When it comes to web hosting services, there are so many options to choose from that you may feel at a loss for where to start. To simplify things, this guide will focus on the two web hosting setups on opposite ends of the spectrum: shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of what each of these web hosting options provides, and be able to make the best decision regarding where, and how, to host your website.
Shared hosting vs dedicated hosting
Both shared hosting and dedicated hosting hold the data for your website on a single server. When web users access your website from their browser, this server sends your data to them.
The difference between the two hosting types is the type of server on which your website is stored. With shared hosting, your website lives alongside others, which are neighboring users utilizing the same server. With dedicated hosting plans, your website has a server all to itself. There are distinct advantages and disadvantages to both. Learn the difference between shared hosting and dedicated hosting to choose the best option for your business.
What is shared hosting?
Shared hosting works by hosting multiple websites on one server. Some have compared shared hosting to a public bus system, because it is inexpensive to use, and involves sharing resources with other users. Hundreds or even thousands of websites can be hosted on a single server, which creates advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of shared hosting
The advantages of shared hosting are:
- Low costs
- Low technical skills required
A huge factor influencing the use of shared hosting is its low cost. A single server’s maintenance costs can be distributed amongst its many users, driving down individual costs to customers. You also have the option to pay more to upgrade to hosting services that allow more traffic, and greater resources.
Many people first launch their websites with shared hosting because it requires little technical skill, or in-depth knowledge of servers. Shared hosting plans come with a control panel to facilitate website management, and pre-installed programs to accommodate most general websites. Server maintenance, like installing updates and patches, is carried out by the host providers, so all you have to worry about is developing your business.
Cons of shared hosting
The disadvantages of shared hosting are:
- Shared server resources
- Higher security risks
Shared hosting is great for new websites that require basic resources and expect low to moderate traffic. However, shared hosting does have its limitations. The most obvious limitation is the collective sharing of processing power, memory, disk space, and all other resources housed on a server.
A consequence of sharing server resources is the possibility of the “bad neighbor effect.” This is where one website on a shared server hogs resources, causing other websites on the server to slow down. However, chances of this actually causing a noticeable issue is low, since professional hosting companies provide more than enough resources to accommodate their users. They’re also efficient in moderating highly trafficked websites, and suggest growing websites move to higher hosting services that provide additional bandwidth.
Another risk associated with shared hosting is that your server’s IP address could be blacklisted if someone on the same server is sending out spam. To avoid having your emails dropped in the spam mailboxes of your recipients, make sure you choose a web hosting provider with policies against this abuse.
Who uses shared hosting?
Shared hosting is ideal for website owners looking for a beginner friendly, and cost-effective option. Personal projects, small businesses, and even medium sized businesses can benefit from the advantages of shared hosting. The disadvantages are inconsequential as long as website traffic isn’t too heavy, and the server is protected by reliable security protocols.
When websites do outgrow the resources allotted in shared hosting situations, there are other hosting plans ready to take over. Migrating a website from one hosting environment to another is an easy process, and does not detract from your site’s efficiency.
What is dedicated hosting?
Dedicated hosting means your website is hosted on a single server that is dedicated specifically to your website. This cuts out the competition of resources associated with shared hosting, and results in more robust website performance.
If shared hosting is like a public bus, then dedicated hosting is like renting your own car. You have more control where you take your car, how fast it goes, and what radio station plays. However, it also comes at a much higher cost, and requires more knowledge in order to maintain it. Dedicated hosting has very similar advantages and disadvantages.
Pros of dedicated hosting plans
The advantages of dedicated hosting are:
- Total utilization of server resources
- Ability to customize
With a dedicated hosting solution, there is no server sharing involved which means no bad neighbor effects. All your server’s processing power, memory, and disk space can be committed to your website. In addition, no other user could expose your website to cyber threats or cause your server’s IP address to be blacklisted.
Dedicated hosting allows extensive customization, giving you the ability to optimize your server settings. It also gives you root access so that you can modify software code. Server configuration is generally valued when a website requires a special application.
Cons of dedicated hosting
The disadvantages of dedicated hosting are:
- Very high costs
- Requirement of technical knowledge
- More labored maintenance
It comes as no surprise that greater resources and control come at a greater cost. Renting dedicated servers can run between $60 and $350+ per month, depending on how involved the hosting provider is with maintenance and security. Usually a website that garners the traffic requiring dedicated server resources is profitable enough to afford dedicated hosting.
Another limitation of a dedicated hosting solution is that it requires a high level of technical knowledge, especially if you want to take advantage of the customizability. If technology isn’t your specialty, you could hire a server admin, or purchase a plan that includes management support, however, these add to your costs.
Since much of the server maintenance is left up to you, a new burden is introduced. You’re responsible for updating and installing patches to your dedicated server, which may detract from your other responsibilities.
Who uses dedicated hosting?
Dedicated hosting is best for businesses with very high bandwidth requirements and highly specialized needs. For example, large companies with lots of valuable data would want to invest in the higher level of security that dedicated hosting provides. It also provide the most benefit to users who are tech-savvy enough to capitalize on the customizability.
At a glance comparisons
Here is an outline of how shared hosting and dedicated hosting stack up against each other in different areas.
Flexibility and customizability
Shared hosting does not allow customization because any changes to the back-end would apply to all websites on the shared server. Some hosting plans allow for flexibility in the features allotted to shared hosting users (like more FTP users or more cloud storage), but this is the extent of personalization.
Dedicated hosting allows for complete customization. Since you don’t have to share the server with any other websites, you can choose the operating system, configure the environment to run specific applications, and optimize the amount of bandwidth and memory you need.
The potential for slowdowns or downtime increases on shared hosting plans. This could be due to bad neighbors — websites on your shared server that experience high volumes of traffic and use up more of a server’s processing power — or due to faulty coding.
Dedicated hosting is extremely reliable making it the preferred hosting package for businesses that experience large volumes of traffic.
In terms of cyber security, shared hosting plans tend to be more susceptible to cyber-attacks than dedicated hosting. This is because the server is shared by multiple users, which opens more opportunities for security breaches.
If the physical security of the server is a concern, make sure to host your website with a reputable professional hosting company you can trust to protect the server from break-ins or damage.
In many cases, shared hosting is not scalable. However, some web hosts like we offer shared hosting with scalable bandwidth, meaning the amount of traffic and data that flows between your website and users is not limited. In the fortunate event that your website is successful and garners heavier traffic, Domain.com will work with you to move your site to a host server with more resources, ensuring optimum performance for all customers using shared hosting.
Dedicated hosting is very scalable because there is no competition for resources on the server. This makes it possible to accommodate high growth.
Shared hosting is a clear winner when comparing costs. Shared hosting costs around $1 to $20 per month, whereas dedicated hosting costs can soar above $350 depending on the plan. Additional costs to dedicated hosting can arise if the server has a major problem that requires the web host to resolve it.
Technical knowledge requirements
Shared hosting is the most hassle-free hosting option. Since the server is shared by multiple users, the hosting company controls, and maintains, nearly all aspects of the server.
Dedicated hosting can be prohibitive to parties with limited technical knowledge, since most of its advantages rely on administrative implementation.
The middle ground of VPS hosting
If you’re still unsure where your website’s needs fall within the spectrum of shared hosting and dedicated hosting, you may want to consider the middle ground option; VPS web hosting. VPS, which stands for virtual private server, works by housing multiple websites on separate virtual machines. One physical server typically holds only a dozen or so websites, and each website has a reserved space with allotted server resources.
Because of this setup, VPS hosting provides a balance of server performance and cost effectiveness. Since the resources are split evenly by fewer users, VPS hosting provides greater processing power, disk space, and memory than shared hosting. It’s also more affordable than dedicated web hosting since there are multiple users contributing to the costs of a single server.
Additionally, it lends a happy medium in regard to flexibility, security, reliability and scalability.
- Flexibility: Since your website is contained within a virtual machine, you have the ability to modify your environment without disturbing the setup of other websites housed in the server. This makes it possible to customize more than with shared hosting.
- Security: Having fewer accounts on a server decreases the vulnerability to cyber threats. This makes VPS hosting slightly more secure than shared hosting.
- Reliability: If one website on the server exceeds its resource utilization, that website may experience a slowdown, while your website is unaffected. This means the bad neighbor effect is eliminated.
- Scalability: You have more room to scale your website up with VPS hosting than with shared hosting. Your VPS hosting plan includes a certain percentage of resources available on the server, and you can simply pay for an upgraded plan to access a greater percentage of server resources. This is a huge advantage for users who want to start out on an inexpensive plan, but expect to grow quickly.
Which hosting option is right for your business?
Choosing the right web hosting plan can save you lots of time and money. If you don’t need immense bandwidth, memory, computing power, or control, then save your money by going with shared hosting. However, if your website requires lots of server resources, and your team can efficiently manage a specialized hosting setup, go with dedicated web hosting. If your website falls somewhere in between, choose VPS hosting.