Types of Web Hosting

If you are going to publish a business website, then you need a place from which it is served. Many large companies host their websites on their own internal servers. You need a strong, reliable connection to the Internet, an experienced staff capable of managing all of the technical aspects and reliable telecommunication services. For most individuals, small and medium-sized businesses, however, the best solution is to use a hosting provider. Most hosting providers offer at least two web hosting options but many offer several types of web hosting.

Web Hosting Providers use server racks for multiple servers and storage units

Shared Web Hosting

The most common type of web hosting for individuals and small business is shared web hosting. A hosting provider sets up a server so that multiple accounts share the same CPU and memory and get a chunk of storage. In the “old days” when I first started in the web design and development business, storage was a fixed amount. It was also expensive. With the new storage technology developed over the past several years, many hosting providers offer either unlimited storage or gigabytes for a nominal fee. Besides the actual hardware, the hosting company also provides the operating system, web server software, updates and upgrades of their software, and usually services such as email, databases, file management through file transfer protocol (FTP) and optional applications that you can install with a few clicks, such as WordPress. Shared web hosting also comes with a control panel to manage all of these services. The control panel that is used may be a standard one like cPanel or Plesk, or it may be one developed in house and proprietary to the hosting provider.

The two primary advantages to using shared web hosting are low cost and ease-of-use. Disadvantages to using shared web hosting may include poor performance due to lack of server resources or another account hogging them, support staff may relegate you to the bottom of the support queue if they also offer premium services, limited control over what else may be occurring on your server (spam sites, bandwidth problems, etc.). If you are fortunate to have a busy website with lots of visitors, your hosting provider may request or require you to upgrade to a virtual or dedicated server.

Virtual or VPS Hosting

If you have outgrown your shared hosting, you may want to consider virtual server hosting. Although there are some similarities between shared and virtual hosting, there are some serious advantages to using the latter type of web hosting. In VPS hosting, the server is provisioned into a set number of virtual servers. For example, a server with a quad-core processor, 16 GB of RAM and one TB of storage could be setup so that four accounts were created each with four GB of RAM and 250 GB of storage. They could be setup so they were isolated to one processor or shared the processing power with maximum thresholds determined. The four accounts would have full access to the root of their portion of the server. In all aspects the virtual server would look and act like a single server. Because it is sharing hardware, however, it is a cost-effective solution for those who can’t afford a dedicated server. Another advantage to a VPS hosting solution is scalability. Most hosting providers who offer this solution can easily increase RAM, storage, bandwidth or even CPU power. You just have to pay the extra fees.

Dedicated Server Hosting

Another type of web hosting to consider is dedicated server web hosting. With a dedicated server, you are the only account on the hardware and do not share anything with other accounts other than the bandwidth going into the entire data center. If you’re dealing with a very small hosting company this could be an issue but in general it’s not something to be concerned about. One disadvantage to dedicated server hosting is that you have to have more technical knowledge. Your hosting provider will still perform upgrades and installs for you but for the most part you are on your own for a lot of stuff. A dedicated server will, however, provide you with greater security, speed and possibly uptime.

Image: Left rack (top) by sylvar, on Flickr