Using Cloudflare Without Changing your Name Servers

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The following article has been updated since it’s original posting, please scroll down to the changelog for more information.

Can I use Cloudflare without changing name servers?

Image 2022-03-18 at 12.28.09 PM

If you’ve ever been in a situation where you wanted to use Cloudflare services for a domain name, but you couldn’t change the name servers on the domain.

Or you had done what is described in the Facebook post above. Multiple clients point their domain name to your server, and you want to use a CNAME so that if your server goes down, you can change the CNAME record. But you also wanted to mask the server IP address and use the famous Cloudflare security features.

Well, this guide is for you!

Why can’t I point the domain to a Cloudlfare-protected record?

So the issue is that Cloudflare can only deal with domain names if they’re set up in their system. So trying to point a domain name not configured on Cloudflare to Cloudflare protected IP will result in an error due to the Cloudflare system not knowing about the original domain name. And will result in Cloudflare returning a 10116 error.

What are the possible solutions?

There are many possible solutions that you can use to use Cloudflare on a domain name without updating the domain name name servers.

1. Become a Hosting Partner or utilize an existing Hosting Partner (Discontinued)

You can become a Hosting Partner or use a hosting partner. Most people do this when they want to use the cPanel / WHMCS integration. But you can also add domains using the API and manage them.

This actually works well with WHMCS, but you don’t get all the Cloudflare goodies, unfortunately. You can sign up as a Hosting Partner on the Cloudflare website.

UPDATE: The Hosting Partner program and its APIs have been discontinued.

To make way for the new, we first must discuss the end-of-life of some of Cloudflare’s earliest APIs. Built and launched in 2011, our Hosting and Optimized Partner Programs allowed our initial CDN and DDoS solutions to expand to brand-new audiences around the globe. These APIs were essential for fueling growth in the earliest days of Cloudflare supporting reseller partners, hosting partners, and external plugins that helped make implementing Cloudflare easier than ever. On November 1, 2022 – Cloudflare will be discontinuing support for our Host and Reseller APIs.

2. New Agency / Self-Serve Partner Program

A new Self-Serve Partner Program was released to replace the Hosting Partner program and provide new features and support.

  • Multi-Tenant Account Support
  • Centralized Self-Serve Billing
  • Access to the full catalog of Cloudflare Self-Serve Products & Add-Ons
  • Self-Service Plan Discounting
  • No Upfront Commitments

You can read more about the Agency / Self Serve Partner program at the following links.

You can setup Partial or CNAME Setups for Domains, it’s not detailed on any documentation, but you will receive this from the self-serve beta team.

During the beta, there are some things to keep in mind:

  1. Partial or CNAME Setups for Domains

Many of our customers leverage our Authoritative DNS solution. If your customer prefers to maintain their authoritative DNS and you need to set up a partial or CNAME-only domain, you can do so via the API using the optional ‘type’ parameter with a value of ‘partial’ to the tenant create account API call.


Once the account and zone are created, your account will have the entitlements to convert to a CNAME via the dashboard.

Also be aware that there will eventually be a $1000/year charge for this program.

Q: Is there a fee or other requirement?
There is no fee during the open beta. As we move to early and general access in 2023, there will be $1000/year annual program fee required for platform access and onboarding.

3. Enterprise Partner

The enterprise partner program is still available for those looking to become an implementation or integrator preferred partner. Here are a couple of links for reference.

Cloudflare Enterprise Partner Program

4. Cloudflare Business or Enterprise Account

You can set up a domain name through the Cloudflare control panel as a “Partial Domain” if you have a Business or Enterprise account. Here are the instructions

This KB answers the question about how to use the Partial CNAME

Can I use Cloudflare without changing my nameservers to Cloudflare?

5. Cloudlfare SaaS

Cloudflare SaaS is another product that doesn’t require name server changes. You set up a domain for your SaaS service, think Ultimo or WordPress Multi-site, and then add each client’s domain. The clients then point their domain records to Cloudflare via CNAMEs or IPs. You can read more about Cloudflare SaaS at the following links.


The Self-Serve / Agency Partner program is attractive if you really need Partial CNAME zone setup, it’s free, and as you grow, you’ll gain more. Another option is Cloudflare SaaS if it works with what you’re trying to achieve. If you can splurge $200/month on Cloudflare Business, then the Partial CNAME zone setup will work.


  • 02-22-2023 – Partial rewrite to remove inaccuracies and include other solutions.
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