Posted on October 25, 2012 ยท Posted in Comparison

Most people who launch a website don’t have adequate computer resources to personally support ongoing operation. The amount of hard drive space required to store all the data, the consistent speed needed from a high-bandwidth Internet connection and the need to keep the system running at all times often make it impractical for individuals to host their own sites. Web-hosting services resolve the matter easily by handling these necessary components and more.

The three main types of hosting services differ mainly in hard-drive space allocation, available resources and customisation capabilities. Choosing the right service for a particular website takes some planning as well as some understanding about the site’s needs. Of course, security is always a prime concern. Other considerations include the size of the site and the amount of Web traffic expected. Below are basic descriptions and a few pros and cons of the three service types.

Shared Servers: These use a single hard drive to host numerous websites from numerous users. Each site is like a separate folder on the hard drive. Information is separate but not truly isolated. Shared servers are the most common form available.

Pros: Shared servers are the most economical because they share all resources. They are ideal for new users and typically have the easiest setup, sometimes offering templates and point-and-click options. New users will also appreciate having all the server administration handled for them. Shared servers are a good choice for personal blogs and for small websites that aren’t likely to have extensive traffic.

Cons: Bandwidth is shared, so if a few sites pull in significant resources with high traffic, other sites will experience slowdowns or even crashes. Security can be a bit shaky. If one account is hacked, it’s highly possible for others to be breached as well. Scripting errors in one site may also affect others, and all users must use the same firewall settings. There’s no room for individualisation outside of preset options.

Dedicated Servers: At the opposite end of the spectrum are dedicated servers, where one user has exclusive access to a hard drive.

Pros: There are no sharing concerns. All resources available belong to the individual user on a dedicated server. Complete customisation of security and other features is possible. Dedicated servers are ideal for large sites that generate heavy traffic on a regular basis.

Cons: These are the most expensive setups due to the autonomy of the server. Inexperienced users will need administration and possibly setup services. Such services may be combined with server rental, or it’s possible to contract with someone independently. Either way, it can mean higher costs.

Virtual Private Servers (VPS): These are typically a happy medium between the other two server types. VPS offers a dedicated partition on a hard drive. There will be other users on the same server, but the partitions keep them separate.

Pros: VPS offers the control of a dedicated server without the high price. Having an individual partition allows customisation of designs, security protocols, scripts and the like, but sharing the hardware lowers the cost. It’s possible to host multiple domains on VPS; bandwidth and speed are much better than on shared servers; and errors or breaches in other partitions are kept separate. VPS is ideal for medium-level sites with fair-to-heavy Web traffic.

Cons: VPS is a bit more expensive than shared hosting. There is still some chance for slowdowns due to others on the same server although it’s greatly minimised. Some users may still need server administration services.

It’s typical for a website’s needs to change over time. What was once fine on a shared web-hosting service may require additional resources with growth in scope and popularity. Fortunately, there are choices for every need level. Understanding the benefits and capacities of each type of server, the needs of a particular site and its potential for growth will all help in choosing the ideal web host service.

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