There are a few different options to choose from when you’re looking for somewhere to host your website or other project, with shared hosting and VPS being two of the most popular choices. But how can you figure out which one will be better for your individual needs? You need to be able to decipher the marketing and sales pitches that are being thrown in your face constantly, and to do that you will need to learn a little about what each services entails.
Shared Hosting – Overview
The idea of shared hosting is very much similar to the idea of renting and living in an apartment as opposed to owning a home. When you are renting an apartment, you get to use the utilities provided to you by management such as gas, electricity, hot water, and so on. But, and this is a very important point to remember, you can’t use up all of the utilities and leave none for your fellow residents living in the building.
So, what does all of that have to do with shared hosting? Well, your website needs utilities as well, and they must also be shared with all of the other websites that are living in your apartment building (server). If one website on the server starts to get more popular – and in turn starts to use much more bandwidth, memory, CPU time, etc. – then all of the other websites on that server may begin to suffer. Of course, most reputable hosting providers will take steps to make sure this does not happen, but it can and does happen to many people every day.
VPS Hosting – Overview
Now, after that analogy of shared hosting and renting an apartment, the topic of VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting gets a little bit more tricky. It is not quite as simple as saying that a VPS is like owning your own home, as that would be more fitting a description of dedicated hosting, but you certainly do have more control over a VPS compared to a shared hosting account.
For example: VPS hosting allows you to do basically whatever you want to do with the resources that have been allotted, and you do not need to either seek permission or assistance from your hosting provider to carry out routine server maintenance tasks or software installation. As a matter of fact, many VPS hosting packages are sold in what is called an “unmanaged” state; this means that everything is up to you, the user. Obviously this is great for those who are experienced with networking and Unix-based operating systems, because it keeps the price down by not having to pay support technicians, but it can be a negative for those who like to ask their host for help setting things up every now and then.
The question of whether shared hosting or a VPS has better performance is a bit like asking “What’s the price of tea in China?” – the answer invariably comes back: it depends. It depends on so many different things, such as the quality of the hosting provider, how much you are paying for whatever package you selected, what kind of software you are running, and how many visitors you are getting. So, while a shared hosting plan could have better performance, a VPS will generally be better. Winner: VPS.
Uptime is a very important part of the hosting discussion; if your website is down, then you are losing potential sales every minute. Downtime can be caused by a bunch of things, with the most notable being an overloaded server or a security breach. Shared hosting is more vulnerable to becoming overloaded, and is often easier to hack than a properly managed VPS. Winner: VPS.
Many VPS packages are “unmanaged”, as mentioned earlier, and you will receive support only on matters that would be impossible for you as the customer to do yourself. For example: you will have to install software yourself, create databases and email servers, setup any security measures, and other technical things. Generally, a shared hosting provider would do these things for you or give you access to a control panel which simplifies the process. Winner: Shared.
Obviously you will be quoted different prices at each hosting provider, but the general rule is that a shared hosting account will cost you less than a VPS. It’s not a huge difference in price though, and it may be as small as saving a few dollars per month by choosing the shared option. So, unless the budget for your project is extremely tight, the price difference between these two hosting options is basically irrelevant. Winner: Shared.
There is no clear winner in this department, as the need for technical knowledge can be both a positive and a negative. On one hand, you don’t need to know much at all to operate on a shared hosting package, but you also can’t do as much with it. On the other hand, you need to know a bit about networking, or be willing to learn, to operate a VPS and you can in turn do more with it. Winner: Draw.
It may seem silly to suggest that you use both of these types of hosting but, since the prices are so low at the moment, why not? It won’t break your budget to try both shared and VPS for a few months and give them a test run, and you will learn so much more than you ever will by simply