In this article we will review the three major types of web hosting that are commonly available: shared web hosting, Virtual Private Server web hosting (VPS), and dedicated server web hosting. For all three of these different options, you can elect to run a Linux-based or Windows-based environment. The specific advantages and disadvantages for both of these choices is reviewed in this post.
Shared hosting is entry-level web hosting and is great for people with small starter sites, or for sites that don’t consume a lot of resources (e.g processing power, ram, storage space, bandwidth).
In a shared hosting environment a large number of websites are all stored and accessed from the same server. The advantage of shared hosting is that it is very inexpensive, and is a great starting point for your website. As your need for resources expands, you can very easily migrate or upgrade to a more powerful shared hosting configuration, or move to one of the options listed below
With shared hosting providers you will often find multiple levels, or plans, that are based on the amount of resources used. For example, the difference among the “bronze, silver, and gold” plans may be that as you go to a higher plan, you are given more storage space. Of course if you don’t need more storage space, there’s nothing wrong with having the minimum plan until you need more. So with web hosting, more isn’t necessarily better – it really depends upon your sites specific needs.
One of the major disadvantages of shared hosting is that because there are so many sites stored on same web server, your site may run slowly. If you are running a small, basic website, then you will probably not notice if the site is slow. If the site does feel slow, however, it may be prudent to check with your shared hosting provider – as some shared hosting providers are “slower” than others. You can very easily do a Google search for shared hosting provider reviews, and you will get a ton of information about quality shared hosting providers.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting is for websites that need more resources than are generally available in a shared hosting environment, for websites that need to run specific applications that are resource-intensive, or for increased security.
The idea behind VPS hosting is that a server computer is divided-up into mini operating systems and each VPS hosting customer is given full control over this environment. You do share hardware resources (e.g. if there are two VPS accounts on a server, you will “split” the processing power), but each VPS is in own container, so a problem with someone else’s VPS won’t affect your VPS. Most companies will also provide you with a guaranteed minimum amount of RAM, so that you are not competing directly with other VPS users on the server.
Contrary to popular perception, VPS hosting is NOT shared hosting on steroids. When you have a VPS, it is as if you are running and marinating your own web server on the Internet. Thus, you need to be comfortable maintaining, upgrading, and securing a web server. VPS’s are great, for example, if you really want to customize how your web server works. For example, for security purposes, most shared hosts will not allow certain types of remote access to MySQL or MSSQL Servers. But if you are running a VPS, you can easily enable remote access. You must, however, understand the security implications of this decision, as you do not want your server to be compromised.
If you are not comfortable running your own Linux box, however, most web hosting providers offer Managed VPS hosting. Unmanaged VPS hosting is where you are on your own with running the server, whereas in a managed hosting environment, the hosting company manages the VPS for you – providing regular security updates, and helping you install packages, and backups, etc. Note that you will pay a premium for managed VPS hosting, but if you are not comfortable running and securing your own VPS, I’d highly recommend it.
As its name implies, a dedicated server is just that – a web server that is dedicated to only running your web site or web sites. Dedicated servers are more expensive than VPSs (as you would expect), and similarly to a VPS, you have total control of the server. With a dedicated server, you configure the server to your specifications – from the processor, ram, and hardware, to the backup and bandwidth options. Like a VPS, a dedicated server is used for websites with large amounts of traffic, as well as specific configuration and security needs – dedicated servers just take it to the next level.
Often websites that need dedicated servers have high volumes, or run processor or database intensive applications to maintain performance. For example, you could run Windows Notepad or Wordpad easily on practically any PC, but you would need a very-high end PC to work with HD Video, or high-end multimedia processing and DVD authoring.
This article summarized the difference among the three major hosting types: shared, VPS, and dedicated. Remember that your hosting choice really depends upon the needs and goals of your specific website. If you are unsure about the type of hosting you need, leave a comment and we can try to help.
To learn about Virtual Private Servers (VPS), visit our other site, VPSNovice.com