To run a website, you’ll need to install the necessary web server software on a server machine. Web hosts generally offer different types of web hosting. We’ll explain the pro’s/contra’s of each.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting is the cheapest kind of hosting. Shared hosting means that the webhost has setup a (physical) server and let it host a lot of different sites from different customers on that server. (into the hundreds)
The cost of the server is thus spread to all customers with a shared hosting plan on that server. Most people start with this kind of hosting because it is cheap. There are some downsides though:
- When your site gets busy, your site could get slower (because there are few 100 sites from other people also waiting to be served)
- Your webhosting company could force you to move to a more expensive server because you’re eating too much resources of the physical server negatively impacting the availability or
performance of other sites which are also hosted on that server.
- You could be affected by security issues (eg. due to out of date server software) created by the other websites you’re sharing the server with.
- Your website performance could suffer because other sites misbehave
- Most of the time, there is almost no possibility to start configuring and tuning the server, which leaves you at mercy how well the webhost has configured the server.
VPS Web Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. Virtualization is a technique that makes it possible to create a number of virtual servers on one physical server. The big difference with shared hosting is that the virtual servers are completely separated from each other:
- Each virtual server can host its own operating system. (and can be completely different from eachother)
- Each virtual server gets an agreed upon slice of the physical server hardware (cpu, disk, memory)
The main advantage is that it’s not possible that other virtual servers will negatively affect the performance of your machine and your installation is more secure.
The physical server typically runs a hypervisor which is tasked with creating, releasing, and managing the resources of “guest” operating systems, orvirtual machines.
Most webhosts will limit the number of virtual private servers running on one physical server to be able to give you the advertised features of the VPS. (eg. 512MB RAM, 1Ghz CPU and so on)
Well known VPS webhost providers include:
Dedicated Web Hosting
A dedicated server is a server which is completely under your control. You get the full power of the hardware as you are the only one running website(s) on it.
The extra layer of virtualization (which has some performance impact) is not present here unless you decide to virtualize the server into separate virtual servers. This means you generally get the
best possible performance from the hardware.
Cloud Web Hosting
Cloud servers are in general VPS servers, but with the following differences:
- The size of your cloud server (amount of RAM, CPU and so on) can be enlarged or downsized dynamically. Eg. during peak traffic times you could enlarge the instance to be able to keep
up with the load. When traffic diminishes again, you can downsize the instance again.
- Bigger instances will always cost more money then small instances. Being able to change this dynamically can reduce your bills.
- Cloud-based servers can be even moved to other hardware while the server keeps running. They can also span multiple physical servers. (This is called horizontal scaling)
- Cloud-based servers allow your site(s) to grow more easily to really high-traffic websites.
Well-known Cloud-based hosting providers include:
Unmanaged vs Managed Web Hosting
With unmanaged web hosting, you’re responsible to manage your server completely. This means installing the Operating System on your server, installing the website software and so on.
This may seem daunting, if you have never done it before. But it’s all pretty doable if you’re interested to learn a few new things.
Managed hosting costs more, as it include extra services, such as a system administrator installing the OS, server software, security software and more.
Some packages include auto updates of your server software (eg. latest security patches). Prices can differ greatly as can the included services. Be sure to compare them well.
To create a stable and performant website, we recommend to choose between VPS or Cloud-based servers.
Price-wise VPS based servers are generally cheaper then Cloud-based servers. For most website servers which don’t have extreme volumes of traffic, a good VPS will be able to handle the load just
If you hope the create the next Twitter or Pinterest, cloud servers will give you the ability to manage the growth of your traffic more easily. For example a sudden, large traffic increase could instantly overload your server. With a cloud server you’ll be able to ‘scale your server’ and get additional computing power in minutes vs. creating from scratch a new instance that could take a few hours.
I started my first website Wim's BIOS (https://www.wimsbios.com) back in 1996 as a hobby. Wim’s BIOS is still the internet premier source for finding BIOS Updates.
More then 15 years later this technology site keeps going strong with thousands of visitors every day.
My book "Fast, Scalable and Secure Webhosting" will show you how to set up your server using Linux, Nginx, MariaDB, PHP-FPM, Java, IPv6, HTTPS, HTTP/2, WordPress and much more!
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