While there are four main types of hosting, shared hosting, Virtual Private server (VPS), Cloud hosting and a dedicated server, a lot of focus falls on shared and VPS hosting. These tend to be the more affordable options and those which many online businesses consider at some point. From the outside world looking in, there is no discernible difference between VPS and shared hosting. That is, until traffic and business start to grow. High traffic can negatively impact performance without adequate resources.
We will now take a look at issues such as disk space, server performance, shared resources, speed, virtual private server resources and overall value for money.
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6 Differences and Similarities of Shared and VPS Hosting
Before we take a look at the pros and cons of shared web hosting and VPS hosting it is worth reminding ourselves that everything is based on affordability, traffic and income. In the world of business a website has to pay for itself, make a profit and have potential to grow. There is little point in upscaling your hosting resources if your website is non-income producing. This will bleed you dry of capital. So, where do we start?
1. Server resources
Server resources dictate the speed at which data is processed and transferred between a visitor’s browser and the server. When visiting a website, for relatively low traffic sites you would not see any real difference between a shared hosting or VPS. However, as your traffic begins to build and more processes are added this is where it becomes interesting.
As the name suggest, shared hosting involves numerous accounts using the same server and the same resources. This is extremely cost-effective for both customers and the hosting company. Why? Well, it tends to make full use of server resources (although some will have a little head room in case of traffic spikes). In theory, one account should not directly impact the performance of another on the same server. However, in reality this can be different. Web hosts configure a maximum CPU, RAM and disk space capacity for servers. So, any site demanding significant processing power and storage space can slow down the overall server performance.
Virtual Private server hosting is an interesting concept because it is halfway between shared hosting and dedicated servers. In effect the resources of the server are sliced into pieces of a server pie. The size of which is dictated by individual account resource requirements. They offer greater customisation, a virtual server within a server which means that your performance will not be impacted by the resource requirements of another account on the same server. While some software services can be shared amongst VPS accounts on the same server, it is possible to customise the software, platforms and services you use.
2. Performance issues
The major differences between VPS and shared hosting revolve around the use of resources and disk space. Issues such as performance can be addressed in a more concise fashion.
As mentioned above, shared hosting is a cost effective option for websites with relatively light traffic and low resource requirements.Unless some of the other accounts on the same server are extremely busy and hogging resources you will see very little difference in processing and website load speeds compared to VPS. When your site does begin to grow, demanding more resources, then it may be time to consider an upgrade to a virtual private server.
As the bandwidth and resources associated with a VPS hosting account are specific to the individual client this gives a greater degree of consistency and confidence. The fact that a VPS account can be customised to perfectly suit the website is also a point worth making. The ability to add and remove various software packages and resources allows you to create a package which is focused entirely on your needs. Cleaning a virtual private server of redundant files and software packages can lead to significant performance enhancement.
While there are certain security aspects to consider for shared and VPS hosting the fact is that any hosting company will always have an eye on security, whatever type of account. This is an extremely competitive area of business and you live and die by your reputation. So, if hosting companies ignore shared hosting accounts in relation to security investment they would not last long in the industry!
There are no real security issues (they are managed by the host company) with regards to shared hosting but there can be occasions where other accounts on the same server are compromised. There is the possibility that difficulties experienced by a so-called “noisy neighbour” could impact overall server performance and in a worst-case scenario bring the server down. In reality hosting companies will have specific teams looking at shared hosting service to ensure security and address vulnerabilities.
As VPS accounts are effectively separate from others on the same server they offer a greater degree of security. You will likely find that hosting companies offer enhanced customer support for those paying a higher price for their services. It is also possible to customise your VPS account. If you wish to minimise security issues you can add additional layers of protection on the general server security packages. For those companies receiving, sending and storing personal data it is vital that security is robust especially in light of recent GDPR obligations.
4. Cost of hosting
While there are average costs for shared hosting and VPS accounts, the individual cost of each account will vary depending upon a customer’s specific requirements. However, if you require a greater degree of customisation then you will pay for this through a VPS account.
The simplest way to explain the reduced cost of shared hosting accounts is the fact that overall server costs are spread across potentially thousands of websites. Each account owner will contribute a percentage of the overall running costs thereby allowing hosting companies to be extremely competitive. Shared hosting is seen as an entry-level hosting service and while some growing website will move towards a VPS, the majority are likely to remain with shared hosting services.
Perhaps the best way to explain the cost of VPS hosting is to look at two individuals who buy the same car. One of them is quite happy with a standard spec vehicle. On the other hand, the other would like custom seats, alloys and perhaps new paintwork. Obviously, they would pay the same price for the base product. However, in this case there is a cost for those looking at greater customisation. Balancing the financial benefits of VPS hosting against shared hosting can be difficult at times but once your website starts to grow it will soon become evident that you require additional resources.
5. Server maintenance/administration
As you start along the path towards an established e-commerce website the idea of carrying out server maintenance and administration can be intimidating to say the least. You will have no doubt gather a variety of skills and likely be able to indulge in simple admin and maintenance procedures. However, depending upon whether you choose shared hosting or VPS hosting there may be some decisions to make.
The vast majority of shared hosting accounts will include basic server maintenance as part of the deal. The fact is, because there are literally thousands of websites on one server the hosting company cannot afford any administration/maintenance issues. There is the potential for issues with one account to have a knock-on effect to other accounts on the same server. This reduces reliability, confidence and will eventually see clients move elsewhere.
Customers who utilise VPS resources tend to have at least a basic knowledge of hosting administration/maintenance. However, some customers who have basic/limited knowledge might rather spend more time focusing on their business operations. Therefore, VPS managed accounts can take away the burden of server administration/maintenance for a charge. Due to the often complex nature of VPS accounts, with customers undertaking a significant degree of customisation, the cost of managed VPS services might be significant.
6. Planning for growth: Processing power, disk space and more
There are differing opinions about the tipping point when a shared hosting service should be replaced by a virtual private server account. Some people believe when your website traffic hits 30,000 visitors a month it may be time to switch. In many ways it will depend upon the nature of your website, the processes carried out and plans for the future.
Shared web hosting
The majority of shared hosting accounts will work perfectly well forever and a day without any performance issues. Despite that, if customer website traffic does start to increase then errors may occur due to capacity and resource issues. There may be problems with disk space, processing power. This may even have a knock-on effect to other accounts on the same server. In many cases your hosting company will likely suggest it is time to upgrade your account if you regularly push the boundaries of bandwidth, processing power and disk space requirements.
Virtual Private server accounts offer a degree of flexibility and built-in room for expansion. When building a website/business it makes sense to factor in a degree of growth in the short, medium and long-term. Constantly switching from server to server shouldn’t in theory be an issue. However, it is not the perfect scenario. Problems can arise and downtime can increase. With a Virtual Private server account there will likely be space on the server to increase the disk space and processing capacity for individual VPS hosting accounts. Hosting plans often have built in headroom for growth.
Often referred to as scalability, the ability to increase your hosting resources in line with your growing website/business, without physically moving to another server, can be invaluable.
In the End: Shared hosting or VPS hosting
When looking to decide whether shared hosting or VPS hosting is most appropriate for your website it is imperative that you speak with potential host server providers. Let them know current traffic, current resource requirements as well as your plans and hopes for the future. If you have a relatively small blog with no major plans for growth then in the longer term a shared hosting account will likely be perfect. However, if you plan to grow the blog, expand your business and increase traffic then the conversation might be very different.
As mentioned above, many people believe that website visits in excess of 30,000/month is the tipping point to move from shared to VPS hosting. In reality, there are many other factors to take into consideration regarding the resources required to host your website. If you speak to the vast majority of online entrepreneurs they will likely have started with shared hosting then moved to VPS hosting. The more successful websites often require a dedicated server in the long term.
Shared hosting and VPS hosting both have pros and cons when it comes to resources, maintenance and costs. The reality is that cold hard traffic figures will likely determine which is most appropriate at any given time.