CloudFlare: Welcome to the Collective
Home hosting of content is a great idea (I’ve been doing it for over a decade) but at some stage the cons start to outweigh the pros. In particular, the speed of UK ADSL uplinks (448kbps) is a large factor in considering external, commercial, hosting, as is the availability of the line and the amount of SysAdmin time needed to keep ahead of the script kiddies.
Ok, so you don’t have to put in time to beat the scripters: staying on top of security updates is often sufficient, but in the early days of WordPress I found that could loose my outbound bandwidth for half an hour or more as a stream of dumb proxy attacks came in.
The electrical cost of running a home server also varies from the super fast might-as-well-rent-dedicated-server end of the market, down to low power devices that can spend the best part of two days building MySQL.
Now, though, there’s an interesting new twist to the cost/speed spreadsheets from CloudFlare, a start-up from 2010 which is making the idea of low power home serving a much faster and more reliable option. They offer (for free) a distributed CDN (Content Delivery Network) together with a very Borg like security consolidation system, where any recognised attack on any site utilising CloudFlare is instantly blacklisted for every site in the collective.
The basic service is free, supported by a commercial offering with better stats and security offerings. So far it appears to do exactly what they suggest for static content, with one graphics laden WordPress page dropping in load time from 34s to 4.05s – this is for a US site analyser looking at a UK site.
Uptime isn’t perhaps as good as a reliable as the best home host, as they have a very aggressive anti-DoS stance on their website which does attract a lot of DoS attention, but given that they will serve the last known content when your site is entirely off-line and the fact that they do actively monitor and work to mitigate attacks, it’s certainly worth a try.
And no, this domain is currently using them: far too many horrid squirly technicalities with machines right now, but I hope to get there soon.