Competition in the web hosting market has created some truly amazing services, but some are terrible. Your web host is a foundation that your online business or website is built upon, but they are not always in the forefront of our minds. That is, until there is trouble. Servers crash, networks are compromised, and there are always new security threats. It doesn’t matter how high your search engine rankings are or how brilliant your website looks if your website is down. You need to make an educated and informed choice of a trustworthy hosting provider that won’t leave you high and dry in the event of technical issues.
But which one do you choose? The number of web hosting providers cropping up recently seems endless. Before you choose a hosting provider or web platform, you need to understand the different types of hosting. Only then can you find a provider that fits your needs and your budget.
Types of Hosting
There are three well-defined types of hosting:
Sometimes companies will offer completely free hosting, but remember, you get what you pay for. These free hosting services are not suitable for anyone wishing to create an online business. The major downfall of free hosting services is the inability to provide you with a domain name. They almost always lack adequate security services, and the technical support (if they even offer any) is atrocious. Free hosting is really only useful for personal websites. If you are looking for someone to help you design and build your website and they mention that they know a great free hosting provider, they don’t know what they are talking about. Avoid them like the plague!
Shared hosting is a much better alternative to free hosting, but it certainly has its own pitfalls, too. The idea behind shared hosting is to consolidate many websites onto virtual servers. One of the benefits to a shared hosting solution is its price. Shared hosting is typically cheaper than dedicated hosting, and it does allow you to procure a domain name. However, there are two main drawbacks with shared hosting which I will explain in the next sections. For all practical purposes, shared hosting is typically feasible for most small and medium sized businesses’ websites. Despite the drawbacks that are inherent to shared hosting, many people see shared hosting as the most attractive option because of its price.
Shared Hosting Means Shared Resources
Firstly, other websites are sharing the same network and hardware resources as your website. While we hope that the hosting provider adequately provisions their virtual servers with ample storage, memory, CPU, and bandwidth, it is all done behind the scenes and potentially invisible to the customer. How do you know how many other websites are on the same server as your website? There could be ten, fifty, or a hundred! How do you know that one won’t eat up a disproportionate amount of bandwidth, leaving your website to load slowly or not at all? The policing and provisioning of virtual servers is complicated to understand and outside of your control when you select shared hosting solutions.
Tip: Use Google's site speed tool to see if your website is loading quickly. If not, and you're on a shared hosting plan, you may want to ask about an upgrade!
Shared Hosting Security Concerns
Secondly, security problems are amplified and multiplied on shared hosting servers. The other domains on your virtual server are linked to your own domain, and a problem affecting someone else’s website could end up impacting you.
For example, imagine your website shares a virtual server with http://examplewebsite.com. Next, somewhere in the world some cretin scum decides to initiate a DoS (denial of service) attack against http://examplewebsite.com with the intention of overwhelming bandwidth to bring the site down. Guess what? I’ve got bad news for you. Even though you weren’t the intended target of the attack, you’re website will become collateral damage because your domain shares hardware and network resources with the targeted website.
We would like to think that the hosting provider has taken measures to prevent the attack in this example, but there will always be new security threats and vulnerabilities. And this is just one example of a security threat. Imagine how much damage a black hat hacker could do with access to the server!
A step up from a shared hosting account is our favorite - cloud hosting. This revolutionary platform uses clusters of servers working together as one to deliver your website and other important server-related tasks. The result is a faster website with redundant backups and locations for your information. So if there's a power outage at your server in Tampa, the one in San Antonio may pick up the slack. The end result is that your users/visitors have no idea there is an outage, and your website continues to function terrifically!
Undoubtedly, the highest performance and most secure hosting is dedicated hosting. There are many benefits to dedicated hosting, with the only drawback being its price. For big businesses that have high performance and high traffic websites, dedicated hosting is essential.
One of the many benefits of dedicated hosting is its reliability. You don’t share hardware resources or bandwidth with other websites, and as such, you do not run the same risks that are inherent to shared hosting. No technology will ever be truly infallible, and there is still the risk that your server could crash or be attacked by hacker. However, the risk is drastically lower when you have a dedicated server.
Ultimately, as a small or medium sized business without demanding website requirements, you can make good use of shared hosting. However, dedicated hosting will offer you better security and lessen your exposure to risks.