When I was getting started on my first website, hosting services were still a bit of a mystery. Cloud hosting didn’t have the same buzz as it does today, and trying to understand virtual private servers immediately made my eyes glaze over. I felt confident in my need for shared hosting but didn’t know the difference between what I could do with a Windows versus Linux plan.
Getting started with exactly the right hosting plan is like finding the perfect pair of pants — a close tailored fit that’s comfortable but leaves some room for growth. You want to find a great deal without spending a ton of time shopping, trying things on, and possibly having to return them.
A hosting plan that’s too big will tax your budget and sanity, while something too small negatively affects your site’s ability to grow and perform as designed. Let’s walk through the various benefits of web hosting services, along with the downfalls that might affect your decision.
Benefits & Drawbacks of “Shared” Hosting
Most site owners enter the world of web hosting by signing up for a shared hosting plan. At this level, hundreds or even thousands of customers share the storage space and computing resources of one server. The ultra-popular service is particularly welcoming to beginners and small businesses because of its high levels of customer support, easy-to-use tools, and comprehensive options.
Shared hosting providers take care of all the technical aspects of a website’s infrastructure, handling infrastructure security, updates, and other maintenance. Customers just have to focus on building an online presence representative of their brand or business goals, as most basic shared hosting plans include a free domain name registration, unlimited email accounts, eCommerce functionality, a drag-and-drop website builder, and hundreds of one-click installations for popular software programs like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal.
Because so many websites exist on the same server, there is a shared responsibility for security and stability. Neighboring websites can negatively affect a server’s performance or availability by requiring an unfair share of processing power, sending spam, or falling victim to a security vulnerability.
- Supremely affordable prices
- Easy for beginners to learn and manage
- Tons of free add-on services
- Limited resources
- Less control over security and performance
Despite the disadvantages of shared hosting, the service remains a top-notch introduction to website design and management. The full range of customers, from experienced developers to first-time bloggers, can excel in a shared hosting environment. These plans work well for professional portfolios, small business websites, online stores, personal blogs, and much more.
When looking for a shared hosting provider, keep an eye out for unlimited resources like storage, bandwidth, databases, and emails. Perks like free SSL certificates and access to a content delivery network or website builder further secure your site, help it load faster, and look more visually appealing. We’ve reviewed and listed our three favorite shared hosting providers below, showcasing their upgraded infrastructure, personable support, and supreme affordability. Click on a review to learn more about how a particular host can meet your website’s needs.
- Known for high-performance, low-cost hosting
- FREE website builder with 1,000s of templates
- Endorsed by the WordPress.org team as a top WP host
- FREE SSL certificate and CDN acceleration
- Usually $7.99/month, but our visitors pay $2.95/month
- Get started on Bluehost now.
- An industry-leading shared host with competitive pricing
- Attract visitors with a complimentary marketing suite
- Lots of extras like Google AdWords & SiteLock security
- Start selling in minutes with FREE ecommerce tools
- Get more than 75% off today! (usually $7.99/month)
- Get started on iPage now.
- A favorite for shared hosting (and dedicated or cloud)
- FREE SSD storage packs 20x the performance
- FREE SSL certificate and 24/7 support
- 1-click installs for WordPress and popular CMSes
- Get started with FREE website transfer service
- Get started on InMotion Hosting now.
Benefits & Drawbacks of “Cloud” Hosting
As your site gains traction and builds a following, be ready to upgrade to a new service — don’t be the shared hosting consumer whose successful website overwhelms the server and affects fellow customers. Fortunately, most providers will happily transfer your website and files to higher-tier plans that add more storage space, bandwidth, and fine-tuned control. Graduates of shared web hosting typically have two options — cloud or virtual private server hosting — both of which introduce a concept called virtualization.
With cloud hosting, your website files will be spread across a network of multiple servers. With so many servers sharing the workload, your site will load quickly no matter the traffic. Computing resources quickly scale up and down to adapt to the ebb and flow of visitors, and the redundant hardware means your site won’t go down if one server crashes.
However, as you scale the web hosting ranks, more and more is expected of the website owner. While customers can frequently purchase managed services where the provider takes care of basic hardware and security maintenance, they have more control in how their site functions and responds to various scenarios.
- Automatic and scalable resource allocation
- Improved performance and reliability
- Pay-as-you-go price structure
- More complicated management
- Costs can be harder to predict
Cloud hosting can take a variety of forms, from the fairly simple and pain-free services, like the ones we’ve laid out below, to the more complicated platforms available through Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform. Whichever route you take depends on your traffic, goals, technical experience, and budget.
Larger businesses with experienced developers or system administrators will do well with AWS, but we tend to recommend most organizations ease the transition from shared hosting by finding a cloud hosting provider that retains some of the user-friendly features of the shared hosting ranks. The companies listed below give site owners the scalability and flexibility of the cloud while streamlining the tedious and technical processes of configuration, deployment, and management.
- Ranked #1 for cloud VPS hosting
- Fault-tolerant SSD storage and up to 8GB of RAM
- FREE control panel with choice of Linux OS
- Full root access or managed servers available
- FREE live-state or scheduled snapshots
- Get started on InMotion now.
- Twice as fast and four times the computing resources
- Tons of storage with the scalability of the cloud
- Low-density servers and multiple caching layers
- Unlimited domains and MySQL databases
- Upgrades available for security, backups, productivity, and domain privacy
- Get started on HostGator now.
- Choose your OS or optimized application configuration
- Hourly or monthly billing for convenience
- Optional upgrades for cPanel, backups, and monitoring
- Managed services, SSDs, and HDDs available
- Block and object storage, plus enterprise-grade firewall
- Get started on Hostwinds now.
Benefits & Drawbacks of “VPS” Hosting
While cloud hosting represents a smaller step up from shared web hosting, virtual private servers are commonly viewed as the most effective bridge between shared hosting and dedicated servers. Instead of splitting a server with thousands of other site owners (or footing the massive bill to own the whole server), virtual private server resources are distributed to just a few dozen customers.
Although VPS customers share the same underlying hardware, a layer of virtualization effectively creates separate machines capable of running their own operating system. That means users have the ultimate control, otherwise known as root access, over the software programs and security configurations powering their site. Computing resources are dedicated to each virtual machine, meaning you’ll be able to count on a specific amount of storage space and bandwidth to deliver your site.
What’s more, you can add or remove processing power to scale to your site’s audience. With great power, however, comes great responsibility. Given the infrastructure, VPS configurations aren’t as instantly scalable as cloud hosting. Although root access enables experienced users to craft the environment to exactly match their performance, security, and reliability goals, those who don’t have the technical chops can quickly find themselves in a world of hurt.
- Complete control over your environment
- Dedicated resources at a decent price
- Fine-tuned performance and security
- Managed services cover the technical stuff
- More upkeep and maintenance required
- Can get costly with managed services
- Still at the mercy of a shared server
Fortunately, many VPS providers give customers the option of employing their own server technicians to manage the tedious aspects of virtual servers, such as operating system updates and security patches. Usually for an added fee, managed services enable you to focus on building the website or online store of your dreams without getting bogged down in software installations or the command line interface.
When looking for top-notch VPS hosting, be sure to find a host that provides strong hardware to power those dedicated resources. Solid-state drives, or SSDs, for instance, read and write data up to 20 times faster than traditional hard disk drives. The providers below are our favorites for VPS hosting and perfectly pair high-performance computing with a wide range of software options and helpful support to make the transition to VPS hosting a breeze.
- Managed or unmanaged virtual servers available in Windows or Linux
- Cloud hosting instances with hourly or monthly billing
- Instant upgrades without downtime
- FREE around-the-clock monitoring
- Automatic nightly backups available
- Get started on Hostwinds now.
- $0.01 for the first month using code HOSTINGADV
- Then $6 monthly with no contracts, no price changes
- Latest versions of PHP, MySQL, Perl, Python, and Ruby
- 7 operating system options for Linux or Windows users
- Full root access and choice of datacenter included
- Get started on InterServer now.
- High-speed hosting that's faster than AWS, Rackspace, and Digital Ocean
- FREE backups, CDN, root access, and DDoS protection
- Up to 16 processors with all-SSD storage
- Choice between cPanel or Plesk Onyx control panel
- Real-time monitoring and 100% uptime guarantee
- Get started on Liquid Web now.
Benefits & Drawbacks of “Dedicated Server” Hosting
Even though VPS customers enjoy dedicated resources, they can still be affected by noisy neighbors that impact the physical server via spam, exposed security vulnerabilities, or an overarch of allocated resources. For those who don’t like to share, dedicated servers reside at the top of the web hosting heap.
A dedicated server is exactly what it sounds like — a single server completely devoted to one website or application. That means 100% control over the bandwidth, storage space, and IP address, plus all the components related to security, performance, reliability, and software. As a result, dedicated servers represent the crème de la crème of hosting services. Site owners or application developers can perfectly configure the machine specifically to their exact requirements and specifications.
Naturally, having an entire machine to yourself comes with a hefty price tag (although cheap dedicated servers do exist). And all the responsibility of configuring and maintaining the associated server components requires a good deal of experience. Similar to VPS hosting, you can likely pay for managed services to help manage the workload, but that added expense may be enough to finally break the budget.
- Exclusive access to server resources
- Better security, performance, and reliability
- Unlimited customizations and control
- The most expensive hosting option
- Technical experience required
Despite the cost and potential headaches of server management, dedicated hosting still beats hosting your own website. You get to leverage your hosting provider’s redundant power supplies and global networks, along with around-the-clock customer support. What’s more, many hosts will help you with basic server setup and maintenance, and easily add other support services.
While you examine dedicated server hosts, pay attention to both the hardware configurations and added services like migrations, backups, monitoring, and support. Since you’ll have an entire machine to yourself, you’ll want the entire infrastructure to modernize your organization’s online presence and deliver cutting-edge performance, security, and reliability. Check out our three favorite providers below and click on the reviews to learn more.
- 100% network and power uptime guarantees
- Custom configurations, SSDs, and instant provisioning
- Auto-migrations, backups, and real-time monitoring
- Block/object storage and load balancer add-ons
- Windows or Linux servers with 100% uptime guarantee
- Get started on Liquid Web now.
- 24/7 uptime monitoring and privately owned datacenter
- Up to 24 cores, 256GB RAM, and 100TB bandwidth
- Choose from 12 operating systems and 3 control panels
- Custom configurations built and maintained in-house
- Price-lock guarantee without contracts
- Get started on InterServer now.
- Root access available with 3 levels of server management
- Expertly-tuned managed servers deployed instantly
- Choose from 4 datacenters spread across 3 continents
- FREE redundant SSD storage in RAID-1 arrays
- Choice of 13 Linux operating systems
- Get started on A2 Hosting now.
Take Advantage of Professional Web Hosting to Grow Your Business
Hopefully, by now you have a sense of the type of web hosting service that will work best for your website or online business. Understanding the type of server configuration (shared, cloud, virtual, or dedicated) is a huge first step, akin to knowing your pants size. Finding exactly the right provider and plan is more representative of finding the store, brand, or belt that makes the look just right.
Web hosting providers exist in a variety of fabrics, colors, and styles, so be sure to find a well-known and respected brand to deliver a mission-critical service like web hosting. By choosing a professional-grade host, you’re more likely to find the extra features and tools to make your experiences more enjoyable; who doesn’t like extra pockets?
Do you know how football is commonly described as a game of inches? Well, growing your business online in a crowded market of web hosting companies, is a game of milliseconds. According to Google, a half-second delay in loading search results in a 20% decrease in traffic, and page load times just 400 milliseconds slower can result in millions of abandoned sessions each month.
Hidden gems exist at every level of hosting configuration. Shared servers, for instance, should be well-rounded plans that provide everything you need to get started and grow. Cloud and VPS options need to have the scalability and access needed to hone performance and security, while dedicated server hosting plans rely on impressive network speeds. Each level of hosting comes with a variety of perks and disadvantages — which is most relevant to you?