Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting: What’s Your Best Option?

You’re ready to launch your new business. You’ve got your name picked out. You know what you’ll sell and who you’ll target with your products or services.

What you don’t have yet is a website – and when you go to set yours up, you’re faced with loads of unfamiliar terminology.

What is shared hosting? What is dedicated hosting? Which one is right for your business, and how can you choose the plan that’s right for your budget?

Though shared and dedicated hosting serve the same purpose, there are some significant differences between the two. Choosing the right option for your new website depends upon a thorough understanding of these core differences, as well as an examination of a few key factors that’ll help you make the right decision.  

What is Shared Hosting?

TechTarget defines shared hosting as “web hosting in which the service provider serves pages for multiple websites, each having its own Internet domain name, from a single web server.” In other words, there are other sites hosted on the same server, along with your website.

The Pros

Shared hosting is the most economical option for webmasters. Because you’re sharing a server with other websites, the server’s total operating costs are distributed across multiple users. This makes it a less expensive option, which may make sense if you’re on a limited budget.

Another plus is that you don’t necessarily need a lot of technical skills to get up-and-running with shared hosting. Issues like maintenance and security are handled by your hosting provider, so these responsibilities won’t fall into your lap. If you’re new to running a website or if technical skills just aren’t your forte, you’ll find it easier to get started with shared hosting.

The Cons

There are two sides to every story, and that’s especially true in the case of shared hosting. Despite its many advantages, there are some downsides to consider as well.

Perhaps the biggest concern is bandwidth. Because you’re sharing your hosting with other sites, there are inherent limitations in the amount of bandwidth you have to work with, even if you’re technically on an “unlimited bandwidth” plan. A massive surge in traffic on your site could result in network downtime or other complications.

Next, there’s security. Although reputable web hosts – Bluehost included – go to extraordinary lengths to keep shared hosting users safe, the simple fact of the matter is that you’re more susceptible to security threats on a shared plan, simply because there are other sites using your server.

Though these instances are, thankfully, rare, don’t underestimate the threat of cyber attacks. As HP reports, 32 percent of companies fell victim to some form of cyber crime in 2016. Any kind of business is susceptible, but if you’re operating an ecommerce store and consistently dealing with financial transactions, security will be a much larger concern than if you’re simply blogging.   

What is Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated hosting is defined by TechTarget as “the rental and exclusive use of a computer that includes a web server, related software and connection to the Internet, housed in the web hosting company’s premises.” In layman’s terms, with this type of plan, your website will be the only one hosted on its server.

The Pros

One of the most common reasons webmasters opt for dedicated hosting is the performance and control it offers. If you expect you’ll have a high volume of traffic, for example, a dedicated server may be your best option for handling it.

Remember that, as Kissmetrics reports, 47 percent of consumers expect a page to load within two seconds. Performance is definitely something to give careful consideration to, as compromising your site’s speed does more than frustrate your visitors. It may impact your search performance as well.

You may also reduce some security risks with dedicated hosting, as your site will be the only one using your server. In terms of preventative control, you’re in a position to implement stronger security measures to meet your unique specifications. This reduces the potential of an attack and makes your site less susceptible.  

In general, you have an overall higher level of control with dedicated hosting. This gives you the ability to add new applications and programs that are to your liking – rather than being stuck with your host’s default options. If you need flexibility on the back end, consider dedicated hosting, as this option will let you customize settings in a way that you simply can’t with shared hosting.

The Cons

Hands down, the biggest drawback of dedicated hosting is the increased cost. There’s just no way around it. Since there’s a single server devoted totally to your website, your operating costs are inevitably higher. Bluehost plans, for example, run between $80 and $120 per month, compared to as little as $2.75 per month for a shared plan.

While this isn’t necessarily a factor for larger companies with deep pockets, it can be problematic for smaller businesses or individuals who are working with a finite budget.

Think about your tech skills as well. If you have a considerable amount of technical expertise, you can put it to full use with dedicated hosting. However, if you’re lacking skill in this department, you can quickly run into trouble.

For instance, with dedicated hosting, you’ll need to know how to manage the server, as well as perform routine administrative tasks to ensure optimal functioning. In some cases, this can negate the entire purpose of dedicated hosting if you’re constantly dealing with technical issues you don’t feel qualified to handle.  

Although heightened security is obviously an asset, it’s a double-edged sword in the sense that you’re responsible for maintaining the security of your dedicated server. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to install and update the necessary security programs. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you can potentially compromise the safety of your website.

Cyber attackers could capitalize on these vulnerabilities, with some of the more common threats including denial of service (DoS) attacks, unauthorized access and cross-site scripting (XSS), through which an attacker could infiltrate your users’ computers.

If security isn’t your strong suit, you’ll be better off leaving it in the hands of the experts – either through shared hosting or by outsourcing it to a professional.

Deciding What’s Right for You

At this point, you should have at least a basic understanding of the key differences between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. But how do you know which is ideal for your website?

Shared hosting is usually your best bet if:

  • You’re new to running a website
  • You don’t plan on having a high volume of traffic (at least, not initially)
  • You lack technical knowledge and expertise
  • You’re working with a limited budget

Imagine you’re someone who’s looking to launch a personal blog or portfolio. You’ll likely only have a minimal amount of traffic, and you won’t need to undertake extensive server customizations to support this kind of site. You’re probably also better off having your provider handle the nuts and bolts when it comes to technical matters and security.

Going this route is great for getting your feet wet and learning how the process of web hosting works. Your hosting provider will handle most of the heavy lifting for you so you can focus on building and growing your website. If the need arises for dedicated hosting later on, you can always work with your host to make the upgrade.

On the other hand, dedicated hosting might be your best option if:

  • You plan on receiving a high volume of traffic right from the beginning or in the near future
  • You want a high level of control over your server
  • You possess the technical know-how to effectively manage a server and want maximum flexibility
  • Security is a major concern
  • You have a sizable budget and don’t mind spending considerably more

Imagine you’re a mid-sized business that’ll be selling products or services directly from your site. You already have an established audience, which is likely to result in a large amount of traffic right from the get-go (requiring the bandwidth of a dedicated server).

Performance and security are likely incredibly important to you as well. You may have someone on your team with the technical skills needed to effectively manage a dedicated server already – and if your company is successful, you probably won’t mind paying extra for the overarching benefits you’ll receive.

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong answer here. Choosing between shared and dedicated hosting is a decision you’ll need to make before launching your site. But while there are several factors in play, your decision should ultimately come down to your site’s performance needs, your security requirements, your technical knowledge and your budget.  

What are your main objectives when choosing a hosting package? Leave me a comment below with your thoughts.

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