At last count, there are around 1.8 billion websites out there. While that sounds like a staggering amount of competition, you shouldn’t worry too much about it. Only 10%-15% of those websites are active at any given time.
One thing that the vast majority of those websites share is that they depend on web hosting services to make them available to the general public. Like most services, there are different types of web hosting services.
Whether you’re launching your first site or thinking you need a new hosting provider, the differences may seem a little obscure. Our guide will help you navigate the common types of web hosting and what they offer.
Shared hosting is the type of hosting most websites start out using. In this level of hosting, a single server acts as the home for lots of websites.
Each account gets allocated a certain amount of storage space on the server. Beyond that basic amount of guaranteed storage, the sites on the server must share from the overall resources available.
Shared hosting plans typically offer some resources that make getting your site online easier. For example, you’ll likely get a control panel that gives you options like single-click installation for popular content management systems such as WordPress.
Shared Web Hosting Uses
Shared hosting offers a cost-effective way for someone to get a website online. That makes it a good choice for people launching things like a website for a new business, a WordPress-based site or blog, or a personal website.
These kinds of sites typically don’t require a lot of bells and whistles or substantial amounts of bandwidth. The sites don’t attract huge numbers of visitors at first, so they only need a limited amount of server resources.
Shared Hosting Considerations
Shared hosting works well as long as your site and all of the other sites get a limited amount of traffic. If your site or any other site on the server sees a sudden spike in visitors, depending on the hosting provider, the one site can slow down performance for every other site on the server. At UpTime, we manage the performance of all shared hosting sites automatically so that if any website does go beyond its resources, it doesn’t affect anyone else. Not all hosts do this though.
Shared hosting may also include certain limitations. Your site may load slower than comparable sites using other hosting options. You may also face limits on the number of domains you can host on the plan. At UpTime though, we don’t limit the number of domains on your plan.
Let’s say you started a cooking/recipe blog that gets more and more popular. Once you get beyond a certain number of visitors each month, a shared hosting plan won’t get the job done anymore. The site load times will get unacceptably long or your traffic will negatively affect the performance of other sites using that shared server.
When your site gets to that point, it’s a common step to upgrade to a virtual private server hosting plan. Technically, you’re still sharing a server, but you get some benefits you don’t see with standard shared plans.
With a VPS, the software creates a set of virtual servers on one physical server. Each virtual server gets allocated dedicated resources.
You also get substantially more control over the configuration of the server. This option matters a lot for people with technical backgrounds who may want specific options enabled or disabled. UpTime has a full service managed VPS plan. We look after all of the technical requirements in setting up and running your server for you.
VPS Common Uses
The main use for a VPS is better performance when your website traffic exceeds the limits of a shared hosting plan. Some businesses may opt for VPS from the start if they want to avoid the potential pitfalls of resource drain in shared hosting plans.
For example, many freelancers and contractors depend on business generated from their websites. Since site performance directly impacts their revenue, they may decide that a VPS plan is worth the higher cost.
While a VPS acts like dedicated hosting in a lot of ways, it’s not an identical experience. A website that sees rapid month-after-month growth in traffic will eventually reach certain performance limitations.
For a website that stabilises at 20,000 visitors a month, some level of a VPS hosting plan will likely get the job done. If your monthly traffic approaches several hundred thousand visitors, you’ll probably want and need dedicated hosting.
Dedicated hosting is a different animal than shared hosting or VPS. With this kind of hosting, you get a dedicated server, which means that an entire physical server supports your website.
Unlike shared or VPS hosting, you get the full resources of the server. Again, you also get substantial control over the server configuration.
Since no other websites are siphoning away server resources, this type of hosting offers peak site performance in terms of page load times and website uptime.
Dedicated hosting typically comes in one of two main types: unmanaged and managed.
In unmanaged hosting, you must take responsibility for everything on the server. That means you pick out and maintain the software, perform updates, and maintain security. That level of responsibility can prove taxing for anyone without an IT background.
In managed hosting, the hosting service takes responsibility for most of those maintenance tasks.
Common Uses of Dedicated Hosting
Very few websites actually require the power of a dedicated hosting service. As a general rule, only sites with hundreds of thousands of monthly visitors can get full value from a dedicated hosting plan.
High traffic e-commerce sites, unusually high-performing blogs, and sites that specialize in video content can typically benefit from dedicated hosting.
Dedicates hosting is typically some of the most expensive hosting available. That means you need sustained traffic and revenue sufficient to support those costs.
For example, let’s say that you create comedy content and post it to your site. Let’s also say that you typically see 50,000 visitors a month.
If your traffic suddenly spikes to 200,000 visitors for a month, that doesn’t mean you should switch to a dedicated hosting plan. Look at the traffic pattern. Is your whole site seeing a massive uptick in traffic or just one video?
If it’s just one piece of content, you should probably hold off on changing your plan. Odds are good that the traffic will fall off again.
If you see a sustained uptick in traffic across your whole site for several months that reduces site performance, that’s the time to consider dedicated hosting.
Finding the right balance between resources and cost is one of the main challenges in selecting web hosting services. Choose a less expensive plan and you can end up with too few resources during traffic spikes. Choose a more expensive plan and you can pay for server resources you don’t capitalize on.
Cloud hosting may help solve some of these problems. Instead of your site sitting on one server and sharing resources with other sites, your site connects with a network of servers.
The servers divide up and, to some extent, share responsibilities. That means that if one site sees a huge surge in traffic, your site will likely not see a major reduction in performance. It also means that your site likely won’t go down if a single server goes offline for some reason.
Common Uses for Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting works best for sites with fairly high traffic levels that experience unusual spikes in traffic.
For example, a high-performing news blog that routinely breaks big stories might opt for cloud hosting. Since the site cannot predict when these spikes will happen, it needs resource flexibility. Cloud hosting can offer that flexibility better than most other hosting plans.
Sites with a heavy e-commerce component can also benefit from cloud hosting’s resource flexibility.
Cloud hosting serves a similar role as VPS hosting but often comes in at a lower price point. Since the setup isn’t exactly the same, though, you may lose some of the configuration options you normally see with VPS.
What you get in trade for any losses is a service that can dynamically scale up if you need it to.
Always carefully review the features and functions you get with any kind of cloud hosting. While not everyone needs or even cares about all of those features and functions, they do matter for some websites with specialized needs. This is particularly true if you switch from something like a VPS to a cloud hosting plan.
Picking Between Types of Web Hosting
Picking between the types of web hosting often sounds more complicated than it is. For entry-level traffic websites, shared hosting typically provides adequate performance.
Sites with traffic levels high enough that shared hosting can’t do the job anymore can move up to VSP or cloud hosting. Those offer excellent site performance even for popular websites.
For sites that bring in hundreds of thousands to millions of visitors, you typically need dedicated hosting.
UpTime Web Hosting specialises in web hosting services for individuals and businesses. If you’re not sure which hosting option you need, contact UpTime Web Hosting today and we’ll help you work out the best hosting plan for you.