A few years ago, I began creating websites – I started off using drag and drop website builders and did everything for free! I soon began to realise, however, that they were quite limited and that I would never be able to create a website exactly the way I wanted it. At that point, the most important thing to me was that it was free! I had heard about WordPress and how widely it was used and I thought I would give it a go. I was looking around for a way to try it out for free and looked at many free webhosts, in the end I settled on one. For a while, I just familiarised myself with the admin interface and what it can do, on a free subdomain provided by the host, but I thought it was about time that I got my own domain and had a go at setting it up myself. I registered my first domain and started with some basic knowledge of DNS records to get started and managed to link it to my free host. It was at that point that I realised that the ‘green lock’ didn’t happen by itself, having only ever used a host’s free subdomains that just all came secure, suddenly this presented me with a new challenge!
My first Cloudflare account
My hosting provider recommended Cloudflare for SSL, and I read their guide and saw that it involved changing my nameservers, at this point I didn’t really understand DNS and assumed it would stop my email forwarders working with my domain registrar so I decided not to do it then. I thought about it some more while reading up on Cloudflare’s services and realised that other people must have functioning mail with their domain on Cloudflare so in December 2017, I signed up my first domain to Cloudflare. The sign-up process amazed me, somehow all these DNS records that I didn’t even know existed appeared in Cloudflare and it all seemed to work as expected! I had a few issues at first and thought that as I was on the free plan, I would just have to try and work them out myself, however I wrote to support and received an amazing response from a support engineer explaining the issue and how to fix it. I had quite a long discussion with support about it and they helped me to get it resolved. I was so impressed with this that I wrote an email to Matthew Prince, CEO of Cloudflare telling him just how amazed I was with their service, even with customers on their free plan. I have no idea if he ever saw this email but I hope he did, they just impressed me so much!
Discovering The Cloudflare Community
My site had been up for a while and I seemed to have worked out what a sizeable portion of the settings in Cloudflare did, again amazed by everything their free plan had to offer. Next, I found the Cloudflare Community. In July 2018, I created my first post, I expected it to work like a lot of forums, you post something and a few days later you might get a vaguely helpful response, however I was very pleasantly surprised! I received a response almost immediately from both a Cloudflare staff member and a Community Leader – again I was so impressed and realised how much this company must have to offer for people to spend a large portion of their free time on the community answering other users’ questions. I read through a few other posts and saw the same people answering huge amounts of questions and I even replied to a couple of simple ones myself! I realised what a great resource this was and how helpful it was to me and would be to other users.
Involvement with the community
It wasn’t until October 2018 that I went back on the community again to ask another question – I saw the same people there who were still answering questions and even got a response from the same Leader. Again I noticed that if they stick around that long, there must be a reason! I started answering more and more questions and learnt a huge amount from the other users there. In December 2018, I was granted the ‘Regular’ badge on the community, this allowed me into the private ‘Lounge’ area with experts on various products and I slowly got to know the Leaders, Regulars and Staff who were there all the time. I found it so rewarding to help other users solve their issues and help them to further understand Cloudflare services and I just kept getting more involved as my knowledge increased.
As I got more involved and saw what a great resource the community was, I saw quite a few of the same questions coming up repeatedly, it made me think that there should be some sort of community knowledge base which users can look at before posting. There was no facility for this on the forums so I started writing tutorials on my own website (which, although it had by this point been moved to a paid host, probably wouldn’t have stayed up for long without Cloudflare) and linking to them on the community. I received some great feedback from other users and improved them further. I thought it would be useful to have a way for others on the community to be able to contribute to the tutorials and began looking at ways to do this on the forums. Following discussions with other community members and staff, in January 2019, the ‘Tutorials’ category was created. The posts here were editable by Regulars and Leaders on the community which made them an even more valuable resource. I transferred all my existing tutorials there and began writing more and more which I am still doing at the moment. When I see several topics with very similar questions, that all receive a similar answer, I write a tutorial post on that subject. This benefits both the general users on the community and those answering the questions. It means that the resource is there, and because it only has to be written once, it is likely to go into far more detail on the issue and provide more simple steps to follow than an individual reply. It also means that those of us that reply to a lot of questions there don’t have to keep copying and pasting or typing new responses to questions that have been answered many times before.
I love the fact that I can both learn and help at the same time, I learn something new daily from the community and hope that I provide helpful responses to those who ask! The community is so diverse and it is great to be able to chat with other experienced users, about Cloudflare, the products and their experiences. Between everyone there, it all seems to be covered, there always seems to be someone who knows the answer to whatever you can ask.
I am writing this now as in April 2019 I was recognised as a Cloudflare MVP by the community staff for the effort I put in, both answering questions and writing tutorials. I am hugely grateful to all the staff and other members for their support and for allowing me to be part of such a great community. I would encourage all Cloudflare users to check out the great resources that the community has to offer!
You can find me @domjh on the Cloudflare Community.