In the world of web hosting there are a lot of choices and it can be confusing to make a decision. You might wonder what the difference is between $10 a month hosting versus $150 a month hosting.
There are three basic kinds of hosting the average person will care about:
- Virtual Private Server
Shared hosting is the least expensive and cheapest hosting. GoDaddy and FatCow would be examples of this type of service. Shared hosting is a single server (a computer that your website lives on) that you are sharing with hundreds of other sites. Because you are all sharing the same server, the cost is also shared.
With shared hosting everyone is your neighbor… and you are subject to their trash and problems getting in your yard.
- Low cost.
- Usually has some preloaded software you can utilize to run your email and basics.
- Restrictions on traffic volume and potential extra charges for going over your limit.
- Because you are sharing with other users, your security is reduced. If they do something to mess up the server, you can be affected.
- Restrictions on database and software support.
- Unfortunately you are one in a crowd here. When the problems do occur, it is often difficult to get them resolved.
Who is this good for?
Shared hosting is great for sites where being online 24/7 isn’t an issue. If you have a hobby (non-business) site and downtime and security doesn’t bother you, the price can be extremely enticing.
Extra credit technical reading: Shared Web Hosting Wikipedia article
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is similar to a cross between Shared Hosting and having a Dedicated server. You are still sharing system resources (like RAM and CPU) with other websites on the same server, but you are isolated from them. This gives you security from anything your neighbors might do, unlike shared hosting.
A Virtual Private Server is like having a secure fence around your yard to keep out the riff-raff.
- Cost isn’t too much more than sharing hosting. Great bang for your buck.
- Good security
- Customizable and expandable
- No limitations on your traffic or extra charges
- 99% uptime
- Much better service
- Does require some expert maintenance (Your host should provide this.)
Who is this good for?
This is an excellent option for small to large businesses who are looking for secure and affordable hosting, as well as non-business applications who want to avoid the downtime and service hassles of shared hosting.
Extra credit technical reading: Virtual Private Server Wikipedia article
Dedicated hosting is when you have your own server and don’t share it with anyone else. Everything is completely customizable.
- Unlimited customization
- Powerful email and database support
- Good for high traffic
- Special features
- Good service
- Requires higher skills to maintain (This should be provided by your host.)
Who is this good for?
Good for large businesses or sites with very high traffic. Good for sites with high security needs like banks and other financial institutions that are handling sensitive information.
Extra credit technical reading: Dedicated Hosting Wikipedia article
Picking the right host
When choosing hosting be prepared to ask your potential hosting services (and yourself) some questions. After you have all the information at your disposal, you’ll be able to make an informed decision.
- Do you care more about uptime or price?
- What kind of traffic will you have?
- What kind of traffic or bandwidth limits does the host have and what expenses will be incurred if you go over?
- Where is their support located?
- How complicated is your website?
- What kind of support will they offer on your website if you have a problem?
- Will they make changes to your website for you?
- Do you need a database?
- Where are their servers located? (If the answer is “in their basement” or “house” run, don’t walk, out of there.)
- Do they offer Unix servers or only Windows? (Windows servers are notoriously unreliable and many programmers will not work with them.)
- Does email come with the account, or is it an additional cost? How many email addresses will you need?
- Do you need special security on your website. Are you collecting credit card information or other sensitive information?