Understanding Web Hosting – Which Hosting Plan is for You?

Different Tiers of Web Hosting Plans

understanding-web-hostingThere are typically three main types of web hosting. Four if you count your own server at home, but hardly anyone ever does that so I’m excluding it from the list… even though I do this, but I am a bit of a nerd. Anyway, I’m going to list them from best to worst.

Dedicated Server

These are by far the fastest servers because they are hardware set aside specifically for you and the websites you plan to run. No one else has any access to the hardware in any way shape or form that allows your pages to be served on to the Internet. The only way to slow these servers down is by you specifically running too many websites on your own server causing it to slow down. In other words, you have ultimate power over these servers because it is your hardware you are renting to do with whatever you want. While this is the best choice for speed, it’s also the worst choice for maintenance because you’re going to need to know how to maintain this server, know someone to maintain it for you, or at least know how to talk enough tech lingo to call the support company that you are renting a Dedicated Server from to be able to explain any situation you need assistance with.

Virtual Private Server

These are incredibly fast servers that used shared hardware instead of actual shared resources. If you’re familiar with with how virtual operating systems work this won’t be as confusing to you. What’s happening here is let’s say a machine has 8 of something, you rent 4 of those 8 and another person rents the other 4. Your operating systems are running separate and do not overlap at all. They are configured to allocate other resources throughout the machine, but only specifically to that operating system. So, there is very little chance the other person renting within the same machine as you are going to bump into each other and cause problems, and since the hardware is specifically pointed towards your rented space it is not affected by the usage of the other person on the same box. Using this technique data centers can link servers together and share massive amounts of resources this way. It’s nice for upgrades when you need 2 more CPU cores and there is no physical hardware that needs adjusted, someone just adjusts a text field, restarts your virtual machine, and next thing you know your server just gained 2 more CPU cores.

The down side to a virtual private server is that virtual operating systems always tend to be slightly laggy compared to an actual operating system. The other down side is that if your neighbor borrowing hardware resources does something really bone-headed and shuts the whole machine down, you and everyone attached to that hardware can potentially go down with it. The chances are really low, but I’ve seen it happen. The good news to this is that if you’re sleeping and your server goes down, multiple other notice while you’re sleeping and might have already got the server back on-line. If you’re on a dedicated server no one will know your pages are down, or if they do they have no access to restart the computer so it just stays down until you’re able to get to it.

Just like dedicated servers, they require a little more knowledge to adequately maintain.. but it’s well worth it! Next up is Shared Server, read about it and you’ll see why.

Shared Server

This is the slowest option, or maybe not even slowest so much as least consistent. The reason for this is because you’re on one giant server where everyone shares all the same resources as you. You are blind to the activity on the server outside of your own websites so you just have to hope no one is doing anything that would slow your sites down or take them down. I will say, I have used shared web hosting many times with minimal grief, but it’s like the lottery. You never know who you are going to be sharing this machine with, making the results between different people vary. You could talk to two people with GoDaddy shared hosting and get completely different opinions on the topic. This is because one guy is hosting his website with another guy that runs a hobby hockey website that only a few of his friends visit whereas the other guy got stuck on a server with a guy that runs a popular video sharing website. There is more risk associated with shared servers all around, which is why VPS and DS were inevitably created.

Things to take into consideration

All three are viable solutions to get your website on-line. I have used all three and still had powerful websites that ranked well with Google. In the end, I’d say the trouble I’ve had with all was about the same as time consuming, just in different ways. You can definitely notice the speed difference. One thing that drives me bonkers is that you pay less for more storage with Shared Server, then you pay more for slightly less storage space with a VPS, and now that you want dedicated hardware with a Dedicated Server suddenly storage space becomes an expensive commodity. So, choosing the right server can be challenging. Who would have thought so much consideration needs to go into choosing the proper server for your website?

Final thoughts

My recommendation is to build slowly. It isn’t too terribly hard to migrate a site from one server to another, especially if you contact us to help you with the migration. What I mean by build slowly is let’s say you have a new domain… Start on a shared server and build it up while watching it grow and when you notice you have outgrown it then move to the VPS. That will (probably) take a while to outgrow as well and then it would be time to move to the Dedicated Server.

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