🎂 Customer Spotlight: Jacob Allred
Join Derek Yee as he interviews Jacob Allred, one of Cloudflare's earliest customers. Jacob was even featured in our customer launch video at Disrupt in back in 2010!
Hey, welcome everyone. Welcome to today's customer spotlight. My name is Derek Yee. I am with the product marketing team here at Cloudflare.
And today I am joined by Jacob Allred.
Let me give him the formal introduction first. Jacob is the CIO at a company called The Perfect Workout.
But what I really want to share about Jacob and what I'm really excited about talking today, he was actually one of our earliest customers that have been with us since the very get go, even before I had anything to do with Cloudflare or knew anything about them.
So Jacob, why don't you introduce yourself?
Tell us a little about yourself. Sure. Yeah, like you said, I've been using Cloudflare for about a decade.
Yeah, so I have, where do I start?
So way back in the day, when I was a teenager, my dad got me into programming, got me an HTML book, got me Visual Basic.
So I kind of started getting into the computer world and the Internet world.
And from there, I tried to figure out how do I turn this into a living so I can do computer stuff all day because it's super fun.
So I started doing some web hosting reselling. I had some affiliate marketing going on a web page.
Just kind of grew it from there. I've got like 70 websites now that I run with all of them on Cloudflare.
And so those have been the bulk of my business for the past 10 years.
As eventually I did get, after my teenage years, I got a day job doing programming at a dial-up ISP.
Back when dial-up was the fast Internet.
Went from there, that company got bought by a telecom.
So then I started doing some telecom work and they got bought by a content company.
So I kind of got an opportunity to expand my skill set into a bunch of different technologies.
And it was when I was actually working at that telecom slash ISP slash everything else that I heard about Cloudflare.
I don't remember how I heard about it.
If it was like on, it's probably on like Slashdot, one of the like the social sharing sites.
And it looked like a good concept. So I moved over my main website, fake name generator, onto Cloudflare and immediately started to see value.
It was way faster than trying to host it on my own, trying to do all the caching on my own.
And kind of went from there, adding more zones, adding more websites to it, taking advantage of the feature sets.
I know we talked about this before.
So one of the earliest sites, and even when I was doing like sort of a research to figure out like who were some of the early adopters, fake name generator.
I mean, something really sounds fishy about that site. Can you tell us a little bit about fake name generator?
It does sound fishy and that's got me in trouble a lot in the past.
I think I've been contacted by all of the three-letter government organizations at one point or another.
So what it does, fakenamegenerator.com, it generates realistic looking individual information.
So you can load it up, it'll give you a person's name, their address, phone number, email, even gives you like eye color and blood type.
It'll give you a fake tracking number for UPS if you want it to.
So you can use all this information.
You can download multiple records at once. You can go and get I need 10,000 people from America and it'll give you that list.
Or you could be like I need 20,000 people from the UK or there's lots of different country options.
You can download that data and you can use it for software development and that's its main purpose.
So you can test your software without having to use real customer data. So it's used all over the world.
It's in a bunch of university courses and the textbooks.
A lot of government organizations use it for when they're doing their development because they can't use real person information.
If you've heard of Vsauce, the YouTube channel, Vsauce actually came from the fake name generator, generate domain names.
So he saw that and liked it and ran with it. Video games, it's just it's used across the board, but it sounds sketchy.
So we do occasionally run into issues and we also have kind of black hat people sometimes trying to hit it.
So the DDoS protection of cloud players has been pretty vital. So can I ask a question?
So I don't know if I asked this when we were prepping for this call, but so I know one of the big reasons why you wanted to create this tool was because you want to sort of de-risk potentially happenstance coming across someone's actual information.
What safety checks do you have in place to make sure that the random name generator truly is random and you're not by chance, oh, the algorithm shouldn't have done that.
Right, so I've had a couple people over the years try to get me in trouble for that.
They're like, I went to it and it had my name and my address and my phone number.
But if you run the numbers, it's like you're more likely to get hit by lightning a million times before that would happen.
There's just so random.
There's so many different permutations that there's really no chance of real information showing up, especially your own information showing up when you're viewing the website.
So I think it's pretty safe. Like we do generate like fake credit card numbers, but they're all using credit card prefixes that aren't active.
So it's not a real credit card number, no matter how many times you reload the page.
Got it. Okay. So you obviously have a number of websites that you are connecting to Cloudflare today.
Maybe let's fast forward for a little bit. So, you know, and honestly, when I contacted you originally, it was because like, hey, this is one of our earliest customers.
It's only until we connected on LinkedIn.
It's like, oh, wow, you're actually with a company called the Perfect Workout.
So my next question was, can you talk to us about the Perfect Workout? And I'm going to assume yes, but is that site also protected by Cloudflare?
It is as of today.
So I saw the announcement about the automatic platform optimization. So it's like the WordPress, making WordPress go faster by the click of a button.
And that sold me.
So I've had it on my list for a while to move the Perfect Workout over. And that one feature, it's like, I've got to drop what I'm doing.
I've got to move my job over.
So as of, I don't know, maybe like an hour and a half ago, theperfectworkout.com was on Cloudflare.
So what is the Perfect Workout? I mean, no company.
Sure. Yeah. So we are the largest privately owned one-on-one personal training company in the United States.
So we have our clients come in, they have one trainer assigned to them, and that trainer walks them through a slow motion, high intensity workout.
So it's great. Kind of the magic of it is that you only have to work out 20 minutes twice a week and you get in shape and you're healthy.
You don't have to go to the gym for an hour every day or after work every day in order to get in shape.
So we have clients across the country, COVID hit and that kind of shut us down a little bit.
So we now do virtual as well, doing kind of like over the Zoom chat, doing the one-on-one training.
But having the trainer there with you help make sure you're doing it right, make sure you're doing it safely, and it helps track your progress as you go through the program.
Do you find that your clients are still as excited about doing virtual workouts as opposed to sort of that in-person experience?
It's kind of hit or miss. Like some of them absolutely love doing the virtual.
Some of them kind of miss going in and having the chatting with their trainer in person and getting to be on the real machines.
I live about three hours from our closest physical location, so I'm loving the virtual because I get to work out every week now.
But yeah, it's definitely a paradigm shift trying to figure out how do we make this a product that people are still willing to pay for and still provides the same value that we gave in the studio.
Right, got it. So you guys have been doing a lot of virtual workouts.
What are your plans? I know there's a lot of questions in the air, but are there any sort of, I think you're in Virginia when we talked last?
What are the state's plans in terms of reopening?
I mean, I know in some cities, some states that some indoor gym activities are now being allowed.
Where is Virginia at in terms of that stage? Yeah, so Virginia, our Virginia studios are all in Nova in Northern Virginia, like the DC area.
And DC in general was locked down a lot longer than some of the other areas, but we're now fully open as of Monday.
This coming Monday will be fully open nationwide.
So it seems kind of the national lockdowns have lifted at least enough for us to open.
And with us doing the one-on-one, it's not like going to Gold's Gym or the YMCA where there's a group of people together.
It is a smaller one-on-one situation.
Got it. So the Internet's obviously played a significant role in you guys being able to survive the whole lockdown.
When you think about the perfect workout, so you mentioned that now it's actually protected with cloud for using the automation capabilities for optimization.
What is your experience have been?
So you've talked about all the other zones that you have on Cloudflare today, and maybe I should bring this up or not, but can I ask how much are you, what type of plans are you using on those zones right now?
Yeah, so if we're just talking about the Cloudflare plan, I think I've spent maybe like 40 bucks over the past 10 years, which is pretty awesome.
That's a lot of value for 20, $40. With some of the features that have been released, I'll definitely be looking at increasing that spend, but it's really cool that Cloudflare has been able to provide so much for free for so long.
The registrar has definitely taken some of my money.
I own more domain names than I probably should.
Every time I get a new domain name, I transfer it over to Cloudflare to hold onto it for me.
Yeah, we were talking about this before, right? So we know that the average consumer loves to be able to get high value for probably as little money or free, if at all possible.
And I think the one thing about Cloudflare, they really have, we've really sustained that model.
And I think that's why you find so many people out there.
Like I've gone to, when we used to go to trade shows, people would say, oh yeah, I know Cloudflare, I love Cloudflare.
It's like, yeah, they want a free t-shirt, but the fact that, yeah, it's like, I can connect your site.
And I mean, like I was sharing with you earlier, I had a friend of mine just ping me.
It's like, hey, my site's getting DDoS attacks. Like, duh. I mean, even the free plan is going to give you the protection that you need.
Why wouldn't you, right?
Yeah, exactly. And it's like, yeah, you could probably glue together 20 other services and get something similar, but it's like, I don't want to deal with the infrastructure time of having to manage all of that.
Like you just transfer your zone into Cloudflare and you're good to go.
Exactly. Yeah. So like we were talking, you said you're excited about the automated optimization for WordPress, the platform optimization.
So let's peek into that when you start talking about, you know, having to deal with all the intricacies.
So you obviously have a WordPress published site, I mean, I do as well.
So you think about everything that happens in the backend.
So my question to you earlier was, if you didn't use Cloudflare to be able to simplify that performance optimization, like what were you planning?
Because I think you mentioned you've got someone starting next week and you just took his job away from him.
Yeah, a little bit. Yeah. So we've been needing to optimize our WordPress for a long time and it just never quite got prioritized.
So we were finally going to start doing that starting next week, but then automatic platform optimization came out and it's pretty much you flip the switch.
So we had plugins to do like server-side caching, image optimization, converting things to WebP.
Yeah. We had a CDN at AWS that never quite worked right, which I'm positive was our end just not having enough knowledge and setting it up.
And so we would have been devoting more time into figuring out how do we, which plugins should we be using?
How do we get these to work together without breaking everything?
It would have just been more of a research project and plugin configuration.
But now I just took all the plugins out. I disabled like five or six plugins and Cloudflare does it all.
I don't have to think about it. It'll probably be 10 years before I have to think about it again.
Yeah, that's a great, I mean, WordPress in itself, it's a great ecosystem, right?
But the whole plugin libraries, I mean, it's like some plugins aren't all the same.
So then you got to keep them all updated.
And like you mentioned, like having to figure out like one's going to break the other.
Yeah. And then when you update one, like we have a, like an SEO plugin that we updated a couple of weeks ago and it decided it wanted to break our image optimization plugin.
So we had to, it's like they, it's a lot of work keeping it up to date.
So the fewer plugins you can have, the better.
Yeah, totally. Great. So glad we got the perfect workout is probably when I'm curious to see the results afterwards, how many people have actually turned this on.
So I'm glad that you actually were able to get some benefit out of that. And you've actually seen some improvements, haven't you?
In terms of feed? Yeah, definitely.
And there are other, like the Rocket Loader and Mirage features of Cloudflare.
We're going to test having turned on.
Yeah. Probably go to AMP for mobile. So things to do, but it definitely took a huge bite out of the project.
Sure. It was, so I don't know if you tuned in.
So on Wednesday, we did a call, a spotlight with a company called Nativo.
The case in point of what they were doing with Cloudflare was so heavily workers-driven.
So they figured, hey, ideally, let's push this to make it server side. And then they realized, okay, there's still some things that are some kinks to work out.
Yeah. With a pretty generous free tier again.
I think it's like a hundred thousand requests. There's a number of requests.
Yeah. That comes inclusive. Yeah. It might've even been a day. I don't remember.
It was a huge, I was looking at that earlier and it's like, yeah, we got a, what can we move over to workers?
And again, it's like, it's one of those things, like we could do it in AWS, but it's a lot more set up with Cloudflare.
It's just kind of, you click and you're done.
It does it for you. Totally. I mean, that's what we see with workers in general, right?
So in that I've always like when we have new people start and they ask me about like, so worker or serverless, it seems a little foreign, but really, if you think about what workers is doing, doesn't fall too far from the tree and why people are caching things on Cloudflare, right?
They don't want to invest and have to maintain and build out the backend infrastructure.
You know, worker is really an extension of that. If I can have Cloudflare do more and more of this stuff, so I don't need to deal with it on the backend at my origin, the better it is, right?
And workers are really kind of working through that.
Absolutely. Yeah. Reduce server load, lower costs across the board.
Yep. So we talked about automatic platform optimization. What else? Was there anything else on birthday week?
Ideally, I'm sorry, you're the last person in the week.
So you've literally had the span of the entire week. So I'm totally going to have these questions for you.
Was there anything else that you found interesting that caught your attention?
Yeah. I'm excited about the API shield. Definitely be looking into that more.
Which I guess that's not like an exciting one to talk about.
It's like, oh man, it makes your API safe. But to me, that's cool.
That's something I want to do. That and the analytics look really nice. I'm interested in getting some of that server side.
Mostly, probably the biggest part of that, I want to compare the server side analytics against the, like we have Google analytics, like 99% of the world.
And see how many people are we really losing due to ad block.
Is that something you'd even consider doing before?
Yeah. We have some like a rough idea of what we're losing just based off of server logs.
But it takes a lot of work to process server logs to give you something valuable.
So I'm hoping with Cloudflare, I can just click a graph and it shows me, hey, you have X number of people from the United States, which is what it looks like.
I've got a little bit of data I've been playing with today. And it looks like it's pretty, it's almost like Google analytics, but a fuller picture.
Yeah. And especially, I mean, I don't know what your thoughts are on this in terms of data privacy.
I know that's the rage. There's so much sensitivities today around data privacy and the solutions that are out there.
And of course, we're not the only server side analytics driven solution that's out there, but really the push that you've got so many sites now that have like either ad blockers in place, or you've got countries like Europe, especially where there's very strict guidance and requirements around GDPR, data compliance, that we can see that's becoming more and more of an issue for a lot of people.
Absolutely. It's one of those tough situations because it's like, as an individual, I don't want anyone tracking me, but as I'm being involved somewhat in the marketing and the perfect workout, it's like, well, I want to track everything everyone does.
I want to know that Derek is going to this page and that page and that page.
So I can see the push and pull from business and consumer, but it seems like Apple is kind of leading the fight and removing the ability to track at least on the client side.
So it's without a server side solution in the next couple of years, you're going to be out of luck for any meaningful tracking.
Yeah. I do recall, I think Apple in particular, I think that's the way they're trying to differentiate to really make sort of privacy.
You compare it to like Google and Facebook. That's the area where they know that people care about and they're paying attention to, and you have so many choices.
So in terms of like big tech, I think they're trying to differentiate it in that respect.
Yeah, definitely. And it's, personally, I'm a more of an Android user, but it's like, I can kind of, I know that all my data is being sold every time I use my device and I've got an Alexa on my desk and it's like, it's probably selling everything I say while I'm talking to my coworkers.
But it'd be nice if the world was more Apple in that respect.
I'd like to not have my, you know, because everyone's had that moment, right?
You're like talking about like dog food with your wife and all of a sudden all your ads are dog food everywhere.
So it's like, you know, someone somewhere is listening to you. And we all think like, you know, whatever we're saying, nobody's really going to care about what I'm saying.
What's so, you know, sensitive about the information that we're saying, but you never know, right?
Right, right. Yeah. Awesome. So we looked at the analytics piece.
You obviously talked about WordPress optimization. You're not doing too much with workers, so we're probably not too much around the workers piece, API shield.
Okay. Here's what I want to talk about next. What about Wednesday's announcement and author radar?
Have you been to the radar site yet? I haven't.
I looked at the release. So that's, that's the one that gives kind of a global network information.
Yeah. So I think it'll be really neat for research. Like I'm kind of curious to see what comes out of it.
Like I don't have any good ideas off the top of my head what to do with it, but I know people are going to come up with neat, cool tools out of that.
Well, some history here. If you look at, so it's radar.Cloudflare.com in case anyone hasn't checked out the site yet.
Right at the start of the pandemic, you know, we started noticing like, okay, wow, now everybody's working from home.
Now you know that there's more video calls, all these things that are happening.
And we started looking at certain regions around the world and you can see there was a marked change in terms of activity.
So whereas pre pandemic, you look at a lot of the major metro areas, you can see there's increased Internet activity because people are working in, you know, businesses during the day.
When you contrast that to what you started seeing this sort of spreading out where suddenly other regions, like in the more sort of suburban regions were starting to have that increase and the actual metros were suddenly becoming, you know, ghost towns.
So between that and started looking at, you know, the types of sites that we started to be able to pull that data and we know that people actually were starting to reference that.
It's like, hey, this is actually giving you a pulse of what's going on on the Internet.
So radar, if you haven't been through yet, really kind of starts to be able to expose a lot of that stuff to give you, you know, the number of names that they were trying to figure out what this would be called.
It's almost like a map of the Internet or to give you a pulse as to what's going on, on the Internet.
And I think I shared with you like right after we launched this, it was Wednesday.
It was right after the presidential debates and like literally NPR shot to the top in terms of sort of the most traffic sites out there.
So it'll be interesting, like you said, to see how that information begins to evolve and how the industry in general starts to really sort of capitalize on that.
Yeah, definitely. And it seems like as a marketer, like it would be handy if you can see which services are kind of trending up, you can get ahead of the curve.
Yep. Great. So you've been with Cloudflare, you know, and when we look at Cloudflare, we look at the Internet in general, you know, you've been with us when you said a decade.
It makes it really sound longer when you say a decade.
But what are some of the big changes that you've seen?
So if you think back to when you first started, you know, tinkering with code and hosting websites and, you know, being with Cloudflare for as long as you have been.
So like, what are some of the big changes that you've noticed over the years?
Sure. So if I remember right, it was a long time ago. I think the only real feature to start was the like the CBN aspect.
So it was really just a performance.
Yeah. And it wasn't long after that, that the DDoS was added, which saved me a ton of money.
I was paying for a separate DDoS service. It was like $100 a month.
Like, hey, wow, I just saved $1 ,200 by doing on Cloudflare. It just magically takes care of it for me.
The 1 .DNS service was pretty neat. Yeah. So I use that on all of my all my servers everywhere.
And I think there's even a isn't there like a commercial offering there that adds some kind of like malware blocking?
So for 1.1, there is warp, which was we announced warp plus last year. So there is warp that includes, again, further privacy restrictions in terms of, you know, tracking in your DNS records.
But warp plus adds that boost of performance and speed.
So you have a certain allotment. And a lot of times, I mean, we target mostly to say mobile users.
So if you are on your mobile device, and you're already using 1.1.1, you can actually get some boost in speed as part of that add on like I think was like $3 or $4 a month.
I forget what the actual amount is.
But you could turn on that extra to get sort of that speed boost.
Cool. So yeah, that that was neat. And I loved it was on April 1. That was one of those like I was with all my coworkers, we were trying to decide now is this real?
Did they really release it? Or is this like the Google Internet through the toilet thing?
So that was nice. And then the registrar was was a pretty amazing change that, from my kind of wiped out the domain registration business, like how do you compete with cloud player giving you domains at cost?
Well, for you, you're already a customer too.
And I mean, that just made it so much easier to just just have it all bundled instead of doing a separate service.
Right, right. So I've like I said, I have I have all my domain names that I can there's there's a couple like, like geo TLDs that I can't move over.
But everything I can is in the cloud player platform.
Now, in terms of how you interact with the product, I mean, so, you know, you've heard the term set it and forget it.
So I'm curious to hear like, of all those 70 plus zones and domains that you have on cloud player, how often do you actually go in there tinkering with it and changing settings or?
Yeah, never, because it's it really is set it and forget it.
It's like it's, which again, is one of those benefits.
It's like, I don't want to be messing with my domain names every week or every month.
Like it's when you when you get that feature drop from cloud player, I can I log in and kind of check through and hey, is there anything I need to add into my zones or turn on?
But yeah, for the most part, there's probably zones in there I haven't touched in, you know, eight, nine years that have just been driving along.
And paying the big price of zero. Yeah, so expensive. I don't know. At least you're doing the registrar domain, I would assume the domain renewals on it, which to me, that cost is going to be making a lot of money off registrar domain.
So I mean, it sounds like you're very happy with cloud player. So, you know, I'm sure you've probably told many of your peers, like, you know, why wouldn't you use cloud player?
So I'd love to kind of hear in your own words, like, what do you tell people about cloud player when they ask?
Oh, you're using cloud player?
Why? What's what's your response? Yeah, so I remember 10 years ago, I was trying to convince some co workers to move their sites over and they they didn't think you guys would last because you offered too much for too little.
So they thought I was wasting my time, and I'd end up having to switch back over to something else.
And I've, I've kind of gotten that same response over the years. It's like, hey, you need to move the cloud player, it's free, it gives you x, y, and z.
And they're like, yeah, but there, there's no way they're gonna live, they're gonna go out of business if they're giving all that for free.
So I don't, I don't know if you have a suggestion how to get over that concern.
I don't know how to get over the concern of you're giving me too much and not charging me enough.
I guess I can tell them that you can pay if you want to, you can choose to go on the pro plan.
But yeah, so that's, it's, it's definitely been around for 10 years now.
So if they haven't gone kaput, right, right.
And you're public now, too, aren't you? We went public last year.
So I don't know that longevity question, if nothing else, you know, it doesn't hold as much weight as it might have before.
Right, right. Okay, so the other question I'll have for you, so like, it is our birthday, it's Cloudflare's birthday week, we've been having tons of programming, both here on Cloudflare TV, we've launched a slew of products over the past week.
If there were one wish, and I know I didn't prep you for those questions, like if you had to make a wish for Cloudflare for their birthday, what would that be?
Wish for Cloudflare for their birthday?
Was there something that you wish Cloudflare would do? What would that be?
That's tough. You already do everything. Gosh, I literally have nothing.
It seems like I was blown away with the features you announced this week.
It's like that's more than I had ever hoped for. So I'm I got nothing.
You've already got everything. Okay. All right. So we'll start to close it out.
I think we just got about a couple more minutes before the end of the session.
So you guys are happy. You're a happy Cloudflare customer. What's next for you in terms of types of things that you're exploring in terms of turning on or sites maybe that are connected to Cloudflare?
Any thoughts on that? Yeah, probably our next step would be the access product line.
We do have like our intranet pages are some of them are publicly exposed and we'd like to have that a little bit safer.
We have like vendors that need to log in that it'd be nice to have to just quickly give them access.
So that's probably the next step. And it looks pretty easy to set up.
So I'm hoping it'll be just like the APO. We'll just flip the switch and pretty much be there.
Got it. Great. Okay. Well, again, thanks so much for being part of our segment today.
Any parting words? Anything you'd like to share?
Like tell people like, you know, why Cloudflare? You know, what's your best sales pitch for it?
Sorry to put you on the spot. It's free. It's like, why would you not do it?
It's free. Like it's you get you can hit your head against the wall doing 20 services at AWS or competitors, or you can just move your domain name over to Cloudflare and be done with it.
Yeah, totally. Yeah. Like I think I was telling you earlier.
So I had a friend of mine like, hey, my site's getting DDoS.
It's like, dude, why wouldn't you put it on Cloudflare, right? Right, right.
Yeah. And DDoS protection is expensive if you go through a traditional vendor.
Right. That's one of those like I was really shocked when you guys announced it was free, included with the free plan a couple years back.
That's yeah, a lot of the vendors too.
I think this is when they would actually like if you got attacked, you actually get charged more even, right?
Yeah, it's almost like how you're you're probably out there ordering the hit, you know, rack up the bill.
Well, okay, great. This is it.
I think we're rounding up to the end of the session. Jacob, thanks so much for being a Cloudflare customer.
Thanks for joining us on today's Spotlight.
I hope the viewers got a refreshing view as to, you know, what the other side of Cloudflare looks like from way back when in our history.
No problem. Thank you.