We’re used to seeing the word ‘cloud’ stuck in front of basically every technological term out there. And while tech-savvy individuals have a decent grasp of what ‘the cloud’ is, the same can’t be said for all its potential applications. This includes cloud server hosting.

In comparing cloud hosting vs shared hosting, it’s important to stress the benefits of a cloud-based solution against more traditional methods, and how next-generation cloud platforms are really in a league of their own.

What is cloud hosting?

‘The cloud’ is simply a metaphor for a global network of remote servers that host data and programs. These cloud servers provide on-demand computing resources, such as storage, networking, databases and analytics, over the internet with pay-as-you-go billing.

Cloud hosting makes websites and applications accessible using these cloud computing resources. Rather than using a single physical server, like a dedicated hosting, cloud hosting uses a network of physical and virtual cloud servers, giving you better performance and stability. And since you aren’t limited to one server and its resources, your cloud hosting plan can scale with you as your website grows.

Cloud hosting at Fasthosts

When we talk about cloud hosting at Fasthosts, we’re talking about web hosting built on our CloudNX platform.

On CloudNX, cloud hosting takes the form of managed stacks. These are bundles of pre-configured software that can be used to run a wide range of web applications. If you want you can instead launch a pre-installed CMS application, which is simply a stack with WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla pre-installed on top.

Both managed stacks and applications could be considered cloud hosting, since they provide a web hosting environment on a cloud platform – they draw computing power from a pool of dynamically allocated resources across a large network of physical components, not a fixed set of hardware. Fancy learning more? Head over to our previous article on what cloud hosting is.

What about cloud servers?

While cloud servers can also be considered a form of web hosting in the wider sense, on CloudNX we differentiate cloud hosting (stacks and apps) from Root Servers.

With a Root Server, you get a whole server with its own operating system and full root access. Of course, this is on a cloud platform, so a Root Server is a virtual machine rather than a physical one. But it still comes with all the flexibility and performance you’d get from a physical box.

What is shared hosting?

Shared hosting, in simple terms, is when multiple different websites share the same server and its resources. Shared hosting has lots of advantages, including it being one of the cheaper hosting options due to it being shared by many different users. This form of hosting is also very easy to use since it's managed by a hosting provider (like us!) and is great for those who are new to the world of hosting.

However, if you have a larger site with lots of traffic, we probably wouldn’t recommend shared hosting. This is because you’re sharing computing resources, such as RAM and CPU, with other websites, so if multiple websites experience spikes in demand, this can pull resources away from your website and cause issues like reduced bandwidth and slower page speeds.

We go into the ins and outs of this type of hosting, in our past blog post What is Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting vs cloud hosting


Shared Hosting

Cloud Hosting

Server Deployment and Management Yes No
Scalability No Manual Control
Low Cost Yes Yes
Pay-As-You-Go No Yes
Flexibility Limited High Degree
Customisation Limited Considerable
Security ISO 27001 Certified ISO 27001 Certified
Instant Provisioning Yes Yes
Performance Fast Fastest
Reliability 99.9% Uptime Guaranteed 99.9% Uptime Guaranteed
Multiple Data Centres No Yes

Should you choose shared hosting or cloud hosting? There are advantages and disadvantages to both types, so the best hosting plan for you will depend on your personal circumstances. Let’s look at some of the key web hosting criteria to help you make a decision.

1. Performance

If amazing performance is what you’re after, then cloud hosting is what we would recommend. When using shared hosting, site speed is compromised, and again this is because of the amount of sites on one server. On the other hand, cloud hosting is designed for higher traffic sites and you won’t run into any performance issues.

2. Customisation

Cloud hosting has lots of room for customising, but shared hosting doesn’t. With complete root access you can add extra features or modifications to your hosting package, so you can get the most out of your cloud hosting.

3. Maintenance

Due to the customisation benefits of cloud hosting, this requires a lot more maintenance than shared hosting does. With cloud hosting you’re responsible for updates and any problems that may occur – which may impact on your user at the other end if not properly dealt with.

4. Price

Shared hosting has a considerably lower cost compared to cloud hosting. Cloud hosting boasts many benefits in comparison to shared, and the price tag reflects this.

5. Security

If you’re looking for stable security, and by this we mean built in and ready to go, then shared hosting is your best option. With cloud hosting you’ll have complete control, but that leaves room for error when it comes to security.

6. Attacks

Despite shared hosting having an easier form of security, this type of hosting can leave you vulnerable to targeted attacks. Why is this? Well, because you’re sharing a server with lots of other sites, if one of these are hacked into then your site becomes at risk.

7. Scalability

Since there are finite resources on one shared server, this doesn’t give your website the space it needs to grow. If you want to scale your website and business quickly, cloud hosting is a much better option as you can easily add resources to your plan whenever you need.

The difference between shared hosting and cloud hosting

So, what exactly is the difference between cloud hosting and shared hosting?

Well, shared hosting is a web hosting solution where each customer receives a portion of server hardware to run their website or application. When it comes to shared hosting vs cloud hosting, shared hosting is often the most cost-effective way to get a project online – the service provider houses multiple customers on a single web server, resulting in lower costs overall.

While shared hosting can be perfect as a low-cost platform for less demanding projects, it certainly has its limits. With several customers sharing one set of physical hardware, individual users can’t rely on a guaranteed level of server performance.

When it comes to running intensive, business-critical processes, many users find that shared hosting isn’t up to snuff. So if your site is gaining lots of daily traffic, then cloud hosting would be your best bet. In a nutshell, the main difference between shared and cloud hosting is the level of traffic that it can handle.

How much traffic can shared hosting handle?

Why isn't shared hosting suitable for intensive applications? In a word, contention. The full power of the hardware will always be pulled in several directions at once, with different websites and applications in constant competition for processing power.

In terms of how much traffic shared hosting can cope with, the actual numerical value will differ depending on your provider. But one thing is for sure, having a few high traffic websites sharing the same server is bound to cause problems.

Imagine one customer on a shared platform gets a sudden spike in traffic. Luckily, other websites on the same server are quiet, so some resources can be allocated to cope with the extra visitors. But what happens when several websites are popular at once?

How does shared hosting manage high traffic volume?

A shared server only has a finite amount of resources to share out, so will struggle with intensive applications. The end result is inconsistent performance, slow loading times and a shoddy experience for the end-user. If your website is a major source of leads or sales, this can be a serious shortcoming.

Even with high contention, shared hosting can still use sophisticated technology to provide decent performance, at least for sites with low or medium requirements. But still, demanding sites will never get reliable, consistently high performance on anything other than a dedicated platform.

Cloud servers and cloud hosting: always dedicated on CloudNX

'Cloud hosting', 'cloud servers', and 'shared hosting' are useful definitions, but there’s still room for misconceptions. One of these is the idea that cloud hosting – when it doesn’t involve complete servers – offers performance comparable to a normal shared hosting solution. With CloudNX, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Whether on a Root Server, a Managed Stack or an Application project, every single resource you configure in the CloudNX control panel is dedicated to you alone. Processors, RAM and SSD storage provide guaranteed performance on CloudNX hosting, exactly the same way they do on complete servers.

This means your WordPress blog or Drupal site can run with the same high level of performance you’d get from a dedicated server. If you're expecting higher visitor numbers, it’s a simple case of configuring increased server resources. The only difference is the lack of root server access, and the additional managed service provided by Fasthosts.

Where does the ‘managed’ bit come in?

On managed stacks and applications, CloudNX provides a managed service for the underlying platform. This means that while you’re in full control of your web server, databases and scripting, the platform is automatically maintained for you, with regular software updates and security patches.

Do root servers offer automatic maintenance?

Root servers are virtual machines that provide the customer with complete control and nearly unlimited customisation options – you’ll need to apply updates and patches yourself. However, unlike managed stacks, automatic maintenance isn't possible.

But on managed stacks and applications, Fasthosts takes care of the operating system and server admin. So if you don’t have the time or expertise to manage the platform yourself, you can still benefit from a powerful cloud platform, safe in the knowledge that your software is always up to date and secure.

Shared web hosting vs cloud hosting: the similarities

In a way, the managed element of cloud hosting makes it more like shared hosting, even if it can ultimately offer far more in terms of performance.

With server hardware divided between multiple users, a shared platform is basically managed by definition, since root access for one customer would obviously interfere with their co-tenants. The provider also needs to ensure that the underlying platform is kept secure and up to date, since individual customers don’t have the ability to modify it themselves.

You could think of managed stacks and applications as offering a more ‘hosting-like’ experience, in that no server admin is required.

Like a shared platform, the cloud allows everything to be managed from one central control panel. It also offers the flexibility to manage files via SFTP, install and update applications (e.g. WordPress), manage databases and DNS, and manipulate source code.

Shared hosting vs cloud hosting: what is the fundamental difference?

The big difference between the two is that, unlike shared hosting, CloudNX hosting offers fully dedicated resources that can be scaled on demand for guaranteed performance. It's sort of a ‘dedicated hosting’ option for users who want the increased power of their own server, but don’t want to deal with server management.

We’ve created this table as a quick guide to the differences between cloud servers, cloud hosting and shared hosting:

The differences between cloud servers, cloud hosting, and shared hosting

If you’re searching for more info about cloud hosting, we have a useful blog post about the benefits of cloud hosting. Or maybe you want to compare a VPS to cloud hosting, we can help with that, too.

Hopefully, this exploration of ‘cloud hosting vs shared hosting’ has cleared up some misconceptions. If you’re still unsure about the best way to meet your web hosting needs, we’ll be happy to advise you by phone, live chat or email - just get in touch. Or discover even more about the cloud over on our blog.