You’ve researched everything you need to know to start your own website. You’ve found the best niche. You’ve bought the best domain. You created the perfect plan. Everything is ready and now it’s time to find a hosting service. You ask yourself, “which one should I get?”
There are many types of hosting services offered by many different web hosts. The most common types of hosting services are called shared, VPS, cloud, and dedicated. There are also managed and unmanaged VPS and dedicated hosting services. The latter ones are mostly used by larger websites and web applications as well as web designers and developers. They are costlier than shared and VPS hosting services and can be harder to manage and configure. For small and medium-scale websites and even for those who are in the lower end of the large-scale websites, getting a shared hosting and/or VPS hosting should be enough.
The difference between VPS and shared hosting services doesn’t just lie in their price tags. Their performance and the available level of customization are just some of the factors that can be used when deciding whether to pick the one or the other. To help you decide, let’s closely compare VPS and shared hosting services. It’s only after you thoroughly understand the difference between the two that will you be able to make an intelligent decision on which one to pick.
Let’s first discuss shared hosting service. Shared hosting is the cheapest form of web hosting service offered by many hosting companies. Here, a single web server is shared by many websites. These websites share the server’s resources such as the processor, RAM, hard disk space, and bandwidth.
To better understand this, let us use a real-life analogy. Shared hosting is similar to living in an apartment. You share a common space with other people living in the building and you share the parking space, pool, playground and other amenities. It can also be compared to a pizza. In shared hosting, you share the pizza with everybody, and you are free to pick whichever part of the pizza you want (see the image above).
One advantage of shared hosting service is that the host is responsible for maintaining and securing the server. Although that means that you cannot fully customize your hosting environment to better suit your needs, in terms of security, you can rest assured that the hosting company does its job and you don’t need to bother yourself with technical stuff. However, be aware that there are some hosting companies that are negligent when it comes to the security and maintenance, so you have to do your research before committing to a particular hosting company.
VPS is short for virtual private servers. Just like shared hosting, you still share one web server with other users or websites. However, in a VPS hosting environment, you have your own fixed share of resources. A fixed amount of processing time, RAM, hard disk space, and bandwidth is allocated to you.
To compare it with a real-life analogy, we can think of a VPS as a condo. You still share the assets, but you have a claim to certain portions of them. In addition to that, you are responsible for maintaining and decorating your own space – though that may sound a little bit of a hassle, you can tailor your space into any way you want. For a VPS service with a root access, you’ll be able to edit your server’s system configurations and even install or uninstall any software you want.
However, you need to have an understanding of how to manage, maintain and configure your server if you decided to opt into a VPS hosting service. Most of the time, the hosting company will only provide you with the very basics and it is up to you whether to add additional features and software to your server. You also need this knowledge if you want to use your VPS to its full potential.
Finally, because you can customize your VPS, that means you can install and uninstall things from it, so security risks will always be there and you will be the one responsible for ensuring that your server is secured from threats. But fear not as you can always contact your host for support, albeit for a fee (depending on your host).
Although it seems that shared hosting loses hands down to VPS in terms of performance and customization levels, you shouldn’t always choose VPS just because of that reason. Unless you are planning to deploy a resource hungry website or web application, you shouldn’t concern yourself about VPS vs shared hosting performance. In order to help you decide, we’re going to list the pros and cons of each service.
Shared hosting pros:
- Cheaper, perfect for beginners.
- Easier to manage, no need to have technical expertise, plus there are hosting companies that offer free technical support to their clients in times of need.
- Good for personal blogs and small websites.
- Can be used as a “stepping-stone,” especially if you’re just starting to learn how the web works.
Shared hosting cons:
- Will slowly get inefficient over time, especially if you created a website that has a significantly increasing amount of traffic.
- Doesn’t provide deeper levels of customization.
- Even if one site in the server becomes a target of DDoS or brute-force attacks, all sites on the server are affected.
- Your website’s performance will heavily be affected by your neighbors – if other websites in your server begin using more resources, your website will slow down – or worse – it might even become offline.
- Also, there are some hosts (especially the cheaper ones) that tend to put too many sites on a server. As a result, your site will become really slow and unreliable (frequent down times). Aside from being frustrating, this can affect your SEO efforts (Google doesn’t like slow websites and sites that are always down).
- More control and customization – you can choose which operating system to use, what software is installed, and can even remove some of the preinstalled ones.
- Has fixed performance – it doesn’t matter even if your neighboring website uses all of his allocated resources, your site’s performance won’t be massively affected like in a shared hosting environment.
- Can be easily scaled up and down in terms of resources – most VPS hosting providers allow you to “upgrade” or “downgrade” your plan without the need to migrate your website to a different server or put it under maintenance, your host can just “turn up or down the notch” and you’ll have more or fewer resources allocated to you.
- Perfect for websites requiring a high amount of resources like websites with lots of multimedia in it or complex web applications that require more memory and processing time.
- Requires technical knowledge
- Higher monthly costs
- Must solve technical problems on your own or you can pay your host to have them fix your technical problems (some offer free support, although the monthly server cost will be higher). You can also find a freelancer from sites like Upwork to help you fix and administer your server; they can be cheaper than your host’s technical services and can even be better too!
In a nutshell, you should choose shared hosting if you are starting on a low budget or if you are building a small website like a personal blog, or just learning how the web works. Choose VPS if you are building a resource-intensive website, like an e-commerce site, a forum, or a multimedia heavy site. You can also take your existing website from a shared hosting service and migrate it to a VPS to be able to handle the increasing traffic.