This website was hosted on Netlify since I started seriously blogging in 2019.
After a major issue, which I detail below, I ended up moving to Cloudflare.
Read on to learn why I moved and why I think Cloudflare is a fantastic host for modern websites.
My Netlify Issues
At the time I chose Netlify because it was free and supported my static CMS of choice, Hugo.
But the larger my website has grown the more I’ve noticed Netlify’s shortcomings.
One month I went over my bandwidth limit and Netlify never notified me.
I never received an email.
I logged into my Netlify account to see that I had 5 days to pay my bill or they’d shut my website down.
I got lucky that I even logged in to check, because I hardly login to the Netlify console.
When I wanted to dig into what exactly caused my bandwidth overages there was no way to tell.
Netlify only tells you how much bandwidth you’ve used in your current month. No historical numbers. No detailed breakdown.
I had to submit a support ticket to ask where all my bandwidth went.
One day later they sent me an excel file with how many bytes of bandwidth each of my images used.
So I made some optimizations to my images and started to daily monitor how much bandwidth I was using.
To do that I had to login to the Netlify console, see how much bandwidth I used yesterday, remember how much I used the day before, and then do the math.
There’s no time series graph for bandwidth.
There’s no analytics reporting at all for that matter.
So after I paid my $20 overage fee I started immediately shopping for alternatives.
Here’s what I found.
The Best Free Netlify Alternatives
All of these providers have a free plan that is roughly comparable to Netlify.
So if you don’t need to pay for hosting, then any of these Netlify alternatives will be fine.
I chose Cloudflare and I’ll tell you why.
Cloudflare is a giant. They have over 1,800 employees and generated over $400 million in revenue in 2020.
Cloudflare is home to about 25 million Internet properties.
Cloudflare powers internet requests for about 190 of the Fortune 1000 companies.
They’re a publicly traded company with a stock price over $100 as of October 2021.
Cloudflare is perhaps best known for their DDOS mitigation services. They have a network size of 100 Tbps to defend against attacks.
Even their Free plan comes with DDOS protection, making them a great choice for security and network attack prevention.
Cloudflare 2023 Review
I’ve now been using Cloudflare for over a year and here’s my report.
A+. They’re amazing.
First, I don’t pay them a dollar.
My website, which has 80,000+ visitors/month, costs me $0 in hosting fees to run each month.
Because Cloudflare’s Pages product is free, my web hosting is free.
Second, their UI and configuration options are way bette than Netlify.
If I need to dig into stats there are multiple graphs to choose from. All the data is there for me to slice.
I go into more detail about that in the below section.
Third, my website is lightning fast. This was expected and has been a consistent experience since moving, but I thought it was worth mentioning.
Netlify vs Cloudflare
Straight up, Netlify just doesn’t compare to Cloudflare for static CMS hosting.
Cloudflare launched their Pages product late 2020 and now there’s no reason to use Netlify instead.
Here’s the extent of Netlify’s reporting capabilities in one screenshot.
You can’t click on anything. No further details are provided.
Stats disappear after the billing period is over.
In contrast, here’s Cloudflare’s stats.
Time series! How amazing.
But wait, there’s more.
Bandwidth stats! Over time.
You can see how much bandwidth was served over the cache too.
I feel spoiled to have access to this kind of data visualization. How crazy is it that Netlify doesn’t offer this?
Cloudflare also offers threat tracking.
I have access to so many stats I can barely showcase all of them in a single blog post.
Cloudflare even tracks Google’s Core Web Vitals scores.
I get access to all of this for $0.
I’m not even a paying customer yet.
I 100% plan to upgrade because this service is worth it, and my website is growing to where I want to ensure it has access to the best stats, tools, and security available.
This is the end of my rant against Netlify.
It’s mind boggling how bare bones their static website hosting CMS is.
Don’t want to use Cloudflare? No problem.
Check out Vercel.
They’re competitively priced and offer more bandwidth for $20 than Netlify does.
I don’t personally use them so I can’t beat you down with stat screenshots, but the company I work for uses them to host their marketing site and we haven’t had any problems.
One thing to note about Vercel is their free plan doesn’t allow commercial usage.
Vercel defines what commercial usage is:
Commercial usage is defined as any Deployment that is used for the purpose of financial gain of anyone involved in any part of the production of the project, including a paid employee or consultant writing the code.
There’s more examples in that link above, but essentially if you intend to make money with your project then Vercel needs to make money too 😇.
Thanks to one of my readers for pointing this out!
I also don’t use Surge.sh but they came up when I was researching Netlify alternatives.
They seem smaller than Vercel and they’re not as transparent with their bandwidth limits.
Surge.sh seems great for really small sites with low traffic or bandwidth requirements.
But once you start to scale you might be better served by looking elsewhere.
Surge does have a generous free plan, which they describe like this:
| We are believers in “Provide more value than you capture,” and making it free to publish to Surge by default, with a custom domain, is one way we aim to do this. It’s important to us that more people can easily publish to the web.
I had a bad experience with Netlify and took my business elsewhere.
You may have a different experience, but once I switched to Cloudflare I was shocked at how much better it was.
The amount of statistics and visualiations available to me at Cloudflare put Netlify to shame.