What’s the Best Type of Hosting for You?Last Updated:
So you’ve decided to get a website. So far so good. But when you get to your chosen provider’s webpage, you’re hit with a flood of terms and plans and prices that you don’t fully grasp. Shared? VPS? Dedicated? What the heck does it all mean? More important, which one should you choose?
Picking a web hosting plan can be overwhelming for first-time users. Most web hosting providers offer a gamut of hosting types and plans, which is a good thing for experienced hands looking for the flexibility and freedom that having tons of choices can provide. But this often leaves newbies paralyzed by indecision or just plain old unfamiliarity.
That’s why we’ve come up with this guide. Here, we’ll run down the basic types of web hosting, giving you a quick description, the major pros and cons, and what types of websites or users each kind of hosting works best for. We’ll also give you a short primer on what cloud hosting is, since more and more providers are offering cloud hosting plans to their customers.
If you’re not quite sure how web hosting works, we recommend starting here first. But if you’ve already got the core concepts down, then strap in – we’re about to kick things up a notch.
When you “host” a website, you’re storing all the files that make up that website on a special computer called a server. Shared hosting is exactly what it says on the tin: the server that holds your website also carries other websites owned by different users – sometimes more than 1,000 per server!
Remember Web Hosting 101? If owning a website is like having a home on the internet, then shared hosting means you’re living in an apartment complex. Your living space (aka websites) are still separate from other users, and you still have full, exclusive control over your content. Heck, most of the time neighbors don’t even know whom they’re sharing a server with!
However, all of your sites draw from a common pool of resources — the server’s memory, storage space, and so on. Imagine what happens when a website on your server suddenly gets very busy, or gets hit with pernicious malware. With the bulk of your server’s resources sucked up by one website’s demand, your own site might experience slowdowns — or even, in rare cases, go down entirely. This is akin to your neighbor throwing a massive party, complete with a hallway stuffed with visitors and a bone-rattling sound system: it’s not your apartment that’s getting swamped with (or trashed by) drunk party-goers, but man, do you still feel the ruckus.
- Cheap: Since you’re sharing the cost of a server with everyone else on it, shared hosting costs much less than other hosting types.
- Simple: Shared hosting is generally easier to set up and less technically demanding to maintain.
- Resource-limited: Shared hosting isn’t as powerful as other hosting types, and it leaves your website vulnerable to negative effects stemming from the performance of websites on the same server.
- Security: Let’s put it this way: you can have a sprinkler system and fire extinguishers in your apartment, but if someone sets your neighbor’s place on fire, the whole building can still burn down. Since you only control your corner of the server, lax security on other users’ part can still leave your whole server open to malicious attacks.
- People putting up simple sites for personal use
- Users on a budget
If you don’t expect thousands of visitors a day and your website can take very occasional hiccups in speed or performance, shared hosting will serve you just fine.
Price Range: $5-$20 a month, sometimes less if you get a good promo.
We Recommend: BlueHost or DreamHost, which offer feature-packed hosting plans at great introductory prices. If you’d like to check out a few more options, we’ve put together a list of the best shared hosting providers, too!
VPS, or virtual private server hosting, is a more powerful option. You’ll share a server with far fewer people – around 20 at most. Plus, you won’t be drawing from a common pool of resources. Instead, the computing capabilities of the server are partitioned to give each user a dedicated share. A traffic blowup on someone else’s website won’t affect yours. You’ll effectively have your own server, even if you share the hardware with other users.
Most hosting providers also grant you root access – this means you’ve got full admin control over the operating system powering your virtual server. Compared to shared hosting, you’ll have fewer restrictions on what software you can install, for example. Plus, the “virtual” nature of VPS means providers can easily bolt on more resources in case you need more to handle a traffic spike. Unlike shared hosting, you don’t have to worry about “bad neighbors” infringing on your resources – or being a “bad neighbor” yourself!
- Advanced options: You have more flexibility and added control over your software installations, overall security, and more.
- Resource scaling: VPS’ resources are allocated virtually, so it’s easy for your provider to readjust and boost your VPS if needed.
- Cost: Understandably, VPS hosting costs more than shared hosting. While some providers set up your VPS for free, others will charge you a separate one-time fee, as well.
- Setup Time: Many hosting providers offer “instant” provisioning, but you can still expect an average wait time of a couple of hours before your VPS is ready.
- Advanced users
- People who want the power of a dedicated server at lower cost
- Users who want more options and control over their hosting plan
Price Range: $50-200 a month
As the name suggests, dedicated hosting is akin to having the whole block to yourself. The entire server is at your command, and it will hold nothing but your own website/s.
Most hosting providers will give you free rein to customize your server as you please: from picking the specifications (RAM, storage, etc.) to outfitting it with your chosen operating system, and so on. Like VPS hosting, dedicated hosting also comes with root access. This means you’ll have full control not just over the server hardware, but the software too, like what packages you install or systems you use.
Depending on your hosting provider, your dedicated hosting plan might come with server management services. That means your provider will take care of installing server upgrades and software updates, monitoring your server’s status, and so on. Usually, though, getting a dedicated server means you’ll also be responsible for the work of setting up, maintaining, and sometimes even troubleshooting your server.
- More power: It’s up to you to pick the server specifications that suit your needs, so you can get a more powerful server setup than might normally be available for shared hosting plans.
- Full control and flexibility: Dedicated hosting gives you complete control over your server, so you can configure it as you please.
- Security: You’ve got a lock on your server in a way that you can’t get from shared or even VPS hosting.
- Technical expertise required: Running a server can take a lot of work, so you should make sure you know what you’re doing – or that you can afford to hire someone who does.
- Cost: Dedicated hosting is typically the most expensive hosting type out there, since you’re shouldering the costs of an entire server by yourself. Some providers also charge you a one-off setup fee, so it’s best to keep that in mind, too.
- Setup Time: While some providers offer “instant” provisioning of around an hour, in general, it takes anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days to get your dedicated server up and running.
- Users with high-traffic, performance-critical websites
- Users with special technical requirements
Price Range: $100++ a month
We Recommend: HostGator or ServerPronto, which both offer highly configurable dedicated servers and great customer support at affordable prices. If those two aren’t your speed, check out the other entries on our list of the best dedicated hosting providers, too.
“Cloud hosting” is a term that’s popping up on web hosting sites more often these days, with many providers offering cloud-based hosting plans to their customers. But what exactly is cloud hosting?
Take the virtual nature of VPS, and unmoor it from a single server unit. Instead of being located in one hardware server, cloud hosting knits together a whole grid of servers to work as one. This grants you impressive flexibility, scalability, and even stability. If one node or server on your cloud grid fails, the others can simply pick up the slack, or your provider can deploy a new one to augment the system. If a traffic spike comes up, the load can be distributed more evenly over the cloud grid – you can “scale up” to meet the demand by dedicating a bigger percentage of the grid’s resources to wherever it’s needed.
Conversely, you can save on costs by only using what percentage of the cloud grid’s power you need. Unlike other hosting plans that have you paying for a set amount of resources whether or not you actually use all of it, many cloud hosting plans have a “pay-as-you-go” system that only charges you for what resources you actually use.
- Flexibility: As discussed above, cloud hosting gives you a lot more leeway when it comes to both resources and cost.
- Redundancy and Resilience: Thanks to its grid or network setup, cloud hosting ensures automatic, always-available failsafes in case a node or server goes down. The ability to keep clones of your website also cuts your risk of downtime.
- Less Labor-Intensive: Cloud hosting doesn’t entail the extensive setup process you’ll often get for dedicated or VPS hosting.
- Cost: While cloud hosting’s resource-adjusted rates can save you a lot of money, they can also add up quickly if you’re not careful.
- File Storage: By nature, cloud hosting lives on the web. This means your access to any files you store on your cloud server/s requires an internet connection.
- Security: Since your data will be dispersed in the cloud, it’s more vulnerable to intrusions than a single, interal server that you can figuratively lock down.
- Users with high-traffic, performance-critical websites
- Users with highly variable traffic or resource needs
Price Range: Anywhere from $5 to $80++ a month, depending on your needs and provider
We Recommend: FastComet or Hyve, which stand out with their superb customer service and affordable but powerful hosting packages. If you’d like to browse more options, we’ve rounded up the best cloud hosting providers here.
When it comes to starting a website, the type of web hosting you choose is absolutely critical. It determines what resources, control options, and additional services you’ve got at your disposal – and subsequently, how fast and how well your website performs.
Don’t fall into the trap of simply getting the most expensive plan, though. It’s all about figuring out the right blend of resources and features that will serve your website’s needs. You don’t want to pay $350+ a month for a simple code-testing page that nobody needs to visit, for example.
We hope this guide has given you enough information to make the best web hosting decisions for your project and your budget. If you’ve picked the right hosting type for your website, we suggest checking out our general web hosting provider reviews too. After all, once you know what you want, the key is finding a company that will give it to you with a good price and even better service!