How To Set Up Cloudflare

Cloudflare performs several tasks that make your life as a webmaster easier. Think of Cloudflare like an in-between guy who lives between your hosting and your domain name, keeping them separate and controlling their interaction.

CloudFlare provides many advantages - even through their free service. So set up a free account today. You can add all your sites to this one account.

What Does Cloudflare Do?

Cloudflare provides three broad services. These are

  • DNS Management (Domain Name Services management)
  • CDN (Content Delivery Network)
  • SSL (Security Certificates)
  • Protection from spammers and hackers

Orange Or Grey Clouds?

Further, Cloudflare has a visual concept of orange and grey cloud icons.

Cloudflare orange and grey clouds
Cloudflare's cloud icons

If you chose to mark an item with an orange cloud icon it means you are choosing to use all the services listed above; DNS, CDN and Protection. But if you choose to use a grey cloud icon, then you are limiting the service Cloudflare provides to DNS Management only.

Cloudflare - Setting Up

Create Account

You only need one Cloudflare account for all of your websites. Create a free account on the Cloudflare signup page. On the next page it may ask for a website domain - provide one - even if you intend to sign up more than one domain. You will have a chance to add more domains later.

Then when asked to select a plan, select the free plan.

Current DNS Management

Next Cloudflare will try to scan your domain and list what it finds out about the domain's DNS management. if you have just bought the domain from Namecheap or some other domain name registrar, you will see what they have set up by default for the domain. Typically it will look something like this.

Cloudflare DNS on a brand new domain
Default DNS Management for domains bought at Namecheap

Once you've looked at this screen, click on the continue button to go to the next page.

Change Nameservers

Cloudflare cannot manage your DNS unless you tell your domain name registrar to start using Cloudflare's nameservers instead of whichever nameservers they currently use.

The next page shows you these. Two Cloudflare nameservers will be shown to you, and you will be instructed to change the current name servers on your registrar (Namecheap in my case) to the Cloudflare ones that are provided. In my case these are 

  • lily.ns.cloudflare.com and 
  • seth.ns.cloudflare.com

On Namecheap you do this by finding the domain name in the account, and then clicking on the Manage button. Then, under nameservers select custom DNS and proceed to add in the two nameservers provided by Cloudflare. Click on the turquoise check mark afterwards to seal the deal.

Update "A Record"

Next you need to find the IP address of your host and update the current A record inside Cloudflare to point to your hosting IP address. You have now completed the basic setup of Cloudflare for your site. You will normally make the cloud on the A record orange so that your site can benefit from Cloudflare's caching and protection.

Further Setup Options In Cloudflare

Functions of the free Cloudflare account.
Functions of CloudflareWays To Use Cloudflare

Cloudflare doesn't just allow you to associate domain names with IP addresses. It also provides

  • further DNS management functions (validation services, 3rd party CDN mapping, email DNS, subdomain allocation for 3rd party SaaS functionality)
  • SSL Certificates (normally you can set up SSL certificates via your host. But this is also possible to do instead at Cloudflare.)
  • website caching/static CDN
  • a web application firewall

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