Web hosting has long been a hot topic of discussion in the internet marketing world and with good reason. Hosting is the foundation of your site just as bricks and mortar are the foundation of your home. If your home has a weak foundation, this leaves what is inside your home vulnerable.  You wouldn’t build a home out of feathers and glue with expectations that it would stand through a storm, would you? Hosting can have a detrimental effect on the speed, usability, functionality and security of your website. This all ties into the overall user experience of your site and it is important that it has a strong foundation.

There are many different web hosting options and plans available including shared hosting, dedicated server hosting, and virtual private server hosting. Each type of hosting has its pros and cons sometimes making it difficult to decide what the best option for your business is. We’ll try to simplify the differences between them.

Shared Server Hosting – Affordable, slightly risky

Shared hosting is the most popular and affordable option for business owners and bloggers alike.
Attractive benefits of shared hosting include:

  • Most affordable hosting option
  • Full backend support included
  • Up to 99.9% uptime guarantee

Just as the name implies, you are footing the cost of the server with other clients. Shared hosting packages usually come included with various applications like WordPress preinstalled and with full backend support of the server. If your businesses day to day actions are dependent on your website running quickly and having no downtime, you may want to consider another hosting option. Your uptime and website speed is highly dependent on the actions of other websites being hosted on that same server. For example, if another website being hosted on the same server gets a spike in traffic, your website loading speed is likely to drop due to the limited bandwidth of a shared server. This is because there is a limited number of resources (CPU, RAM, bandwidth) being shared between everyone.

In extreme conditions, heavy volumes of traffic to multiple websites on one shared hosting server can make your website completely inaccessible. Sites hosted on a shared hosting server are also more susceptible to hacking exploits and vulnerabilities which can compromise your website – even if it isn’t your site under attack. In rare cases, an entire server can be compromised by one website being attacked by malicious hackers. This can leave your data on the server vulnerable and in the wrong hands.

Virtual Private Server Hosting – Best of both worlds

Virtual private server hosting, also known as VPS hosting is offered by almost all web hosting providers. Web hosts typically offer VPS in either an all inclusive managed monthly package, or an unmanaged monthly service. A single physical web server is typically divided up into equal sections virtually where each section is used as a separate VPS. This allows resources to be distributed in a way that does not directly reflect the underlying hardware. To simplify things, a VPS is the middle ground between shared hosting and having your own dedicated server. A VPS allows you to get the best of both worlds.

VPS’s are much more affordable than a dedicated server and more reliable and secure than a shared hosting server.  A VPS allows your website to have it’s own dedicated slice of CPU, RAM, disk space and other resources. It is still a form of shared hosting because you are sharing the physical server with other VPS users. If you happen to have a spike in website traffic that uses your allocated slice of resources for that time being, you will have to bare with it.  This will occur even if there are unused resources on the same server.

Dedicated Server Hosting – Pricey, but can handle your graphics best

There are many reasons why a business may choose to use dedicated server hosting for their website. Just as the name suggests, dedicated hosting means that the server that your website is hosted on is yours alone and not shared with anyone else. You have your own physical web server located in a data center, ensuring a stable and reliable service.  If your website happens to be very resource intensive or you have an application that requires high specification hardware, than a dedicated server is most likely the best option for you. If your website is image and graphic heavy, then having a dedicated server is highly suggested because page load time and website speed can be negatively effected due to consumption of large amounts of resources. Having a slower than normal page load time will also contribute to a higher bounce rate. You can use this tool to check the speed of your home page or individual pages compared to other websites across the internet.

There are some disadvantages to using a dedicated web server. On average, a basic dedicated server without the bells and whistles can cost around $200 per month. Dedicated servers that offer more memory, storage, bandwidth and processing power can cost anywhere from $200 – $500 per month if something goes wrong. Some web hosting services that offer dedicated server hosting will include backend support, but others do not offer any support whatsoever. If a problem arises with your server and you lack backend support or the ability and knowledge to address the problem yourself, this can lead to website downtime. In this case, you will need to ensure that you have someone with the necessary knowledge to manage and administrate your server.

CPU this, RAM that – I just want to know what type of hosting I need!

Despite the differences between shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting, all of them serve one purpose and one purpose alone – to ensure that your website is up and available at nearly all times.  It will be difficult to find a host that can guarantee 100% uptime, although the closer to 100% the better. For example, if a hosting provider guarantees 99.9% uptime based on an average 30.5 day month, this means that your site could potentially be down 43 minutes per month. Compare this to a hosting provider that guarantees 99% uptime, and your website can be down as much as 438 minutes per month. A small difference in percentage of uptime guaranteed can mean a big difference. The truth is, the vast majority of business websites have more space and bandwidth than they will ever use. Take the figures presented by hosting companies with a grain of salt.

As a tool of reference, an average web page is less than 100kb. Let’s say that your website gets a very healthy 1000 visits per day. (You can use Google Analytics to track daily number of visits and average pageviews) If your website has 100 pages that are 100kb each and each one of those pages are served 100 times per day, you would use less than 1GB of bandwidth per day. That’s only 30GB of bandwidth per month. Most websites will use much less than this.

Our advice is to start your website off on a shared hosting plan and monitor the daily traffic and pageviews with Google Analytics until you have a better feel for your site’s needs. If you are already on a hosting plan, it may be time for you to reevaluate what your site really requires. Depending on your situation, you might be paying much more than you have to, or your site could be suffering due to lack of resources. Finding the right server that fully optimizes the speed and usability of your site is one of the most important parts to making your online marketing efforts successful.