Is Cloudflare with Cache-Everything rule effective? Tested on StableHost 6336 times from 16 locations

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title cloudflare cache everything

This is the second part of my practical research on Cloudflare free service. The first part is dedicated to Cloudflare free service without considering Cache-Everything rule.

And in this article I present the results of testing free Cloudflare service with and without Cache-everything rule enabled (this option is free). Also, I compared the speed with and without a caching plugin used in conjunction with Cloudflare.



 

By the way, here’s a disclosure: Although this article is for information and educational purposes, I include some affiliate links, including links to the hosting (StableHost). I’ve picked it and some ( other hosts out during the years of analysis and recommend these selected hosts to my readers.

Also I mention Sucuri Firewall service which is beneficial for protecting and speeding up the website.

In other words, I get compensation if you click on some of the links and make a purchase. It does not increase price for you anyway. All such links open in new window/tab; no software/program will be installed to your computer. (This is a standard notice required by affiliate programs terms.) Please note that I mention the products not as an advertisement, but as my recommendation.

 

Methodology of testing the speed with and without Cache-Everything rule at free Cloudflare service

The tested hosting and the Cloudflare option (Cache-everything and minification)

From the 15 hosts I monitor on a constant basis 24/7, I’ve picked one of the most affordable hosts that I recommend. This is StableHost (and its cheapest, Starter plan). You can see my short review of this host StableHost“>here. The data center is located in US, Chicago.

I used a free Cloudflare option with auto minify option for JS, HTML and CSS enabled. And unlike previous time, I enabled Cache-everything rule.

Cloudflare auto minify options enabled

Cloudflare auto minify options enabled

Cloudflare Cache-everything rule enabled

Cloudflare Cache-everything rule enabled`


Cache-Everything rule is a powerful feature and for some websites it may be destructive in terms of breaking (displaying incorrectly) website dynamic or frequently changing elements (e.g. displaying new comments, animation, moving parts). On a free Cloudflare plan it may be an ultimate stumbling block.

Before using this option make sure that it does not break anything on your site. This option rule is disabled by default in Cloudflare.

This also is not recommended on websites which require user authentication (e.g. admin area) or other dynamic content. Alternatively you may try to set specific page rules to exclude the particular parts of you website from caching.

Tested website variations

The website hosted on StableHost is simple WordPress website with a dozen articles (about 1000 words each) with summaries including images on the main page.

I tested four website configurations:

  1. With a free Cloudflare service, Cache-everything rule enabled and auto-minify options in Cloudflare enabled in addition with a free caching plugin (W3 Total Cache) installed.
  2. With a free Cloudflare service, Cache-everything rule enabled and auto-minify options enabled in Cloudflare and without any caching plugins.
  3. Without the Cloudflare service and with a free caching plugin (W3 Total Cache) installed.
  4. Without the Cloudflare service and without any caching plugins.

Also, during all tests there was a super lightweight yet powerful security plugin (BulletProof Security) installed. (By the way, you can read more about this security plugin as well as about other website security solutions here).

Testing locations

There are 16 testing locations worldwide including 6 locations in the USA, 2 in South America, 2 in Europe, 2 in Africa and Middle East, 3 in Asia and 1 in Australia.

Here’s the map where you can see where the testing locations are located. The StableHost data center where my testing website variations were hosted is also displayed on the map:

Locations to test the website speed with and without free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule

Locations to test the website speed with and without free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule

How the speed tests were performed

Here’s the overview of the process how I measured the speed of the website configurations (with/without Cloudflare and with/without a caching plugin):

  1. I bought the smallest hosting packages from StableHost (see my description of this host here).
  2. For testing I used four different Cloudflare and caching configurations (I described them above<#pe3 >).
  3. I used webpagetest.org service to measure the speed of my websites hosted with StableHost. I used Full Page Load Time which is considered as website speed.
  4. From each of the 16 selected testing locations I ran 11 tests with 8-9 speed measurements each for 4 website configurations. Thus, from each testing location I performed about 100 test runs for each of the four website configurations (with and without Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and with/without a caching plugin). A large number of tests allow getting more objective results on how really fast the website configurations are. By the way, you can download the saved webpagetest.org test runs here (447 MB size).
  5. I put together the test results into the spreadsheet and for each location and website configuration (with/without Cloudflare’s Cache-everything rule and with/without caching plugin) I sorted the website speed test results to build the charts.
  6. I also calculated the simple averages of speed data within each location for each of the website configurations.

 

Results of testing website speed with and without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule from 16 locations worldwide

Average speed test results

Here’s the chart:

Summary of speed tests with/without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and with/without caching plugin

Summary of speed tests with/without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and with/without caching plugin

On this chart you can see the most general outcome of more than 6 thousand speed tests performed from the 16 locations. On the whole, it looks like the common sense wins – using a free Cloudflare service with Cache-Everything rule makes your website much faster than using just a caching plugin.

It’s interesting though that using a caching plugin with a free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule enabled does not provide much speed benefits. We will analyze it in more details further in the article.

I encourage you to have a look at the more detailed comparison in the sections right below where speed tests for each location are analyzed. It will give you more insight on whether you may want to use a free Cloudflare service with its Cache-Everything rule enabled in conjunction with a caching plugin.
Here’s the data table with average speed measurements for each testing location and for each of the website configurations (with/without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and with/without caching plugin).

Data table with average speed tests – with and without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule

Data table with average speed tests – with and without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule

Here’s a bunch of the charts that display the same data but from a bit different perspectives when comparing:

Average speed of website from different locations

Average speed of website from different locations

Average speed of website with and without Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule from different locations

Average speed of website with and without Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule from different locations

What is better – free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule  or a  caching plugin

What is better – free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or a caching plugin

Does a caching plugin make sense when free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule is enabled

Does a caching plugin make sense when free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule is enabled

On the charts above you can see that average speed is quite different when tested from different locations. However, there’s a common pattern. Before all, enabling a free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule does have a great impact on improving website speed.

If comparing the two combinations: using either a Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or just a caching plugin, the Cloudflare option looks like a more beneficial option in most cases.

The winning combination to make a website faster is using a free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin. It is the most beneficial in terms of website speed.

Also, it’s interesting to note that adding a caching plugin does not make a significant difference judging by the average speed tested from different locations. On this step of analysis the difference is barely noticeable. In further sections below you will see some more details about whether a caching plugin does add any significant difference compared to just enabling a Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule alone.


Here are some preliminary conclusions that follow the analysis of the presented average speed test results:

  • Using Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or/and a caching plugin is very beneficial in terms of speed compared to not using either of these caching options at all.
  • For visitors from most locations using a free Cloudflare service and enabling its Cache-Everything rule is more beneficial than not doing so.
  • Using a caching plugin is always a good option regardless of using a free Cloudflare service or not except some rare cases.
  • Using both caching plugin and free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule is the best option as it makes a website faster than in other configurations.
  • Also, using a free Cloudflare service without a caching plugin makes sense (but see further in the article if a caching plugin adds up more value).

Expanded and more detailed conclusions are in the end of the article.

Speed test results of free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule from each location

Average numbers are great for some overview. But in my opinion looking in the detailed reports of speed measurements can give you much better understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of using a free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule option.

Here are the detailed charts with speed measurements from each of the 16 locations below.

Each data point on each of the lines represents one speed test of a specified website configuration (with or without free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule, with or without caching pugin). I sorted the test results by speed, that’s why the charts look like the speed decreases. But this is just the sorted representation of the data sets for smoother perception. And the number of test (X-axis) is not the timeline, but just an ordered number. In other words, the data set is sorted not chronologically, but by speed values.

The smaller values on the chart, the better (i.e. the faster website). The steeper and longer the line tails at the right of the charts, the more occurrences that a hosting speed was slow during my tests.

An ideal representation would look like a horizontal line with very low values (e.g. fast and stable).

Oregon (US)

Oregon cloudflare cache everything

Tests from this location show that the fastest configuration is using a caching plugin with free Cloudflare’s Cache Everything rule enabled (yellow chart line). This is no surprise.

However, using Cloudflare’s Cache Everything rule without a caching plugin gives unstable results (blue line). Approximately half of the tests had a very good speed. But the other half is significantly slower. Probably this is connected with issues on the Cloudflare’s side.

The options with a caching plugin show great results (green and yellow lines). The conclusion is using a caching plugin is a good idea.

San Francisco (California, US)

San Francisco cloudflare cache everything

Speed tests from San Francisco reveal huge benefit of using either a free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or/and a caching plugin. The website without Cloudflare and a caching plugin (red line) shows unstable speed. Other configurations (green, yellow and blue lines) show almost the same speed.

The conclusion: it’s a great idea to use either or both Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or/and a caching plugin.

Denver (Colorado, US)

Denver cloudflare cache everything

According to the tests from this location, it’s beneficial to use both free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin (yellow line). Using a caching plugin is also a great idea even when not using a free Cloudflare service (green line). Although using Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule alone without a caching plugin (blue line) is very beneficial compared to not using anything at all.

The conclusion: it’s a great idea to use either or both Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or/and a caching plugin

Lincoln (Nebraska, US)

Lincoln cloudflare cache everything

The results from this location are similar to the San Francisco location. The website without Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin (red line) has quite unstable speed. Other options are great

Conclusion: use either Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and/or a caching plugin.

New York (US)

NewYork cloudflare cache everything

The tests from this location reveal quite untypical situation – enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule without a caching plugin brings pretty negative results (blue line). Even if it could be explained as sort of isolated case connected with issues on the Cloudflare’s side, the general conclusion is still the same – using Cloudlfare’s Cache-Everything rule with a caching plugin is the best option.

Orlando (Florida, US)

Orlando cloudflare cache everything

The speed tests from this location show Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule without a caching plugin gives a little instability (note the blue little upward tail). However, in general, any combination is much better than not using caching plugin or/and enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule.

Conclusion: the best option is to use a caching plugin and enable Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule.

London (UK)

London cloudflare cache everything

When testing from London location the website with enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule (blue and yellow chart lines) give comparatively better results than other options. Using a cahing plugin brings not that much benefits comparing to Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule.

Conclusion: enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule is a good idea. Adding a caching plugin dos not bring additional benefit though.

Prague (Czech Republic)

Prague cloudflare cache everything

These tests reveal a typical pattern. Using both Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin give the best and the most stable results (yellow line). Enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule without a caching plugin (blue line) is also very beneficial, but a little bit less stable than the first option. And using a caching plugin alone without Enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule (green line) brings a lot of speed benefits but not as much as the above options.

The conclusion is to use a caching plugin and enable Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule.

Istanbul (Turkey)

istanbul cloudflare cache everything

The tests from this location give also typical results. Enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule helps to improve website speed a lot, but without a caching plugin the speed looks like a bit unstable (look at the blue upward tail).

So, it’s advised to use both Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin.

Dubai (United Arab Emirates)

Dubai cloudflare cache everything

The speed tests from this location also confirm that a free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule makes website speed much faster (blue and yellow lines). Enabling this option with or without a caching plugin is a great idea.

Mumbai (India)

Mumbai cloudflare cache everything

This location is pretty typical. Enabling a free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule is very efficient. And adding to it a caching plugin makes website speed even more stable.

Singapore

Singapore cloudflare cache everything

These results are similar to the previous location’s results. Enabling a free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule (blue line) is as efficient as enabling it and using a caching plugin (yellow line). Using a caching plugin alone (green line) is a very good idea compared to not using any caching option at all (red line).

Tokyo (Japan)

Tokyo cloudflare cache everything

The tests from this location are not unusual and they look like several previous locations. A free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule (blue line) gives almost the same results as a combination of Cache-Everything rule and a caching plugin (yellow line). The latter is a tiny bit more efficient.

The conclusion is enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule makes a very good sense.

Buenos Aires (Argentina)

Buenos Aires cloudflare-cache everything

The tests from this location are quite typical. A free Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule (blue line) gives very good results in terms of speed, but a little bit unstable (note the blue upward tail). And using additionally a caching plugin solves the issue (yellow line). Using just a caching plugin (green line) is not that efficient compared to the two other caching options.

Sao Paulo (Brazil)

SaoPaulo cloudflare cache everything

This one is also pretty typical and similar to several previous locations. Using Cloudflare service’s Cache-Everything rule (blue line) is very efficient. But using additionally a caching plugin adds a little bit more stability.

Sydney (Australia)

Sydney cloudflare cache everything

The quite typical results reveal the same pattern – using Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule makes a very good sense (blue and yellow lines). And according to these tests using a caching plugin does not add any benefits.

 

Rare Cloudflare flaws

Although using a free Cloudflare option showed very good results in general, there were some performance issues caused by Cloudflare.

For example, have a look at this screenshot:

Slow response time using Cloudflare with Cache-Everything rule enabled

Slow response time using Cloudflare with Cache-Everything rule enabled

This example shows that a cached static resource (an image) was cached by Cloudflare and it took too much time to be served. Looks like Cloudflare had some performance issue at that moment.

 

Conclusions

It’s time for drawing the bottom line. I put this section in two parts – the conclusions that I have made after this research and my practical approach based on earlier researches I’ve made.

Although in this research I tested just one shared hosting (StableHost with data center at Chicago, the USA) that I reviewed here, the results can be considered as more or less hosting-independent. StableHost is one of the well-performing, affordable and the recommended hosts. And you can perceive the results as a good evaluation of what effect Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule or/and caching plugin have.

The location of the hosting datacenter may influence the results for certain testing locations. But I used 16 different testing locations worldwide (including 6 locations in the USA) the hosting server location does not play any significant role.

The main conclusions based on this research:

  1. The winning combination in terms of speed is enabling Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule and using a cache plugin in addition to it. This combination provides the best speed improvement for a website. However, from a theoretical point of view, using a caching plugin should have not played a significant role in general.
  2. Some people complain that using a free Cloudflare service slows down their websites or even makes their websites unavailable for no reason sometimes. However, I did not encounter critically large number of performance issues when Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule was enabled during my tests. Although there were quite a few tests which revealed that Cloudflare was not as brilliant as expected (example). So, a free Cloudflare service is good but not perfect.
  3. A free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule can replace a caching plugin in many ways. But mind the precautions.

Additional practical resulting thoughts based on this research and earlier ones:

  1. A free Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule can be considered as a significant speed improvement tool for your website. Since it’s free this is a great option for many website owners. But before using it, make sure it does not break anything on your website. The more static elements your website has, the more benefits you may get enabling this option.
  2. A reliable hosting is still an important factor in your website performance since Cloudflare is only a caching layer for static elements above the hosting which handles dynamic content.
  3. A free Cloudflare service is beneficial when it regards protecting from smaller DDoS attacks. So, if you experience DDoS attacks then using a free Cloudflare service may be a great free solution for you. By the way, Here’s my article explaining DDoS for shared hosting users.
  4. When visiting other websites behind Cloudflare I noticed many times that a website did not open for a couple of seconds and it was a bit irritating. This delay was probably due to prevention of a DDoS attack. Although I could not notice any further evidence of DDoS attack at that moment. From a visitor perspective this looked like Cloudflare’s fault. But again, during my tests this did not happen and Cloudflare’s Cache-Everything rule was performing generally very well (especially when using a caching plugin in addition to it).
  5. My current solution: For both taking care of security (including anto-DDoS protection) and speeding up the website considerably I use Sucuri Firewall (CloudProxy). You can read the description of this service in this part of my other article. And in this article you can see how it improves the speed compared to the best caching plugins. Using Sucuri service is not free, but much more affordable than paid Cloudflare options.

That’s it. It was even more interesting journey than the first part. Thank you for getting to the end again!

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Comments

  1. Very informative article, Really helpful.

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