Different Types Of Web Hosting Explained

With all the different hosting solutions available, some website owners may feel a bit lost – especially since there are also differences within the main hosting options themselves. The main four choices,  shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, dedicated server hosting and cloud hosting, are designed to meet the different needs of potential clients. They all differ in regards to resources available, customizability and the level of control that a website owner has over it.


Shared hosting – where most website owners start

Shared hosting is the most basic service on which you can keep your site. What you get is a place on one physical server, shared by many users. Because both the software applications and physical resources are shared, this makes it the cheapest option – often starting as low as few dollars a month. Despite the low price, it’s generally secure and gives access to the most standard software (usually a CPanel with most of its applications).


Shared hosting requires a bare minimum of control and maintenance, allowing you to focus on your websites only (what for some can be a big drawback, especially when it comes to resources and customizability of software installed). Although most of the shared hosting options come with “unlimited” bandwidth, if your site gets flooded with traffic and you consume too much CPU or RAM, it may get taken down.

You can also be severely affected if a similar situation happens to one of the people that you share the server with. Because it often comes with great support (some companies even offer specific WordPress shared hosting where you get additional WP support), anyone starting out, an individual treating his website as a hobby or anyone on a budget will appreciate this option – roughly 90% of websites are hosted on shared hosting.


VPS Hosting – first step towards independence


A Virtual Private Server is a more powerful option than shared hosting. Although you still share the physical machine with other users, you have a guaranteed allocation of RAM, CPU, disk space and bandwidth. Unlike on shared hosting, you don’t share the software as you have your own virtual machine set up with root access to it. This allows you to decide what software you want to install but at the same time can drive the price up.


The price of your VPS depends not only on the configuration that you choose but often also on licenses of software that you choose (for example you often need to pay extra for CPanel). That can double or triple the cost of your VPS unless you install a free CPanel substitute (a typical low-end VPS configuration starts at $10 - $15).


Because you get server root access, most of the Virtual Private Servers are unmanaged, meaning you will have to install everything on your own as you receive it naked with just a Linux system (most of the time Centos or Ubuntu). For inexperienced users, this can even further drive the costs up, but a well-configured VPS can give you a lot of power.


This all makes VPS hosting perfect for more advanced users and those who demand a bit more control, such as medium businesses, a bit more sophisticated e-commerce sites or business owners, who own many websites with small to medium amount of traffic. You clearly know all the resources allocated to your websites, and you can choose the software environment that you want to operate in. The beauty of VPS hosting is also the fact that you don’t have to limit yourself to hosting a website as there is a lot of software that can help you with your online business which you can run on it too.



Dedicated server hosting – full control


With a dedicated server, you rent (or own) the whole physical machine. You don’t share CPU or RAM with anyone and, unless you create accounts for other people and rent the space yourself, you are alone on it. You are free to configure the entire machine the way you want, but you have to maintain and secure it yourself. This, in turn, will require either a lot of knowledge or even a separate employee to handle your server (or even an entire team if you host a lot of websites and need extra security).


This means that this option is suitable for bigger businesses, those who store a lot of data and have a lot of traffic to their sites and the content is resources-demanding. The costs associated with software licenses, staff and renting/owning a dedicated server are high, but the benefit of full control and independence from others can be worth every cent. Especially considering that, for big websites, even a little drop down in accessibility or website speed can equal losses in thousands of dollars.


Cloud hosting – when it’s hard to predict anything


Cloud hosting is a little bit different from all the other options listed as you only pay for the resources that you use. Be aware that there are offers of “cloud hosting” which are just slightly enhanced versions of shared hosting with limited resources on a shared machine. On a real cloud, you get billed for what you use (usually per hour).


This means that cloud is perfect for handling traffic spikes. If your sites get activity peaks which are hard to handle for a typical server but during quiet times, renting a typical server would be unviable, then the cloud is the best option for you. Because of its flexibility, it’s very cost effective as long as you configure it properly – if you fail to do so, it will consume a lot more resources than it should, and you will have to pay a lot more than it’s worth it. This makes the cloud perfect for those who have the knowledge to configure it, and their sites experience times of very high and low traffic.



Summing up


For beginners, shared hosting is more than enough, but as your online venture grows, going up the hosting chain can give you massive benefits. Although it requires some learning, a well-optimized VPS can give you a lot of control and is a great first step towards increased reliability, and with SSD disks, it can be extremely fast even at a low CPU/RAM configuration.

As your business grows, it’s good to get independent from other users and slowly move to a dedicated server where you have the ultimate control over everything. Don’t forget about the cloud, though – especially if you predict spikes in popularity of your website, to protect your sites from going down due to overload.



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