Cloudflare secures OpenClassrooms educational platform during its phase of hypergrowth

OpenClassrooms is an online school with a mission of making education accessible to everyone, everywhere. Founded in France in 1999, the organization has grown to serve more than 300,000 users from all over the world every month.

Cloudflare supports rapid growth

OpenClassrooms saw rapid growth, with its activity doubling each year on average. To support this development, it chose to place its confidence in Cloudflare at a very early stage. Today, 80% of the traffic recorded by OpenClassrooms is handled by Cloudflare.

“We are long-standing customers of Cloudflare,” explains Jonathan Lefèbvre, VP of Business Technology at OpenClassrooms. “We mainly serve students in France, but we also have French and English-speaking students all over the world - and in Africa in particular. Cloudflare helps us provide relays all over the world to serve our content closer to students. Beyond just the performance gains, this caching of our content makes it possible to accommodate even more students while taking the load off our infrastructures.”

Secure protection against online attacks

OpenClassrooms also trusts Cloudflare to ensure the security of its infrastructure. “We must constantly strengthen our security, because the number of attacks continues to increase with our change of scale,” says Jonathan Lefèbvre.

To combat these issues, OpenClassrooms began using the Cloudflare Web Application Firewall (WAF) and DDoS mitigation. Right away, Cloudflare helped OpenClassrooms deal with complex, highly distributed attacks that may target any number of the countries the organization serves. Overall, Cloudflare has allowed OpenClassrooms to mitigate 99% of their attacks. “Last March, for example, we logged 12 million security alerts, all blocked by Cloudflare. At the beginning, we relied on the rules provided out-of-the-box, which are very powerful in themselves. We then customized them to take into account our specific use cases,” said Jonathan Lefèbvre. “We found you can activate a layer 7 firewall with Cloudflare with a single click. It is very reassuring to be able to rely on a quality partner like Cloudflare against hackers.”

Beyond the protection of course content, OpenClassrooms must also ensure the confidentiality of its users’ data. “It is our reputation that is at stake, so it is fundamental for the development of the company that we have a partner like Cloudflare that helps us stay compliant,” underlines Jonathan Lefèbvre.

A true Zero Trust partnership

More recently, OpenClassrooms has adopted Cloudflare to secure remote access to corporate applications for its globally distributed workforce. Previously, OpenClassrooms relied on an on-prem VPN appliance, which required backhauling traffic through a data center in Paris for all users, whether in Europe or the US. The VPN proved a bottleneck that hurt user productivity and created risk as a single point of failure for the IT team.

To replace this VPN, the organization selected Cloudflare Access, a Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) service, to adopt identity-based authentication policies for a wide range of self-hosted, web based applications and developer environments. The native integration between Cloudflare Access and Okta was crucial in this project, allowing the rapid implementation for remote access to applications with the highest levels of security.

“Today, Cloudflare protects all of our internal applications,” Lefèbvre said. “Cloudflare Access was the obvious choice, because it was simpler and integrated perfectly with the rest of our tool set, especially since Cloudflare was also able to integrate with our identity provider, which was crucial for us.”

OpenClassrooms has automated the process of creating access policies for new applications and users by leveraging Cloudflare’s API-based integration with Terraform, an Infrastructure-as-Code provider. This API-first approach not only helps save time in configuration, but also improves the consistency of access provisioning and makes it easier to audit changes in security policies.

“We have really developed a trusting relationship with Cloudflare over the years, especially on security issues. We have always had access to experts in the latest technologies, who really seek to help us by always putting themselves in our shoes to better understand our problems. As a customer, a supplier who is that attentive to our needs is absolutely invaluable,” said Jonathan Lefèbvre.

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Key Results
  • 80% of traffic handled by Cloudflare, allowing more students to access the platform as the organization grows

  • 99% of attacks mitigated with Cloudflare WAF

  • Cloudflare Zero Trust provides secure access to internal infrastructure for global workforce

  • OpenClassrooms is able to consolidate tools under one vendor

Today, Cloudflare protects our entire platform, including our test sites. Cloudflare Access was the most obvious choice, because it was simpler and integrated perfectly with the rest of our toolset, especially since Cloudflare was also able to integrate with our identity provider, which was crucial for us.

Jonathan Lefèbvre
VP of Business Technology