If you’re a business owner or professional, it’s an absolute necessity to have a website. The times are long gone when being online was optional. Equally, web hosting is a key element to building and launching a site. But when people start to talk about the different hosting options, your eyes might glaze over.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Other than those who got the in-jokes in The IT Crowd, few people regard comparing servers as fun. However, it’s a critically important feature. If you don’t choose the right hosting option for your site, you’ll be starting out into the online world on the wrong foot. To make sure that doesn’t happen, read through the following (mercifully) brief comparison of the three main alternatives…
1. Shared servers
A shared server works as its name suggests. A hosting company puts your site on one of their servers, along with hundreds or even thousands of sites all sharing that server, and their resources. Available CPU time, memory and disk space are split amongst the sites on the server.
That’s the main downside of shared servers as a hosting option – having to share resources means your site’s performance can suffer, particularly if other sites on the server monopolise the memory. Security isn’t guaranteed, either. If one site suffers a malicious attack, other sites will be more vulnerable. On the upside, shared servers are often much cheaper than the other alternatives. They’re also easy to set up and maintain, as much of the work is handled by the hosting company. That’s why this option remains popular with individuals setting up their first website, or small-scale businesses.
A dedicated server is a physical server with all its resources dedicated to one site or one user. Your site’s contents and files are completely separate to anyone else’s, and the entire resources of the server are exclusively available to you and your site. The hosting environment and server settings can be configured to suit, tailoring the server to perform exactly as required. Full control is one of the main advantages of this type of hosting.
Dedicated servers are the most powerful, secure, and rapid of these three options. Consequently, they’re also the most expensive, and the most technically complicated. You need to have greater tech knowhow when choosing this option in order to manage security, software updates, and other aspects yourself. Dedicated servers are usually favoured by high-traffic websites like busy ecommerce stores, which require enhanced performance.
3. Virtual private servers (VPS)
VPS is probably the most complicated of the three main hosting options. A web hosting company like UK2 partitions a physical server into multiple virtual servers, each storing the content and files of an individual website. Like shared hosting, multiple sites are hosted on one physical server. There are generally fewer sites on each, though, and the server’s resources aren’t shared in the same way. Each site receives a set proportion of the server’s overall resources, unaffected by what’s happening with other sites.
VPS is a more reliable (and more consistent) alternative to shared hosting options. A VPS won’t reach the performance heights of dedicated servers, but it’s more easily scalable than the shared hosting option if a site’s needs grow. In terms of cost, a VPS is more expensive than shared hosting, but generally much cheaper than dedicated servers. Indeed, this middle ground option is appropriate for the vast majority of businesses. Only those with limited budgets or truly impressive traffic statistics are likely to find a VPS completely unsuitable.