How to choose the right web hosting plan for your site
Choosing the right web hosting plan is a tricky task even for the most skilled web developers. It seems
like there are hundreds of web hosting companies out there offering their special value offer or unique
technical feature, making the process of selecting a hosting plan all the more confusing.
Don't fret! My breakdown of shared web hosting (shared server), virtual private server (VPS) hosting
and dedicated hosting (dedicated server) should clear up any confusion and help you get on the right
path towards selecting the best web hosting plan for your site.
So what is dedicated hosting, VPS hosting & shared hosting, anyway?
Before I get into a comparison of the three main types of web hosting plans, let me first provide a brief
description of them.
Dedicated hosting, as the name suggests, means you're essentially leasing your own dedicated server
that isn't shared with any other company or individual's website. A dedicated server has its own operating
system and software.
VPS Hosting offers many of the same features as dedicated hosting like its own OS, dedicated IP
addresses, the data transfer of hundreds to even thousands of GBs and a seemingly limitless allowance
of domain sites. However, a virtual private server still shares the same physical environment with other
systems. It's just separated by virtual partitions.
Lastly, and on the other end of the spectrum, shared hosting means that a a server is shared and has
no virtual partitions. It instead has many websites located on it - all with the same IP address.
How are the features of these web hosting plans different?
There are several differences between dedicated hosting, VPS hosting and shared hosting. However, I
have narrowed it down to the basics to allow you to weigh the qualities and make an informed decision.
Greater functionality is one the plusses of having dedicated and VPS hosting. Purchasers of both plans
are given their own email server to handle from their domain. Who wouldn't want the added security and
increased performance that this would bring. Not to mention, the added abilities to track email mailings
will serve as a benefit for any sophisticated campaign. Whereas, security and reliability can pose as
problem for shared server hosting, because these resources are shared, misuse on the part of another
user may affect how well your email server functions as well. The good news though is that reputable
hosting providers will have safeguards in place to limit situations like these from happening.
The ability to install and customize your operating system and software really sets dedicated hosting and
VPS hosting apart from shared servers. Any software compatible with your operating system can be
installed and configured according to your specifications. Shared servers do not provide this freedom. I
should mention though that it is important to check what type of support your hosting provider has for
dedicated and VPS – do they have semi-managed or fully-managed technical support?
This is an important aspect because a semi-managed or fully-managed hosting provider will be able to
provide support for non-standard software that has been installed on your VPS. Qualified shared hosting
providers know to upgrade software only when it has been tested and is bug-free and stable.
For developers that need LAMP and a control panel installed on their dedicated or virtual private server,
some other questions that should be addressed are:
Find out if your control panel and LAMP come pre-installed or if you incur installation fees to have
both installed by the web hosting company?
Worse yet, some web hosting companies charge you an installation fee to have control panel and
LAMP installed and don't even provide support in installing them.
Performance and Security
Dedicated servers are very powerful and provide the most room for customization. A certain level of
technical know-how is required to run and keep a dedicated server secure, especially if you choose a
hosting company that offers minimal technical support. Dedicated hosting plans are designed especially
for the most resource-intensive websites out there that often utilize their bandwidth for purposes such as
streaming videos/ podcasts, uploading massive amounts of data to several thousands or hundred
thousands of visitor per month or even running a very extensive and intricate intranet for employees or
VPS hosting allows for a certain room of customization when it comes to performance and security. And
like dedicated hosting plans, you have the ability to customize your firewall and even dictate what IP
addresses should have access to important/confidential files and information. The resources available
through VPS hosting also allow for faster speeds and greater server capacity than shared servers. This is
ideal for websites with high amounts of traffic that also have bandwidth-intensive applications but don't
necessarily need or can afford the full-feature plans associated with dedicated hosting.
The performance and overall security of shared servers are best suited for the owner of small site that
does not anticipate much traffic growth or data transfer. Emails and data travel slower on shared servers
vs. dedicated servers or virtual private servers. Firewalls are not customizable either and moving your site
or database to another server can be often be time-consuming and error-prone.
Differences by Hosting Plan
Shared VPS Dedicated
Shared RAM Dedicated RAM Dedicated RAM
Shared Disk Space Dedicated Disk Space Dedicated Disk Space
Shared CPU Shared CPU Dedicated CPU
Shared IP Address Dedicated IP Address(es) Dedicated IP Address(es)
No server level customization Server level customization Server level customization
All server level software pre- Server level software (OS, Server level software (OS,
Installed cPanel, LAMP) pre-installation cPanel, LAMP) pre-installation
varies by provider varies by provider
Full customer support typically Support levels vary by provider Support levels vary by provider
$ $$ $$$
Shared servers have long been a worthy choice for those looking for hosting options that are economical,
as well as, efficient in user capabilities. It is recommended that you check with your hosting provider for
specifics regarding support and terms of service regarding other users. VPS hosting is a more reliable
choice though, for a business that wants to take their web hosting to the next level and needs functionality
and support to achieve that goal. Lastly, dedicated hosting ought to be the the selection for any
webmaster who needs the full slew of features for his or her server plan – whether its maximum
customization/data transfer/technical support, powerful email server options, custom IP addresses and
firewalls – and is willing to willing to pay for them.