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If you’re like most webmasters, you start off with a shared hosting plan in order to save money on your growing site. But what happens when you start to feel the growing pains? If your business starts to grow, your hosting plan should grow with you.  Is it time to think about upgrading to VPS or dedicated hosting?
Before you make any decisions, it’s important to first understand what virtual private server (VPS) hosting and dedicated hosting is, as well as how to choose the option that’s right for your business.

Why Move Away from Shared Hosting?

Most blogs and small business websites run on shared hosting plans. While shared hosting is economical compared to VPS or dedicated hosting, and a great place to start, some webmasters find that they outgrow the resources provided under these plans as their businesses grow.
Consider a situation where a blog post on your site goes viral. Can your current hosting plan sustain the increased traffic without compromising your on-site experience? Certainly, shared hosting offers some great features at a reduced cost. But as your business grows, your hosting needs may change as well.

What Hosting Options Exist?

Beyond shared plans, most web hosts – Bluehost included – offer VPS and dedicated options.

VPS Hosting

The “VPS” in VPS hosting stands for virtual private server (also known as virtual dedicated server hosting). In a VPS hosting arrangement, a single server is partitioned as multiple servers, each of which can be independently rebooted. Virtual dedicated servers are essentially a middle step between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, and free users up from having to share server space with other customers.
VPS hosting is traditionally offered as “unmanaged” hosting, meaning that users can monitor and administer their own servers and unmetered hosting under the limitations of their plans’ bandwidth caps.

Dedicated Server Hosting

Dedicated hosting is the “Mac Daddy” of the web management world. With a dedicated hosting account, you can lease an entire server for your site, without having to share it with anyone.
In general, dedicated hosting is best suited for fairly large companies or large eCommerce providers, as the expense of such plans practically demands that customers be able to fully utilize the plans’ resources. It’s also important that your company understands what’s involved in a dedicated hosting arrangement, based on the type of account you hold.
Dedicated hosting packages come in all of the following flavors, depending on your hosting provider:

  • Fully managed hosting – Your hosting provider will take care of everything from security upgrades to software installation.
  • Semi-managed hosting – Your hosting company will offer a medium management level, the specifics of which can be mutually discussed. You’ll need to hire experienced support staff to take care of the server side of business if you don’t have employees in your organization with these skills already.
  • Managed hosting – Users get their own dedicated servers, but are not allowed complete control. You’ll likely have control over your own data and users, but your hosting company will be responsible for any server modifications.
  • Self managed hosting – Your support staff will handle everything and, in exchange, your hosting company will offer reduced customer support (typically for a lower cost).
  • Unmanaged hosting – Your support staff handles everything. Your hosting company doesn’t offer any form of support or management, leaving you pretty much on your own.

If you’re thinking about making the switch to dedicated hosting, it’s incredibly important that you understand which types of service are offered.  Choosing the wrong type of plan can leave you dangerously unsupported in the event of a website emergency. At Bluehost, we offer unmanaged dedicated solutions.

Benefits of VPS Hosting

VPS hosting can best be compared to the employees at a company. Everyone works at the same place, but has a different job to do. In the same way, VPS hosting provides you and other customers with space on a single server that has been separated into multiple servers – each working independently from the same “office.”
So why go with a VPS plan? The following are a few of the benefits of VPS hosting:

  • VPS hosting provides you with complete control over your server, giving you the flexibility to customize it any way you want.
  • Because you have full control over your VPS account, you can add any software and applications that your site requires for optimized performance and improved functionality (which you can’t often do on a shared plan).
  • Depending on your hosting provider, you can choose from a range of service plans to find the one that meets your needs (or even work with your host to create a customized plan).
  • You’ll have the ability to install your own anti-virus and malware detection software on your hosting account to counter hackers and malicious attacks.

Handling a virtual private server does require a strong set of technical skills, training, and expertise in managing them. If you don’t have the requisite experience, you’ll have to hire someone to take care of this for you, so be sure to factor these costs into your estimates, if necessary.
Be aware, though, that some hosting companies do provide VPS maintenance services at an additional cost. It may be helpful to speak with your provider about the services they can provide – particularly if hiring a full-time employee for server management doesn’t make good business sense for you.

Benefits of Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting comes with a dedicated server. Simply put, it’s a server that is dedicated to your business. This type of arrangement assures maximum reliability and performance, with minimum downtime (though, at a higher cost than shared hosting). A dedicated hosting arrangement gives you complete control on how you manage and improve your website, allowing for the installation of multiple pieces of software, sophisticated antivirus systems, and even different operating systems.
Some of the other benefits of dedicated hosting include:

  • The ability to install the type of heavy software that’s necessary for online gaming websites and large eCommerce operations.
  • Super fast load times, even for application-heavy pages.
  • Secure storage options for websites that capture users’ personal information (such as email addresses, credit card details, or any other information that puts them at risk of identity theft).
  • Better performance rate when handling a high traffic influx (for example, when your latest blog post hits it big on Twitter).
  • The flexibility to add more server and storage space without impacting current servers or causing downtime.

That said, dedicated hosting is a more expensive solution – especially when you consider the added costs of server maintenance. As with VPS hosting, investing in dedicated hosting requires sound technical skills and IT support staff that understands the system.

Factors to Consider Before Switching

So which option is right for you? The two things that you absolutely must consider before choosing to upgrade to either VPS or dedicated hosting are your costs and requirements.
Understand that both solutions are more expensive than shared hosting plans, but that each option comes with its own set of advantages. Don’t wait until you’ve completely outgrown your shared hosting plan before you make a decision. Plan ahead and think about what’s best for your customers – putting them first should make your decision clear.
Bluehost now offers VPS and dedicated hosting plans, so check out the different options available to you!