Website hosted in Australia? Don’t use CloudFlare’s free CDN

CloudFlare is a free content delivery network (CDN) service that’s often suggested as an easy and affordable way to speed up your website. The service acts as an intermediary between your website and your visitors, allowing your website traffic to be served from CloudFlare’s massive distributed network instead of your web hosting account.

While CloudFlare offers an excellent service that genuinely improves website speed for most people, it can actually make Australian websites load slower. If your business mostly serves Australian customers and you use a local web hosting company, this post will explain why you probably shouldn’t use CloudFlare.

Why is CloudFlare’s free CDN slow in Australia?

It doesn’t make financial sense for CloudFlare to serve free Australian users from Australia. Bandwidth costs in this country are—by international standards—utterly obscene.

In a 2014 blog post, CloudFlare revealed that it costs about the same to serve Australia’s 25 million people as it does to serve the 750 million people in Europe. The reason is quite simple: Telstra has a monopoly over the country’s infrastructure that allows them to charge extortionate prices for bandwidth.

Because of this, users of CloudFlare’s free plan are served from the nearest affordable overseas data centre—usually India or Singapore.

So what happens when an Aussie visits your CloudFlare-powered website? If your website is already hosted in Australia, your website’s data will be sent from Australia to, say, Mumbai, and then back to Australia again. That’s a lot slower than sending data from one part of Australia to another.

CloudFlare’s DNS interface is great—can I still use it in Australia?

Absolutely. The DNS lookup comprises such a miniscule portion of the time it takes to load your website that it doesn’t really matter if CloudFlare are slightly slower than they could be.

According to DNSPerf, CloudFlare is still one of the fastest DNS providers in the Oceania region. It’s more than likely still faster than the DNS service included with your web hosting account, or any other free DNS service you might come across.

When should I use CloudFlare in Australia?

If your site is consuming more server resources and bandwidth than your locally-hosted server can tolerate, it may be worth trading in a little bit of performance to be able to offload that traffic to CloudFlare. Upgrading to a paid CloudFlare plan that serves traffic from within Australia is obviously your best option, assuming that you can afford to do so.

If your website is hosted overseas, perhaps in the United States, having CloudFlare serve your Australian users from the Asia-Pacific region may actually improve your page load speeds. Web hosting services are much cheaper in the US and Asia than they are in Australia, so a limited budget may force you into this situation.

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