I know just how confusing it can be when you visit a hosting company’s website and are faced with choosing the best web hosting plan for your website or blog.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to clear it all up for you in this post.
In a nutshell, there are four primary types of web hosting plans for you to choose from. Here is a quick explanation of how they work and the primary differences between them:
1 – Shared Hosting
If you decide to host your blog or website on a Shared Web Server, it will have to share the server’s resources with all the other websites that are hosted on that server. And trust me, there can be a lot of them!
You can think of Shared Hosting as being very much like renting a booth in a flea market. Every seller in the flea market (website/blog) is either directly or indirectly affected in some way by the presence and/or actions of the other sellers.
For example, if the building is packed with as many booths as the owner can possibly cram inside it, the hallways are likely to be quite narrow and extremely crowded as customers try to make their way from booth to booth.
This congestion slows everyone down, frustrating the customers (website visitors) and reducing access to all the sellers’ booths at once (reduces the amount of server resources available to each website).
And if one or more of the sellers does something illegal or otherwise earn a bad reputation, that bad reputation can spill over to the other sellers at the flea market, causing a drop in business and profits for everyone as many visitors ultimately decide to avoid that flea market in the future (i.e. your site’s search engine rankings will possibly drop).
Another issue with many flea markets is how the floor space (disk storage), utilities (CPU time and RAM), and entrances/exits (data transfer bandwidth) must be shared by everyone.
The more sellers there are, the more customers (website traffic) they are likely to draw to the flea market.
And the more customers there are, the fewer resources will be available for each seller and customer to use.
As you can see, renting space in a flea market (opting for a Shared Hosting Plan) comes with a number of potential disadvantages. But all of that being said, Shared Hosting does have one big advantage over a VPS or Dedicated Server – cost.
Since the hosting company can place a lot of customers on a single web server, they can offer each customer a very low price. That’s why a shared hosting plan can sometimes be a great deal.
If you choose a good hosting company that tries to limit the number of customers they allow on a single server and quickly drops any customers that cause problems, you can save money and still have a fast, reliable website.
Just remember that as your site grows in size and traffic, you’ll likely reach a point where you’ll need to move off of Shared Hosting and onto a VPS or Dedicated Server.
2 – Dedicated Server
Hosting your website on a Dedicated Server is pretty much the opposite of using a Shared Hosting Plan.
Renting a Dedicated Server is much like renting a stand-alone building for your business. Since your business is the only business on the premises, you and your customers have exclusive access to (and total control over) the building and all of its utilities and amenities.
Also, by renting your own building instead of setting up in a flea market, your business can avoid being negatively affected if your neighbor does something illegal or unethical.
With a Dedicated Server, instead of sharing your server’s resources with a bunch of other users, they all belong to you and your own website(s).
Your site(s) will be fast and super-responsive because they will have at their disposal ALL of your server’s CPU time, RAM, storage space and data transfer bandwidth allotment.
The only real disadvantage of going with a Dedicated Server is the cost (yep, exactly opposite of a Shared Hosting Plan).
But even with the relatively high cost, a Dedicated Server can be a good deal if your site gets enough traffic to justify using one.
In fact, if you’re lucky enough to have your website succeed beyond your wildest dreams, there will likely come a day when you have no choice except to move it off a shared server and onto either a Dedicated Server or a quality VPS (which will be explained shortly).
3 – Virtual Private Server (VPS)
As you now know, a Shared Hosting Plan is very affordable but comes with a number of potential issues while a Dedicated Server offers the best hosting experience but at a much higher price. Luckily, there is a middle ground that gives you many of the advantages of both.
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is basically a cross between Shared Hosting and a Dedicated Server. In many ways a VPS is a lot like renting a storefront in a strip mall.
Renting a unit in a strip mall is more expensive than renting a flea market booth, but it’s usually less expensive than renting a stand-alone building.
And while you’re sharing space with other businesses under the same roof, you have full use of your own utilities as well as your own entrances and exits.
Although all hosting customers that share a VPS must share their server’s resources, each customer is guaranteed a certain percentage of those resources at all times.
And just as important, each customer’s websites are isolated from everyone else’s sites.
If one of your neighbor’s sites hangs up or decides to hog resources, your sites won’t be affected in the least. They’ll just keep humming right along!
In short, a VPS gives you many of the advantages of a Dedicated Server, but at a lower cost.
4 – WordPress Hosting
WordPress is an extremely popular website-building platform that was originally designed to be used just for creating blogs.
Although blogs do still make up the vast majority of all the sites that were built using WordPress, there are tons of sites (some of the most popular sites in the world among them) that use the WordPress platform as well.
A WordPress Hosting plan is similar to a medical center.
Although there might be several businesses located in the same building or in a group of buildings, every one of those businesses will be in the same general field: medical care.
WordPress blogs and sites are in a category of their own when contrasted against other types of sites because of the way they differ in structure.
For example, WordPress uses a database to store the main content of the site and actually “pulls” the info needed from the database to “assemble” every page as it’s requested by a reader/user.
WordPress also uses themes and plugins to add structure and functionality to the site.
Those themes, plugins and the WordPress code itself all need regular updates in order to remain speedy and secure.
All the factors mentioned above mean that a WordPress blog/site requires more server resources than a plain HTML site of the same size and with the same traffic numbers would require.
And since every piece of the WordPress “puzzle” needs to be frequently updated (and updates occasionally go wrong), there’s a lot more complexity involved as well.
Most any shared server, dedicated server or VPS can easily host a WordPress site, but there’s a special class of hosting that specializes in WordPress exclusively.
There are several awesome advantages to hosting a WordPress-based site with a company that specializes in WordPress Hosting (the extra expertise and experience the techs have with maintaining WordPress, for example), but there’s a disadvantage as well. And you probably guessed it – cost!
An account on a shared WordPress Hosting server will typically cost about three times what you’d pay for hosting on a regular shared server.
A dedicated server or VPS account supplied by a WordPress-only hosting company will cost you a hefty premium as well.
And even with the added costs, many WordPress Hosting plans come with ridiculously low monthly bandwidth (i.e. traffic) allotments.
However, if you can afford the extra cost and you don’t exceed the bandwidth limits on a regular basis, a WordPress Hosting account is definitely the way to go if you want to keep your blog/site running as smoothly as possible with the least chance of it going down due to a bad update.
Bottom line: Choosing a hosting plan for your website/blog doesn’t have to be difficult.
If your site is new or doesn’t currently receive a lot of traffic you can easily start off with a low-cost Shared Hosting Plan, then move it to a VPS or Dedicated Server when the need arises.
However, if you have a WordPress blog or other site that is based on the WordPress platform, I recommend that you at least consider going with a WordPress Hosting plan.
I hope this post was a help to you in understanding your choices in web hosting plans. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I’m always happy to help whenever I can.
Bonus tip #1: This post explains why you should always maintain complete control of your website’s domain name and content.
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Image credit: Whrelf Siemens