Is Cloudflare China CDN right for you? That depends. In this article, we put forth a decision making matrix, and the thought process behind considering Cloudflare's China CDN. For those considering Akamai China CDN, the thought process is similar, but we'll look at these separately.
China is one of the world's largest Internet populations with over 720 million people online. While they've only just passed 50% internet penetration, tapping into this market isn't as straight-forward as flicking a switch. There are also a number of regulatory considerations.
Cloudflare doesn't operate it's own CDN or points-of-presence (i.e. POPs) in China, however they partner with search engine giant, Baidu, to leverage their pops. While Baidu's POPs are logically separated from Cloudflare's network, they offer many of the same performance and security features that Cloudflare offers for example intelligent traffic routing, quick propagation of rules, DDoS protection and more. Not only this, but the Baidu network is seamlessly integrated into the Cloudflare dashboard.
Compared with Cloudflare's standard global (non-China) offering, adding Baidu's network, enables you to cache content in 17 cities connecting to major ISPs in each region resulting in faster performance and reduced latency across China.
When looking to China, or 'overseas' in general, most companies look to a content delivery network or 'CDN' that accelerates delivery of your site around the world - around the world, except China, that is - well, mostly. China's a unique market in that to host content onshore, you need an ICP Licence in China, and to obtain an ICP licence you need to have an onshore business.
That aside, let's look at the key consideration:
Are you a regulated Entity?
- If Yes, then there are legal requirements requiring that you (likely) set up a separate website specifically, for users in China
- If No, then you don't need to host onshore, and it's performance you're more concerned with
Regulated entities typically comprise those in Banking, Insurance, or Medical (and others). As these industries touch critical information such as personal information or medical history, regulations are such that this information be saved and delivered via onshore (known as data residency).
If you're a regulated entity, then it's likely that you'll be building a website separate to your global website. In this case, you're not looking to make your global site work in China, you're simply looking to build a different website, host and deliver it in China-only.
So to summarise, where:
i) You are a Regulated Entity,
ii) You have an Onshore Business Entity, and
iii) You are Building an Entirely Separate Website for China
..then it makes sense that you consider Cloudflare's China CDN partnership with Baidu. While many of the features overlap with Cloudflare's global product, given you're building a separate site altogether, it begs the question why you need the Cloudflare-Global part, when you just need the China component.
With this in mind, there are a number of other providers, for example, Alibaba Cloud, Baishan Cloud, Tencent Cloud, CDNetworks, let alone Baidu Cloud itself.
If you are:
i) Not a Regulated Entity
ii) Do not have an Onshore Business Entity
iii) Not interested in building a separate website for China,
...then you're looking specifically at accelerating your site. In these cases, Chinafy is your answer.
Combining a multi-CDN infrastructure, and a implementing a series of real-time code optimisations, Chinafy enables global websites to load quickly in China, with fully optimised sites loading potentially within 2-3 seconds (note - performance depends on a number of factors). To learn more and see the data, check out these two articles: