Choosing a web host can sometimes feel like a complicated affair. On top of choosing the right provider, you need to choose the right type of hosting. Do you need shared, VPS hosting, or dedicated servers? Which one is best? Since every site is different, below are a few things to think about to help you determine which kind of hosting is right for you.
How much support do you need/want?
Different hosting plans come with different degrees of customer and tech support. Shared hosting will provide you with the most support. Shared hosts often have 24/7 customer and tech support, and they will often take care of routine maintenance like security features, updates, and domain registration. Dedicated hosting, whether you’re on a VPS or a dedicated server, typically offers the least amount of support. While most VPS or dedicated hosting plans will have a customer service team available to answer any questions, the task of building and maintaining your website mostly left to you.
If you like the privacy of VPS hosting, but you want the customer support of shared hosting, many dedicated hosting packages offer “managed” hosting options. This essentially means that you are paying to have your hosting provider’s tech support team take over the general maintenance of your site, including security patches, software updates, and system configurations.
How big is your site?
If you have a relatively small site, you probably don’t need access to an entire dedicated server. However, if your site routinely uses up a lot of bandwidth or storage space, you may want to consider a VPS. Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like – your site is sharing server space with other people, which means that your server’s resources aren’t only available for your site. If you have a large site or you are seeing a significant increase in traffic, then you run the risk of burning through your resources on a shared hosting plan.
Understanding the different types
The cheapest and most common type of web hosting is shared hosting. When you purchase shared hosting, you’re essentially sharing server space with other users. The downside to shared hosting is that the server’s resources aren’t yours to use – you’re sharing them with potentially hundreds of other websites. Shared hosting environments are also generally the most restrictive in terms of customizing the server settings to meet your site’s specific needs. However, not only are shared hosting plans the cheapest, but they offer the most support and tend to come with more built-in services than other types of hosting packages.
VPS hosting (or Virtual Private Server) provides you with your own virtual machine. While different users are still technically on the same physical server, VPS hosts are able to carve distinct virtual servers out of the same physical space. So if you purchase VPS hosting, unlike shared hosting, you will have an entire server to yourself, including dedicated resources and complete control over the server environment. VPS hosting is definitely a better option for bigger websites because of dedicated resources and additional privacy. However, because you’re purchasing your own server, VPS hosting plans tend to be fairly hands-off in terms of customer or tech support. If you’re unfamiliar with basic server management, VPS can have a pretty steep learning curve.
A dedicated server is the physical equivalent of a VPS. Instead of purchasing a virtual machine, you are literally purchasing full access to your own physical server. This type of hosting plan is easily the most expensive, as it uses the most resources, but it also offers you complete control over your server environment. This is also the most secure type of hosting plan, as you are quite literally the only user on your server. It also gives you access to the most resources. While VPS hosting provides enough resources to comfortably host most websites, if your site is truly monstrous or contains highly sensitive data, a dedicated server may be the best option for you.
Finally, cloud hosting is a fairly new style of hosting that is slowly gaining in popularity. Cloud hosting essentially “hosts” your website in the cloud, and spreads your resource access across a network of different servers. What’s great about cloud hosting is that they often come with flexible spending plans. Because your site can grow or shrink as needed, you have the option to only pay for the resources you actually use, rather than paying a set monthly fee. While this won’t save you much if you have a big site, it’s the closest you’re going to get to “unlimited” resources.