The web hosting market is a pretty saturated one. With software such as cPanel and WHM, it’s very easy to set up a server and begin offering shared hosting packages to people. For less than the average cost of a quick bite to eat, companies are promising unlimited disk space and bandwidth to anyone willing to become a customer.
The main reason why there are so many web hosting companies offering shared hosting is the profit margin. The more customers they can cram on a server, the more profit they can make. There are, however, numerous drawbacks to selecting a hosting company based on the price of the service. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for and a low cost hosting package can sometimes end up costing you more than just money.
Know your shared hosting neighbors
Shared hosting services often use a single IP address for all customers on a single machine. One of the biggest issues with this type of setup is that if one of your neighbors on the same server gets identified for spam, malware or anything similar, everyone on the same IP address can end up suffering along with them. Not only can this seriously affect your search engine ranking and appearance, but it can also cause some web filtering and malware protection services to inadvertently block you along with everyone else on the same server.
Is unlimited really unlimited?
I can speak from experience on this next bit. Whereas most shared hosting companies are quick to offer you unlimited everything for less than $10/month, what they don’t tell you is that this doesn’t mean unlimited resources. Should your website receive a spike in traffic that causes any kind of disruption to other customers on the same server, the hosting company will often temporarily disable your site with no warning and email you telling you that your site overused the resources on the box.
Now you have customers trying to access your site only to see a shared hosting error page. Doesn’t look very professional does it? What if you are offering advertising on the site? Now you have downtime and need to explain to your customers why their ad isn’t up and running. In a world dominated by social media, one article can cause a huge spike in traffic and can easily affect the resource usage of your site and, in turn, your neighbors within the shared hosting environment.
Security issues in shared hosting
In shared hosting, should one site end up having a backdoor or not being up to snuff security wise and someone gains access to it, it can be very easy for them to move from one site to the next, causing issues for everyone on the same server. Sadly, this type of scenario is not uncommon and has happened to lots of people. Shared hosting simply does not afford any meaningful level of security. If one part of the server is breached, all customers are vulnerable.
Another option: VPS
So, what’s the best option if shared, unlimited hosting plans are not for you? There is always a dedicated server, but with the cost of entry into the dedicated server market, this is not an option for many small business owners. And while cloud offers massive potential from a scalability perspective, between the premium you pay for hourly billing and the technical hurdles of launching an application into many clouds, you might not find this option right for you either.
This leaves the primary choice for many small business, a VPS. VPS — or virtual private server — hosting is a form of cloud technology that has been tried, tested and refined over the past decade. It is the industry standard virtualization framework for a rock-solid hosting experience.
VPS servers are virtual machines that live on a physical host server alongside other VPSes. Unlike shared hosting, though, VPS servers have unique IP addresses and partitioned resources that are reserved for each individual client. The key is finding a VPS host that has a reputation for delivering what they promise.
The virtualized aspects of VPS servers mean that hardware failures have less of an impact than with dedicated servers or even some shared systems where substandard hardware holds far too many customers. And with recent advancements, VPS technology has never been more powerful, stable, or exciting!
So how do you find out which VPS host is right for you? Do your research. Contact any potential hosting companies you are considering and ask questions. Find out what you are actually getting for your hard-earned dollar and make an informed decision. Consider all of the points above. Read forums and reviews before making your selection.
And come back next time when I discuss one of the most important questions when evaluating VPS hosts: to go managed or unmanaged.
Photo credit: Kiron Krishnankutty