You’ve got a brilliant business idea or a voice that deserves to be shared with the world. But before you can build a website to support it, you must first choose a hosting plan.
When deciding which type of hosting to use, you need to assess the various options available and decide what makes the most sense for your site. But don’t just think short-term. The host you choose should be able to meet your immediate needs, in addition to being able to scale as your website and traffic grow.
Two specific plans you’ll want to take a look at are shared hosting and VPS hosting. There are some pretty significant differences between the two, so let’s find out which option is best for you.
Meet Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the most basic form of hosting. Techopedia describes it as follows:
“This is a type of web hosting service that allows multiple websites to share a physical web server and its resources among the hosted websites. Shared hosting logically distributes a web server to accommodate, serve and operate more than one website.”
Because you share the same server as other websites, you use the same database, bandwidth, storage, etc. It’s popular primarily because it’s so economical and easy to maintain.
The Benefits of Shared Hosting
Above all else, the affordable pricing is the main draw here. Bluehost’s shared hosting plans, for example, start at just $3.95 per month. This makes it the clear option for businesses or individuals that want a website, but who don’t have a huge budget at their disposal.
Another reason people like shared hosting is because it’s very hands-off in terms of technical maintenance. Your shared hosting provider assumes this responsibility for you, so you don’t need any specialized skills to operate and maintain your site. Even better, thanks to incredibly user-friendly content management systems like WordPress, most people can get by on a shared hosting plan with virtually no programming skills.
If you have a small website and only anticipate a minimal amount of traffic (e.g. a maximum of 500 visitors per day), you may not need anything greater than shared hosting.
The Limitations of Shared Hosting
Perhaps the biggest issue with shared hosting is its inherent limitations on performance. Since you’re sharing a server with multiple websites, resources can become scarce.
For instance, a site using shared hosting doesn’t usually have the bandwidth to accommodate a high volume of traffic. If a page on your site goes viral and experiences a major surge in traffic, this could affect your site’s performance. An added issue is that your site can potentially be impacted by other sites your server.
While this may not be a problem for smaller sites, it can definitely be a concern if you have a large site that receives tens of thousands – or hundreds of thousands—of visitors each day. On a shared hosting plan, a site receiving this volume of traffic could experience downtime and sluggish performance.
Meet VPS Hosting
Short for “Virtual Private Server,” VPS hosting is significantly more robust, offering tons of features you won’t find with shared hosting. While you technically still share a server, you get a dedicated slice of it that’s just for you.
Here’s the formal definition, via TechTarget:
“A virtual private server (VPS), also called a virtual dedicated server (VDS), is a virtual server that appears to the user as a dedicated server, but that is actually installed on a computer serving multiple websites.”
The Benefits of VPS Hosting
First and foremost, you get dramatically more space and bandwidth with VPS hosting. This is essential if you plan to generate a lot of traffic or if you anticipate considerable growth in the future.
A VPS solution offers all of the power you need for optimal performance, regardless of traffic volume. Thanks to its high-performance components, you can rest assured that your site will always have access to needed resources, helping it operate at a high level.
This ensures two important things – stability and reliability, which greatly reduce or even eliminate the threat of downtime. With unplanned application downtime adding up to $1.25 billion to $2.5 billion each year for Fortune 1000 companies, it’s easy to see why this level of performance is so desirable. Even smaller companies can feel the sting when they lose sales because of downtime.
VPS hosting also gives you the power to expand your site over time, making the transition without a lot of friction along the way. VPS solutions can help you scale up as your website grows, or scale down if things get slow. Either way, there’s plenty of flexibility.
In terms of control panel configuration, you also have a much higher level of control with VPS hosting. If you have a lot of technical skill, you can put it to use by configuring settings to your own specifications. This lends a degree of customization to VPS solutions that simply isn’t available with shared hosting.
That said, you’ll still receive plenty of support with most VPS hosting packages. In the event that you encounter an issue that’s out of your knowledge range, you simply contact a support specialist who’s specially trained to assist you.
Finally, you can expect more comprehensive security on a VPS plan. While shared hosting is also safe, VPS hosting allows you to take extreme security precautions, if needed. With cyber crime damage expected to reach $6 trillion annually by 2021, you can’t be too careful. This makes VPS hosting an important asset for larger companies where security is a top concern.
The Disadvantages of VPS Hosting
When you consider the long list of features and added performance of this option, it’s not surprising that it comes at a cost. You can expect to pay significantly more for VPS hosting than you would with a shared plan. However, most mid to large-sized companies will still find those rates reasonable – especially compared to the benefits provided.
Further, the added level of control VPS affords can be a double-edged sword. Depending on your plan and configuration, you’ll likely need someone with technical expertise to manage your server. In some cases, you may even need a dedicated system administrator. Access to 24/7 support may not be sufficient if the required operations are far enough outside of your wheelhouse.
When to Choose Shared Hosting
Let’s break each option down into a simple checklist.
Choose shared hosting when:
- You’re just experimenting with web hosting and aren’t interested in making a huge investment right away
- You’re planning a startup and haven’t actually launched your business yet
- You run a small business and don’t have any plans for major growth
- Your website or blog is fairly small
- You don’t need a lot of space and bandwidth, and only plan on generating a minimal amount of traffic (no more than 500 visitors per day)
- You’re on a very limited budget, and VPS hosting isn’t viable financially
When to Choose VPS Hosting
Choose VPS hosting when:
- You’re running a business that’s already well established
- Your business is mid-sized or larger
- You have plans to grow your business significantly over the next year
- You generate a high volume of traffic and require substantial space and bandwidth to accommodate visitors
- You want maximum control and want to configure the more minute aspects of your server
- You’re looking to heighten security beyond what regular shared hosting can offer
- You want access to 24/7 support
- You have a big enough budget to justify paying for VPS hosting
Deciding Which Option is Best for You
One choice isn’t necessarily better than the other. It’s really boils down to your specific needs and how much you’re willing to spend. In many cases, shared hosting is more than sufficient for individuals or smaller businesses. It’s practical and uninvolved from a technical standpoint.
On other hand, most medium and large businesses will want to invest in VPS hosting as it both serves their immediate needs and allows for scalability, if needed. This gives them adequate bandwidth to keep up with customer demand and maintain positive growth.
At this point, you should have a clear idea of the key differences between shared and VPS hosting. Carefully examining the features as well as the pros and cons of each will help you make the best choice for your next website.
Are there any particular features that you’re looking for in web hosting? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.