More than 15% of HTTP/HTTPS traffic travels through Cloudflares servers. As the owner of an Australian business or website you are probably looking for easy ways to make your site run as quickly as possible – and who could blame you?
You may have heard that using Cloudflare’s services are a great way to increase website loading times. What’s better, Cloudflare offer a free version of their services that are suitable for small to medium-sized businesses.
However, if you are unaware of the way that Cloudflare’s free plan operates in Australia you may be doing your customers and your business a disservice by unwittingly slowing down your website. This article will explain how Cloudflare’s free plan works and explain when it’s appropriate for an Australian website to use it.
The value of improving your website’s page speed
It is often cited that retail giant Walmart found that their conversion rates increased by 2% for every second they decreased page load times.1
These stats originate from 2012, but if we were to apply them to Walmart’s ecommerce earnings from 2020 we would end up with a $400M increase in sales for every 1 second shaved off page load time.2
“Walmart found that their conversion rates increased by 2% for every second they decreased page load times”
I won’t drive this point home too much – it’s fairly obvious to most that increasing the speed of your website is good for business. A fast website makes it easy to purchase products or learn more about your services, this leads to a better user experience and typically increased conversions.
How Cloudflare makes websites load faster
Did you know that roughly 100% of transoceanic data traffic is transported via underwater cables?3 In layman’s terms, that means when you access a website that is hosted on an American server and you are located in Australia that website literally has to travel thousands of kilometres underneath the ocean before it appears on your laptop screen.4
In a nutshell, Cloudflare works by shortening the distance that data has to travel from a server to its destination on a user’s browser. The service does this by saving copies of key components of a client’s website at one of their many data centres across the world.4
When a user accesses a website with Cloudflare enabled that user’s location is identified based on their IP address and the website is served from the nearest Cloudflare data centre. This process effectively shortens the distance that the data has to travel and results in a faster load time.
Cloudflare does have data centres in Australia, but not for those on the free plan
In 2016, Cloudflare wrote an article titled ‘Bandwidth Costs Around the World’6 where they explained the costs that they incur for serving users in different locations.
According to Cloudflare, the cost of transmitting data in Australia and New Zealand is 21 times more expensive than Europe.
As a consequence, in an effort to cut costs, Cloudflare moved their free customers off Australian servers and onto more affordable servers based in Singapore.
Essentially, this means that your website will be served to Australian users via Singapore and this could reduce the speed of your website.
Should Australian business owners use the free version of Cloudflare to speed up their website?
There is no one-size fits all answer to this question – whether you should use Cloudflare’s free plan largely depends on the geographical location of your customer base and whether you plan to expand into other areas.
As a general rule, I would suggest that businesses that make the majority of their sales (say more than 90%) in Australia should not use Cloudflare’s free plan – they should also ensure their site is hosted on an Australian server. If these types of businesses were to use Cloudflare’s free plan their website would be served from Singapore this could slow down load times and worsen user experience.
If your business makes large sums from selling services or products to international audiences then it may be a good idea to use Cloudflare to cache their site on data centres across the world. This may improve load times for many users and have a net positive impact on user experience.
If you’re unsure how quickly your site loads from different locations, I recommend using this free tool: https://www.dotcom-tools.com/website-speed-test