Web hosting today is bundled and sold in many ways. Despite its relatively straightforward origins, consumer needs have evolved. Because of that, web hosting providers have also adjusted plans to meet customer demand.
In general, there are four different types of hosting servers: Shared, Virtual Private Server (VPS), Dedicated, and Cloud Hosting.
While all types of servers will act as a storage center for your website, they differ in the amount of storage capacity, control, technical knowledge requirement, server speed, and reliability.
In shared hosting, one’s web site is placed on the same server as many other sites, ranging from a few to hundreds or thousands. Typically, all domains may share a common pool of server resources, such as RAM and the CPU.
As cost is extremely low, most websites with moderate traffic levels running standard software are hosted on this type of server. Shared hosting is also widely accepted as the entry level hosting option as it requires minimum technical knowledge.
If you expect your website to grow really fast – consider picking up a shared hosting provider that offer VPS and Dedicated Hosting plans so it is easier to upgrade in future (hosting providers usually will help with the migration process if it’s an internal upgrade).
Shared hosting offers no root access and has very limited ability to handle high traffic levels or spikes. Also, website performance can be easily affected by other sites on the same server.
VPS Hosting: More server control and power; pricier than shared hosting.
A virtual private server hosting divides a server into virtual servers, where each websites is like hosted on their own dedicated server, but they’re actually sharing a server with a few different other users.
The users may have root access to their own virtual space and better secured hosting environment with this type of hosting. Websites that need greater control at the server level, but don’t want to invest in a dedicated server.
VPS hosting offers fixed amount of server resources, hence websites hosted on VPS hosting might have trouble handling sudden traffic spikes.
Dedicated Hosting: Great server power and full server control; require highest cost and skills.
A dedicated server offers the maximum control over the web server your website is stored on – You exclusively rent an entire server. Your website(s) is the only website stored on the server.
With great power comes… well, greater cost. Dedicated servers are very expensive and it’s only recommended to those who need the maximum control and better server performance.
Cloud Hosting: Extremely flexible and cost efficient; steeper learning curve to start.
Cloud hosting offers unlimited ability to handle high traffic or traffic spikes. Here’s how it works: A team of servers (called a cloud) work together to host a group of websites. This allows multiple computers to work together to handle high traffic levels or spikes for any particular website.
Many cloud hosting setup do not offers root access (required to change server settings and install some software); expert IT skills needed to manage true cloud servers.
There is a stark contrast between web hosting types and what plans are suitable for which purpose.
For example, a low-traffic personal blog will be fine even on cheap shared hosting. If your needs are more mission critical, then VPS or dedicated hosting would be right for you.
While Cloud is similar in some ways to VPS, it might be a better choice if you need more elasticity to deal with seasonal traffic or have heavy computing power needs.
For those who already have a platform in mind there can be other considerations. For example, if you intend to run WordPress, some hosts have built specific plans for this, custom optimized to run it well.
Ultimately, knowing clearly what types of web hosting there are and what each is used for is important. It can save you time and money, along with potentially boosting your site performance if you choose the right one.