Shared hosting is when multiple users, websites, projects, or accounts are hosted alongside each other on a single web server. Dedicated hosting on the other hand, refers to when a single dedicated server is entirely devoted to the needs of one user or their project. Both options offer loads of benefits, but the one that's right for you depends on your needs and budget. We're going to dive deeper into both shared and dedicated web hosting, exploring their different capabilities, levels of performance, security, flexibility, cost, and more.

Shared hosting

What is shared hosting?

Shared Hosting allows multiple websites or projects to be hosted on one server. You won’t know who else you’re sharing the server with, and typically, each customer will have a pre-agreed limit to how much server resources they can use as defined by their hosting package.

Pros of shared hosting

  • Shared hosting could be compared to using a public bus service. You share it with a bunch of other people, but it's easily the cheapest and most economical way to get a website.
  • You can easily upgrade or downgrade your hosting package depending on your evolving needs and budget, so you're not tied to the same level of hosting indefinitely.
  • With shared hosting, you’ll be equipped with a built-in control panel where you can see everything you need from one place.
  • No technical maintenance needs to be done to the server from your end – this is usually included as part of your hosting package.
  • Shared hosting plans are typically designed with beginners in mind. This means your dashboard should be easy to navigate and use, even if you’ve never created your own website before.

Shared hosting can be a great option, especially for website owners with a smaller budget, or those just getting started online. This is because it’s usually the cheapest option and requires the least amount of effort from you.

However, like taking public transport, there are also some drawbacks you need to consider before you hop on board.

Cons of shared hosting

  • As shared hosting accommodates multiple websites on the same server, it can be slower than dedicated hosting, particularly when the server has a lot of traffic. During peak traffic periods, you may notice that your website performance worsens.
  • You may encounter the ‘bad neighbour effect’, which is when one of your neighbours on your shared server hogs more than their fair share of resources, slowing your site down. 
  • There are some increased cybersecurity risks associated with sharing a server, as you don’t know who your neighbours are. If one of your neighbours is sending out spam, your server’s IP address could be blacklisted.
  • Security is one of the most significant disadvantages related to shared hosting. Compromised sites on the same server could affect the security of your own site.
  • There’s a limited amount of customisation options available, which can prevent you from getting the highest level of performance from your websites.

Security is one of the most significant disadvantages related to shared hosting. Compromised sites on the same server could affect the security of your site. For example, an attacker that exploits another website and uploads malware could use that malware to steal data from all sites stored on the server.

However, it’s important to remember that shared hosting providers do take measures to protect customers from security breaches and the ‘bad neighbour effect’. For example, they implement security measures such as SSL certificates and keep an eye on the resource usage of their customers, enabling them to identify fast-growing websites and suggest that they upgrade their web hosting services.

Is shared hosting right for you?

Whether shared hosting is right for you depends on your own needs and requirements.

Say you need a website for a personal project, a small business or even a medium sized business – then you could benefit from the pros of shared hosting. Namely, the fact that it’s cost-effective and beginner friendly. In these cases, the disadvantages (like slower page speeds and heightened security risks) are very unlikely to have a significant effect on your business.

Plus, if your website grows enough to start needing more server resources, you can always upgrade or change to a hosting plan that gives you the extra power you need.

Dedicated hosting

What is dedicated hosting?

Dedicated hosting is when your website is hosted on a single server that’s dedicated specifically to your project. To continue the transport analogy, if shared hosting was like public transport, dedicated hosting would be like renting your own car. Let’s make it a Tesla – it is run on electricity after all.

The pros of dedicated server hosting

  • With a server all to yourself, you won’t need to compete with others for resources – all your server’s processing power, memory, and disc space is committed to your project. You’ll never have to worry about performance issues.
  • You have fewer cybersecurity threats to worry about too as no other user on the server can expose your project to threats, meaning there are fewer entry points for potential security breaches.
  • Dedicated hosting allows you to have full customisation, meaning you can optimise your server settings and modify software code for specific project needs.

Dedicated server hosting is a great choice if your project needs a lot of resources, or if you or members of your team have the technical capabilities to run the server yourselves.

Having a Tesla is pretty awesome, as you have all the customisation options you want and you control how fast it goes, what colour it is and what music to play. But with great power comes great responsibility, and these freedoms bring increased costs and maintenance. Let's get into the downsides of dedicated hosting.

Cons of dedicated hosting

The disadvantages of dedicated server hosting are:

  • Increased costs – you’ll have to pay a premium for a dedicated server. The silver lining is that more often than not, websites that require dedicated servers in the first place are profitable enough to justify this.
  • You'll need a certain level of technical knowledge with a dedicated server, especially if you want to take advantage of the customisability elements. However, if this isn’t possible you can also opt in for management support with a managed hosting plan.
  • You’ll be weighed down with more server maintenance responsibilities, like updating and installing patches.

Is dedicated hosting for you?

If you're a larger business with a big project and highly specialised needs, dedicated hosting is probably for you. Dedicated server hosting will give you the heightened security and high bandwidth requirements you need for your project, whether you’re running a high-traffic website or developing resource-intensive apps. On top of this, you can leverage all the snazzy customisability options too.

Shared or dedicated, which is best for you?

As you can see, when it comes to choosing between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, it largely depends on the exact requirements of your project, as well as how far your budget can stretch. 

Still unsure of what to choose? Let’s run through some comparisons between shared hosting and dedicated server hosting based on key areas that consumers focus on. Think about the factors that are most important to you to help you make your final decision.

1. Resources

The key difference between shared hosting and dedicated hosting is that shared web hosting customers share resources, whereas dedicated hosting customers don’t. This means that you’ll have to share resources like CPU, RAM and bandwidth with other customers on a shared hosting plan. If you’re sharing server space with a high-traffic website, this could take resources away from your website and therefore cause performance issues.

With a dedicated server, you don’t need to worry about anyone else hogging your resources. This is particularly important for those running high-traffic websites or resource-intensive applications.

Winner: Dedicated hosting

2. Performance 

As briefly mentioned above, dedicated server hosting offers far superior performance compared to shared hosting plans. Due to the lack of neighbour interference, you can expect much faster page loading speeds and better website responsiveness with dedicated hosting, which is crucial for high-traffic websites that can’t afford to alienate customers with slow speeds. Better site performance is also important for increasing your search engine rankings, which you can learn more about in our beginner’s guide to SEO.

However, if you own a small business website that doesn’t typically attract a lot of web traffic, going for a dedicated server could be overkill. Despite the risk of noisy neighbours with shared web hosting, shared hosting providers will provide plenty of resources and monitor usage to mitigate this risk. Therefore, if your resource needs aren’t excessive, shared hosting should give you what you need to keep your website running smoothly – at a much lower cost.

Winner: Dedicated hosting

3. Cost

Speaking of cost, this is one of the major factors that people look at when deciding on a hosting plan. While the superiority of dedicated hosting can’t be denied, the question is whether the much higher cost is worth it to you. For example, you can access shared Web Hosting with us for as little as £5 per month (or even less with seasonal discounts), but a dedicated server will cost you at least £50 per month.

Dedicated hosting will give you a huge amount of resources and processing power, but if you don’t need this level of power for your projects, choosing dedicated hosting could be a waste of money. We would recommend dedicated hosting for those who need to host large websites with lots of traffic or multiple websites. Dedicated servers are also suited for hosting complex projects such as resource-intensive app development.

Winner: Shared hosting

4. Customisation

The higher cost may also be worth it to you if you need more control over your server. With shared hosting, you’re unable to make any changes to the back end of the server, as this would affect all websites hosted on it. However, since you’re the only customer on a dedicated server, you’ll benefit from full root access. This means you can choose your operating system, install your preferred software, and configure the server to match your needs. While this may not be necessary for those who are hosting a small website, this level of flexibility and customisation may be essential for those with more bespoke projects.

Winner: Dedicated hosting

5. Maintenance

If you’re going to customise your dedicated server, you need to have some technical knowledge and time set aside. Unless you choose a managed hosting plan, you or your IT team will be in charge of daily server maintenance, which can include software updates, resource monitoring, software and hardware upgrades, and security checks.

If you’re new to the world of web hosting, managing a dedicated server can be a time consuming and difficult task. Instead, you may greatly benefit from shared hosting, as shared hosting providers will handle server configuration and maintenance for you. This allows you to focus solely on your projects.

Winner: Shared hosting

6. Security

Is security one of your main concerns? Dedicated server hosting may be the right choice for you.

One of the key issues with shared hosting is that you could be more vulnerable to cyber attacks. This is because there are more potential entry points for security breaches as there are multiple customers and websites on one server. If one customer hasn’t implemented robust security measures on their site, this could allow cybercriminals to gain access to the shared server.

However, shared hosting providers will implement security measures themselves to keep their servers safe. Therefore, shared hosting isn’t necessarily unsafe, but you may want the extra security that comes with dedicated hosting, especially if you need to store sensitive information on your server.

Winner: Dedicated hosting

7. Scalability

As your website gains more traffic, you may find yourself outgrowing your shared hosting plan. If you need more resources than what’s allocated to you, your website’s performance can start to suffer, or you may even start experiencing more frequent downtime. Plus, your shared hosting provider may notice your excessive resource usage and tell you that it’s time to upgrade your hosting. While migrating to a new hosting plan isn’t too difficult, it can still be time consuming to choose a new plan and sort out the transfer.

On the other hand, dedicated hosting can be considered to be more scalable simply because you have more resources to play with from the very beginning. You’re unlikely to run out of resources on a powerful dedicated server, so as your projects grow, your server will be well equipped to handle these new traffic loads and maintain good performance.

Overall, shared hosting can be a cost-effective solution for small and medium-sized websites. However, if you anticipate significant growth in the future, your shared hosting plan may not be able to handle this. You can either migrate to a new hosting plan when the time comes or stick with a dedicated server from the beginning – if your budget allows this.

Winner: Dedicated hosting

Final Score: 5-2 to dedicated hosting.

VPS hosting

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a highly scalable and flexible hosting solution, you may need to consider VPS hosting instead. A VPS (virtual private server) combines the benefits of full root access and dedicated resources with the cost-effectiveness of shared hosting. This is because these virtual servers are made by splitting a physical server into multiple virtual compartments using server virtualisation software. The cost of VPS hosting can be split among multiple customers on the same physical server, but since each VPS is virtually isolated, you get your own dedicated resources, better security and full root access to customise the back end.

One of the main benefits of virtual servers is that you can easily scale up your hosting plan by adding more virtual resources to it via your control panel. This isn’t possible with physical/dedicated servers, which are more difficult to physically upgrade if you do need more power. As a result, VPSs can be a great in-between option for those who need better performance and security than shared hosting but aren’t ready to commit to expensive dedicated hosting.

Check out the Fasthosts blog for more information on servers and web hosting. You can also take a look at our awesome hosting options today, including shared Web Hosting, powerful Dedicated Servers, highly-flexible Cloud Servers, and affordable Virtual Private Servers.