As your online business grows, your Web hosting needs will increase and become more complex. At the startup or beginning phase, we can host a website with free or inexpensive hosting plans. If your website is starting to feel sluggish as it continues to grow and you get more website traffic, you may need to start looking at beefing up your Web server.
It’s important to understand how types of hosting can be categorized. One way of categorizing hosting is based on how the servers are set up and the amount of access you have to those servers. Thus, the result is the following types of hosting:
Free Web Hosting
Another way to categorize types of hosting is according to the level of management the hosting company provides. Like any computer, a server needs to be maintained and upgraded. Though most hosts offer managed to host, you can find hosting companies that offer unmanaged packages. This means you’ll be doing all the maintenance and upgrading yourself, but you’ll have more flexibility. Of course, you can find packages that offer different management services, so it’s not an either/or situation.
Free Web Hosting
There’s no such thing as a free ride, and though you think you are getting free hosting with these services, this is not the case. With a free web hosting service, you are not technically creating your website, but creating one or more pages on someone else’s website.
For example, WordPress allows you to create a free site or blog on their wordpress.com website. However, you’ll find that your website is a subdomain of their domain. In other words, instead of www.yourwebsite.com, the URL will be www.yourwebsite.wordpress.com. They do give you the option to drop the WordPress bit, but you have to pay for the privilege. In other words, it’s free only as long as you don’t mind having WordPress in your URL, or ads splashed across the page.
When to Use Free Web Hosting
If you’re only interested in hosting just because you want to start your blog to express your thoughts, then free web hosting is probably more than enough for your needs. There are quite a few great options available, and they make things as easy as possible. They offer all the tools you need to get your site up and running quickly, including free templates, community support, and some level of customization (not too much though).
Shared hosting is the cheapest option you can find where you get your domain. It’s generally best suited for small websites without much traffic. To understand why you need to understand how this type of hosting works.
When you sign up for a shared hosting plan, your website will be sharing space on a server with other websites. To make things more efficient and so they can offer cheap hosting options, hosting companies put multiple users on the same server. Some servers can have over 1,000 users. When you take into account that every user can have multiple sites, depending on the plan they signed up for, you’ll quickly realize that one server can have as many as 5,000 sites.
A server is like a computer, but more powerful. Even so, it still has limited resources, such as RAM, CPU speed, and hard drive space. And in a shared hosting environment, those 5,000 sites are using the same limited resources.
Then there’s the traffic. For every visit, the server has to “work” to send all the data being requested by each visitor to the site. The amount of data varies based on how the site is set up, and whether that person is a first-time visitor or not. However, if you take an average of even just three visitors per day, that’s 15,000 requests, which then have to be multiplied by the number of files being downloaded. Yes, those available resources can get eaten up pretty quickly.
There are also other issues to consider.
For example, one site might get massive amounts of visitors, which means it will end up hogging a large portion of the server’s resources, thereby slowing your site down.
Or one site might have problematic code, which could lead to it using up 60% to 70% of the server’s RAM, leaving the other 4,999 sites to work with only 30% to 40% of the server’s resources.
So, you might find your site is running at a snail’s pace. Worse is that you won’t even be able to tell what the problem is because you don’t have access to the server to check what’s going on.
Now, in all fairness, most hosting companies try to keep things running smoothly by identifying problematic sites, or those with high traffic, and either working with the owner to fix the issue or temporarily disabling the site. Unfortunately, though, these options rarely work over the long-term, and though it’s not the fault of the company, it still won’t help your website load properly and at a decent speed.
When to Use Shared Hosting
While shared hosting does have problems, that doesn’t mean it isn’t a good option. If you want a website to host a personal diary, or are a business just starting, then shared hosting is a good option until you start getting a constant stream of steady traffic. Likewise, shared hosting is also good if you want to test a website, or as a base for your website while it’s still in development.
Of course, shared hosting is also a good option if you’re on a shoestring budget. Not everyone can afford a VPS or a dedicated server, and shared hosting allows businesses to expand their client bases on a global level at an affordable cost.
Virtual Private Server hosting is the next step up from shared hosting. It’s quite a popular option for website owners looking for an upgrade from traditional shared hosting because it is quite balanced from all points of view, including cost.
A VPS server still requires you to share space with other users on the same physical server, but the way this is achieved is entirely different to traditional shared hosting.
With VPS hosting, what happens is that a guest machine is created for every user. So, if there are 10 users on a server, that server will be split into 10 guest machines, with each machine getting an equivalent amount of RAM, CPU speed and HDD space. If the server has 32GB of RAM and 1TB of hard drive space, for example, each user will get 3.2GB of RAM and 100GB of hard drive space.
The advantage to this is that a user cannot hog more than the amount of resources they’ve been allocated, thereby ensuring the other websites don’t suffer. So, if another user’s website hits their resource limit, their site might go down, but it won’t affect yours in any way.
Virtual private servers are also much more flexible, allowing you to configure your environment. You can’t do the same thing with traditional shared hosting because any changes you’d make to the server would change everyone else’s environment as well. However, with a VPS, you have your virtual machine, meaning that you can configure many more things without affecting anyone else, which is something developers are sure to appreciate.
When to Use Traditional VPS Hosting
If you do a little research, you’ll find that some low-end VPS packages are as cheap as shared hosting, as they start at $10/month. However, a decent enough plan will set you back around $25 per month, whereas the average is $50 per month.
As you can imagine, the difference in price is based on additional services but mainly by the amount of resources you are allocated.
If your budget allows you to spend $15 or more per month on hosting, then it’s advisable to go with a VPS-based plan over traditional shared hosting.
Even on the other end of the scale, you might find that a high-end VPS plan will be a better option than a low-end dedicated server. However, we’ll discuss this a little more in the next section.
Dedicated Server Hosting
With a dedicated server hosting plan, any faulty coding or problematic websites are no one’s fault but your own because you are completely alone on the server. So, right off the bat, one benefit of dedicated hosting is that you don’t have to worry about other people’s sites hogging up your resources, just like with a VPS plan.
When you’re on a dedicated plan, quite a few providers are more than happy to let you customize the server to a certain degree. You might be able to choose how much and what type of RAM to equip the server with, as well as other hardware, and you could also decide on which operating system that server will run on. In other words, you’ll be able to make any changes you need, which could come in handy if you plan on running special software on the server.
If you server technology isn’t your thing and the aforementioned flexibility scares the life out of you, you can opt for a managed plan, but you’ll still have to do quite a few things on your own.
On the other end of the spectrum, there’s unmanaged dedicated hosting, where you have to do everything yourself, including installing the operating systems and all the tools necessary for the operation of a server, security, and more. While this might seem wonderful to some, for others it can be a pain.
When to Use a Dedicated Server
So, the question is whether dedicated hosting is ever a good idea. To be honest, nowadays, with cloud VPS systems gaining ground, even a massive site wouldn’t need a dedicated server. While a dedicated server can be better than traditional VPS, it still can’t beat out cloud VPS regarding scalability.
A dedicated server is only really necessary if you have extremely specialized hardware requirements, or you need to have a massive amount of control over data privacy. When you’re on a dedicated server, you are separate from everyone else, which isn’t always a good thing but is unbeatable from a security point of view.