Dedicated Hosting vs Shared Hosting
Posted: March 11, 2013 by Alex Chan
Your hosting company can be your best friend or worst enemy depending on the level of hosting you choose. There are a number of factors that come into play when choosing the right package such as price, server power, bandwidth usage, and shared or dedicated hosting.
The biggest decision is deciding whether you need to be on dedicated hosting or not. Personally, I always prefer to be on dedicated hosting but it may not be the right option for you. There are a number of pros and cons for both sides. Dedicated hosting will provide with your own server, full root access, stable uptime, your own IP, more control, and better bandwidth packages. The downside to dedicated hosting is the overall cost is much higher than shared hosting. To really decide on the right option, we need to break down the two sides.
Your own server with root access. Having your own server is a big advantage. If you do any web development that requires the use of custom scripts or a higher level of access, this is the only option for you. With root access, you have complete control over your server and no one can mess with it. This way you don't have to worry about someone else's bad script crashing your server – which can be very frustrating.
Stable uptime. Much like having your own house, you don't need to worry about a roommate accidentally leaving the dishwasher on and flooding your room. Shared hosting is like living in a hostile with a shared kitchen and bath so anyone can potentially do something that ruins it for everyone else. If a webmaster on the shared network receives a traffic spike, lets a script go haywire, or just dumps a ton of data on the server, it can potentially crash the entire server for everyone, including your sites, until support can sort out the issue.
Your own IP. This is a much bigger topic then people give it credit. Most people only pay attention to the surface of the Internet that they can see. Your website may be live,but it can also be vulnerable to a number of issues from the underlying IP. Google, or any search engine, can't tell you're on a shared hosting account. All they see is the same IP you're sharing with another customer on the same server. In their eyes, your website could have the same owner as the other website. If you run the website BabyBloopers.com and another webmaster on the server is hosting WeLikePorn.com, well, it's not going to look good for your site. There's also a lot of value in maintaining your own IP. That's a whole other topic.
Better bandwidth. Many hosting companies will offer unlimited bandwidth. When I first started working online, all I did was navigate the unlimited bandwidth options from host company to hosting company. It's a great stepping stone, but most definitely not a permanent solution. A better way to sell unlimited bandwidth would be to call it "unlimited bandwidth within reason". Bandwidth is like paying for hydro. You need it, you use it, but how much you use depends on your site. All hosting companies have worked out what they can afford with unlimited bandwidth so if you go beyond their threshold, you'll experience their cap. This can be quite surprising for first time hosters because we've been sold on the "unlimited" option. The bottom line, if you can stay within a hosting companies unlimited threshold, you won't have any issues. Go beyond that and your site will start to lag, go down, or might even get taken down for a short while. If you're website is beyond what unlimited packages can offer, just bite the bullet and pay the extra for dedicated pay-per-use bandwidth. Your sites will load faster, they won't go down, your SEO will go up (uptime matters), and your return on investment (ROS) will go up.
Overall cost. This is where shared hosting has dedicated beat. Nothing beats shared hosting prices. They can go as low as $9.99 per year as oppose to $80-100+ per month for dedicated hosting. It's a big difference so if you don't need dedicated hosting, you don't need your own advanced server architecture, you don't care who your neighbors are, and your website doesn't use a lot of bandwidth, this option might be the best one for you.
Managed or unmanaged. This is something completely different from what your server offers but it's important to the overall cost. It's only necessary if you are looking for dedicated solutions. Adding a "managed" package will immediately double your hosting fees, if not more. An unmanaged server is completely up to you and your team to maintain. Hosting companies will offer minimal support for your servers other than getting it up, making sure it stays live, and answering basic questions (within reason). This is great if you can do your own management, and it will save you a ton of money. Managed solutions will give you access to the hosting companies support team 24/7. That means if you have a question, need a domain added, or have any security issues, the support team will be there to answer your tickets. It's great if you don't know how to setup your own server. Shared hosting packages usually come with CPanel and the hosting takes its own steps to make sure the shared users are above board. In most cases, you won't need a managed shared hosting solution.
Once you've figured out what you need to host your website, the options become clearer. The great part is hosting has evolved quite a bit from the old days. People are getting gouged less by hosting companies, and the smaller independent guys that offered poor service, or over-priced deals have faded out quite a bit. Large hosting companies have started to realize the value in supporting the little guy and most now offer better solutions for websites that don't need enterprise level solutions.
If you happen to be looking for hosting, we currently host with Rackspace Cloud. Over the 10+ years of web development, I must say that the "Cloud" is one of the most interesting things to appear in the world of web hosting. It's not for everyone, but if their packages fit your needs, then definitely join a cloud network.