Hosting can seem very confusing to those who don’t spend as much time in the ever-changing tech world. This guide will walk you through what each type of hosting has to offer…in layman’s terms. To humanize this tricky subject, I’ll explain these platforms in a way we can all understand. To someone not familiar hosting, I explain the different options in terms of methods of transportation. I would describe Shared Hosting like using public transportation, a city bus for instance. It gets you where you need to be, but there are going to be some inherent limits to what you can do. The system is generally inplace, and there’s not too much in the way of customizing it. Using a VPS (Virtual Private Server) is a lot like leasing a car. You’re pretty much able to do what you want, but you’re still confined to certain company rules. Ultimately, someone else owns your car, but they agree to let you use it for confined amount of time. Lastly, I would describe a Dedicated Server as the equivalent to owning your own car. You’re able to choose exactly what you want and need and then pay to own it. You’ll have exclusive rights, so you’re not needing to share with anyone.
This type of hosting is good for people who don’t really want to build a website they would use everyday. It would be great for running a little wedding page or presenting some type of simple (static) information…but that’s really about it. So why do people use this type of hosting? The price – this is by far the cheapest hosting out there. But remember, you get what you pay for.
Cost – This has the lowest cost, so it doesn’t take much to get started.
Upkeep – The hosting company will do it’s routine maintenance, Meaning you won’t have to spend your time dealing with server issues. You are able to simply worry about your website.
Email Accounts – This is one of the best ways to get started with domain based e-mail service ( for example: email@example.com vs firstname.lastname@example.org ). If all you’re trying to do is get your E-mail set up on a custom domain, this is a great way to do it.
Database(s) – You can typically set up at least a few different databases on shared hosting. This means you’ll be able to run a wordpress or joomla based website.
Speed – You’re sharing this server with hundreds if not thousands of people. While your bandwidth (amount of information you can transfer) might be unlimited, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to take 5 minutes to load your website.
Reliability – You’re sharing your resources with others, So there’s no guarantee that they are not over-using their part. This could mean there are brief downtimes (website becomes unavailable).
Options – Many of the typical options are not available in this platform. For instance, you wouldn’t want to run an e-commerce website on shared hosting.
Security – There’s a lot of people that you’re going to be sharing your server with, which means decreased security. The likelihood of having your website hacked is substaintially greater.
Support – Most of the time you’re only going to be paying a few dollars/month (or few cents/day). This means support is going to be limited. I’ve had websites where I’ve waited days to hear back about my website being down, only to be sent a link to the Q&A section of their website.
VPS (Virtual Private Server)
This is typically how I host most of my websites. Although it costs a bit more it’s well worth the investment. The amount of options available grows substantially at this level. Additionally, this type of hosting is quite a bit faster. I usually recommend this type of hosting for small to medium-sized businesses that rely on their website and email everyday.
Security – VPS hosting is much more secure. I have never had one of my sites hacked on a VPS.
eCommerce – Many people are interested in building e-commerce websites these days, this is a great way to do it. I would never recommend posting an SSL certificate on shared hosting (you’ll need this if you’re going to process credit cards on your website).
Resources – There are all sorts of upgrades available. Options like increasing the website storage or speed can be done on the fly (for additional costs).
Dedicated IP Address(s) – You have the ability to buy an IP address that only you will use. With shared hosting, you will inevitably be sharing an IP address with many many people. If one person decides to misuse their hosting (sending spam or something) the IP address can get blacklisted.
Support – You’re going to get much more tailored responses to your questions. Rather than just explaining how to resolve an issue (shared hosting), they will often fix small issues for you, at no additional cost.
Updates – On occasion, you might have to install some system updates. These, however, are very rare and the hosting support team can often walk to through them.
This is for people who are going to be serving 1000’s of users everyday. When speed and reliability are non-negotiable, this is your best option. This is what most the big guys out there use to run the sites we all love, but sometimes the best things in life aren’t free. Using a dedicated server can set you back quite a bit.
Customization – You’re able to completely customize your server setup. You don’t have the inherent guardrails that are associated with the other types of hosting.
Speed – This is going to provide blazing fast access, because all your server is worried about is serving your files. You’re not sharing your resources with others that are also hosting with that company.
Price – A dedicated server can range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand each month. This is way more than most people would want or need to pay for website hosting.
Maintenance – You’re responsible for maintaining and updating a lot of the things that you wouldn’t need to worry about with shared or VPS hosting. This typically means you’ll need to have a bit more knowledge about networking and computers.
There’s a reason there are different types of hosting, just as there are options for transportation. Everyone has different needs and expectations, so it’s up to you to decide which is the best fit for your project. Need help? We would be happy to help you decide, just leave a link in the comments, or send us a message here.
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