Differences between shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting

Posted in Web design and development  on Dec 12, 2018

If you are a newbie web designer/developer working on your first website, or have been doing design stuffs offline and for the first time you want to get it to the Internet, chances are that you might be confused a bit in regards to web hosting.

You could be asking yourself:

  • What exactly is web hosting?
  • What different types of hosting are there?
  • Among these types, which best suits my needs?

Understanding the answers to the above questions will help you make an informed decision in selecting the right type of hosting for you.
In this article, we will learn what is web hosting and explore the different types of Web Hosting plans.

Web hosting definition

A website is made up of a collection of related web pages comprising of different types of files. These files could be html, css, javascript, images or video files among other types. These files occupy space and need somewhere to be stored.

For these web pages and files to be accessible to the public across the world, they need to be uploaded and stored on another powerful computer in the Internet called a server.

Servers are so powerful that they can manage many people accessing the website at the same time. They have similar components as your PC such as CPU, hard disk and memory among others and also run an operating system. Most of the servers in the Internet are Linux based.

The owner of the server rents out storage space and computing power to the the website owner and also provides some other services such as server management, support and backups. The process of providing this infrastructure for others is called web hosting. The person who does it is called a hosting provider or simply, host.

We can simply define web hosting as an Internet service that allows individuals and organizations to make their website accessible via the Internet(World Wide Web).

Types of Web hosting

Most hosting providers offer multiple hosting plans. While all these plans all act as a storage place for your website, where they differ is the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, server speed, reliability and of course the hosting price.
These are the available hosting types/plans:

  a). Shared hosting
  b). VPS hosting
  c). Dedicated Hosting
  d). Cloud Hosting

a). Shared hosting

Shared hosting is the cheapest and most popular hosting plan among most people in the world.

As its name suggests, its where your website will be stored on the same server as multiple other websites, that could be anywhere between hundreds or thousands of others.

The number of websites on a shared server is variable and depends on your setup and hosting provider.

In this type of hosting, all websites must share the available resources with all the other websites on the server such as CPU time, memory and disk space.

Advantages

  i). It is the cheapest and most affordable hosting type. This is because cost is shared among a large number of people.
  ii). It is beginner-friendly and the simplest to manage. This is because most of the complex technical stuffs has already been done for you by the hosting provider.

Disadvantages

  i). Low performance – Since many websites share the same server resources, this may reduce the performance and cause the websites to be slow.
  ii). Security not guaranteed – A security breach on one website may affect other websites stored on the same server.
  iii). Difficult to scale – In shared hosting storage space and bandwidth are usually limited and can easily hinder the scalability in case the website exceeds the allocated resources.

b). Virtual Private Server(VPS)

A VPS hosting is a shared hosting environment that mimics a dedicated server.

This one is best suited for website owners that need more control, but don’t want to invest in a dedicated server.

It is similar to shared hosting in that your website shares a server with other sites, but in this case there are fewer sites sharing space and resources.

The server is partitioned out into different virtualized server environments that operate as independent servers from one another.

The overall CPU time and memory are shared across all accounts on the server, but at the same time, portions of those resources are always dedicated to each account.

Advantages

  i). Higher performance than shared hosting as less number of website share the resources.
  ii). Scalable - More storage space and bandwidth are allocated to each account.
  iii). More secure – Each account has an independent virtual server with independent IP addresses that separates each website from the others.
  iv). More manageable and customizable – You have root access to your virtualized server with much control and can make customizations to suit your needs.

Disadvantages

  i). More expensive as compared to shared hosting
  ii). Requires more technical skills - Unmanaged VPS may be difficult to configure, optimize, and do maintenance taking longer to get your website up and running.

c). Dedicated Hosting

As the name suggests, the server is exclusively rented by you and your website is the only one stored on the server.

This means no sharing of any server resources with anyone else.

You have full rights and access to the resources of the server, and you can configure the hosting environments to your exact specifications.

It’s best suited to large businesses and high traffic websites that have the necessary technical staff to maintain the server.

It is also an ideal option if your business requires a high level of security.

Advantages

  i). Full control over the server
  ii). Great performance
  iii). High security
  iv). High scalability

Disadvantages

  i). It is expensive
  ii). Requires high technical skills to manage and maintain.

d). Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is similar to VPS hosting in that you also have your website stored on a virtual machine.

However, instead of one physical server, your site is part of a whole network of servers working together, running applications using combined computing resources.

Just like in VPS, you have to share resources with other users. But because there are more servers involved, there are more resources available to everyone.

Cloud hosting is a great option for any size of business, mostly due to its affordable “pay-as-you-go” pricing. However, it requires technical know-how to manage and maintain it.

Advantages

  i). High scalability and flexibility - Your site can grow over time, using as much resource as it requires at any particular time. You can simply ask for more server space and bandwidth when you reach your limit.
  ii). Cost effective - You only pay for the resources you use.
  iii). Its reliable - Cloud hosting draws its resources from multiple different servers – if one server goes down, the other servers fill the gap.

Disadvantages

  i). It requires advanced technical skills to configure, optimize, and do maintenance.
  ii). Its insecure. Since your website is stored on a network virtual space that shares resources with other websites, this hosting is potentially insecure. This point is hotly debated and in overall, arguable.

When choosing a web host, there is a number of important factors to consider such as hosting type, price, features, hardware, hosting prover reputation and scalability among others.
In this article,I have tried to explore the different types of hosting available and make it as easy as possible to understand highlighting the advantages and disadvantages for each.

If you’re starting out with your first website or blog, it’s a good idea to start small with a reputable shared hosting plan. A shared hosting may also be a great option for you if don’t have huge traffic visiting your website or you don’t have much security concerns for your website.

If your website or blog receives traffic in thousands of people per month then it would be a great idea to choose a VPS, dedicated or cloud hosting.

The great thing is that you can always upgrade and migrate between hosting plans later as your site grows. It is my hope that this article has shed some light for you.