By now, a large number of webmasters across the planet have heard of CloudFlare — a Silicon Valley SaaS with serious funding – although the vast majority still don’t seem to understand it very well. The truth is that since it first launched, CloudFlare has evolved rapidly as far as the various services and technologies that it offers.
The most popular CloudFlare feature, however, is its CDN/cache technology. In reality, CloudFlare is not a “true” CDN as it merely takes snapshots of page content while not actually hosting “static” resources, like MaxCDN does, for example. The issue being that if your web developer makes any type of change to your site’s layout or design, including CSS, HTML, JS, or graphics (images) changes, these updates may not be immediately reflected on your site’s frontend until you have properly cleared (“purged”) the cache across CloudFlare’s world-wide network.
The point here being that the “dev” mode (a.k.a. development mode) option that CloudFlare offers can “purge” the cache for whichever domain you are managing; more specifically, the “dev” mode actually disables CloudFlare’s cache/CDN mode entirely, which can be extremely useful if your team is working on the site for an extended period of time. This option can be activated within the CloudFlare.com control panel, or by using the CloudFlare plugin for WordPress. After installing and activating the plugin (API key required), you may access various settings at the following (example) URL:
Although CloudFlare’s team has been slowly improving their plugin, it is still rather limited as far as which settings can be managed via their API. Thankfully, the “development mode” is indeed one of them.
Whenever the “dev” mode is activated, it essentially alerts CloudFlare “nodes” around the world that any requests to your domain should pass “through” CloudFlare’s (caching) servers and load content directly from the origin server, meaning, the web server where your website is actually installed. Therefore, you may notice a decrease in site performance with “dev” mode turned on, because the physical distance from your location and your origin server may increase — plus, resources on your site are not being cached or optimized by any of CloudFlare’s other nifty technologies either.
So, next time you are updating your website’s design or features, its probably a good idea that you first enable CloudFlare’s “dev” mode which will usually kick in within a minute or two, depending on where you are working from at any given time. Of course, one of the coolest things about the feature is that it will automatically turn off within an hour or so, meaning that if you forget to re-enable the magic of CloudFlare… it will be taken care of for you :)