Cloudflare - Security, Stability, Speed

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by Christoph Weber|Director of Technology Services

Why Use Cloudflare?

Your site needs increased protection and speed. 

The internet in 2019 is not the nice and cozy place it was back in its youth. Every day we observe a huge wave of undesired and/or threatening traffic hitting our websites. Undesired in this context may include:

Aggressive search engine bots - Bing is a repeat offender in my book.
Invasive Search Engine Marketing bots - these bots crawl your site for free, collect marketing and SEO intelligence, and then sell it back to you and your competitors. All of them can place a heavy burden on your server.
Miscellaneous aggressive bots - these range from bona fide research all the way to script kiddies trying to unearth weaknesses on your site. 
Script kiddies, actively trying to exploit weaknesses.
Deliberate attacks, ranging in sophistication from trivial to highly advanced.

Meanwhile, real users competing with the bots for server access have high expectations regarding page speed and will increasingly abandon slow loading or unreliable sites. 

Hosting Platforms Have Drawbacks

While it is advantageous to let a third party handle the hosting of your website, it also removes control over many server layers. Moreover, due to the generic nature of servers in the context of a hosting platform, most malicious requests to your website come all the way through to the application and database backend and therefore, incur a real cost in terms of server load.
What would be nice to have is a protection layer in front of your website that absorbs and neutralizes much of the malicious traffic.

Enter Cloudflare

Cloudflare (https://www.cloudflare.com) bills itself as giving your global users a faster, more secure and reliable internet experience. They do this by standing in front of your website, very near to the end user, and neutralize threats right there at the edge while delivering static content from the edge as well. Plus, they offer a whole host of other services and benefits.

Case Study

We recently worked with a client who had suffered a multi-hour outage due to a malicious attack. We were also seeing hundreds of “fake” user accounts being registered on their site. We put Cloudflare in front of their Acquia-hosted site, and custom configured IP address blocks, web application firewall, speed and cache settings, and page rules to protect and speed up their site.

The results are quite impressive:

Bot traffic is now vastly lower and more controlled, as evident in server logs and server load traces.
We neutralized the botnet that “planted” the fake user accounts by instituting a Javascript challenge on the /user/register page. Not a single fake account has been created since.
The backend is noticeably faster for regular logged in clients and for admin users. We didn’t bother to quantify this, but many stakeholders brought this up unprompted.
Page speed doubled for anonymous users on the other US coast, as tested via webpagetest.net on a simulated LTE connection.

As a result, stakeholders can now focus on business issues rather than security and stability of the site and visitor engagement is expected to be noticeably better, as has been demonstrated in dozens of other case studies including Amazon’s pioneering one:

(https://www.fastcompany.com/1825005/how-one-second-could-cost-amazon-16-billion-sales).


Cloudflare has proven its worth time and time again. At Achieve we have recognized the power of this software and look to introduce where possible, necessary and relevant. Our team is expertly trained to implement Cloudflare. Improve the security, stability, and speed of your site and platform today. 
 

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