As you research web hosting plans, you will inevitably have to make an important decision: what type of server should you use? Of course, making the right choice means understanding each type of server, the advantages, and potential drawbacks.
While some aspiring website creators may be lured into web hosting plans that may only be a few dollars a month, is this really the best option for the future of your website?
In all honesty, it depends.
Some people can start off using a shared server without many issues. Others may need servers that can accommodate the traffic and other performance issues associated with a popular or growing website.
Before we even start talking about different types of servers, you probably want to know what a server is and what it does for your website.
What are Web Servers?
At its simplest level, web servers store the information from you website (text, pictures, videos, etc) and make it accessible to web browsers. When people type in your website address, they are directed to the server storing this information. The server communicates with the web browser to show the page.
Without a web server, your website is probably just a big error message.
Web hosting companies provide different types of servers based on a website’s specific needs. Here is a brief overview of the most common web hosting servers:
Once you start researching web hosting, you often come across deals for as little as 4 dollars a month. These plans use shared hosting servers.
For such a cheap price, are they really worth it?
Actually, if you are thinking about starting a blog, need a simple website for your small business, or want to create a niche site that won’t get a ton of traffic, shared hosting is a great place to start. In fact, this is one of the most popular web hosting plans for the newbie website creator.
As the name suggests, you share a server with other websites. All the websites on the server share the same resources--storage, RAM, and CPU--to help keep the cost affordable. In addition, many shared hosting plans offer helpful tools to create and customize your website.
Shared hosting may also be a great plan if you’re not particularly tech savvy. Most technical maintenance is usually included in the hosting package.
Of course, as your website grows an audience, you may run into some issues. Load time can be a little slower than with other types of servers. Also, you don’t know the other websites on the server. There may be times when another website gets a big spike in traffic. It may, in turn, affect the speed of your site.
Should you start with shared hosting? It’s certainly a great option for beginners. Also, most web hosting companies allow you to upgrade to more dedicated servers pretty easily. They will cost more, but the performance and ability to customize your site may be well worth the cost.
Must Read: BlueHost Web Hosting Reviews
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
VPS hosting is usually the next step up from shared hosting. It’s the middle ground between shared hosting and dedicated hosting (discussed later). If you website is gaining popularity, it may be a good investment for ensuring your website’s performance.
How is a VPS different from shared hosting?
With VPS, you still share the physical server with other websites. Unlike shared hosting, virtualization technology provides you with dedicated resources on the server. VPS divides the server so each user can install their own operating system and software. This allows you more control and customization with guaranteed resources.
Plus, you won’t be affected if other websites on your server have a spike in traffic. If another website exceeds the limits of their resources, that site will go down. Yours won’t be affected.
Think of it this way: Shared hosting is like an apartment building where VPS is more like a condo complex.
If your website starts outgrowing the capabilities of shared hosting, VPS is a great option. Also, if you anticipate a larger than normal audience when your website launches, you may want to consider VPS hosting to eliminate some of the performance issues of shared hosting.
Some web hosting companies offer different VPS plans so you can easily scale up as your website grows.
So the “apartment building” and “condo complex” no longer seems to serve your website. It’s growing and you need better performance. What can you do?
Upgrade to a house--or even a mansion.
That is essentially what a dedicated web host server does. The server you rent is entirely yours. You don’t share it with anyone. You are given the administrative control over the server.
What does that mean?
You can create your website from the foundation up--you have complete control over the server settings. For example, you can configure the right mix of performance and storage for your website. This, of course, requires more technical knowledge. You need to have at least a working knowledge about computers and server technology. This may also mean you need to hire a system administrator.
Dedicated hosting also offers the highest level of security. Since your website is the only one using the server, it offers a much more controlled environment compared to shared or even VPS servers.
All this freedom comes with a price. Dedicated servers are often one of the most expensive web hosting plans. It can be more than twenty times the cost of those well-advertised shared hosting plans.
Of course, if your website has grown beyond the capabilities of shared or VPS hosting, you may have more money and resources to get the help you need to control the website.
Web Hosting Servers: The Takeaway
The needs of your website ultimately dictate which type of web server to choose. Website beginners can do perfectly well using shared hosting. It’s affordable, easy to use, and doesn’t require much technical knowledge. Shared hosting is a great option for those beginning a new website for their personal use, blogging, or small business.
Of course, if you know a bit about technology and plan for a site that will attract more than a modest amount of visitors, it may save time and a little hassle opting for VPS or dedicated hosting.
So where do you begin?
How about checking out some of our Top Picks for web hosting? Each of these companies offer affordable shared hosting and the ability to scale up to other types of servers as your website grows.