Are you a small business owner who’s been making do with social media accounts for your online presence? While this is a good short-term solution, it may limit your opportunities to expand your brand’s reach in the future.
If you’re interested in growing your business’s online footprint, it may be time for you to take things to the next level by building a website.
Having a website that’s dedicated to your business will not only increase your online presence but also help you reach a wider audience. But before you can build your website, you have to pick a hosting plan.
The hosting plan you choose will serve as the foundation for your website. So, you’ll want to pick one with the features you need — both now and in the future.
There are two common types of hosting in particular that you should consider: VPS and shared hosting. Let’s discuss the differences between them and look at use cases to help you decide which hosting option is best for your business site.
What is shared hosting?
Shared hosting is a basic form of web hosting where multiple customers use the same server to host their websites.
As the name implies, each website shares the same resources like hard disk storage, computing power, RAM, bandwidth and database server.
You can compare how shared hosting works to a hostel. In a hostel, customers have to share a room, and there is a fixed number of beds available. The room represents the shared server, and each bed represents a customer’s website.
For some travelers, a hostel is an excellent option because they can save some money and don’t mind sharing their sleeping space with others. The same applies to shared hosting, as it targets customers who are on a budget and won’t miss some of the features that come with more expensive plans like VPS or dedicated hosting.
The pros of shared hosting
- It’s affordable: Shared hosting is a much more cost-effective option when compared to dedicated or VPS hosting, especially if you’re on a tight budget.
- It’s beginner-friendly: Shared hosting doesn’t require a lot of complex configurations or advanced technical knowledge, making it a perfect option for people who are first-time website owners.
- It requires almost no maintenance: The hosting provider handles pretty much all of the management and maintenance related to its shared hosting plans’ servers. This means you can focus less on server updates or security patches and more on running your website.
The cons of shared hosting
- It isn’t optimized for performance: Shared hosting customers have limited access to server resources as these are distributed among all the websites on the server. This could negatively impact your website’s performance, especially when there’s a traffic surge.
- It’s more susceptible to security threats: Shared hosting plans carry an increased risk of malware attacks spreading from one compromised website to another. Following website security best practices is the easiest way for you to mitigate these risks.
- It lacks customizability: You don’t have root access to your shared hosting server, which means you are restricted from performing administrative tasks like installing software or performing server updates yourself.
What is VPS hosting?
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is a more flexible hosting option compared to shared hosting. With VPS hosting, each customer has access to an independent space on the server, also called a virtual machine, with its own set of resources that they can use to host websites.
While the websites may be hosted on the same physical server, they are each hosted in unique environments that can be customized to meet the user’s needs.
VPS hosting offers you your own operating system, dedicated server resources and root access, so you can install any software and customize the server as you like. It’s almost like dedicated hosting, except it uses virtual machines to mimic physical servers for each customer.
If shared hosting is a hostel, then VPS hosting is a hotel. The physical server is the hotel, and each room is a virtual machine with all the resources the customer needs for their stay.
Unlike someone staying at a hostel (shared hosting plan) who has to share their room with others, a customer staying at a hotel (VPS hosting plan) has the room all to themselves.
The pros of VPS hosting
- It offers more control: VPS hosting puts your hands on the server’s steering wheel, offering you a greater level of control over the infrastructure that powers your website. This includes having root access to the server, installing your own software and programs and adding user accounts.
- It’s cost-effective: Unlike dedicated hosting plans, which can easily cost over $100/month, VPS hosting plans are still affordable for many individuals and small businesses. And considering that VPS hosting shares many of the same features as dedicated hosting, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular and budget-friendly alternative.
- It offers better performance: VPS hosting comes equipped with higher-end server hardware, providing a faster and more efficient distribution of resources for your web projects. In addition, these resources are fully dedicated to your website, allowing you to partition them as you require.
The cons of VPS hosting
- It requires technical knowledge: To take full advantage of VPS hosting plans, you’ll want to have some prior web hosting experience. This can raise the cost of your hosting package if you have to hire people with the necessary skillset or training to manage the virtual machine.
- It requires more maintenance: Unlike a shared hosting plan’s maintenance, which is taken care of by the hosting provider, you will be responsible for keeping your VPS running smoothly. If something goes wrong, it will primarily be up to you to discover and fix the issue.
VPS vs. shared hosting
The main difference between VPS and shared hosting is the level of control you have over the server your website is run on.
With shared hosting plans, you have basically no control over the server. Everything is pre-packaged for you, and there’s very little opportunity for customization.
In contrast, VPS hosting offers you root access to the server operating system and allows you to manage how your plan’s resources are allocated.
Let’s take a closer look at some more key differences between VPS vs. shared hosting.
The cost is one of the primary reasons customers go for shared hosting plans. That’s because shared hosting plans are generally more affordable than VPS plans. There are several reasons why this is the case.
The first is how both plans are structured. Because shared hosting customers share resources on the same physical server, hosting companies don’t need as many resources to support customers on these plans.
As a result, they can afford to price them lower than other plans that require dedicated resources. For example, Bluehost shared hosting plans start at $2.95/month.
VPS plans also use one physical server to host multiple customers. However, the virtual machines that are used to divvy up this server are much more resource intensive. Therefore, more powerful physical hardware is required for these servers, which adds to the overall cost of the hosting plan.
For instance, the most affordable VPS plan from Bluehost starts at $29.99/month — ten times higher than the lowest-priced shared hosting plan.
VPS plans also require more technical support and personnel to run them, which naturally raises their cost.
Another reason for the price difference is the number of features each hosting type comes with. On the whole, VPS plans are more feature-rich than shared hosting packages.
Hosting companies usually target VPS plans at professional customers like designers, developers, system administrators and medium to large-scale businesses.
For these customers, their needs extend beyond just having a website online. They also have specific requirements for the speed and performance of their web applications.
Because of this, the server hardware for VPS hosting uses high-performance components to ensure that customer sites operate at a high level and maintain maximum uptime.
In particular, VPS packages take advantage of powerful CPUs to handle more computational tasks, solid-state storage drives for faster read and write speeds and more disk space for larger web applications.
Choosing a VPS plan also means you’ll receive access to more bandwidth, allowing your website to handle more network traffic.
Shared hosting packages, on the other hand, are geared more toward customers that are less performance-oriented with their website hosting needs. As such, lower-spec server hardware can be a good fit for websites hosted with these plans.
Server resource allocation
Most shared hosting plans come with resource limitations that can negatively impact your website’s performance when exceeded.
For instance, the Bluehost Basic shared hosting plan will give you access to 10 GB of storage to host one website. These specifications are perfect if you only want to host a small site for your business or hobbies.
These limitations are put in place by web hosts to ensure the availability of the hosting service. In other words, because shared hosting customers all use the same physical server for their websites, it’s essential that no one website hogs all of the available resources, as doing so would impact the server’s performance for everyone else.
VPS hosting allocates way more resources to each customer. With these plans, you essentially have total control over a virtual server and all its resources.
The Standard VPS plan from Bluehost offers access to a virtual machine with 2 CPU cores, 120 GB SSD and 2 GB of RAM. All these resources are yours to use and are unaffected by any other VPS customers on that physical server.
The level and scope of security between VPS vs. shared hosting plans also vary.
Shared hosting plans usually come equipped with the basic security features necessary to protect your website, like free SSL certificates, malware scans and daily automated backups.
If you’re looking to customize your website’s security features beyond these essentials, you might be out of luck, as most hosting services don’t let you change much.
One way to customize your shared hosting website’s protection is to build it with WordPress and then take advantage of security plugins, like Sucuri and Wordfence, to protect it from digital threats.
VPS hosting typically includes all of the security features that come with shared hosting plans and then some.
The main advantage security-wise to choosing a VPS plan is that it gives you the freedom to install your own security applications directly on the virtual server operating system and monitor network ports for suspicious activity in your hosting environment.
As we’ve previously discussed, one of the defining features of VPS hosting is the level of flexibility it gives its users. Most VPS plans come with control panel software like cPanel, which provides tools to manage your virtual server resources.
You can use the control panel to create user accounts, partition your server storage or set bandwidth limits. You also get root access to the operating system for system-level changes.
In addition, you can quickly scale your virtual server’s allocation of resources, depending on your bandwidth or CPU usage and website size requirements.
Whether it’s running multiple websites with differing resource allocations, hosting secure financial web applications that must meet regulatory compliance or running a software testing server, VPS plans give you the resources and flexibility to do all this.
Shared hosting plans typically don’t have this level of flexibility or scalability. Allocated resources are usually fixed, and customers don’t have access to advanced tools to modify their hosting configuration or access the server hosting their website.
That said, while the level of customization you get with VPS hosting is an advantage, it does require advanced technical knowledge and experience. There’s a lot that can go wrong, after all, if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Shared hosting, while less customizable, is ready to go straight out of the box, meaning you won’t have to spend time fine-tuning your settings and installing software packages.
VPS vs. shared hosting: Which is right for you?
Now that you’re familiar with the differences between VPS vs. shared hosting, it’s time to take a look at which hosting type is appropriate for your specific situation. To make this job a little easier, we’ve compiled a list of different scenarios for each type of web hosting plan.
When to choose shared hosting
You should consider choosing shared hosting if:
- You’re new to web hosting, don’t have much technical knowledge yet and don’t want to commit to a higher-priced plan.
- You want to start an online business but are still in the preliminary development stages.
- You own or plan to start a modest website or blog that doesn’t require a lot of storage space or bandwidth.
- You have budgetary restrictions that prevent long-term investment in web hosting.
- You prefer ease of use and affordability over site performance and customizability.
When to choose VPS hosting
You should consider choosing VPS hosting if:
- You run a medium or large-sized business that receives numerous daily orders.
- You have an IT team that can handle the setup and maintenance of a virtual server.
- You are in the process of growing your business and expect to continue doing so in the foreseeable future.
- You need more disk space and bandwidth to accommodate the high volume of web traffic your website consistently receives.
- You run web applications that necessitate having complete control over your hosting server.
- You prefer better performance and website security over affordability and simplicity.
- You have a large budget and can commit to the high costs of VPS hosting.
Final thoughts: Choosing between VPS vs. shared hosting
So, those are the differences between VPS vs. shared hosting. Most of the time, shared hosting is the right solution for individuals or smaller businesses who prefer simplicity, practicality and affordability over better website performance and customizable infrastructure.
On the other hand, medium and large-sized businesses and individuals with advanced technical knowledge will benefit from the level of control, security and scalability VPS hosting brings to the table.
Once you examine the features of each hosting type to see how well they match your requirements, you should be in a position to make the best choice for your next website.
And speaking of making the best choice for your website, you’ll want to choose a web hosting provider that offers phenomenal performance and unrivaled customer support.
At Bluehost, we offer feature-rich shared hosting plans that make it easy and affordable to launch your new website in a matter of minutes. Plus, you can contact our team of experts 24/7 to get the answers and guidance you need to build a beautiful website.
We also have a number of flexible and affordable VPS hosting plans that allow you to fully organize and optimize your server environment to your unique specifications.
VPS vs. shared hosting: FAQ
Owners of eCommerce websites generally expect a high volume of traffic from customers. They also require a good amount of storage space to handle the inventory of products for their online store.
For these reasons, a VPS hosting plan is better for eCommerce websites. You could use a higher-tier shared hosting plan, but it won’t have the same level of flexibility for traffic surges and increased website activity.
Another alternative would be custom-built eCommerce hosting. These plans are a step up from shared hosting and offer more flexibility and support from the hosting provider.
Bluehost currently offers a selection of WooCommerce hosting plans that start at $9.95/month.
Shared hosting plans are better for beginners because the hosting provider assumes responsibility for all the technical server management work.
Also, user-friendly content management systems like WordPress are a perfect complement to shared hosting plans because they are easy to set up, customize and maintain.
Bluehost offers custom WordPress hosting plans that start at $2.95/month.
VPS hosting has an advantage when it comes to server uptime and reliability. That’s because these hosting plans are geared towards larger businesses and enterprise clients that would be negatively affected by constant outages. As a result, VPS hosting plans have more resilient hardware and redundancy measures.
But don’t run away with the idea that shared hosting plans aren’t also focused on reliability. The difference is that because websites on a shared hosting package share resources, there is an increased risk of outages from resource overutilization or malware spreading from one website to the others on the server.
The availability of website backup and restoration options with shared hosting plans usually depends on the web hosting provider. Some web hosts may only choose to include it with higher tier plans, while others may not include it at all.
While this can also apply to VPS plans, the fact that VPS customers have root access to their virtual machines means they can set up their own backup solutions. These can be backups for the entire VPS server or individual websites hosted on the server.
For shared hosting customers that use WordPress but don’t have any backup features with their hosting plan, they can choose to use backup plugins available from the WordPress plugin repository, like UpdraftPlus and Jetpack, to perform scheduled website backups.
As a shared hosting customer, you can migrate your website to a VPS plan. This usually happens when a website grows beyond the capabilities of the shared hosting plan. However, the ease with which you can upgrade to a VPS plan depends on the hosting provider.
The process of switching from a VPS hosting plan to a shared one is typically not supported because of the difference in functionality between the hosting types. You could manually move your website to a shared plan from VPS hosting, but you may lose some of the functionality you had during the move.