One of the most important decisions you have to make when building a new website is determining where and how you’re going to host it.
These days, there are tons of different hosting options from a wide variety of providers, which makes it a little tricky to find the best service to suit your needs, especially if you’re a beginner. Nevertheless, choosing the right hosting solution is crucial to your website’s performance. It can be the difference between a successful site and one that falls by the wayside, and this is particularly true if you’re expecting a large amount of traffic right out of the gate.
For most people, your hosting options are going to boil down to one of two choices, shared or dedicated hosting. Each of which has its own set of merits and potential drawbacks, and there are some important things you must consider before making your choice. With that said, let’s take a closer look at the main distinctions between the two and why you might want to opt for one over the other.
As the name suggests, shared hosting means you’re sharing a server with hundreds (and potentially thousands) of other users and websites. It’s not uniquely yours, and the same pool of resources is divided out between many other people.
Dedicated hosting, on the other hand, means that you have the server all to yourself. There are no other websites, users, or accounts using your server or its resources. This typically results in more robust website performance and a better overall experience for both the website owner and the visitor.
If you’re the kind of person that enjoys a good analogy, try this on for size:
Shared hosting is like taking public transport. There are numerous other people using it, hopping on and off whenever they feel like. You have no control over the route, the speed, the air-conditioning, and if it breaks down, you’re at the mercy of the bus company to fix it. There isn’t much you can do about it, other than wait on the bus with everyone else.
Dedicated hosting is like renting your own luxury sports car. You’re sitting nice and comfortably on your own. You choose the route you take, how fast you want to go, the radio station, whether or not you want the A/C on, or if you prefer the roof down. It’s far less likely to break down, and if it does, your luxury sports car rental company will fix it for you in a matter of minutes (or at least offer a replacement).
Why doesn’t everybody go for dedicated hosting?
As you might have already guessed by now, dedicated hosting is vastly more expensive than the shared hosting options. As a result, sharing a server is by far the most common of the two methods, especially for people searching for cheap web hosting solutions.
The good news is that shared hosting is normally more than enough for most websites, and they should see any real issues when opting for one of those services. In fact, most people wouldn’t even notice a big difference if they switched from shared to dedicated hosting in the first place.
Dedicated hosting exists for websites that receive large amounts of traffic. At a certain point, the limited resources offered by a shared hosting solution won’t be sufficient to handle all those visitors, leaving website people with long loading times, or worse, a 503 HTTP error.
Shared hosting – Typically provides ample performance for small and even medium-sized websites. If your site receives minimal traffic, it won’t need a lot of resources to run efficiently.
Dedicated hosting – Provides supremely improved performance over shared hosting and is capable of providing super-fast loading times, even for sites with large volumes of traffic.
Ease of use/setup
Shared hosting – very user friendly and typically comes with an easy to use dashboard for set up and management.
Dedicated hosting – May require the use of some technical skills, as most of its benefits rely on administrative implementation. If you find yourself struggling, there are plenty of great guides on how to get started online, such as this one from Dreamhost.
Reliability & Security
Shared hosting – You’re in a competition for resources with everyone else on the server. You can never be quite sure who else you’re sharing it with and whether or not their activity has a negative impact on your site. In addition to this, there is an increased risk of cybersecurity attacks on a shared server.
Dedicated hosting – About as reliable as it gets. Dedicated servers bring you the peace of mind knowing that your website is hosted on the best servers possible. Furthermore, dedicated servers are usually DDoS protected, meaning your site has a higher security level and a higher uptime when compared to shared hosting options.
Shared hosting plans are generally pretty cheap, ranging from around $3 to $15 per month.
Dedicated hosting plans range anywhere between $100 and $1500, the upper quote being the high-end option from IBM.
At what point do I need a dedicated server?
Unfortunately, the answer to his question is, it depends. Different hosting providers each have varying thresholds over what they allow regarding monthly traffic.
As a general estimate, a shared hosting website should be able to handle 30-50k visitors per month without too many issues. However, from that point on, scalability becomes a concern.
If your site is hitting over 100k+ monthly visitors, you will almost certainly benefit from your own dedicated server, as long as you can find one for the right price.