Finding the right web hosting services for your business can feel like searching for Cinderella with nothing more than a slipper. You want to find the right fit, but it takes a while to get there.
You know there are hundreds, if not thousands, of companies offering domain hosting services. But what makes things even more complicated is the variety in the types of hosting services that are available.
How are you supposed to tell the difference between shared hosting and a dedicated server? And what on earth is VPS?
We’ve assembled this rundown of the major types of web hosting to answer just those questions. We’ll review the positives and negatives of shared hosting vs VPS vs a dedicated server. We’ll let you know which type of hosting is right for you based on your needs, and we’ll even give you tips on what to look for in your search.
Hold onto your slippers. Let’s go on the hunt for your own web hosting Cinderella.
Before we begin to illuminate the differences between the types of web hosting services available, let’s help you get your priorities straight.
When it comes to web hosting, there really is no such thing as a “best” type of server. There are only services that fit your needs and services that don’t.
Services can be ill-fitting for a variety of reasons, from price to capacity and security. That’s why it’s important to know what you need from a web domain host before you start your search. You can’t know what fits if you don’t know what size you’re looking for, and that metaphor is literal when it comes to web servers.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself before you start your web hosting service search in earnest.
How important is cost to my bottom line?
Do I require video or streaming services that can eat up a lot of bandwidth?
How many web applications do I plan to run from my site?
What functions do I want available on my website? Will I be using my website as a platform for e-commerce? If so, what software and applications do I want to use to support that function?
How do I want my site to grow? What do I imagine my company’s website looking like in five years?
Any of these questions can help you determine whether you should seek out a more bare-bones service or if you need something with the utmost privacy and computing capacity.
Once you’ve identified your priorities, you’ll encounter web hosting services with different levels of privacy. The least private of your options, and where many people begin, is shared hosting.
Shared hosting is a great starter service for people embarking on the design and implementation of their first websites. It’s the least expensive of all of the web hosting options, and it still offers all the capacity and functionality that websites with limited functions need. If your website is a glorified resume, shared hosting is the way to host it.
Here’s how shared hosting works. One server’s resources are spread across multiple clients, all with different websites. This makes the service especially inexpensive, which is why many first-time website creators use shared hosting at first.
The limitations of shared hosting may be apparent to you already. Because you are sharing your server with other clients, you may not always have access to the depth of resources you would like. If one of your neighbours is using most of the server’s power, your ability to access and process data might be limited.
Websites outgrow shared hosting when they add features like e-commerce to their functionality. These additional features require RAM, memory, and processing speed that is not available from shared hosting services with any reliability.
On the flip side, shared hosting is all most first-time website creators need. And it’s especially nice that the hosting providers take care of maintaining the server. This is a role that often falls to the website owner themselves once you get to the higher level hosting services.
VPS is a step above shared hosting in terms of security and power, and it is also a step up in price.
“VPS” stands for Virtual Private Server. The way a VPS service works is that a single physical server is partitioned into several different servers using virtualization software. So you’re not actually getting your own server with VPS hosting, but you’re getting the next best thing.
You get a clue to one of the benefits of a VPS in its name. It truly is a more private service than shared hosting. Because you do not have to share resources with other clients on your virtual server, you run much less risk of having your website’s performance affected by other users.
The privacy you get with a VPS extends across the board to all of the features of your server. You do not have to share your CPU on a VPS, nor do you have to share your RAM or other data.
Along with privacy comes increased security. These two things work in combination to give you web hosting that makes your website run faster and more smoothly. If your neighbour’s virtual server is compromised in any way, you do not have to worry about the same problem occurring in your virtual server.
VPS is not the end point when it comes to security or processing speed. That would be the next level of web hosting on our list. But because of the privacy and capabilities a VPS offers, it is a very popular midpoint when it comes to hosting services.
A talented web developer can use a VPS much like a dedicated server, so mid-tier business functionality should be plenty easy using VPS web hosting.
Along the lines of shared hosting services, VPS hosts also offer server maintenance to their customers. This is a nice mitigation of responsibility for a growing business that needs higher server capacity without being able to dedicate a team to maintain it.
We’ve hinted at them enough. It’s time to talk about dedicated servers.
If you couldn’t tell from the progression of our breakdown this far, dedicated servers are by far the most private and powerful of all web hosting options.
A dedicated hosting service guarantees you get your own private physical server all to yourself. This comes with a heavier price than the other types of web hosting, but for those businesses that require this level of service, they consider the price worth it.
If the risks of compromise are lowered with VPS hosting, they are eliminated with a dedicated server. There is absolutely zero risk of any other website choking yours in performance or getting access to any of your secure information.
Another benefit of the dedicated server is its level of customization. Since this is your server, web hosts give you the power when it comes to choosing just how much memory you want on it, what type of memory you want that to be, the operating system your server runs, and other elements of the server’s hardware.
This customization comes with the responsibility to maintain the server. That’s right, we’ve finally reached the level of web hosting where maintenance falls to the hands of the user.
Since maintenance requires knowledge of server technology and other hardware issues, the decision to rent a dedicated server often includes hiring someone who has this knowledge. If a company already has someone on staff who can serve this purpose, that reduces the need to pay a new employee. But if not, you’re looking at more than just the increased costs of the server when it comes to your bottom line.
With the rise of cloud web hosting, dedicated hosting is becoming less of a necessity for businesses. Many see it as too much responsibility and too many extra features their business just doesn’t use. But if what you want is all of the power in the hands of your business, there is no more absolute web hosting option.
How do you know which of these hosting services you need? Is it simply a matter of closing your eyes and hoping for the best? We certainly hope not!
A general rule of thumb you can use to guide your decision is the size of your business.
The smaller your business, the less likely it is that you need web hosting as large and powerful as a dedicated server. After all, extra features aren’t useful if you don’t use them. It could be nothing more than an expensive web hosting solution that is wasted if you don’t need all that dedicated hosting has to offer.
Another factor that can help guide your decision is the level of e-commerce service you require from a web host. Security is important for successful e-commerce, so you’ll want to make sure you find a host that offers SSL certification if you want to offer online shopping on your website. That may not mean a dedicated host, but it is a feature you should check for in whatever level of host you end up choosing.
In addition to heightened security, e-commerce requires support for the applications you want to use for payment, such as Square or PayPal. You may also require specific shopping cart software that one web host supports and another does not.
Other e-commerce features you may want include one-click installation for your shopping cart software, a dedicated IP address, and dedicated technical support. As you can tell, e-commerce is a feature that affects many aspects of choosing web hosting services.
In many ways, the multiple types of web hosting are as alike as they are different.
For one, each of these services costs money. You’ll need to determine your own budget to figure out if the service you’re shopping for fits that budget. But no matter what, you want to find the best value for your money.
One of the best ways to find that value is to read the reviews that are readily found all over the internet. Don’t be shy about investigating a company with which you may be embarking on quite a long relationship.
Reviews are not the last word, as they are often written by already-irate customers about incredibly unique circumstances. If nothing else, online reviews are a good starting point for investigating a company’s reputation and its customer support.
Speaking of support, that may be the one commonality each web hosting service should share. The service you choose should go above and beyond in supporting its customers.
Before you jump into signing a contract, take a look at the structure of support that the company offers. Do they provide more than just an email address? If not, will email support alone provide for your needs?
Usually, email support is insufficient. Most of us want to talk to an individual live, even if just over web chat. And it’s fair to expect a company’s support to be round-the-clock, 24/7.
When in doubt, you can always test a company’s customer support during the free trial period most web domain hosts offer.
Shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated servers are the big three types of web hosting. Each one has its benefits and drawbacks, depending on your individual needs from a domain host. It turns out shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated server is not so much a competition as it is a smorgasbord.
We hope we’ve helped guide you in your search for the right web hosting for you.
We’ll admit we’re partial to VPS hosting because of the pride we take in our own. Take a look for yourself today!