All web hosting is an allotment of resources on an internet-connected server. What differs is how that allotment is carved out from the server’s resources and the software that does the carving. Both impact the capabilities and features of a web hosting account. It is awkward to move between types of web hosting once a site is established, so it pays to understand their benefits and limitations.
There are four categories of web hosting used for self-hosted applications such as Magento or WordPress. They are shared hosting, virtual private servers, dedicated servers, and cloud servers. All four can host a website or eCommerce store, but they differ in scalability, customizability, and performance.
Shared hosting is the simplest sort of hosting. A server hosts many websites, and each site consumes a share of the server’s resources. Shared hosting may or may not enforce strict resource allocations, and performance issues can arise when clients hosted on the same server consume more than their fair share of resources.
Shared hosting is the least customizable type of hosting. It provides a standard environment suitable for applications like WordPress. Clients have limited control over that environment because changes affect every site on the server. The best shared hosting providers optimize for particular applications, engineering a platform that offers the best performance and reliability.
That level of care is not the norm, and cheap shared hosting providers do little to optimize the platform. They cram as many sites onto their servers as possible, overselling the server’s resources to push prices down and profits up.
Super-cheap shared hosting should be avoided altogether. High-quality shared hosting is a good option for small businesses that don’t need a customizable hosting platform and that don’t expect traffic to grow substantially over time.
Virtual Private Server
A virtual private server is a server within a server. The physical server hosts several software servers, virtual machines running on a hypervisor. Each virtual machine has an operating system and a complete set of software tools and utilities. As the name suggests, virtual private servers are private to a client. They are more customizable than shared hosting: clients can install software, edit configuration files, and modify the server as they like.
Each virtual server has an allocation of resources, typically more than a shared hosting account. A VPS can have resource allocations that range from barely more than shared hosting to as powerful as a low-end dedicated server. The most powerful virtual private servers are called hybrid servers.
Unlike cloud servers, virtual private servers are paid for on a monthly or yearly contract. A VPS can be given more resources or upgraded to a higher tier. They are scalable, but not as elastic as a cloud server.
For many small businesses, a virtual private server is the ideal web hosting option. A VPS can support a business site or eCommerce store. More powerful virtual private servers can support several sites or stores. And a VPS allows businesses to control their hosting platform, customizing it to meet their needs. Many small businesses use a VPS to host websites, applications, databases, and more.
Dedicated servers are the foundation on which other types of hosting are built. Shared hosting, virtual private servers, and cloud servers use a portion of the power of a server. When the whole server is at the disposal of one client, it is a dedicated server. Dedicated servers are the most powerful web hosting option, but not necessarily the most expensive.
A dedicated server is cost-effective when a small business can use the resources it provides. It is wasteful to host only a low-traffic site on a dedicated server. But it is efficient to host a high-traffic site, or several high-traffic sites because clients pay less over the life of the server than for similarly capable virtual private servers or cloud servers.
Dedicated and virtual private servers are available managed or unmanaged. With a managed server, the hosting provider is responsible for configuration and security hardening, for ongoing maintenance and security tasks, and for system administration. The tasks the hosting provider is responsible for depend on the specifics of the managed hosting plan. You can see a list Future Hosting’s managed services here.
An unmanaged server hosting account provides a server with a basic configuration, but further configuration and system administration are left to the client. The hosting provider maintains the physical hardware, power and cooling, as well as network connectivity.
Unmanaged servers are used by organizations with system administration expertise, and which require full control of their server. Managed servers are used by hosting clients that prefer to have day-to-day system administration and security tasks taken care of by our expert staff, leaving them to focus on the website itself.
Cloud servers are virtual machines but are more flexible than virtual private servers. They can be deployed instantly, scaled at will, and offer on-demand pricing. Cloud servers are available in a wider range of specifications than virtual private servers. Low-tier cloud servers with 1GB of memory and a single virtual CPU are ideal for hosting low-traffic WordPress sites or eCommerce stores or as testing and development servers. The most powerful cloud servers are equipped with 32GB of RAM and 12 vCPUs, more than enough to support the hosting needs of most small businesses.
Cloud servers are the most flexible and scalable hosting option. They are the ideal choice for growing businesses and businesses that want to take advantage of on-demand pricing and instant deployment.