We live increasingly large portions of our lives online, and the more people join the internet, the more opportunities there are for scams and cyber-attacks. In the last week alone, I’ve received several phishing emails, I’ve seen hundreds of Tweets created by bot accounts on Twitter, and my computer has likely encountered viruses across the web.
The question for internet users is how to avoid or eliminate these threats. The answer is Cloudflare.
Cloudflare is one of the largest networks on the internet dedicated to making websites faster and more secure. It offers a broad range of services trusted by more than 26 million websites globally, and it has become a leading industry name since its creation in 2009.
However, the information communication technology (ICT) industry, expected to hit a value of $5.5 trillion in 2022, is one of the biggest industries worldwide and also one of the most competitive.
Millions might trust Cloudflare, but many other companies offer similar solutions to the same problems. All of them are fighting for a more significant share of what is already an extremely lucrative market.
In this Cloudflare competitors analysis, I will dive deeper into the inner workings of the ICT industry, analyzing the companies that operate within it to determine which ones are in the strongest position.
The Bottom Line Up Front
Cloudflare is a leading CDN and DDoS mitigation company with strong annual revenue and several well-known brands as customers. Compared to some competitors, the best thing about Cloudflare is that it allows regular people to insert applications into websites; they don’t need to be a developer. For me, that’s a real selling point.
Security threats have posed a severe problem in the past and will continue to be the biggest obstacle to Cloudflare’s ongoing success. However, the company has taken proactive steps to avoid future issues.
List of Cloudflare’s Main Competitors
- Amazon Web Services
- Microsoft Azure
Cloudflare Business Strategy
Cloudflare, Inc. is a company that delivers various services to help websites run smoothly and efficiently. It was founded in 2010, and its headquarters are in San Francisco, California.
The following services are available from Cloudflare:
- Domain Name System (DNS)
- Content Delivery Network (CDN)
- Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP)
- Load Balancing
- Caching Possibilities
- Video Streaming
- Web Application Firewall (WAF)
- SSL/TSL Support
- Domain Registrar
- Workers (for developers)
Cloudflare serves data from 275 cities in over 100 countries worldwide, and every day, thousands of new users sign up for the service. It helps that Cloudflare also offers integrations with popular platforms like WordPress, Google Cloud, Magento, and IBM Cloud.
When it was founded, the company’s initial business strategy focused on providing an application that could find the source of email spam. Since then, it has expanded considerably. Now Cloudflare’s strategy is offering a comprehensive suite of tools to protect websites from attacks and optimize their performance.
It uses a subscription revenue model incorporating a mix of free and paid plans to achieve this. Free plans include:
- Add your website or app to Cloudflare.
- Protect your team with secure internet access from Cloudflare.
- Deploy serverless code.
- Build and deploy modern web projects.
There are five types of paid monthly plans, each of which has different pricing options. For application security and performance, for instance, the pricing is as follows:
- Free – 0$/month – for personal and hobby projects, it includes DNS, DDoS, CDN, SSL certificate, and free managed ruleset.
- Pro – $20/month – for professional websites that aren’t business-critical – includes everything from Free, plus WAF, Lossless image optimization, and accelerated mobile optimization.
- Business – $200/month – for small companies operating online – everything from Pro, plus PCI DSS 3.2 compliance, 100% uptime SLA, and 1x uptime service credits.
- Enterprise – custom, billed annually – everything from Business, plus 10x uptime service credits, SSO support, network prioritization, and role-based account control.
Partner programs form a significant part of Cloudflare’s growth strategy. There is a technology partner program, a services partner program, a self-serve partner program (which, at the time of writing, is still in its Beta stage), and a Cloudflare One partner program. These help Cloudflare create greater brand awareness for each service and acquire more customers.
Cloudflare counts several well-known brands such as Kinsta, Zalando, Panasonic, and Shopify among its customers.
Unfortunately, Cloudflare has suffered from various security issues, some of which have gained media attention. In 2012, a hacker group called UGNazi redirected 4chan website visitors to a Twitter account belonging to the hackers by hijacking 4chan’s domain via Cloudflare.
Then, a year later, a DDoS attack targeted The Spamhaus Project, and while trying to defend Spamhaus, Cloudflare came under attack too. Google and some other companies had to step in to absorb the attack, which was one of the largest in history.
Cloudflare has made many strategic acquisitions to expand and improve its services, including StopTheHacker and CryptoSeal in 2014, S2 Systems in 2020, and, more recently, Area 1 Security in 2022. Cloudflare plans to integrate Area 1’s robust email security with its global network.
Cloudflare’s Q4 revenue in 2021 was $193.6 million, a 54% increase year-over-year. Revenue for FY21 amounted to $646.4 million.
Cloudflare Competitors Analysis
Cloudflare competes against companies like Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Cisco Umbrella in the information communication technology industry.
Amazon Web Services
Amazon Web Services, Inc. provides on-demand APIs and cloud computing platforms to companies, governments, and individuals. It is a subsidiary of Amazon that was launched in 2002, and its headquarters are in Seattle, Washington.
AWS has over one million active users, 10% enterprise-grade customers; the rest are SMBs. According to a report by Cloud Security Alliance, AWS has 41.5% of the global cloud computing market.
The company’s strategy focuses on providing storage, servers, networking, email, remote computing, mobile development, and security using a pay-as-you-go revenue model. You pay for the services you need for however long you need them without being tied into a contract.
One of the company’s key selling points is that AWS provides users with a way of obtaining large-scale computing capacity without building a physical server farm, which would otherwise be extremely costly.
Data security is crucial in cloud computing, and AWS’s contract with the CIA, signed in 2013, shows that it is a trusted leader in this respect. Government departments in the UK, like MI5, MI6, and GCHQ, also use AWS to host classified materials. The company even has links to politics; the Obama presidential campaign used it in 2012.
As of 2022, AWS has operations in twenty-seven regions: one in South America, seven in North America, two in the Middle East, six in Europe, one in Africa, and ten in Asia Pacific.
As a leading global company, Amazon is well aware of the role large corporations are expected to play in shaping and interacting with society if they want to gain the masses’ approval. Consequently, it’s unsurprising that AWS is engaged in various charitable activities.
In 2017, the company launched AWS re/Start in the UK to help military veterans and young adults retrain in technology-related skills. It has also committed more than $30 million to startups led by Latino, LGBTQIA+, women, and Black founders as part of its “impact accelerator.”
In Q4 of 2021, AWS made $17.8 billion, up from $12.7 billion in 2020. The company’s full-year revenue figure was $62.2 billion.
Microsoft Azure – often called Azure – is a cloud computing service by Microsoft. It allows users to manage applications through Microsoft-managed data centers, providing software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), and infrastructure as a service (IaaS). The service was initially released in 2008, and its headquarters are in Redmond, Washington.
In particular, Azure’s content delivery network and domain name service mark it as a critical competitor of Cloudflare. It also offers storage services and data management in the form of Azure Data Explorer (analytics), Cosmos DB (database), and Azure Stream Analytics.
More than 95% of Fortune 500 companies use Microsoft Azure, and 85% of Fortune 100 companies use it.
The revenue models used by Azure vary from product to product. Regarding the CDN, Azure opts for a subscription revenue model; users pay a monthly fee based on how much storage they use. Pricing for Zone 1 is as follows:
- First 10TB /month – $0.081 per GB
- Next 40TB /month – $0.075 per GB
- Next 100TB /month – $0.056 per GB
- Next 500TB /month – $0.028 per GB
- Next 4,000TB /month – $0.023 per GB
Azure boasts over 200 products and services, but the cloud computing industry is developing rapidly, so Microsoft has to continue growing its offering and evolving its tech. To do this, it uses a combination of research and development (R&D) and strategic acquisitions.
Microsoft’s R&D expenditure in 2022 amounted to almost $25 billion, an 18.32% increase from 2021. Part of this money will have been directed at Azure.
In 2021, Microsoft acquired CloudKnox Security for an undisclosed amount to reinforce Azure’s identity and access management capabilities. The company will offer seamless integration with its other security services, such as Azure Defender, making Azure’s position as a competitor of Cloudflare even stronger.
Microsoft reported a 40% rise in revenue for Azure in Q4 2021, while the company as a whole reported $51 billion, up only 2% compared to the same quarter the previous year. Total revenue for the year was $168.088 billion.
Fastly is a US-based cloud computing provider founded in 2011 with headquarters in San Francisco, California. The company describes its network as an edge cloud platform designed to allow developers to extend their core infrastructure to the edge of the network, closer to users.
Fastly’s business strategy provides three crucial benefits to developers through its product: speed, security, and scale. It provides a better user experience from phone to desktop and website to app.
The company serves over 2,000 paying customers, and non-enterprise clients account for roughly 11.92% of Fastly’s revenue. This number may sound small but Fastly has already attracted some of the biggest brands in the world, including Deliveroo, The Guardian, LinkTree, BigCartel, Business Insider, Shazam, Wayfair, and Virgin Money.
Like Cloudflare, Fastly offers a range of products:
- Content delivery network
- CDN video streaming
- Load balancing
- Image optimization
- TLS encryption
- Origin connect
- App and API protection
- Bot protection
- DDoS mitigation
The company uses a subscription revenue model with a free trial option for its Edge Cloud to draw new users in. The subscription plans are as follows (prices are available upon request):
- Free trial – best for any size company looking to give Fastly a try; test up to $50 of traffic.
- Essential – best for small companies, includes 3TB global delivery per month, 30MM Image Optimizer images per month, secure up to 10 domains, and view real-time and historic origin-specific traffic (essential).
- Professional – best for mid-sized companies, includes 10TB global delivery per month, 100MM Image Optimizer images per month, secure up to 10 domains, and view real-time and historic origin-specific traffic (professional).
- Enterprise – best for companies focused on innovation and scale, includes unlimited global delivery, custom Image Optimizer images, custom TLS, and view real-time and historic origin-specific traffic (enterprise).
In 2022, Fastly announced a reseller partnership with HUMAN Security, Inc. to offer customers industry-leading bot protection and fraud and abuse protection from cybercriminals. As I discussed earlier, security has been a real issue for Cloudflare in the past, and it’s clear Fastly is determined to make sure its platform doesn’t experience the same kind of problems.
Fastly’s total revenue in 2021 was $354.3 million, a 22% increase year-on-year.
Akamai Tecnologies, Inc. is a content delivery network, cloud service, and cybersecurity company founded in 1998 with headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its Intelligent Edge Platform is one of the world’s most prominent distributed computing platforms.
Akamai operates a worldwide network of approximately 365,000 servers and rents capacity to customers who want their websites to work faster. The company’s mapping system assigns each user to an edge server using complex algorithms, and the platform also includes DDoS mitigation and various other security services.
Over 51,949 companies have started using Akamai as a CDN tool in the past year alone. In total, the network has over 200,000 users.
Customers of Akamai include Apple (who invested $12.5 million in the company in 1999), BBC iPlayer, Adobe Systems, NBC Sports, Pearson Education, IBM, and Airbnb.
Relationships with big brands have played an essential role in Akamai’s business strategy. For instance, in 1999, Akamai formed a partnership with Microsoft to incorporate Windows Media technology in Akamai’s FreeFlow service. Microsoft Azure offers Akamai as an option for its standard CDN service, and the relationship exists to this day.
Akamai has made around thirty acquisitions over the years, including that of cybersecurity company Prolexic Technologies in 2014 for $390 million and, more recently, Inverse, Inc., a Canadian security company making an open-source Network Access Controller called PacketFence.
In 2021, Akamai reported $1.624 billion in revenue, a 14% increase compared to the previous year.
Cloudflare SWOT Analysis
This SWOT analysis covers Cloudflare’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- High product quality increases brand loyalty
- Extensive global presence in over 100 countries
- Offers popular integrations with IBM Cloud, Magento, and Google Cloud
- Excellent partner program that boosts brand awareness
- Financial security thanks to continuous revenue growth
- Low operating costs; no physical products
- Strong online presence and powerful marketing campaigns
- Highly rated by TechRadar
- Award-winning company
- A well-designed website that is easy to navigate
- Data security and cyber threats are a big concern; Cloudflare has experienced problems before
- The platform attracts a lot of copyright infringers which puts other potential customers off
- Handling increased platform complexity poses a challenge
- Brand awareness outside of the industry is still relatively weak
- Expand into new locations and emerging markets
- Continue to forge strategic acquisitions
- Technological advancements could be used to develop the existing platform
- Target new industries with bespoke solutions
- Thousands of new websites are established each day, and these are all potential customers
- Increased competition from brands with enormous financial backing
- Data security is an ever-present concern, and hackers are becoming more advanced
- Vulnerable to regulatory and legal changes
Cloudflare Competitors Analysis FAQs
Question: Who is Cloudflare’s biggest competitor?
Answer: Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure are two of Cloudflare’s biggest competitors based on revenue and brand reputation. However, smaller companies like Akamai and Fastly pose a significant threat because they could easily steal Cloudflare’s small-to-medium-sized business customer base.
Question: Is Cloudflare owned by Google?
Answer: Google does not own Cloudflare; however, it is a Google Cloud Platform Technology Partner. This partnership allows customers to experience the protection of Cloudflare and the infrastructure of Google.
Question: Is Cloudflare bigger than Akamai?
Answer: Akamai generates more annual revenue than Cloudflare. Akamai is the largest CDN globally, serving between 15% and 30% of all web traffic.
Question: What makes Cloudflare different?
Answer: Cloudflare is unique because it isn’t a hosting provider. Once you have created a website, you can change the DNS settings to Cloudflare. The network also uses a reverse-proxy architecture to organize and manage data.
Cloudflare is a popular content delivery network with many benefits – not least of all the broad range of services it offers to speed up websites. However, it has many rival companies that provide similar, if not identical, services, some of which have the added financial benefit of existing as a subset of a bigger, highly successful business (such as Amazon and Microsoft).
Security is one of the most significant concerns for Cloudflare. Because it is smaller and less well-known than some competitors, it must work harder to ensure past security threats are not repeated. Fortunately, Cloudflare has already made several acquisitions to help target this potential problem.
To continue growing and competing successfully in the industry, the company must focus on expanding its security capabilities further and adding new features that set it apart.
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