Flare

Flare is a browser-based tool from 2-Dimensions that helps you design and animate vector art. Aimed at both web designers and game designers, it lets you work directly, in real time, with assets that run in your final product, eliminating the need to redo that work in code. So it should simplify your process enormously and save you a bucket load of time. 

Best of all, it’s free to download as part of the Open Design movement.

CloudFlare is a service that helps to increase performance and speed of your website. It has services like CDN, DDoS attack protection, Free Domain Name Server(DNS) services. It caches the static content of your website and delivers the result in a much faster way. It will download all the static pages of your website to its server and the server display the result to your website visitors very quickly. CloudFlare CDN stores all your content in the data center around the world and they have 152 data centers. So when a user sends a request to your website, this CloudFlare will take the content from the data center which is geographically located nearest. By this, the loading time drastically reduces and the speed of the website will be high. 

It gives a Web Application Firewall(WAF) to your website. CloudFlare is good in providing security to your website. It fights against DDoS attacks, spammers and malware injections. 

CloudFlare is available in premium as well as free version. A free version will be suitable only for small websites. If your website is quite large then you can go for a premium version. The plans for CloudFlare include Free, Pro, Business, and Enterprise. In the free version, it gives a shared SSL certificate and in Pro version, it gives custom SSL certificate. 

Advantages of CloudFlare:
  • CloudFlare is free for basic users and it very easy to set up
  • Your IP address is hidden, so it difficult for the hackers to attack the server
  • It protects your website from hackers
  • It allows only genuine users to access the website so that the resources of your website are saved and the speed of your website is improved
  • CloudFlare protects your website from Dos and DDoS attack
  • Even if your website goes slow, Cloudflare will serve the cached files until your site comes back to normal
  • It provides free SSL certificate
Disadvantages of CloudFlare:
  • There is a worth using CloudFlare only if your site is having enough traffic or you to protect your site from hackers
  • Since Cloudflare acts a middleman, if it goes down, even your website will drop down
  • There is a possibility to block the genuine users of your site as well
  • If you are using shared hosting, then you have check whether Cloudflare can access with the shared hosting
  • The options for security is limited
How Cloudflare differs from Other CDN?
Content delivery network or CDN is lot different from Cloudflare in the sense that CDN mirror the complete site from a particular domain/subdomain/subfolder. You can use alternative mirrored CDN url to serve the static content from the CDN.

Once you are serving static content from a cookie less separate sub domain, the browser don’t need to send extra header information for the static content and you can reduce the packet size to speed up your site’s loading time. If you are serving content from separate domain/subdomains, browser can do a parallel download of the static content making it faster for the pages to be rendered.

Apart from that the biggest advantage of using a CDN is, it serves the content from the nearest location from where the content is being requested which makes content served faster. A user in India may see content being served from a CDN edge server somewhere in Asia whereas US user may see content being served from a nearby US server making it faster for the content to be downloaded for the user.

Advantages of Cloudflare

Free
Cloudflare is completely free to get started whereas other CDN services are paid.

Performance improvements
As your site is being filtered and only genuine traffic is being passed, your site can save on resources as well as can see increase the speed of your site because of the caching being performed by the Cloudflare.

Save bandwidth
Not all the traffic goes through the Cloudflare and so you will save on the bandwidth that you may waste otherwise to spammers and hackers.

Spam protection
You can filter out the bad traffic and be protected from automated bots and spammers.

Site Analytics
Google analytics or any other analytics that you use in HTML code relies on the fact that users have JavaScript enabled and page loads to the point where you have the tracking code but with Cloudflare, stats are way more accurate than JavaScript based stats because they catch all the traffic stats that JavaScript may miss because of blocked JavaScript content or page not being loaded.

DNS Changes are faster
Your DNS is controlled by Cloudflare and so when changing hosts, at the most you need to do is change the IP address of your old host to the new host which can be completed in minutes instead of 24 to 48 hours that you may need to wait for DNS changes to propagate.

Blocks DoS and DDoS
Cloudflare blocks DDoS and DoS. DDoS is an attack on the server to send too many automated requests to the server from various locations to bring it down. If you your IP Address is known to the hacker, Cloudflare cannot protect your server from DDoS as the attacker targets IP directly bypassing the Cloudflare.
If a site experiences too much of DDoS attacks, it makes sense to be using Cloudflare.

Disadvantages of Cloudflare

Yet another layer
Unless your site has decent amount of traffic and you need spam protection and have issues with hacking or DDoS, I don’t see a reason to be adding one extra layer security as extra level of security means extra layer of maintenance.

False positive
The biggest disadvantages of Cloudflare that I have experienced in the past were too many false positives. Many of my users in the past complain about being blocked and need to key in captcha to view the content on my site.

With high securities, Cloudflare even had issues with owners being blocked out of the site.

Though you can white list your IP for your site but if you are not on a connection where IP is static or if you are having a connection where IP changes too frequently (Which is normally the case here in India), you can be just white listing your own IPs most of the time.

Host Support for Cloudflare
If your code needs IP Address of the user, with Cloudflare your code needs to change the way IP is passed by Cloudflare or it needs a web server module installed for your code to work the same it used to be without Cloudflare.

If you are on shared hosting, you may need to check if your host supports Cloudflare or not though most shared hosts do support Cloudflare.

If you are on Virtual Dedicated Server or a Dedicated Server, you either need to add Cloudflare modules to your web server (Apache) for code to fetch user’s IP to work fine as earlier or need to update your code to support Cloudflare way of fetching user’s IP.

When should you use Cloudflare?
If you are bottle-necked on bandwidth or have too much spam coming your way or have issues with DDoS or have issues with the site getting hacked too frequently, then you can use Cloudflare and not otherwise.

If your host is low quality and has issues with the site load time or site getting offline too often, you can think about using Cloudflare because Cloudflare caches the site for you so your mini blips in server offline issues can be fixed or even very slow shared hosting can be fixed but its still recommended to be moving to better hosts than to use Cloudflare in such cases.

In short you should not be using Cloudflare unless and until, you have to.

Should you Use a CDN?
Always. Even if you are serving the CDN content from the same domain/subdomain, CDN can free up your server from serving static content Can serve the content from the nearest location to end user Allow browsers to fetch content parallel to your site’s content.