Is Cloudflare Argo routing-service worth the cost?

Cloudflare’s Argo feature claims:

  • Speed up average network latency by 35%.
  • Decrease connection errors by 27%.

Let’s see how much of a difference that even makes!

About network latency and connection errors

Network latency is just the DNS part of your pageload time.

It’s only a sliver of the actual pageload process. Usually there are multiple steps, the DNS connection, the SSL handshake, the WAIT for the request, then the DOWNLOAD. I wasn’t so exact but it’s pretty much that. So this Argo stuff only speeds up one tiny aspect of your page load.

Connection errors?

These usually only happen on A) weak servers, B) faraway traffic. In this case, Cloudflare’s Argo can’t help you much for the first scenario but can help for the second scenario.

Argo definitely not worth it for local traffic.

DNS latency is usually anywhere from 40-100ms for local traffic and 200-500ms for faraway traffic. If your total pageload time is 1 second and you only shave off 15-25ms, that isn’t a noticeable difference.

Argo THEORETICALLY worth it for faraway traffic.

If you DNS latency to faraway visitors is 600ms and you shave that down 35-50%, yes, that’s a huge difference and a worthy cause IMO. 200-300ms is a noticeable different on desktop and even more on mobile.

  • If your total site load time is 1 second and you decrease it by 300ms, that’s a big difference.
  • But if your site load time is 5 seconds and you only decrease it by 300ms, that’s not enough and probably not where you should look to optimize.

The only issue left is cost. If Argo costs you $100/month but increases your sales by at least that much, it’s worth it.

Potential problems with Cloudflare

  • Problems in some regions – Cloudflare doesn’t play nicely in some areas. You might experience slow speeds or even worse, connection issues! Their network isn’t as comprehensive as they make it out to be.
  • Cloudflare adds overhead – your origin server and latency might actually be faster than Cloudflare already; this has been the case in several instances. If Cloudflare removes 300ms of latency but adds 500ms of its own, that’s not exactly a “win”.

My verdict about Cloudflare Argo

I personally wouldn’t use Cloudflare Argo.

It’s not enough of an improvement for what you pay. For only 100-300ms benefit, you could easily make that same difference by optimizing your site and server instead of paying for premium DNS routing.

The few conditions where Argo might be a reasonable fit:

  • If you have low traffic but an expensive service.
  • Already optimized your site and servers and still have latency issues.
  • You’re absolutely sure your TTFB has to do with DNS latency and not your server’s initial response.

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