When you're setting up a website, you’ll quickly realise that deciding which type of web hosting plan to use is a tricky decision to make. Not least because there are a million and one options available. To make things even harder, each web hosting option has a unique set of pros and cons, depending on your site’s needs, your budget and what you need to use it for.
There are six main types of web hosting that you can choose from. Each one comes with its own advantages and disadvantages, but by the end of this guide, you should be able to confidently choose the web hosting plan that works best for you.
Now, before we go any further, let’s make sure we have the basics down first. So, what is web hosting?
What is web hosting?
Web hosting is the process of renting or buying space on a web server from a provider. Using this type of hosting allows you to create and host your own website on the internet. A web hosting provider will help as little or as much as you require, and on top of that you’ll receive only the best security for your sites.
Types of web hosting
The difference between web hosting plans and the benefits they bring to the table can make or break your decision. With that in mind, let’s look at the six most common types of web hosting that you’re likely to come across:
- Shared hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- VPS hosting
- Cloud server
- Managed server
- Colocated server
Shared hosting is the most affordable web hosting option, allowing multiple different users to use the service at the same time i.e multiple sites can be hosted on the same server. Each website has a set amount of resources at its disposal depending on each user’s hosting plan. With that said, let's take a look at the pros and cons of shared hosting:
Pros of shared hosting
Many providers give you full flexibility to upgrade your hosting plan to handle more traffic or downgrade it if you don't need all that power.
Easy to use
Shared hosting plans come with a built-in control panel that allows you to easily see all the data you need for your website in one place.
Managed for you
You’ll never have to worry about the technical maintenance of your server as this is taken care of by the provider.
Cons of shared hosting
Sharing your server with other websites can lead to performance issues when there is a high amount of traffic.
There is an increased risk of certain cybersecurity issues as you can never be sure exactly who your neighbours are on the server.
With shared hosting, you have the least amount of customisation options available which can stop you from getting the most from your site.
Is shared hosting right for you?
As it’s the most affordable option and requires the least amount of work, shared hosting can be a great option for website owners with a smaller budget, or those who are just getting started online.
We would even recommend shared hosting for some medium businesses as it’s quite rare that you’ll ever reach the kind of traffic levels that may start to have a negative impact on performance. Security risks are also very unlikely.
Plus, if your website ever grows to a size where you might need to start thinking about upgrading, it's super easy to do so.
Next up is dedicated hosting. This web hosting option uses resources dedicated to you and only you. That means your website is hosted on a single server and it's solely for your own use. But what do you stand to benefit from dedicated hosting? And are there any downsides?
Pros of dedicated hosting
You’ll never have to worry about performance issues. The server is all yours so you don’t have to compete for resources.
The same goes with cybersecurity threats - if there’s only you on the server, you only have to worry about your own security affecting your website.
Dedicated hosting gives you full admin control, so you can install and update software to your heart's content.
Cons of dedicated hosting
Increased features come with increased costs. The silver lining is that, if your site requires a dedicated server in the first place, the money it generates should more than cover the hosting costs.
More knowledge needed
It would be wise to have someone in your team with some technical IT knowledge. But if this isn’t possible, you can also opt-in for management support.
Part and parcel with this are that server maintenance responsibilities such as updating and installing patches will be left to you.
Is dedicated hosting for you?
Looking for something with a bit more oomph? Perhaps your existing hosting plan just can’t handle your traffic. Upgrading to a dedicated server will give you the power you need. With the latest hardware and your own space in our UK data centres, you can count on top-notch performance.
You’ll get the independence you need but if anything goes wrong, it's on your shoulders to sort it out. The bottom line is if your site could really benefit from dedicated resources, and you have the budget for it, then dedicated hosting is a great option. If not, shared hosting will suffice.
Dedicated hosting extras
Want to have more control over your dedicated resources? Add a bare metal server to your account through our CloudNX panel. You still get your own space, but you also get the advantages of a server hosted in the cloud. Our load-balancing technology ensures you always get the best performance possible.
Virtual Private Server
A VPS, or virtual private server, is when a physical server is split up into several virtual machines, with each one having the same resources that the original server had. Each website has its own server space, hence they’re called “private” servers.
They're often seen as a happy medium between shared hosting and dedicated hosting, as they offer all the benefits of dedicated resources while still sharing the cost of the physical server. Virtual private servers also bring some of their own benefits to the table.
Pros of VPS
A VPS is private, which means you’re guaranteed all the resources on the server, so you never have to worry about performance issues.
You essentially get all the same resources you would with a dedicated server, but at a fraction of the price.
You get complete admin control with full root access to your server.
You have better privacy than a shared server as the files and data are locked from other server users.
You can easily scale up or down depending on website growth so you can handle seasonal traffic spikes, bigger files and more pages.
With this server you can benefit from add-ons such as VPS apps to help control different aspects of your projects.
Cons of VPS
Pricier than shared hosting
It’s sometimes more expensive than shared hosting so maybe not the ideal option for tighter budgets if you don't need the extra benefits.
Requires technical knowledge
You will need some technical knowledge to set up your VPS, although this can easily be done with a few online tutorials, or with the help of your provider.
Potential security risks
You need to be careful – if you set your VPS up wrong, it can lead to security vulnerabilities.
Server management is more demanding than shared servers and you may find it difficult to calculate the number of resources your website needs.
Is a VPS for you?
As we said before, a VPS is a happy medium between a dedicated server and shared hosting. If you’re pushing your shared hosting plan to the limits, or if you want full control over your hosting but don’t have the cash to splash on a dedicated hosting plan, a VPS could be the best option. Equipped with unlimited bandwidth and SSD storage, your server can be provisioned in as little as 55 seconds – so you’ll be ready to go almost immediately.
A cloud server is a virtual server that runs in a cloud computing environment. Instead of relying on a single physical machine, cloud servers are built, delivered and accessed through a cloud computing network via the internet.
Pros of cloud servers
Because all the data is stored on the cloud, there is no need for onsite hardware or capital expenses. This is useful for smaller companies that may have resource or physical space limitations.
You have full flexibility and control, upgrading as and when you need to and only paying for what you need.
Easy to back up
Backups and restores of your server can be initiated from anywhere on a device of your choice in a matter of seconds.
As all your data is backed up to the cloud, in the event of an emergency, your chances of losing your data are highly unlikely. And you can often restore should anything get lost.
Pay as you go
Depending on the cloud hosting you choose, some providers offer packages at competitive prices that aren't much more expensive than shared hosting.
Cons of cloud servers
For some businesses, the costs of cloud hosting could outweigh the benefits, especially if they don’t have any need for scalability and instant data recovery.
While there are upgrades you can make to storage, there are usually limits, and they do come at a cost.
Reliant on connection
If you lose access to the internet for whatever reason, you won't be able to access your information.
Is a cloud server right for you?
Cloud hosting is hugely diverse. It can be both very cheap and incredibly expensive, depending on whether it’s forming the foundation for huge streaming servers, or simply hosting a regular website for a small company.
For those small businesses who would have previously been limited to shared hosting plans, cloud hosting opens the door to innovative cloud technology, unlimited scalability and constant access to apps and data. With a cloud server, your hosting can change alongside your business, and you can easily add resources to your plan to handle the extra traffic. If things die down again, you can simply downscale your hosting. You’ll only pay for what you use, and you can cancel any time.
Cloud hosting extras
Our Acronis Cyber Protect product is the perfect companion to our hosting plans, or any devices that are important to you. You can take customisable backups of servers, laptops or mobile devices as frequently as you like, and restore them instantly as needed.
So far, taking on the additional capabilities of the different types of web hosting has come with higher costs and increased responsibilities.
If you’re not as technically savvy, VPS hosting, cloud servers and dedicated hosting might pose a challenge because you have to handle server maintenance yourself. Unless of course, you opt for a managed server.
Managed servers are exactly how they sound – they're servers that are managed for you. You'll typically still get all the access you need, but server maintenance and updates are taken care of by your hosting provider.
Pros of managed servers
Less technical knowledge needed
You don’t have to worry about any of the technical maintenance. Just sit back and relax while your host handles tasks like operating system updates, software updates and other server-level management and configuration tasks.
You're using someone else's servers, meaning they’re kept safe and secure on their premises. You don’t have to worry about making sure they don’t get damaged.
Some providers let you easily scale your packages up (or down) as your website needs it.
Security is covered
All your security concerns are covered with security patching and other account-level features that need to be regularly checked to ensure full functionality.
Cons of managed servers
Managed servers are more expensive than their unmanaged counterparts because of the extra work needed from your provider.
You don’t own your own server, so you can’t always instantly access it.
Need a trusted provider
Control is given away to the hosting provider, which means you’re at their mercy, so make sure you choose a good one.
Is a managed server for you?
Managed hosting servers can be thought of as an enhanced alternative to any of the unmanaged web hosting servers you choose. You’ll get the same benefits (package-dependent) and they come with full technical support so they’ll make your life easier. For most people, the choice will depend on how much money you want to spend.
Another alternative option to a Managed Server is a Colocated Server. This is where the server remains the property of the client organisation but is housed in a data centre where it is maintained, managed and monitored by the cloud service provider.
Traditionally, companies would store their data on in-house servers which required heavy duty equipment on site. The dawn of “cloud storage” changed this forever. It was no longer necessary for these expensive, in-house physical servers to be located in offices. Instead, businesses could “co-locate” the IT infrastructure to off-site data centres, and remain connected to the server via the internet or a VPN.
This meant that businesses no longer had to deal with the overheads and maintenance of running servers in-house - it was all taken care of by a third-party provider.
Pros of Colocated Servers
You get access to quality equipment such as cooling, power and communication systems that guarantee the reliability of your connection - in other words, equipment that only very large companies could afford to buy and maintain for themselves.
Colocation offers your company the flexibility to scale up or down easily, while allowing you to pay only for the space and bandwidth you need.
With Colocation, data spikes are distributed over time across numerous users, keeping bandwidth costs low.
Full third-party maintenance ensures your data centres are always functioning at optimum capacity.
Data breaches and natural disasters happen, but when your critical equipment operates at an off-site data centre, there are security and backups in place to continue operations.
Cons of Colocated Servers
High initial costs
Compared to renting servers, Colocated Servers have higher start-up costs.
It can be difficult to find a hosting provider that offers Colocation Servers, especially as you need to consider proximity and pricing.
Is a Colocated Server for you?
Colocated Servers can be a great option for businesses of all sizes. Small businesses can get access to features that they would never dream of having if they did it themselves.
At the same time, medium to large businesses can massively expand their data storage capacity without undertaking eye-wateringly expensive construction or facility leasing.
It’s a middle-ground between a Dedicated Server and Cloud server, where you get the extra power but don’t have to worry about the installation or maintenance of the server yourself.
So which type of web hosting is right for you?
With so many options to choose from, the right solution depends on what you need from your hosting. For example, if you need affordable flexibility, then a Cloud Server or VPS would be ideal for you. But if your main need is for lots of power (and you have a bigger budget) then a dedicated server might be a better option. And if you're looking for the cheapest way to get your website up and running, then a shared server might be the way to go.
So whether you opt for a VPS or a cloud server, a dedicated server or a bare metal server – one thing’s clear – the choice is yours. But if you do still have any questions or you’re struggling to choose the server for you, our sales team is here to help.