There are three basic types of hosting available for websites. Shared Hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Servers) and dedicated servers.* The costs of these hosting platforms range from free, for some shared hosting plans, to hundreds of pounds per month for the biggest dedicated servers. The following article details the basics of each type of platform, the good and the bad with each one and a recommendation on which type of website each platform is suitable for.
1. Shared Hosting :
Shared hosting is a hosting service where many users share a single server. All the users have a separate directory where they can upload their files. This is generally most economical option as all the users share the overall cost of the server. The server is administered by the hosting provider and the technical tasks like managing servers, installing server software, security updates, technical support, etc. are the responsibility of the server admin. These servers generally use control panels like cPanel, which allow the users to manage their websites.
The Pros of Shared Hosting
Shared hosting can still be a great option for certain websites. Some of it’s greatest strong points are:
- It’s the most affordable choice, often as little as £4 per month
- The security and maintenance of the server are managed for you
- Most of the tools you need are already installed for you
- It’s quick to get started and easier to use than the other options
If you ever run into troubles on a shared hosting plan, you can contact your hosting company’s support team and they can handle just about any issue you have so you don’t need to worry about being technically proficient in being a site or system admin.
The Cons of Shared Hosting
While it’s a lot easier to get started with shared hosting, there are also a lot of downsides:
- Security is not guaranteed – On a shared server you don’t have a dedicated IP address,, you share the I with all other user on that server. Your site could be blacklisted because of the actions of another user on the same server.
- You have limited access to settings – This will only be important for complex websites with lots of server side functionality and multiple databases.
- Your site shares resources – Since you’re sharing the server with other users, your site may become unavailable to your visitors intermittently if any of the users websites on that server become very popular.
- Bandwidth is not unlimited – Even if your hosting provider advertises it as so! There will be fair usage limits in the small print. This only becomes an issue if your site starts to get thousands of visits per month.
Who should use shared hosting for their website?
The user who just want a simple business ‘brochure’ website and doesn’t need much in terms of server resources should opt for shared hosting as the cost is so low. If you are a start up company and money is tight, shared hosting is probably the best option. Most hosting providers provide easy upgrading to VPS if your website outgrows its shared hosting plan. Make sure you take this cost into consideration when choosing your hosting company.
2. VPS – Virtual Private Servers :
VPS or Virtual Private Servers are virtual machines created on a physical server. The hosting provider creates multiple VPSs on a physical server and provides access to their users. VPS is as good as a dedicated server, comes with a dedicated IP address, but with limited resources compared to dedicated servers. VPS provides root access to the user so the user can install any software/OS and perform any root level tasks. This option is a little expensive as it is more powerful than a shared hosting account and has more privileges.
The Pros of Using a VPS
There are many reasons to choose a VPS hosting plan:
- You have more allocated resources than on a shared hosting plan – Since you’re renting a larger portion of the server, you get access to a lot more of the server’s resources than shared hosting.
- You have access to all settings – On a VPS you should have root access and be able to view all hidden files and have access to all settings.
- It is scalable – Much of the time, you can upgrade your plan if you find you need more resources without having to migrate your site.
- VPS hosting is fairly affordable – It is not as inexpensive as shared hosting, but you can get a VPS plan from as little as £30 per month.
The Cons of Using a VPS
- Security is not guaranteed – VPS are still on a shared server, your site can be be affected by what other server users do, especially if they get hacked.
- You’re still sharing a server – And although you may have dedicated resources your website can still be affected by what other users on the server do.
- Technical support – This is particularly an issue if you do not choose a managed VPS. This is something that should be considered carefully if you are not comfortable working with server code.
Who should use a VPS for hosting their website?
High visitor volume websites (4,000+ per month) and websites with complex tasks being executed are best suited to VPS hosting. It may cost a little more up front than shared hosting but it is better than having disappointed customers and website users.
3. Dedicated Server :
With dedicated servers the user leases the entire physical server and is not shared by anyone else. You get a dedicated IP address and the user has full control over that server. The user can choose the hardware, software, operating system and permissions for all other server users. The key benefit of a dedicated server is high performance. Dedicated Servers are the costliest option for hosting your website as you are the only one paying the cost of the entire server. Managed dedicated servers are the best option for those without a thorough understanding of server setup and coding.
The Pros of Using a Dedicated Server
- You’re not sharing the server – All the resources are yours
- Access to all settings – You have full control over your site and server including root access and all the otherwise hidden files and advanced settings.
- More secure – Full security can never be guaranteed when you are connected to the internet. Any hosting providers that claim 100% security are either deluded or lying to you! On a dedicated server you’re the only one with access, so you don’t have to worry about your site being affected by other server users.
The Cons of Using a Dedicated Server
- There is limited technical support – If something goes wrong, it’s up to you to fix it.
- Scalability – The resources you get can’t be upgraded without migrating to a bigger server. If this becomes an issue your website is probably doing so well that you can afford to pay a tech geek to do it for you!
- Cost – Dedicated servers are expensive! Average costs start from around £100 per month and can cost as much as £400 per month for the largest servers with the highest capacities.
Who should use a Dedicated Server for hosting their website?
Dedicated servers are recommended for websites with large amounts of traffic (100,000+ visitors per month) or large multinational companies that have huge data requirements and perform multiple server side tasks. They are expensive, but you have increased security, full control over the server and ample resources to handle any volume of requests for your site.
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*A relatively new type of hosting, ‘Cloud Hosting’ has emerged in recent years. I will write another article on this subject and or amend this article when I have firmed up my thoughts on this development.