created webp versions of all 800 imges on my site, and changed the tags to use html5 tags with image sets so newer browsers would load the supposedly faster webp images. Honestly? I think it’s even slower now.

I thought this was the exact problem a CDN was supposed to solve. What am I misunderstanding? I know that in 2023 I cannot be the first person ever to try to host a host an art site with a lot of visual images. I thought CDNs where how people made that work. How do they do it?

I did sign up for Argo, I turned on smart tiered caching, I set up a page rule to cache everything and set up a long TTL (so when I update my site people won’t see it for who knows how long know, I guess?) and paid for Cloudflare Images to store all my images in their cloud, thinking that, since the basic free plan evidently was not caching anything online in any way that made any performance difference, perhaps that was what was needed.

And still, there is no way anyone will ever sit through how long this site takes to load. BTW the image galleries have between 24 and I think a max of 120 300x300 images, now being served in webp. It’s not that big.

I do see that Cloudflare offers a “pro” membership, which it says will do the things for performance I thought the free membership would do, and then when it didn’t, I thought paying for Argo and Cloudflare Images would do… and it costs… drum roll please… every penny as much as shared hosting with a big corporate webhost with whom I wouldn’t have to think about any of this with.

So… what does Cloudflare do? Is there some way I can get a performance increase out of this service, or am I misunderstanding something?

Also, yes, I made sure Zend cache is running, and installed Docketcache, which is supposed to be an adequate substitute for Redis etc.

Domain?

Hmmmmmmm. This is less of a reply than I had hoped for. Not encouraging. The longer I’m with cloudflare the more of a mistake thinking the free account would be good for anything at all is feeling like.

I did solve the slow image problem, by unsubscribing from Cloudflare’s Images service and removing my images from Cloudflare. Load speeds improved immediately.

I also signed up with Optimole, which actually does appear to be a working CDN and speeds up image loading, although it requires turning off “Bot Fight Mode” as Cloudflare blocks most legitimate APIs, including Optimole’s, and provides no way for free users to set up a rule override that. (FWIW this doesn’t make me more likely to become a paying CF customer. It makes me more likely to walk away from Cloudflare entirely. Especially as the one service I’ve paid them for actually made my website much slower instead of faster.)

So far CF seems to be a lot of complexity and headaches for few or no actual benefits. They could have used to free account to show what they can do and inspire me to want to sign up for a paid account to get even more; instead they think creating headaches for free users in return for providing little or no benefit will somehow inspire us to want to buy a subscription. It’s an odd disconnect and a pretty poor marketing idea, from where I sit. I haven’t seen anything that convinces me paying for a subscription would be buying me anything but even more headaches, especially as my first foray into paying them for something was exactly that.

Actual community support, explaining exactly what it is the cloudflare actually does, and where my understanding is wrong, might have been a point in favor of continuing to use CF. To get this much frustration and hassle, and nothing but a single word reply to this lengthy and clearly frustrated post, makes me think CF is not the big, popular service I mistakenly thought it was. And there is probably a reason it’s not. Worthwhile services have thriving user communities. For this post to land with this much of a thud is very discouraging and doesn’t bode well at all for choosing to continue to use cloudflare.

Thank you to the one responder, even if it was nothing but a one-word response.

I’m still with CF as of this minute, I haven’t removed my sites and closed my account yet. I’m close, though. It’s made working on my sites really just a tremendous pain and all of the lengthy & complicated “fixes” I have tried, including paying CF money for extra services that they claim will help, at best did nothing and at worst made the problems worse.

Most of the people here are just Cloudflare users, and giving the site address is the easiest way to get help. People will spend their own time to look at your site to see the issues raised and advise directly what the problem might be or how to configure Cloudflare for the best performance rather than a long list of possibilities to try.

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Cloudflare helps improve performance and security for literally millions of websites on the free plan. Further optimizations might be possible with paid features, but when and where those are appropriate are highly situational.

Your website performance did not improve; determining why requires troubleshooting. That troubleshooting is not possible without knowing the domain. I mean yes I could have suggested yet another series of lengthy and complicated “fixes” based on no data, but since your experience to date and questions are so far out of what is the typical experience it would have been inefficient at best.

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