It's no secret that performance can play a significant factor in a website's success — keep your users waiting, and they'll get impatient and head somewhere else. There are solutions available to help keep things speedy, like CDNs, but most smaller websites don't use them. TechCrunch Disrupt finalist CloudFlare wants to bring these speedy load times to the masses, and it's offering some other benefits too, including robust security protection against online threats. CEO Matthew Prince says that, in short, CloudFlare takes your average web admin and terms them into a full-fledged Ops team.
Prince says that speed issues can have a big impact on your site — one study showed that for every 100 milliseconds of time spent loading, you lose up to 2% of your visitors. He says CloudFlare offers an average of a 30% increase in speed and can "stop virtually all web spam attacks". And he says that you can integrate it into your site in around five minutes. Oh, and it's free, at least for its basic service.
Prince says that CloudFlare operates on the network level, so it supports any platform. Setup involves changing your DNS to route to CloudFlare's servers. After setting up CloudFlare on your site, you can head to a control panel that shows how many data requests have been served to users, and how much bandwidth CloudFlare has saved for you. It also makes it easy to drop in Google Analytics
CloudFlare will also be offering a 'Pro' plan, with added features like SSL, better page optimization, and object pre-fetching to further enhance speed gains. The company has set up five data centers across three continents. It's been in private beta until now, and has been tested on 1,000 websites that have served 6 million unique visitors.
Q&A: Chi-Hua Chien, Keith Rabois, Sandya Venkatachalam and Lior Zorea weigh in on CloudFlare:
SV: It's a great idea, and you articulated the value proposition well. How do you make money?
MP: We have a pro plan where users are charged for usage.
CC: Seems like a great value proposition.
MP: We think we're on to something really big. At South By Southwest, they used CloudFlare. We think individual sign ups will help drive traffic but the real opportunity could be with hosting companies.
KR: How does the technology work?
MP: We use a technology from Cisco called AnyCast.
LZ: What's the difference between the free and paid service?
MP: The pro service has a more advanced security, with realtime lookups.