Cloudflare’s Business plan costs 10x more than their Pro plan so the question that some folks ask is whether Cloudflare’s Business plan is worth it? I’ve been a Cloudflare customer for 11yrs now and a Cloudflare Community MVP for 5yrs and have used all Cloudflare plans – Free, Pro, Business and Enterprise. This article outlines the benefits from my own usage experiences.
I have been using the Cloudflare Business plan since 2018 – upgrading one site from Cloudflare Free plan to Pro plan and eventually Cloudflare Business plan. Below are my thoughts and experiences on the advantages of using the Cloudflare Business plan over their Free or Pro plans if you can afford it. If you’re a for-profit operation/site, then Cloudflare’s Business plan is worth it given what it can offer.
- Due to varying ISP/peering costs around the world outlined by Cloudflare, the higher the Cloudflare plan you go, the better the routing and ISP/network peering and Cloudflare connectivity gets. Cloudflare refers to this in their Cloudflare plan pricing comparison table as Network Prioritization. As it may cost Cloudflare more money to serve a request from some geographic datacenters than others, financially Cloudflare can’t always route visitors to the nearest datacenter. For instance 2 geographical locations which historically showed such cases are India and Australia. On Cloudflare free plan visitors from India or Australia may be routed to Cloudflare’s Singapore or Los Angeles data centers due to lower cost. As you moved up the Cloudflare plan tiers to more paid plans, the higher probability of getting routed closer to Cloudflare datacenters in the same region for such high cost countries. My experience with using Cloudflare for the past 11yrs on CF Free, Pro, Business and Enterprise plans, is if you want Australian visitors routed to Cloudflare Australian datacenters, you’d need at least Cloudflare Business for a higher probability of such. But for Indian visitors to be routed to Cloudflare India datacenters, you’d need a Cloudflare Enterprise plan for higher probability. I say higher probability as it still isn’t guaranteed. Though over the years, the probability has gotten better as peering arrangements have improved I suspect. The site at cloudflare-test.judge.sh is a good guide to how peering is different for each Cloudflare plan sites. Focus on the datacenters that are reportedly served by each Cloudflare plan listed site and not the metrics which can have variance due to what individual Cloudflare sites’ settings are configured as they relate to performance i.e. if the site enabled Cloudflare Argo, Tiered Cache, Cache Reserve and any Cache Everything related Page Rules. There’s also an extended explanation at https://github.com/judge2020/cloudflare-connectivity-test/wiki/Explanation.
- CF Business allows full page HTML guest caching via bypass cache on cookie page rule – Caching Anonymous Page Views. So think of Varnish Cache guest full HTML cache but on CF Edge servers CDN’d. This was historically for me the greatest benefit of the Cloudflare Business plan for my own usage. I could implement guest full HTML page caching for my forums and WordPress blog and leverage all 200+ Cloudflare datacenters to bring cached assets closest to the visitor and offload a lot of traffic from my origin servers. Now with Cloudflare Workers also available and supporting caching https://developers.cloudflare.com/workers/learning/how-the-cache-works/, that value added feature isn’t really required as you can implement and write your own Cloudflare Worker based guest full HTML page caching proxy to do the same on any Cloudflare plan – Free and Pro included. Basic examples of using CF Worker’s Cache API to do such without the bypass cache on cookie logic that you need to add at https://developers.cloudflare.com/workers/examples/cache-api/ or using fetch method caching at https://developers.cloudflare.com/workers/examples/cache-using-fetch/. I now use both methods. Cloudflare Business plan’s bypass cache on cookie page rule though is fixed cost caching versus Cloudflare Worker based caching having variable costs https://developers.cloudflare.com/workers/platform/pricing/. So on Cloudflare, Bundled Worker plan would be $5/month with 10m requests included and overages $0.50/million. So you would need to push past 390 million CF Worker cached requests to = $200 per month CF Business plan price. From September 27, 2022 onwards, there’s also now Cloudflare Cache Rules which include bypass cache on cookie support for all Cloudflare plans. See blog post at Introducing Cache Rules: precision caching at your fingertips
- Cloudflare Business has Railgun which allows accelerating non-cacheable requests like dynamic HTML generated from PHP like on for forum type requests for logged in members. Though Cloudflare hasn’t continued the development of Railgun as rumours are they plan to eventually be rolled into Cloudflare Argo itself. Update: Railgun is now deprecated Cloudflare is deprecating Railgun
- Both bypass cache on cookie + railgun combined allow Cloudflare to accelerate guest + logged in members. In terms of page load speed, this is the biggest benefit of the Cloudflare Business plan, having access to bypass cache on cookie page rule and Cloudflare Railgun.
- Cloudflare Business also gets higher quotas for Firewall/Transform/Page rules to allow you greater room and much finer grain control for performance and security. For instance Cloudflare Page rule quotas for Free =3, Pro = 20, Business = 50 and Enterprise = 125 (hard limit). If you have separate web apps/subdomain based sites in your Cloudflare domain zone, then having these higher quotas will allow you to better tailor specific Cloudflare rules to each web app/site.
- Cloudflare Analytics views on Business plans can have lower periods other than 24hrs like 30min to 12hrs views and you also get to view further back in Cloudflare Web, Firewall and Cache Analytics i.e. up to 30 days.
- Cloudflare max upload file limits vary on each plan too. Business gets max 200MB, Free & Pro get 100MB and Enterprise 500MB.
- Now that Cloudflare has opened up SaaS for everyone, technically you can extend your Cloudflare feature, security and performance sets to domains not using Cloudflare. This has been great as I can now extend some Cloudflare Enterprise or Business Firewall/Page Rule/Caching features to domains not on those plans too or not even on Cloudflare! So I can use Cloudflare Business plan’s bypass cache on cookie page rule for guest full HTL page caching on a domain that isn’t using Cloudflare Business plan. You’d be limited by how many Cloudflare Page Rules you require for each of your sites you would want to enable.
- Cloudflare Business and higher plans have additional Firewall/WAF Rate Limiting features you can use to override the Rate Limiting Counter (see below screenshots).
- Cloudflare Business and higher plans also have access to WAF Attack Score Class metrics (cf.waf.score.class) for requests which you can use to inform and create your own custom WAF Firewall rules. The WAF Attack Score Class field can have one of the following values, depending on the calculated request attack score – Attack, Likely Attack, Likely Clean and Clean classifications.
Cloudflare Free Plan Rate Limiting options are limited compared to Cloudflare Business and higher plans with additional features.
Free Plan Rate Limiting options
Business Plan Rate Limiting options
Override the rate limit counter from default expression as counter to another field like HTTP Response Status = 404
As to Cloudflare Pro vs Free plans, the Cloudflare Pro plan is beneficial for higher quotas or page rules, firewall rules, firewall ip/rule limits, rate limiting rules, user agent blocking rules and mirage/polish webp, enhanced prioritization, TCP Turbo etc which free plan won’t have and/or has fewer quota limits for. All these benefits do carry on to Cloudflare Business and higher plans.
More differences can be seen in the Cloudflare pricing plan comparison page which has a link to view and compare all features on that page.