Worried you may not be on the best type of web hosting for you? Website hosting can be a confusing thing for the average person. In fact, a good portion of the people I talk with about websites don’t actually know what hosting is. And even when they do, they often don’t know the difference between various types of hosting.
So what is the difference?
Let’s start by just defining hosting. When you build a website or pay to have a web design agency create one for you, you end up with a bunch of files, and often a database, that make up your website.
Now, you could keep those files on a USB thumb drive, but they wouldn’t do you much good there. You need that website online!
To get it online, you lease hard drive space on a computer that’s set up to host websites online. That computer can be referred to as a web server, or a hosting server, or a website host. We’ll call the actual computer a web server, and the service web hosting. But regardless of what you call it, it’s a computer whose primary job is serving websites to people that want to access them.
Even a normal desktop or laptop computer takes ongoing maintenance to keep it up and running. That includes work on the hardware, operating system, and even individual programs. In the same way, a web server takes ongoing management work. That includes the hardware, the operating system, and even the individual programs. And that’s before you even talk about the websites themselves!
Managing any web server requires a specialized set of skills that goes way beyond just managing a website. Web hosting is a lot of hard work!
Okay, on to shared hosting. This is probably the most common type of web hosting. Essentially, you’re sharing one web server with dozens or hundreds of other people, each with one or more website, each responsible for their own websites.
The great thing about that type of hosting? It’s super cheap! Often for just a couple bucks a month—or even a year—you can get your website up and going!
So what’s the downside? Well, there are four primary negatives.
First, there are security risks. If everyone is sharing the web server, and everyone’s responsible for their own website, a security breach on someone else’s website makes yours vulnerable.
Second, really low prices are often accompanied by really poor customer service. That’s not a big deal if nothing goes wrong. But just like how cheap cars tend to have issues, cheap web hosting tends to have issues. And when you can’t get good support, that’s even more frustrating.
Third, you’re sharing all the resources, including the CPU and memory. That often means your website runs slowly. Yes, there are things you can do to speed up your website, but no amount of website work can fix a slow web server.
Finally, you’re responsible for keeping up with your own website. That includes editing information on the website, keeping the software up to date, and being responsible for backups and website security. And even if your web host says they’ll help with backups and website security, I wouldn’t count on it with shared hosting. Remember the customer service issues we just talked about?
With dedicated hosting, you’re the only person on your web server. It’s typically much more expensive than shared hosting. But it does eliminate some of the negatives of shared hosting.
Since you’re the only person who has websites on the server, there aren’t any security risks from other users. And since you’re paying more, you usually get better customer service. And since you’re the only one using the CPU and memory, your website will tend to run faster.
However, most dedicated hosting still requires you to keep up with your own website. That means updates, upgrades, backups, and website security are all your responsibility. You will get better server level security and backups, but you should still keep up with your own website level security and backups.
Note that dedicated hosting actually comes in a few different flavors. Sometimes it’s called dedicated hosting, sometimes it’s VPS hosting, and sometimes cloud hosting. Of course there are differences between each, but that’s too many technical details to go into here. If you decide to go with dedicated hosting, be sure to do additional research and know which flavor is the best for you.
With managed hosting, my personal favorite, you’re getting a full support package.
Like all the other options, your web host is taking care of the web server itself. But since there’s a larger investment, they’re also taking care of your actual website. The specifics can vary from hosting company to hosting company, but it can include updates, backups, and website security.
Managed hosting is typically limited to a specific platform, like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. So if you have a preference or a pre-existing website, make sure it’s a platform your managed hosting provider supports.
While you may or may not be the only person on your server, the downsides of dedicated hosting and shared hosting tend not to apply, because you have a team of professionals managing all the websites.
Which one is right?
If you don’t mind dealing with some technical and security issues yourself and have a low budget, you’ll want shared hosting. If you don’t mind dealing with those same issues and have more money, you’ll want dedicated hosting.
But if you want someone else to handle all the technical and security issues for you, and you have a decent budget, managed hosting will be the right fit for you. Not all managed hosting is the same, so if you want to be completely hands off, be sure your managed hosting team will update the content for you on your website as well. Some managed hosting options include that, but others don’t.
At T&S, we exclusively offer managed hosting, and it does include updating the content for our clients as well. We only host WordPress websites, so if that’s a good fit for you, we’d be happy to talk!