Web hosting is a required purchase for most users looking to build a web presence. If you’re not used to shopping for web hosting packages, the terms listing out the options available can be confusing. Most consumers tend to rely on pricing without having a good understanding of what exactly they’re shopping for or purchasing. While this can work out for some people, others find that issues with server down-time, slow sites, or surprise costs can send people who thought they had already figured this out scrambling to find other options with increased costs for transferring their site to a new host.
There are 4 main types of hosting available from web hosting sellers. Knowing which one is best going to suit your personal or corporate needs will save you time and money. It isn’t that difficult to become a smart consumer. It’s a matter of finding an article or two tailored to your level of expertise and need.
You will also want to pay attention to the other options listed in web hosting packages to make sure they are tailored to your personal or company needs. Some packages offer different levels of server management, and while some hosts offer a spectrum of options, it’s important to know these two categories:
Managed Servers – servers that have software and security features updated without your involvement.
Unmanaged Servers – servers that require you to tweak the settings and update software installed.
It’s also worthwhile, depending on your needs, to figure out what other things are bundled in your hosting package. Things like SSL certificates if you intend to sell things don’t generally cost much, but some hosts offer it as part of their hosting package. Some offer free CDN bandwidth, which will help with load times and Search Engine Optimization. Some offer easy-to-set-up platform specific services like Content Management Systems (i.e. WordPress, Joomla!, or Drupal).
But much of it starts with a rundown of servers and what type of space you’ll be renting on them.
A server is like a computer. It contains many of the same resources – hard drive space, CPU speed and RAM, etc. You have the option to figure out how much of those resources you will be using. How much you will be using and how up-to-date it will be somewhat reflected in your costs for renting it.
Shared hosting is the best option for beginners or people who aren’t trying to run a site that will get a lot of traffic.
Shared hosting involves several or even many hosting clients sharing a server and its resources (RAM, etc.) in order to host their sites. This is the most economical option available for most people looking for web space.
The problems you can run across with this type of hosting are dependent not only on how much traffic you’re getting, but how much traffic the other clients of the web hosting service on your server are getting. Because you use shared resources, if another site is taking up most of the resources available, there’s a chance you will start seeing your site go down or load slowly. This is called the “bad neighbor effect.” While there are stopgap measures you can take like asking the hosting company to move your site to a different server, there isn’t much you can do if they can’t or if that doesn’t resolve the issue unless you upgrade your plan.
Optimally, your website should be up 99% of the time. If it isn’t, you’re going to have to work with your hosting provider to determine the best course of action for your website. Most web hosting companies are proactive in order to make sure that problem sites are detected and working with the owners or disabling the sites that are causing problems temporarily in order to make sure the rest of their clients are getting what they paid for, but with the limited income from shared sites, the bulk of an internet host’s time isn’t spent catering to the needs of their lowest paying customers.
Shared hosting is great for lots of purposes. If you have a test site, a family blog, or other type of site where server downtime isn’t going to cause huge issues for you, this is a great option. It’s also a good option if you can’t justify spending large amounts of money on a better development package. Shared hosting is also a key factor in maintaining equality on the web because it’s affordable to nearly everyone.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. It is likely the most popular service to upgrade to from shared hosting. It can be extremely well-balanced.
While a VPS server is still a shared environment, the way it is shared is very different. The number of sites/clients on a VPS is far more limited than those on a shared server, and the resources (RAM, space, etc.) are split between users. That means one site on the server won’t be hogging all the resources…everyone is capped at the resources and space allotted on their plan, eliminating the risk of the bad neighbor effect.
VPS servers also tend to be highly configurable, which provides more flexibility. Shared hosts rely on the same software for every user on the server. VPS servers allow you to customize your software installs because they won’t affect everyone else on the server.
Also importantly, VPS is scalable. Since you’re on a virtual machine, the percentage of space and resources you’re taking up is easily upgradable if you find that you need more space or resources to suit your website needs. It’s quick and easy to upgrade your plan if you’re on a VPS. This type of set-up is best for small companies that are hoping to get increasing web traffic as their company grows.
VPS plans are more expensive than shared hosting, but if you find you’ve outgrown your shared plan or if you’d like to head problems off at the pass, VPS hosting is an economical solution that can suit your needs effectively and flexibly.
This option is best if your site gets a lot of traffic. What’s a lot of traffic? That depends, but a good guideline to follow is about 100k visitors per month.
With dedicated hosting you get all the resources and space a server offers. It’s highly customizable, sometimes even in regards to hardware (you can choose what type of resources you need). You can often choose what type of OS you wish to install (Windows Server or Linux) based on your needs. You also often get the ability to install custom software and applications to fully customize your site for your needs or those of your customers. If you have highly specialized hardware needs or want extensive control over your data’s privacy, a dedicated server might be an option for you.
There are several downsides to this option – you do tend to need to know a lot about web hosting and setting up and maintaining software in order to fully utilize this option. There are managed dedicated hosting solutions available, but they don’t do all the work for the most part. They are also very expensive compared to other options.
Another downside is hardware issues. Since you’re the only client on a server, and that server is by itself, there are no other memory modules that can take over if one of yours goes bad. If you’re the one monitoring your server, you’ll be the one who has to pay attention to when resources go down, and there could be a longer waiting period to get the issue fixed.
Dedicated servers are starting to become obsolete thanks to our last option, which offers all the services dedicated hosting does and more.
Cloud hosting works very much like dedicated hosting. It offers the same customizability and resource dedication, but there are differences.
Some companies don’t even refer to their service as VPS any more. You’ll start to see more internet hosting companies referring to Cloud or Cloud VPS services.
While the other options for hosting involve dedicated space and resources, and some offer scalability, they also require monitoring on the part of both the hosting provider and the consumer to maintain server uptime and manage issues.
Cloud hosting automates much of this. Instead of working in the traditional manner, it works more like utilities do. If you need more resources or bandwidth, those options are automatically provided for you. You don’t have to call your host if something goes down because compensation is already built in. Your site doesn’t get shut off for exceeding your monthly bandwidth requirements.
Cloud based systems use multiple servers in a network, making it innately more scalable and providing a host of security-based benefits. They also have a higher chance of protecting against DDoS attacks. DDoS attacks are not a security risk…they work by overwhelming your website with requests, which causes the server to crash. With traditional web hosting, the best way to prevent this is by blocking as many requests as possible and spreading the rest of the requests within a large network. With cloud systems, this network is built right in, keeping your site up much more effectively.
The downside of using cloud hosting is that if you don’t budget for extra traffic or end up with a surprise DDoS attack, you could find yourself with an unexpected bill for the extra resources it took to keep your site up and running.
Choosing a web hosting package can be confusing. It’s important that you have a good understanding of what types of needs you’re attempting to address for yourself or your business, and what options are available that will best suit those needs. Hopefully this article helped to make your decision easier.