Fundamentally, Cloudflare is a large network of servers that can improve the security, performance, and reliability of anything connected to the Internet. Cloudflare does this by serving as a reverse proxy for your web traffic. All requests to and from your origin flow through Cloudflare and — as these requests pass through our network — we can apply various rules and optimizations to improve security, performance, and reliability.
A website’s content does not technically live at a URL like www.example.com, but rather at an IP address like 192.0.2.1. The process of converting a URL into a machine-friendly IP address is known as a DNS lookup.
Before onboarding to Cloudflare, DNS lookups for your application’s URL return the IP address of your origin server. When using Cloudflare with unproxied DNS records, DNS lookups for unproxied domains or subdomains also return your origin’s IP address. Another way of thinking about this concept is that visitors directly connect with your origin server.
With Cloudflare — meaning your domain or subdomain is using proxied DNS records — DNS lookups for your application’s URL will resolve to Cloudflare Anycast IPs instead of their original DNS target. Thus all requests intended for proxied hostnames will go to Cloudflare first and then be forwarded to your origin server.
To get the security, performance, and reliability benefits of Cloudflare, you need to set up Cloudflare on your domain.
All traffic to proxied DNS records will pass through Cloudflare before reaching your origin server. This means that your origin server will stop receiving traffic from individual visitor IP addresses and instead receive traffic from Cloudflare IP addresses, which are shared by all proxied hostnames.
This setup can cause issues if your origin server blocks or rate limits connections from Cloudflare IP addresses. Because all visitor traffic will appear to come from Cloudflare IP addresses, accidentally blocking these IPs will prevent visitor traffic from reaching your application.
Complete your DNS setup so your domain can begin using Cloudflare for DNS resolution.
You have two options, as detailed in our DNS setup video, but we highly recommend a full setup for security reasons. With this option, you use Cloudflare as your primary DNS provider and manage your DNS records on Cloudflare.
After choosing a setup, you will be prompted to change your domain servers to Cloudflare:
Congratulations on completing the initial setup! Please make sure to contact your Cloudflare representative and let them know your account is set up so we can upgrade your plan. This will give you access to more products and features.
In the meantime, check out our video on how to run a Cloudflare account security health check. This will help you get the most out of your plan.