What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

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GentekPower
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What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

My hosting provider offers Cloudflare as a 1-click option for my entire domain which includes a WP site and also a pretty active PHPBB forum. After a spell with slow server response times and many many GT Metrix and PageSpeed reports, I'm trying to improve speed even more and it seems a CDN is recommended by several of the speed sites... (Maybe this is just me being overly reactive about it?)

I know very little about CDN's and how they work and what affects using one may have on the forums. I have read that users were experiencing log-out issues which were corrected by some validation settings within the AdminCP.

Just trying to gauge interest and see how many others have run CDNs on their sites.
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by david63 »

There are two schools of thought:

1. Cloudflare makes little or no difference on a dynamic site such as phpBB, and in fact can, and does, at times create problems.
2. Cloudflare will give you some protection and some increased performance, especially if you have a large site.
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

david63 wrote:
Fri Mar 20, 2020 6:58 pm
There are two schools of thought:

1. Cloudflare makes little or no difference on a dynamic site such as phpBB, and in fact can, and does, at times create problems.
2. Cloudflare will give you some protection and some increased performance, especially if you have a large site.
With the ever evolving theories that speed=rankings, do you see benefit to adding it? I already run SSL and have since the beginning in 2018. The database is about 73Mb, so we're not talking a huge site, but it does see some decent traffic. Reliability and uptime is the most important thing for me honestly. If issues are expected, it would be something I'd steer clear of.

It seems that in every instance, CSS files are what's being called to light for issues. I keep hearing the term minify CSS, but have little knowledge of how to do that, and admittedly have not researched it yet either. It seems that CF offers that automatically.
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by WelshPaul »

My forum has been using Cloudflare without issue for years. I don't use it for CDN reasons though. If you set it up correctly then you won't have any issues either! Oh and stay away from one click installs!!

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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by KYPREO »

There should be no debate about this really. Whatever problems people had setting up Cloudflare in the past are long gone. It is amazingly simple to set up, offers major security advantages even on the free tier, and drastically speeds up any phpBB forum.

Any CDN will speed up a phpBB forum, but many CDN services

How much you benefit from a CDN will depend on where your server is located and where you primary audience is located. If there is a significant geographic distance between the 2 or you have a global audience, you will notice massive speed improvements. In my case page loads decreased by approximately 2 seconds.

By default Cloudflare only caches static content, so the fact phpBB serves dynamic webpages is quite irrelevant.

Caching do not cause any issues in practice because phpBB now implements versioning of all static files. If you make a change and purge the cache, the version number query strings will automatically update and Cloudflare will, by default, recognise the query strings and invalidate the previous cached version without requiring any user intervention. The only exception to this are CSS files which are called using @import from stylesheet.css. Unfortunately this practice breaks versioning and you need to reversion those CSS files manually.

The main issue with Cloudflare on phpBB is passing on user IP addresses. That is solved with either a simple code change or using of the 2 Cloudflare extensions (both of which are virtually identical in operation and simply apply the code change that can be applied manually).

The only other real compatibility issue comes with enabling Rocket Loader. Rocket Loader defers loading and parsing of Javascript until after the page has fully rendered. This is not the same as using async or defer HTML flags. Rocket Loader speeds up page loads massively. When I had it turned on, my page loads reduced to under 500ms from pretty much anywhere in the world. That is ridiculously fast. From San Fransisco, I recorded a page load speed of index.php under 400ms.

However, Rocket Loader can cause issues where there are JS dependencies and they are not loaded in order. In my case, it did cause some issues with ad banners. These issues can be resolved, but would require some manual tweaking to ensure scripts are loaded and executed in the correct order (or bypassed by tuning Rocket Loader manually).

The single greatest advantage of Cloudflare though is being able to block bots and malicious actors before they even reach your server. Even on the free tier, you get 5 Firewall rules and you can stack these pretty infinitely which allows a lot of flexibility in what you can do. A single Firewall rule might list 20 user agents, 20 countries and 20 ASNs you want blocked. In my case, I have a Captcha challenge shown on the registration page and I can see the percentage of users who have been able to solve it and which users are being blocked.

Finally, Cloudflare domain renewal fees are at cost price and the DNS is very easy to set up. When you make changes, they propagate virtually instantly, compared to some of the conventional DNS players where it can take 24-48 hours to propagate a change.

In summary, Cloudflare is fantastic and I highly recommend it.
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

Thanks VERY much for the in depth review of your experiences! My main goal would speed page load speed more than anything. I do get the occasional spam on the site, but it's trapped in the 'first post approval' method and they get banned there. I get most of my traffic from the US, however there is some from Venezuela, Mexico and other countries.

It seems like the Milk V2 theme I'm using (which I love btw) has a TON of CSS to load and I get called on it quite often by all of the page speed analyzers. It seems that Cloudflare minifies that and may help slightly. Obviously my main goal is to play as nice as possible with big G and their algorithms...

My host is SiteGround and they offer what seems to be more of a Cloudflare 'switch' that is either turned on or off for my entire domain. It allows up to 3 rules on the free plan (of which I have no idea what to do with).

Any insight on what rules should be in place (if any) for a PHPBB operated site would also be helpful! I just know very little about CDN's and how they operate...

I read about the IP issues and also found where a simple verification setting could just be turned off in the AdminCP, but not sure if that's advisable either?
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by Noxwizard »

GentekPower wrote:
Mon Mar 23, 2020 8:58 pm
I read about the IP issues and also found where a simple verification setting could just be turned off in the AdminCP, but not sure if that's advisable either?
The solution is to install the correct module on your web server: https://support.cloudflare.com/hc/en-us ... isitor-IPs
If you're on shared hosting, they will have to do that for you. Though if they're offering it as a "switch", they should already have something in place to fix this.

If your host won't fix it on their end, you can install an extension to at least fix it in phpBB: https://www.phpbb.com/customise/db/exte ... nmasked_ip
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by John connor »

DO NOT use the one press button for CloudFlare in cPanel. Just go to CloudFlare and set it up. You'll need to change your name servers to the two CloudFlare one's you are issued and then add your DNS info. under the DNS settings in CloudFlare. If you go to my site, I wrote how to use CloudFlare so that you can keep you origin IP hidden. Just search for CloudFlare.

I have now migrated to StackPath's WAF and my first month is free. I'm gauging on how well it performs right now. I still have another forum and my test domain at CloudFlare and have been using CloudFlare since I setup my website.

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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by sakm »

If you're having issues with speed then you need to look at the server/hosting provider!

A good server should be fast without CDN

I have a pretty large VPS which has 2 forums and a wordpress site and I was having some issues

The size of my VPS is over kill for what I use so speed should never have been a problem but I was having huge lag times

a bit of tweaking here and there and it now flies but checking with google page speed and GT metrix I get some lowish scores and loads of recommendations I ignore them as the server is very fast at loading pages.

I do use cloudflare on one forum and I will be moving the other to it in due course. The reason I use it is because of the easy to block some bad bots and countries that are abusive to the server and can easily bring it down.

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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by KYPREO »

A good server can indeed be very fast without a CDN but you can't beat physics. The further away from the server your audience is, the slower it will get. This isn't a problem with a server located in the same country as most of your audience but it is if you host the site in a different country due to cost etc or if you have a global audience. This is where edge servers come in.

A CDN can also reduce bandwidth and CPU overhead considerably meaning you don't need as much server processing power as you otherwise might need. On average, around 40% of my bandwidth comes from the CDN cache rather directly from my server. In terms of http requests the percentages of cached requests is even higher. In fact when i look at my server logs now most of the entries are just calling PHP files and the only static content are image attachments
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

Now that my host fixed a lag issue after a server move, the issue really isn't speed since they've always been fast, it's more that Cloudflare claims to auto minify CSS files which seems to be the main concern of all the speed test sites I use, including PageSpeed. SiteGround moved us (shared hosting) all over to Google's servers from what we were told, so I'd imagine we're about as fast as it's going to get... Haha!

My main goal with these questions is to make the site play as nice as possible since I rank quite well on Google for most keywords. I want to make sure I continually improve to stay with Google's constant requirements. Creating the fastest site with the fewest PageSpeed errors seems to be good logic to me...

Can anyone ID why the Cloudflare 'switch' in cPanel is a poor idea? I'm just curious since some have said yes and some no. Trying to gather as much information as possible!

I would find it hard to believe that SiteGround hasn't worked through some things since they also offer 1-click install of PHPBB from cPanel as well. I'd think that someone has used them both before and had all of these issues at one time?
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by sakm »

GentekPower wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:53 pm
Now that my host fixed a lag issue after a server move, the issue really isn't speed since they've always been fast, it's more that Cloudflare claims to auto minify CSS files which seems to be the main concern of all the speed test sites I use, including PageSpeed. SiteGround moved us (shared hosting) all over to Google's servers from what we were told, so I'd imagine we're about as fast as it's going to get... Haha!

I have two sites in my signature feel free to do some testing with them

one is on cloudflare one isn't

tell me if you can spot which one without looking at nameservers :lol:

the cloudflare has auto minify on and everything I can do to make it perform at its best

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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

sakm wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:16 pm
GentekPower wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:53 pm
Now that my host fixed a lag issue after a server move, the issue really isn't speed since they've always been fast, it's more that Cloudflare claims to auto minify CSS files which seems to be the main concern of all the speed test sites I use, including PageSpeed. SiteGround moved us (shared hosting) all over to Google's servers from what we were told, so I'd imagine we're about as fast as it's going to get... Haha!

I have two sites in my signature feel free to do some testing with them

one is on cloudflare one isn't

tell me if you can spot which one without looking at nameservers :lol:

the cloudflare has auto minify on and everything I can do to make it perform at its best

To be fair, GT Metrix is cheating because YSlow tattles on you when you do/don't use one so I can see that https://www.zumouserforums.co.uk/ is using one haha!

What has been your experience and if you don't mind me asking, what are you not using it for both?
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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by sakm »

GentekPower wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:32 pm
sakm wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 4:16 pm
GentekPower wrote:
Tue Mar 24, 2020 1:53 pm
Now that my host fixed a lag issue after a server move, the issue really isn't speed since they've always been fast, it's more that Cloudflare claims to auto minify CSS files which seems to be the main concern of all the speed test sites I use, including PageSpeed. SiteGround moved us (shared hosting) all over to Google's servers from what we were told, so I'd imagine we're about as fast as it's going to get... Haha!

I have two sites in my signature feel free to do some testing with them

one is on cloudflare one isn't

tell me if you can spot which one without looking at nameservers :lol:

the cloudflare has auto minify on and everything I can do to make it perform at its best

To be fair, GT Metrix is cheating because YSlow tattles on you when you do/don't use one so I can see that https://www.zumouserforums.co.uk/ is using one haha!

What has been your experience and if you don't mind me asking, what are you not using it for both?
You should have just gone by the results page without looking elsewhere :lol: which always shows that cloudflare fairs worse than without! But the loads speeds are great so I don't worry

I just haven't got round to doing the other forum as yet as but with the new downtime we have I'm sure I will find it now :lol:

I only use it to stop bad bots and so far so good no grumbles at all

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Re: What is the general consensus on Cloudflare with PHPBB

Post by GentekPower »

:lol: True, the other non-CDN page does have a better score overall from PageSpeed!

I think after doing so much looking into it, I have become kind of obsessed with making everything as streamlined as possible, but that may not actually matter...

The index page on my forum loads within 1.4 sec usually after they looked into the 16 second load times last week. I personally don't experience performance issues, just wanted to make sure that all those underlying 'fail' categories weren't causing unseen issues with Google's algorithms which are so secret anyways... :roll:
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