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Cloudflare Enterprise Is Not an Add-on or Feature – It’s the Future.
by Ben Gabler on
In 2018, I was the Chief Product Officer for one of the world’s largest CDNs. Even though our product was excellent, every day I saw WordPress customers struggling to properly implement the CDN and WAF that my employer provided. In this space I saw the need for simplifying and automating the process as much as possible. My solution was to start Rocket.net.
When Rocket.net launched in 2020, we immediately started gaining traction in the market. Our customers recognized that Rocket.net was able to provide unmatched speed, security, and overall customer experience.
With the emerging significance of core web vitals, many of Rocket.net’s early adopters were migrating to us for the best performance possible compared to other WordPress hosting alternatives. With unequaled performance, security, and service, the legend of Rocket.net was born.
Rocket.net builds trust with customers with one simple promise: We are never done. We’re constantly improving the platform by introducing unique and useful features like WordPress Activity Logging and Smart Caching, just to name a couple.
“Customers don’t know what they want until you show it to them”Steve Jobs
While I admire Steve Jobs a great deal, I believe this particular theory to be only partially true. None of Rocket.net’s customers knew they wanted Cloudflare Enterprise with Full Page Caching, but they knew they wanted faster websites. We’ve worked tirelessly to make that happen… and then some.
What is Cloudflare Enterprise? What is the Edge?
First, I’d like to do a little of what I like to call Edge Education. Cloudflare Enterprise is a term you may have seen hosting companies throw around quite a bit lately… but what is it exactly? Don’t worry, you’re not alone, I’ve been trying to help define the Edge for almost five years now.
So let’s ignore that Enterprise part for a second and talk a bit about Cloudflare. At its roots, Cloudflare has built an amazing platform that a lot of us hosting veterans were responsible for helping scale in it’s early days.
Some may not know this, but Cloudflare’s initial growth strategy heavily involved partnering with hosting companies to maximize the reach to websites without having to have a massive marketing budget (genius right?).
Ultimately, the Cloudflare platform provides secure content delivery and dozens of other services at the Edge of the cloud.
What does the Edge of the Cloud REALLY mean?
That’s a great question and depending on who you ask, it has varying answers.
Simply put, the Edge of the cloud is as close as you can possibly get to the end-user (in our case the website visitor). In the CDN world, these users are referred to as the “eyeballs”. Traditionally, the Edge was located at the Internet Exchanges where every ISP in your region will terminate and tunnel traffic through.
You see, the internet was not built to handle the scale it needs to handle over the long haul network and increasing the pipes throughout the internet would cost billions and billions of dollars. That’s really why CDN was born in the first place, large file delivery without breaking the internet by delivering it as close to the end-user network.
Let’s take Netflix for example… Netflix effectively broke the internet as it scaled to the point where ISP’s were begging them to send little black boxes into their central offices so they could deliver Netflix one hop away from their subscribers (meaning traffic never left the ISP’s internal network which is much easier to scale). If they didn’t do this, the internet simply would not function as it does today as it would be saturated with streamers, leaving no bandwidth for anyone else.
Let’s visualize this… imagine if Netflix were delivering all of their catalog out of a single Google Cloud data center (you know the only ones our competitors talk about) and let’s say streamers in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio all want to watch the new season of Ozark:
In the above scenario you can see all three major cities are going through the same internet exchange, then to a Google Cloud data center.
Internet Exchanges act like the freeway interchanges of the Internet. They are where all providers come together with their connectivity and hand off and direct traffic. Think of it as the place where several local and interstate freeways come together with thousands of cars working to follow the correct road signs.
This may not seem so terrible, but if you add scale even to those three cities that pipe between the internet exchange and Google Cloud will eventually max out and you’ll see the spinner of death when trying to stream.
Can you imagine if the whole country was trying to stream with this approach?
Not only would this create a terrible experience for streaming, it would take down the internet.
How do we solve this?
It probably seems extremely obvious how to solve this today when looking at the above illustrations, but years ago it was not so obvious. Some very smart people started to realize that this was not sustainable, so the World’s first CDN (Content Delivery Network) was born in Internet Exchanges around the globe, ultimately providing the ability for everyone to cache their content as close as possible to the end-user:
Problem solved!… Sorta… Lately it seems a new streaming service is popping up every day, effectively creating the same problem as before, but at the Internet Exchanges.
When you have three major metropolitan areas like Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio all running through a single Exchange in Dallas, there becomes a problem. In fact, I’ve even seen traffic from Houston routed all the way to Miami or Atlanta due to saturation between Houston and Dallas alone.
This is where the ISP’s come in to help solve the issue by pushing content even closer to the eyeballs, commonly referred to as Telco Cloud. My good friend Ron Lev is one of the Telco Cloud Pioneers with their platform Cox Edge. How will this help things? Imagine Cloudflare having a PoP in your local ISP with your WooCommerce store being delivered in the same neighborhood as your shoppers… it’s coming 🙂
What does all this mean for WordPress?
I know that was a lot of information above, but I promise I’m going somewhere with it. The truth is, most people may not even know what Cloudflare/Edge is and why they need it.
Between Google pushing Core Web Vitals and other hosting providers pushing “Cloudflare Enterprise” with no substance other than the buzz words, you may not realize just how important the Edge is for your website.
Your WordPress website is no different than Netflix when it comes to end-user expectations. Just like no one wants to see “buffering” when trying to watch a show, no one wants to wait 1-8 seconds for a web page to begin to load (TTFB)… including Google and other search engines.
At the end of the day, WordPress is a Content Management System that users use to build a website that ultimately spits out HTML/CSS/JS/Images to construct the website. Each and every asset is cacheable in some form, effectively allowing us to deliver said website as close as physically possible to the visitor vs having to proxy back to a single location.
While there are dynamic needs as well (WooCommerce, BuddyPress, etc) static content will still be delivered as close as possible to the visitor, allowing the dynamic requests to leverage Argo Smart Routing. Argo Smart Routing utilizes Cloudflare’s private backbone to route requests exactly where they need to go vs traversing the public internet and making more hops, reducing unnnecessary latency and slowness.
The Flare of the Cloud
Now, lets get back to Cloudflare… Over the years, Cloudflare has built a gigantic platform built at the Edge of the cloud ultimately delivering content as fast and secure as possible to end-users.
As you can see above, Cloudflare has built an enormous network over the last twelve years. While having a large network is extremely important for various reasons, for us it wasn’t just about the size of the boat, but the motion in the ocean.
Since launching Rocket.net, I’m commonly asked… “Why Cloudflare? You helped build a different CDN, why not use that one?” and the answer is simple – Cloudflare has specialized in Website delivery since 2010. As a Product guy trying to perfect website delivery, I constantly looked at Cloudflare best practices because I knew they’d seen it all.
For example, what’s a good origin timeout to use for WordPress? Well Cloudflare’s default is 180 seconds, I wonder why it’s not 60 seconds? The answer? That’s the timeout that will cover over 90% of traffic needs based on the gigantic amount of data they’ve delivered in the last 12 years.
I’ve also tested every CDN under the sun from a competitive analysis standpoint, so it was a no brainer… not to mention Matthew, Michelle, Dane, and team are some pretty amazing people!
Don’t forget: Enterprise!
One thing a lot of people didn’t or don’t realize is that Cloudflare Enterprise is almost an entirely different product within itself when compared to traditional Cloudflare. Not only is it the only way to take advantage of the entire Cloudflare footprint, but it has some amazing features like Argo Smart Routing, Tiered Caching, and dozens of others we take advantage of on every request at Rocket.net.
With all that said, in 2022, Cloudflare Enterprise aka the Edge should never be looked at as an add-on or feature, but the evolution of WordPress/website/content delivery.
At Rocket.net, the Edge is simply the foundation for the platform we’ve been focused on building just like a true SaaS provider over the last two years.
Rocket.net Is a Cloudflare Enterprise Entrepreneur
We’ve talked a lot about Cloudflare, the Edge, etc to the point that some might think that Rocket.net’s Unique Selling Point (USP) is that we have Cloudflare Enterprise with full page caching. Based on that, we knew it was just a matter of time before our competitors up in the clouds would launch a similar looking product to stay competitive- But that’s okay! Just as there are many cars that look similar to a Tesla, there is only one genuine Tesla. And there is still only one Rocket.net. Why can we say this?
We have built our platform from the start with an Edge-first mentality due to years and years of extensive Edge experience. Since launching, Rocket.net has been honing what’s arguably the most robust and flexible integration with Cloudflare Enterprise.
Making Cloudflare Enterprise Work Is More Than Turning On A Switch
There is more to our implementation of Cloudflare Enterprise than simply proxying a site through it.
For Rocket.net, the stack starts with WordPress itself. WooCommerce, themes, plugins, third party integrations- all of them require custom rules to work properly. Simply enabling even the best CDN available is not enough. The whole system has to be tuned in order to benefit- and that’s what Rocket.net has been doing since day one.
To further the point, the only way to make full use of Cloudflare Enterprise and the Edge is to control delivery end-to-end with heavily optimized and tuned origins. This level of control allows us to provide something that our competitors cannot: sub-100ms TTFB worldwide and a fine-tuned experience for our customers with zero configuration required.
Security, Security, and more Security!
Controlling the end-to-end delivery also allows us to enhance security far beyond the Cloudflare Enterprise WAF. The Cloudflare Enterprise WAF is an amazing product, but it only protects web traffic. What about FTP, SFTP, and other protocols? I’m glad you asked!
With every host node running Imunify360, Rocket.net gives our customers yet another layer of protection with more granular WAF rules (including real-time updates to these rules to protect from 0day exploits like the recent Elementor debacle) and real-time malware scanning.
Rocket.net has years of experience dealing with the struggles of providing CDN and WAF services for WordPress from behind the scenes. This puts us in an excellent position because we know exactly how to solve these problems.
“If Cloudflare Enterprise isn’t an add-on or feature, then what is your USP?”
Simple – Customer Experience!
Rocket.net is far from just a hosting company. We’ve built a true SaaS platform that specializes in WordPress. Not only is everything modernly built with a developer friendly API-first approach, but we’re constantly adding new features based on customer feedback.
The Rocket.net Customer Experience
Something I’ve always stood behind in my career is whatever we build has to be easy. No CTO in the world will ever get frustrated for something being too easy (don’t worry CTOs we have APIs, CLI tools and all kinds of fun stuff for you too), but a blogger might get confused and frustrated when presented with a complex experience.
Less clicking, more creating
After creating your Rocket.net account, it takes just a few clicks and about 45 seconds to launch your first WordPress site. The best part? It’s already accelerated and secured off the get go on a fully functional Rocket.net URL, allowing you to immediately start creating.
If you have an existing site, just let our team of experts know, and we’ll have everything cloned to your Rocket.net temporary URL within minutes of creating your account.
Once situated, everything you could ever need to manage your WordPress site(s) is at your fingertips in our hand crafted customer-oriented control panel. From CDN, WAF, and activity reporting to plugin, theme, and backup management – you’re always a few clicks away from everything.
Power Without Complexity
While it’s true that things like Cloudflare Enterprise and security are important, it’s also very hard to configure and understand. That’s why we’ve built everything from the ground up with an always-on and zero configuration required mentality to make things as easy as possible.
With our speed and security problems solved, it allows us to focus where it really counts – bettering our customers day to day experience with their business otherwise known as Product Development.
Customers asked for them, and we’ve provided features like Image Resizing, Smart Caching, and WordPress Activity Logging. Just like the rest of our platform, all of these features are simple, easy to use, and pre-configured. After all, what good are all of those features if they are make life more complicated than it needs to be?
What if I need help?
Now that’s where we really shine! For our team, “Industry Leading Support” isn’t just some buzzword we throw around to try to sound trendy. Instead, it describes who we are as a company. You can think of it as a mission statement and a description all in one- why? Because a Rocket.net, there’s one thing we have that you won’t find at a traditional hosting type of company: cold hard experience. Several members of our team have over twenty years of hosting experience, lending a perspective and quality to support that can’t be had any other way.
Our support staff experience ranges from developer level troubleshooting to customer service experts who elevate Rocket.net’s 24×7 Technical Support and Customer Service well past competitive. Our Support is in itself an industry leader, and we’ve written entire blog posts on the subject that you can read – How Rocket.net Raises The Bar For The Best WordPress Hosting Support In The Industry.
More Than Just Hosting: Service!
These features, optimizations, and forward thinking innovations are the reason that Rocket.net has been and will continue to be a leader in the Managed WordPress space. We’ve left traditional web hosting in the past, and elevated into a new level of technology and customer service that one can only find in the SaaS realm.
Seeing other hosts adding Cloudflare Enterprise to their line-up of addons only proves that Rocket.net is more competitive than ever. We’re glad that other companies are starting to see the value of an Edge-first approach that’s being taken by Rocket.net, because it’ll raise the bar in the WordPress space overall, and that can only be of a benefit for all.
In the end however, there is, and will ever be, only one Rocket.net. We’ll be here to help you elevate your WordPress experience too.