web hosting packagesWhile the benefits that a website can have for your business brand have been frequently touted, those making their first foray into the web hosting ecosystem might be confused by all of the options available to them. Navigating this level of complexity can be difficult, especially for those who are new to technology and the Internet in general. In this post, we’ll go over the three types of web hosting most services provide and how each can benefit you.

An overview of web hosting

Before we compare the different types of web hosting that exist, it first makes sense to give an overview of what web hosting is. Web hosting specifically refers to services that allow you to upload your website’s content to a web server to make it visible to the Internet. While website builders are similar, website building and web hosting differ in that users don’t usually upload files to a website builder’s platform, as everything they need is already available to them. For this reason, web hosting offers far more control and the ability to stand out.

There are three types of web hosting: shared hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated hosting. Occasionally, you might encounter terms like “reseller hosting” or cloud hosting, but these generally refer to types of hosting outside the immediate scope of consumer web hosting and are only provided by certain types of web hosts. The average business looking for web hosting will likely work with a traditional web host as opposed to resellers and cloud hosting providers.

What is shared web hosting?

Shared web hosting, or just shared hosting, is the entry-level web hosting tier. As such, it’s usually cheaper and tends to be ideal for web hosting newbies because it comes with what is known as a control panel, or a graphical user interface that makes navigating one’s web server far easier. In addition to a control panel, most web hosts pack shared hosting plans with access to features like WordPress and other content management systems (CMS), SEO tools and other types of plugins and support you might need to get your site and your brand up and running. It does come with trade-offs, though. Shared hosting is called as such because you’ll be sharing a web server with hundreds of other users. Your sites and resources are partitioned in a way where they’re private, but will be using the same bandwidth and processing power provided by the server.

What is VPS hosting?

VPS hosting uses what is known as a Virtual Private Server to host websites. These servers are “shared” like those used for shared hosting, but the number of users sharing the server is smaller and resources are allocated far more efficiently. The “private” in VPS isn’t misleading, though, as VPS servers are private in a virtual sense – at a given time it’s possible that no users will simultaneously be using the same resources on the server. This isn’t the case for shared hosting, as noted above, where everyone uses all of the server’s resources simultaneously. In order to make sense of this, you can think of shared hosting like a regular seat in a stadium and VPS hosting like a private box. This means the capacity of traffic that websites hosted on a VPS is much greater than those on shared web hosts. The trade-off is, of course, that VPS hosting is more complex to navigate and requires you to know a lot more about how to secure and manage your own server. In some cases, users might not even have access to a control panel.

What is dedicated hosting?

Dedicated hosting means that you have an entire server to yourself. With this much legroom, you can optimize your site to leverage the full capacity of your server’s specs. Of course, this option isn’t for most people, as it requires extreme technical know-how and really only benefits businesses who see very high volumes of traffic on their website(s). If you do find yourself needing the capacity of dedicated hosting, there are some “managed” dedicated hosting and even managed VPS options which allow you to receive consistent support and maintenance from your web hosting provider. The full features of a “managed” hosting option will depend on the specific service, so it’s something you’ll have to investigate thoroughly before committing to it.

Which should I choose?

When it comes to web hosting, bigger does not mean better, or at the very least, bigger does not mean necessary. While the performance of shared hosting isn’t ideal for those with a serious footing in e-commerce or high volume blogging, for the average business – especially if they’re just starting out – shared hosting is more than sufficient. That said, the quality of shared hosting does matter, as shared hosts aren’t created equal. Although many shared hosting services do list “unlimited” bandwidth as a feature, it’s important to note that bandwidth isn’t unlimited and that unlimited is a term usually defined within your host’s terms of service. You’ll want to keep in mind the “reasonable” or recommended bandwidth amount so that if you start to approach it, you can consider upgrading to VPS or another hosting option.

If you need help choosing the best shared hosts in the industry, take a look at our web hosting reviews, which give an in-depth look at what you can expect from each provider.