Website hosting services essentially act as a place to house your website when you publish it online. But not all web hosting services are the same, and as a matter of fact there are several distinct types out there.
Before you get stuck in and start to look at the storage capacity, bandwidth, and other miscellaneous features that web hosts provide – you should first determine the type of web hosting service you require. The good news is that in general there are four types that are the most popular, and should be at the top of your list.
- Shared Hosting
As its name suggests this type of hosting will involving ‘sharing’ a server. If you choose to use it, your website will be housed on a server alongside hundreds or possibly even thousands of others.
Because so many users share the same server, the cost of shared hosting is cheaper than any other type of hosting service. However at the same time all those websites are going to be sharing the same RAM, CPU, bandwidth and other server resources – so the performance will be low.
Although many shared hosting packages claim to offer ‘unlimited’ storage or bandwidth, it is often an empty promise. The truth is that once you go over the fine print you’ll find that shared hosting is more limited than any other option.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
Technically VPS hosting involves ‘sharing’ a server too, but the difference is that each website is hosted in its own dedicated virtualized space that acts as its own server. That means that although the physical server is shared, each website will have their own distinct set of resources to work with.
For all intents and purposes VPS hosting acts like a dedicated server and gives you full control over the virtualized server. The resources that are available can be scaled up or down as required too – subject to certain limitations.
Generally speaking there is no significant disadvantage to this type of website hosting, only the cost is higher and it can be more difficult to set up. At times however hosting providers ‘oversell’ their VPS servers which can result in users not getting the resources that were promised.
Overall however VPS hosting is a great middle-ground between shared hosting and a dedicated server.
- Dedicated Server
If you use a dedicated server, you’ll essentially be exclusively leasing an entire physical server. Simply put you’ll have full control over the server, and can decide exactly what you want to do with it.
Although this is generally the most expensive type of hosting service, it is also the one that has the potential to provide the best performance, flexibility, and scalability. It will enable you to customize the server based on your requirements and optimize it to fit your needs.
Aside from the cost, the main downside of hosting your website on a dedicated server is that you need the technical expertise to set up and maintain the server. It is possible to find managed dedicated servers or hire a server administrator – but both will cost even more.
- Cloud Hosting
In many ways cloud hosting shares a lot in common with VPS hosting, except your website and data will be hosted on a network of servers. Effectively it combines the network of servers into a virtualized machine, and allocated resources as required.
One of the main reasons why cloud hosting has become popular in recent years is that it is both scalable and flexible. Most providers will bill you based on the resources that you use, and you can scale it up or down as necessary.
Additionally the built-in redundancy that comes with having your website hosted on several servers can help to reduce the risk of downtime and data loss. Suffice to say unlike other types of hosting you won’t have to worry about having a single point of failure.
The disadvantages of cloud hosting are that its costs can add up if you aren’t careful, and at times security can be a concern. Both these issues can be mitigated as long as you’re careful however.
Make no mistake there are a few other types of web hosting services that are relatively popular, such as managed hosting and co-location. However the four listed above are far more popular and odds are you should be able to find the type that you need from among them.
After you determine the type of website hosting that you feel is the best fit, you can then start to look at the various packages that are available. Ideally your goal should be to find one that matches your requirements and provides both the resources and features that you need.