I am an aspiring website developer/designer, moving soon into the business phase where I will have paying customers. I want to get a more complete understanding of CloudFlare services so that I can intelligently manage websites for clients.
I am providing hosting to current and future customers through Webhost Python, who say they are a CloudFlare Optimized Partner. They have the CloudFlare plugin installed in cPanel. I currently have one website active for approximately the past six months on CloudFlare through the cPanel app. It is for a small town children’s chorus so the traffic level is very small.
When the domain is first set up in CloudFlare starting from the cPanel plugin app, no CloudFlare dns are provided, and the instructions are to use the host’s dns servers. From what limited information I can find, this apparently means that the host dns is managing the content delivery network, and directing visitors to CloudFlare locations around the world. However, from a technical point of view this does not make sense to me.
I think I understand the flow of traffic when CloudFlare is used directly. The domain’s dns records are pointed to CloudFlare’s domain name servers, which provides a layer between the visitor and the host server. This makes sense as the CloudFlare domain name servers know the CloudFlare network. But when activating CloudFlare through the cPanel plugin, and when the domain’s dns recores are pointed to the host’s domain name servers, how can this provide a layer between the visitor and the host server. How do the host’s domain name servers know the CloudFlare network and direct visitors to the closest CloudFlare data point? Does this even happen in this setup?
When I am viewing the CloudFlare dashboard in cPanel there are only four icons at the top of the screen, Home, Domains, Settings and Analytics. I can view the analytics section which gives me statistics that indicate a small percentage of total bandwidth is served cached. I can, however, sign in to dash.cloudflare.com where I get the full CloudFlare dashboard with 16 icons at the top. When I view analytics in that dashboard, I see pretty much the same statistics, although other additional information is also provided. A little ways down on the page there is a note:
“You have enabled Cloudflare through a CNAME setup which means you are not using Cloudflare for DNS. DNS analytics are only available for customers using Cloudflare’s DNS. If you would like to start using Cloudflare for DNS, ask our support team to switch your setup here.”
The “here” just links to a blank support ticket reporting screen.
Okay, so confusing! Is CloudFlare encouraging me to delete the cPanel account and create a domain signup directly with CloudFlare, or are they suggesting that there is a way to use CloudFlare domain name servers with the cPanel account.
I may have other questions but that’s a good start.