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A Quick Overview on Website Hosting

Websites don’t just magically float around in space before showing up on your computer (as if Google had a satellite specifically tasked to gather the websites you need). A website is a digital plot of real estate stored on a server.

That server (like your computer) has a CPU, a hard drive, RAM, and more. Some servers are more powerful than others. More importantly, the way a server hosts your website has a direct affect on your website costs and performance.

How a server stores your website alongside other websites is the key to understanding the differences between VPS and shared hosting. This discussion needn’t be too technical. At the end of the day, you’re probably just wanting to know which is best for your website.

VPS vs Shared Hosting tl;dr

In short, shared hosting shares space with several other websites on a single server. While VPS hosting still shares space on a server, the environment of dedicated server is imitated. Each website gets its own dedicated space and resources.

Shared hosting is the website equivalent of living in a hostel or dorm with shared bathrooms and common areas. In contrast, VPS hosting – still sharing space in a single building – gets you your own bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and living room.

You might still be a little bit confused. We will explain more in a moment. If you feel that you already understand the basics, feel free to jump to a specific section you’re most interested in.

Different Kinds of Hosting

There are actually 4 kinds of web hosting. The lowest performing and cheapest option is shared hosting. This is most common for bloggers or businesses in need of a simple static site. The most powerful is dedicated hosting wherein a website occupies a server all by itself. Dedicated hosting is for big league websites with online courses, robust eCommerce, highly-sensitive information, etc.

For obvious reasons, shared hosting is cheap, and dedicated hosting is expensive. In between, we have VPS hosting and cloud hosting. VPS hosting is something of a happy medium (between shared and dedicated) but is less expensive than dedicated hosting. Cloud hosting is unique in that it works with multiple servers.

For the purposes of our discussion here, we will only focus on the differences between shared and VPS hosting. These are the two most common types of hosting, and you’re more than likely only going to use one of these over dedicated or cloud servers.

vps vs shared hosting

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between VPS vs Shared Hosting

First of all, you need to think about what you will be asking your website to do. While most information-based, static websites do well on shared hosting, you may need to upgrade to VPS if you choose to include large files and heavy user-interaction on your site. Here are a few factors to consider.

Loading Speed

When it comes to website performance, developers use the term “bandwidth.” Think of bandwidth as a road between the server and what your viewers see online. It determines your site’s loading speed when users click on your site in a Google search.

In low bandwidth, your road is a cramped 2-lane road. The information passing back and forth from the server will cause your website to feel sluggish.

In contrast, high bandwidth means that your site is passing files and information on a 6-lane highway to and from the server. Your site will be fast and agile. This is great for users.

hosting affinity page speed test
Test your page speed with Google Page Speed Insights

Is shared hosting always low bandwidth? Not necessarily. In the original illustration, if you reside in a hostel or dorm, you may be able to cook a full Thanksgiving meal if you can get to the shared kitchen before anyone else. If not, then you may be left to a single plugin burner. For shared hosting, if another site takes up most of the space and bandwidth available on the server, your site is going to be slower.

For VPS hosting, you do get your own apartment with amenities you don’t share. Thus, you always know that you can cook your Thanksgiving dinner within the confines of what your apartment has to offer. In other words, VPS hosting will not subject your website to a slow loading speed just because other sites are using all the space in their own “apartment.”

Website Security

For the most part, shared hosting providers do a great job in maintaining security for sites on their server. That being said, it is possible for hackers to use a “back door” through another site on the server to get to other sites on the same server.

hosting affinity ssl secure

For simple, static sites, a site hack is certainly scary, but it will not lose any critical information on the business or clients. Like most sites on shared hosting, they are not managing or passing payment information or social security numbers.

For sites that are managing critical information and/or web services, a hacker can do real damage to both the website and the brand’s integrity. It constitutes a full-blown security breach. That’s why these sites usually opt for VPS hosting. If another site on a server gets hacked, they will not be able to get to any other sites on that server. Each VPS-hosted site is locked safely in its own “apartment.”

http site example

Web Hosting Costs

As one would expect, shared hosting is a bit cheaper than VPS hosting. Many hosting providers will offer services for under $10/month (some even under $5). Additionally, they may offer extra services that can protect your site if another site on your server is compromised. We will discuss hosting provider bundles in a moment.

VPS hosting usually runs from $30-$100+/month, depending on the provider and the space you want dedicated to your website on the server. 

In the table below, it is good to note that all providers typically offer a lower promotional price for the plans listed here.

HostShared HostingVPS Hosting

Bluehost
Basic: $7.99/ month
Plus: $10.99 /month
Choice Plus: $14.99/ month
Pro: $23.99 /month
Standard: $29.99/ month
Enhanced: $59.99/ month
Ultimate: $119.99/ month
inmotion hosting review
Inmotion
Launch: $7.99 /month
Power: $9.99 /month
Pro: $15.99 /month
VPS-1000HA-S: $39.99 /month
VPS-2000HA-S: $79.99 /month
VPS-3000HA-S: $144.99 /month
godaddy hosting review
GoDaddy
Economy: $8.99 /month
Deluxe: $11.99 /month
Ultimate: $16.99 /month
Maximum: $24.99 /month
Launch: $24.99 /month
Enhance: $34.99 /month
Grow: $44.99 /month
Expand: $54.99 /month
a2 hosting hosting review
A2 Hosting
Lite: $5.99 /month
Swift: $9.99 /month
Turbo: $18.99 /month
Power+: $49.99 /month
Prestige+: $69.99 /month
Pinnacle+: $99.99/ month

Website Objectives

Is your goal to increase viewership with viral content? Are you an influencer, startup, or blogger? These are all objectives that shared hosting can help you achieve.

But maybe you want your site to do more, like online shopping and checkout. Or maybe you have web services that allow for users to interact in real-time. Small and medium businesses often need the reliability guaranteed with VPS hosting.

Want to learn about the options available for building your website? Learn how to choose a website builder.

Technical Experience

A critical factor for those looking to upgrade to VPS hosting is technical experience. Sites on a server with VPS hosting must be configured correctly in order for the site to load. If you feel comfortable in your ability to configure your own site, then you should be fine.

However, if you’re reading this, you most likely do not possess the technical experience to configure your own site. As such, you’ll need to hire someone you trust that can do this for you.

In shared hosting, all configuration is taken care of. This is great for those that lack technical experience but still want to build their own site.

Either way, sometimes the best option is to outsource the process of hosting selection, site creation, and server configuration to the experts.

Comparing Shared Hosting with VPS Hosting

Again, shared hosting is ideal for new businesses or personal websites, VPS hosting is best for small businesses and larger sites with more traffic. In a recap of all the details above, let’s hold these two hosting types against each other for an easier comparison.

Shared Hosting

As noted above, shared hosting is great for any website that is simple and static. This includes standard business information, blogging, etc. These sites can also rank well on Google searches with the proper search engine optimization approach.

Shared Hosting Pros

  • Cheap (less than $10/month)
  • Easy to set up
  • No manual configuration

Shared Hosting Cons

  • Loading speed might slow down if other sites on the server are taking up too much bandwidth
  • Other sites on the server could be vulnerable if one site gets hacked
  • Will not handle web services and eCommerce well

Top 4 Shared Hosting Providers

The list below is in no particular order. These are, however, the current top shared hosting providers available. For more details, you might take a closer look at some product comparisons of specific providers you are interested in.

Bluehost boasts being one of the few hosting companies that is officially recognized and endorsed by WordPress.org. With extremely cheap introductory rate starting at $2.95 /month, you get an intuitive, user-friendly cPanel, free backup services, a free domain name for one year and of course WordPress support.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

With the ability to choose your server location and a consistently highly praised customer support team, Siteground offers great shared hosting plans. You can migrate your already existing website to Siteground for free. Also included are a free SSL certificate, backup services and CDN.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

Being one of the most well known and popular domain registrars, with a GoDaddy hosting plan you will get free domain registration for one year. If you are in need of business tools, you can also get one year of Office 365 for free.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

Inmotion provide a robust product selection. With every hosting plan you will get a free domain name for one year, free website migration, backup services and SSL certificate.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

VPS Hosting

If your website will be doing more than loading static information, it might be better to use VPS hosting. Online scheduling, shopping, storing customer information, etc. – these are all good reasons to leave shared hosting behind and use VPS hosting instead.

VPS Hosting Pros

  • Consistent bandwidth for better load speeds at all times
  • Reliability
  • More security
    Allows your site to do more than be a blog

VPS Hosting Cons

  • More expensive than shared hosting
  • You must configure your site or hire someone to do it for you

Top 4 VPS Hosting Providers

You might notice that many of the providers listed here are also great providers for shared hosting. If you think your site might do better on shared at first, using a provider that also does great VPS hosting can make a hosting upgrade much easier.

Check out our hosting comparison chart

Liquidweb offer VPS hosting plans in 4 tiers. Plans range from 2-16GB of RAM and 40-200GB disk space. Every plan comes with 10TB bandwidth and free 100GB backup. You will also enjoy free CloudFlare CDN and enchanced server security.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

With Inmotion VPS plans you only get 3 options. A few of those are comprable to Liquidweb, however they fall a bit short in terms of disk space and bandwidth. You get anywhere from 4-8 gigabytes of RAM, 75-260GB disk space, and from 4-6TB bandwidth depending on the plan level you select. Also included are free site migrations and email accounts.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

A2 Hosting provide similar plans and features to Inmotion, but lags behind in the amount of disk space and bandwidth. The highest plan offers a maximum of 150GB storage space and only 4TB bandwidth. However an enticing anytime money back guarantee is offered with every plan.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

With Bluehost VPS plans you will be trading features for a lower price point. You only get from 30-120GB disk space and 1-3TB bandwidth, depending on the plan you choose. However you will also be paying a lower monthly fee than the other options mentioned.

Overall Rating
Speed
Disk Space
Bandwidth
Value for Money
Customer Support

When is it Time to Upgrade Your Hosting?

As a general rule, when the site is consistently loading slowly, it’s time to upgrade hosting. Sometimes, you can purchase more server space with your current hosting provider. In many cases, you might need to bump to the next level of hosting service.

For a shared hosted site, it is time to upgrade once you are wanting to offer more features and services on your site. It is especially important that you upgrade to VPS if you will be taking and storing peoples’ personal information, including payment or other sensitive data.

If you feel that VPS hosting is no longer what your site needs, there are many benefits to dedicated hosting. You get a server all to yourself, and you are guaranteed great loading speed and cybersecurity. Make sure to discuss this move with an expert before impulsively making the switch.

More Info

Understanding Web Hosting Bundles

Typically, a web hosting provider offers you a choice of different bundles. These are additional services that somehow enhance your site or assist in your site setup. Here are among the most common services included in a web hosting bundle.

Domain Name

The name before your .com is your domain. Domains typically require an annual fee or subscription. Some are free and others can cost thousands. Web hosting providers will often include a domain name free of charge when you choose them for a shared or VPS hosting plan.

SSL Certificate

SSL certificates are technical encryption tools that makes your site compatible with search engines and keeps your site safe from interference when information is passed back and forth from the server to your site. It is like a drivers license for your website before it takes the highway from the server to the web.

Web Hosting Support

Many websites (especially with shared hosting) can go months and years without any server issues. That being said, when it happens, it is a major inconvenience. It is a good idea to make sure that your web host provider offers 24/7 customer service so that you can get your site back up and running after a server problem.

Site Migration

Were you hosting your site with another provider and want to switch? This requires a site migration. Many providers offer this for free or as a part of a bundle.

SEO Tools

Your SEO will come down primarily to how your build and promote your site content. However, there are a number of tools that make it easier for you to keep your content optimized for Google and other search engines. Sites that rank on Google’s first page draw hundreds and thousands more views than sites ranked on pages further back.

Email Account

Would you like your own email with your domain name? It does look sharp and professional. Most web hosting providers allow you so many email accounts attached to your domain. Others may offer you a discount to secure these email accounts through email providers such as Outlook or G-Suite.

Backup Services

If something happens to your site, such as accidentally deleted content, a backup service can help you retrieve the content that you lost. Most bundles offer backup services for your site.

Final Recap

We hope that you found this guide to web hosting helpful. Even though this can be a technical discussion, the practical information is quite simple. You can use this guide to help you select the right type of hosting, as well as a provider that best suits you and your site’s needs.

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