If you’re starting a small eCommerce store, website, or content business, you have two options for hosting: shared hosting and virtual private servers. There are many other forms of hosting, but it’s unlikely you’ll need the power of a dedicated server or the complexity of a cloud platform until your business grows considerably.
Your decision can affect the future of your business, so it’s worth taking some time to think about the implications of choosing shared hosting or a VPS.
All web hosting is based on a server in a data center. A server is a computer, much like ordinary desktop or laptop computers, but more powerful and specialized for a particular set of tasks. A data center is a building that houses servers and provides them with power, cooling, and bandwidth.
The difference between shared hosting and a virtual private server lies in how the physical servers are used.
Each shared hosting account resides on a physical server in the same operating system environment. Shared hosting providers try to cram as many low-cost hosting accounts onto a physical server as possible — most shared hosting providers put thousands of shared hosting accounts on the same server. That means your WordPress site or eCommerce store has to compete with thousands of others for resources.
Because shared hosting accounts all share the same environment, the user can’t make any modifications to that environment. A change for one user would be a change for every user. Also, a hacked account can be very bad news for other accounts hosted on the same server.
Virtual Private Server
Virtual Private Servers are also based on a physical server, and, just as with shared hosting, that server is divided into smaller units shared between more than one user. But there are significant differences. Rather than putting every account within the same environment, a virtualization layer runs software servers: software that emulates a physical server. Each VPS client has complete access to their own server environment.
From the perspective of the VPS client, they have access to a server environment indistinguishable from a physical server. Each virtual server provides all the software and capabilities as “real” server. A VPS is completely separate from other virtual machines on the same physical machine. In consequence, if a VPS is hacked, there’s no way for it affect the other clients on the machine.
VPS clients benefit from full root access to their server, and they can customize it to meet their requirements. That includes installing and uninstalling software, making configuration changes, and rebooting the server.
Virtual private servers also have access to guaranteed resources, so it’s less likely a VPS user will experience performance problems because another client on the same host server consumes all the resources.
Which is best for your project or company? Shared hosting has its place: for low-traffic blogs or portfolio sites, cheap shared hosting accounts are a good choice. But for a business site that expects to attract an increasing number of visitors or a web application, a virtual private server offers the optimal resources and flexibility for the best price.