If you – like many other web developers – are torn trying to decide between Shared Hosting and a Virtual Private Server (VPS), or are looking to upgrade to a VPS, don’t worry! We’re going to take a brief look at the main differences of the two, and suggest how to decide which hosting method is the right one for your needs.
Web Hosting Choices for beginners
Shared Hosting is often the simplest choice, particularly for beginners. It involves a single, shared internet server which can host any number of individual websites, allowing multiple people to distribute the associated costs, at the expense of customisation and full server-side control. The administration rights reside with the hosting service, which can be a pro or a con depending on your individual requirements.
The next step up is a Virtual Private Server, which is essentially software which allows multiple virtual machines to run on a single physical computer. In terms of functionality, it offers all of the benefits of a private dedicated server such as added security and advanced customization, but at a fraction of the cost.
In order to decide which hosting method is best suited to your needs, we’ll take a look at 2 of the key factors involved with internet hosting; user hardware requirements, and software requirements.
Both Shared Hosting and VPS are theoretically similar in terms of hardware, as both methods rely on a single machine sharing resources – such as HDD space, CPU power, RAM, bandwidth etc.- between multiple websites. However, despite having virtual limits on hardware usage, Shared Hosting lacks true separation between individual users’ resources. This often results in poor server optimization as different websites can be forced to compete over limited hardware availability. VPS on the other hand, has true separation, offering a dedicated chunk of hardware reserved specifically for your website. It’s effectively a server within a server, and is virtually cut off from the other users. This provides a more secure, stable, optimized experience, as well as allowing server performance to be monitored on a per-user basis.
If your hardware requirements are minimal, shared hosting offers very reasonable facilities. However, if you want dedicated hardware and the added optimization and reliability it brings, VPS is the way to go.
This is arguably the most important difference between Shared hosting and VPS. A Shared host does offer tempting initial convenience and a user-friendly interface for limited server management (which is at the control of the hosting provider). Unfortunately, Shared hosting completely lacks any form of software customization. Although not an issue for all users, this can cause a wide array of problems, such as incompatible setups between different hosts due to a difference in user accessibility. A VPS gives the user complete control over the server, down to the operating system. Any required programs can be installed, as long as they operate within the capabilities of the allocated hardware.
Naturally, if you don’t require this level of control then a VPS can be an unnecessary complication. Nevertheless, considering they have the software customizations of an expensive dedicated server at a much lower cost, they’re the ideal choice for anybody wanting to have complete control over their website and hosting options.
In conclusion, Shared hosting definitely has its benefits for small to medium sized websites, forums, blogs and template based pages, which require very little user input or customization. However, if you’re looking for an affordable yet highly configurable and scalable hosting solution then a Virtual Private Server is definitely the way to go.