Small business owners, entrepreneurs and independent creatives know that a website is an essential tool for spreading their message and building their brand, but the costs of hosting that website can create an insurmountable obstacle for new site owners on a tight budget. Offered by a wide range of hosting providers, shared hosting is an affordable option that lets users set up an online presence quickly and easily. While shared hosting has definite drawbacks, especially for high traffic sites, this kind of hosting is inexpensive, accessible, modestly scalable, and requires little or no knowledge of website design and development.
What is Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting is one of a number of hosting options offered by providers around the world. As its name suggests, in a shared hosting environment multiple websites, potentially thousands of them, are hosted on the same server, which is owned and maintained by the hosting provider. All sites on that server must share the server’s resources, which include bandwidth, memory and computing power, and those are allotted equally to all accounts on the server. Users can set up multiple websites under a single account as long as they don’t exceed the limitations on resources that are set by the provider.
The hosting provider maintains the servers and takes care of security and upgrades, but users are responsible for setting up and running their own sites, usually with installable scripts available from the host or with the help of the host’s support staff when needed. Because shared hosting involves many websites, but the resources of only one server, providers can offer this kind of hosting for extremely low costs – often less than $5 per month on many promotional plans.
Who Should Use Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting packages for these prices typically have minimal features and support services, but users can often upgrade to a higher shared hosting tier that offers added services for additional fees. For some users, shared hosting is the only kind they’ll ever need, but a site might “outgrow” a shared hosting situation as it acquires more visibility and traffic, and require more hosting resources than shared hosting can offer, such as managed or dedicated hosting that reduces or eliminates the sharing of servers and offers a long list of additional features.
Shared hosting costs far less than those other types of hosting and allows users on a shoestring to find an online home for their site. But, security risks come with the shared technology and resources on a single server packed with many different kinds of sites. And, what happens with one site on the shared server, such as a spike in traffic that suddenly gobbles up large amounts of computing power, can affect many others with downtime or slowdowns. Still, for new site owners and those with small, low traffic sites, the benefits of shared hosting can significantly outweigh those drawbacks. Here’s why.
Shared Hosting is Affordable
As we’ve noted, shared hosting is typically very inexpensive, typically costing only a few dollars per month on a provider’s introductory promotional rates. Those rates typically go up to the site’s standard package rate after that promotional period ends, but even at those standard rates, shared hosting remains the least expensive option for basic website hosting. And while shared hosting generally offers relatively few extra features, it does include the essentials for setting up and maintaining a small website.
Shared Hosting is Accessible
The low cost and easy availability of shared hosting makes it possible for just about anyone to open an account, sign a contract and begin setting up a site. This kind of hosting is offered by most general web hosting providers, although it may not be available from hosting providers that are dedicated to serving specific niches and website types.
A new shared hosting account typically includes the basic tools for getting a small site up and running, too. Some, such as one-click installs of content management systems like WordPress and easy website builders like Wix are free and included with a new account, while others can be added for additional fees. Depending on their level of expertise, users can use the host’s built in tools to develop their site elsewhere and upload it to the hosting account, or stick with the site building and content management options offered by the host.
Shared Hosting Can Scale
Shared hosting works best for new sites and small sites that don’t see much traffic. That allows them to remain within the limits established by many users drawing from a shared server’s finite resources and allows sites room to grow – to an extent. Once a site reaches a certain level of monthly traffic or uses its allotted disk space, it may need to upgrade to a different tier of shared hosting, or switch to another kind of hosting entirely.
Shared Hosting Doesn’t Require Design Skills
Opening a shared hosting account can be a new site owner’s first foray into the world of website creation – and they may not have the means to hire a designer to create and manage their site. Most shared hosting providers offer basic site creation tools for setting up a small site without the need for specialized website development skills or familiarity with code.
From a central control panel, users can do tasks such as customize the site’s theme and settings and manage its content without any specialized knowledge of web design. Widely used site builders and CMS options also allow more web-savvy users to make more customized changes, as long as they’re within the terms of the provider’s contract.
Although shared hosting users generally set up and manage their own sites, they can turn to the host’s support staff for help with a wide range of problems ranging from basic setup issues to troubleshooting specific problems as they arise. Tutorials and FAQs on the host site can also help users solve problems and make needed changes to their sites. For an additional fee, many providers also offer site setup using a variety of site builders.
Every business needs a website, and there’s a hosting option to meet every need. Shared hosting may not be right for large sites and those with a high volume of traffic. But, because this kind of hosting is affordable, accessible and even moderately scalable, this user-friendly option offers webmasters on a budget a way to easily establish an online presence.