Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” + Cheap Hosting? Nope!

Update: This opinion piece is outdated. Since I wrote it, Cloudflare has introduced dynamic caching, and with the WP Cloudflare Super Page Cache plugin, you can achieve amazing performance by caching everything. Here’s an updated article on how dynamic CDN caching can compensate for cheap hosting.

You’re not the first person to have thought of it. If you can use Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” page rules for free, then you can store your HTML on their EDGE servers throughout the world. This means your visitors will get almost instantaneous responses, and you no longer have to upgrade your low cost hosting! Sounds like a perfect plan right?

Wrong! It doesn’t work that way. Trying to use Cloudflare to cache all your HTML pages on a slow origin web server is doomed to failure, and can actually increase your page load times.

Cheap Hosting = Probably Low Traffic

Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” page rules for HTML make sense only when you have a lot of traffic to your site. Anything less than 600 visitors a day, and it’s not going to help you. If you’re on cheap web hosting, chances are you haven’t reached that level yet.

For example, Hostgator provides cheap hosting that is gimmick free and pretty basic. If you signed up with them for less than three bucks a month, there’s no way you have a high traffic site with > 600 visitors a day. You wouldn’t risk placing it on Hostgator’s shared servers in the first place.

And when you’re dealing with low traffic sites, Cloudflare’s “cache everything” rules fail miserably. Here’s why.

Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” Isn’t Reliable

There’s a misconception that when you put something in Cloudflare’s cache, it stays there until it hits the “TTL” or “Time to Live” limit. Optimistically, it means that you hope that if you instruct Cloudflare to cache your entire page for 7 days, then it will stay there for 7 days.

This almost never happens. Not unless you have > 250 visitors to your page every day from all around the world. The reason is that Cloudflare’s algorithms regularly purge assets that are not frequently requested. And by “frequently”, I mean really frequently.

Page URL Purges in a Few Hours

I’ve tested Cloudflare’s caching extensively, and I can tell you that it purges page URLs at a much higher rate than it does other static assets like JavaScript and CSS. While the latter takes 2 days for Cloudflare to remove, I can tell from first-hand experience that page URLs are purged in a few hours.

And keep in mind that this is for each POP. In other words, unless you have a constant stream of visitors to your page from every single location, your pages will continuously drop out of Cloudflare’s cache over and over again and you will see precisely ZERO benefits. Earlier this week, I had posted on Cloudflare’s community board, and the consensus was pretty much what I’ve just told you – Cloudflare’s TTL is meaningless when it comes to its “Cache Everything” rules – and particularly page URLs.

I Would Gladly Pay for Guaranteed Caches

Unfortunately, none of Cloudflare’s plans guarantee higher storage times for page URLs. At the most, their business plan increases the number of POPs available to you for caching, but this can actually make the problem worse.

It’s a pity because this is something they can monetize quite easily. Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” is a step in the right direction, but without guaranteed storage, it means nothing. Other CDNs at least keep your content for a minimum period of time, including static HTML. If Cloudflare introduces a paid CDN plan with guaranteed cache times, I would sign up for it in a heartbeat.

Alternatives to Cloudflare for Page URL Caching

Providers like Fastly and StackPath offer the same kind of services as Cloudflare. But they’re a lot more expensive than ordinary cheap hosting. StackPath’s basic plan starts at $10/m for CDN integration, and Fastly is $50/m. Fastly is actually even worse in terms of cost because they don’t provide you with a free SSL, unlike StackPath.

But if you’re on cheap hosting, you’re probably paying far less than $10/m in the first place. And if you plan to accelerate your site with these services, you’ll end up paying double or triple the cost of your web hosting! These services only make sense if you’re willing to shell out money. And if you’re reading this article, they’re probably not for you.

Bottom Line: Get a Better Web Host

Ultimately, there’s no substitute for a better web host. If you’re looking to upgrade from a super cheap hosting plan, I suggest NameHero. They’re a great mid-range web host with exceptional features like LiteSpeed servers, offsite backups, and more. On the other end of the spectrum, you have truly expensive hosts like Liquid Web, but those are probably far beyond most people’s budget.

A nice mid-range web host like NameHero should ease your traffic and performance worries without being too hard on your wallet. Forget about using hacks like Cloudflare’s “Cache Everything” to try and prop up low cost hosting. If you’re asking the question, it means it’s time to upgrade. There’s no way around that!

About Bhagwad Park

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!

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