A CDN, or Content Delivery Network, is basically a network of servers all over the world that store your website and deliver it to your visitors based on their location. CDNs are a great, maybe even essential, tool for shared hosting accounts.

One of the big things that CDNs help with is downtime, or server load. When you’re on a shared hosting account you are sharing a server, and all the server resources, with probably 1,000 other customers. You have no control over the other customers and their accounts, so there’s no saying when someone else is going to abuse the resources, bogging down your website in the process.

While hosting companies do their best to make sure all the servers are running as best they can, they can’t do it 100% of the time. Trust me, I know, I’ve been a server admin before and it’s a constant battle trying to make sure everything is working well. A CDN essentially takes this out of the equation. Your website is stored on servers across the world, and if one isn’t running well then it will be loaded from another. Your website is essentially available all the time.

Another factor that is removed by using a CDN is the location of your hosting and where your visitors are located. If your hosting account is in California, but the majority of your visitors are located in Europe, then your website is naturally going to load slower for them. The files have to travel farther to reach them, plain and simple. The most popular CDNs have datacenters across the world. They detect where your visitor is located and send them to the server that is closest to them, making loading times much faster.

The third, and perhaps most important thing to me, is that CDNs offer a great level of security. It’s essentially a free load bearing firewall that sits between your visitors and your hosting account. If, for any reason, someone tries attacking your website (by DDoS or whatever other means), a good CDN will be able to block that bad traffic out, leaving your website up and running without any issues.

Best of all? They’re generally free. CloudFlare has partnered with a good number of hosts, and they are widely regarded as one of the most competent CDN providers out there. If you rely on your website being up 100% of the time but don’t have a budget to support a dedicated server, see if your host offers a CDN.