It is essential for businesses to have an online presence nowadays if they want to grow as quickly as possible—especially for small businesses who need the extra exposure. In fact, if you have a question about a specific company, service, or product, chances are you’re heading straight into your web browser to see if they have their own website first. However, having a face on the web is not only a matter of profitably but of reputability as well. Many customers may question a business’ credibility if they search for them online and find nothing, or only third-parties describing their services. So why doesn't everyone take advantage of the fact that websites are easier and more affordable to build than ever?
Well, web hosting services aren’t all the same. Price ranges can vary wildly depending on the kind of features each hosting type offers. Not all types of web hosting are suitable for businesses or individuals who don’t have the skills to operate them proficiently. So let’s look at the four most common types of basic web hosting, and two less-conventional options, to get a bigger picture of what you can find on the market and what is most fitting for your business.
Shared hosting is the answer if what you’re looking for is the quickest, cheapest way of getting a website online. The way it works is by adding your domain— the part of a network address which identifies a site as belonging to a particular domain, i.e. .com, .net, .org, etc.—to a server where many other domains share resources, including RAM and a CPU. This means that, while shared hosting is cheaper than other types of web hosting, it’s also the most susceptible to outside influences.
Think of shared hosting as living with roommates in a big house. Because you’re living together, what one does naturally affects the other, and vice-versa. So if one of the other domains in your server suddenly gets a lot of traffic, you might notice your website is starting to slow down. Other problems to consider are a lack of root server access, which might be desirable if you want a more personalized web hosting experience, and a general lack of safety when compared to other types of web hosting.
Other than being affordable, shared web hosting does have one more advantage to consider: it's accessible. Because many hosts will have their server(s) ready-to-go with the most popular options, it’s easier to use for people who don’t understand the intricacies of hosting a web platform. Hosts will typically also take care of maintenance and security updates for you.
If you are expecting your website to get a lot of traffic or are a tech expert looking to access your server’s inner mechanisms, you are probably going to get much more out of dedicated hosting. Dedicated web hosting provides users with their own private server, which means all its resources—bandwidth, space, and server access—are their website’s alone. This translates to less downtime, since the server won’t have to divide up its resources to deal with traffic from other users’ sites, and a higher level of security, as there are fewer pathways for malicious software for individuals to exploit. Moreover, experienced users can customize their website to their heart’s content thanks to administrative access to the server root.
Here’s the catch though: dedicated hosting is especially expensive when compared to its competition. You could be spending more than twice what other types of hosting will cost you. But if cost isn’t an issue, and your technical savvy is waiting to get its hands on a new project, dedicated hosting is by far the best alternative for your website.
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is similar to shared hosting in that they both place users on a single server. However, VPS hosting stands apart from shared hosting because it splits up each into smaller “virtual servers.” This may give users the impression that they have their own server and, while this isn’t exactly true, it does give users an added layer of customizability and security.
VPS hosting is more expensive than shared hosting but less expensive than dedicated hosting. This is reflected in the additional perks, such as administrative access and higher security, that come with it. However, just like dedicated hosting, most hosting services will expect you to manage your own server (in this case virtual server). If you don't know your way around code, this might be more than your average business owner can handle. For those that can manage the extra responsibility, if you aren’t ready to shell out the money for a single, dedicated server, VPS hosting is a worthwhile alternative to consider.
Cloud hosting is the result of advances in cloud technology and is the youngest of all web hosting types. Like VPS hosting, it’s basically a midway point between shared and dedicated web hosting, except it works almost exactly the other way around. Whereas VPS hosting uses one CPU and splits a single server into many smaller virtual servers, cloud hosting uses many CPUs to create virtual servers that are shared among the machines that run them. This almost always results in less downtime since, even if one server crashes, the other servers that are connected to the same cloud can continue to host your website. Said flexibility to stay online in the case of a natural disaster or hardware problems is a massive boon for people who want 24/7 uptime no matter what happens with their hardware.
Because of the way cloud servers work, it’s to be expected that their price is higher than other types of web hosting. But although they are more expensive than shared and VPS servers, they still sit comfortably behind the much steeper priced dedicated servers. Cloud-hosted servers have dedicated resources even though they share the same physical equipment as other servers on the same cloud. Just as with VPS hosting though, users are expected to have some amount of technical expertise since they have to configure their virtual server themselves.
Other Types of Hosting: Collocated Hosting and Web Builders
In addition to the four main types of web hosting, there are other types that might be worth considering for consumers. Two of these are collocated hosting and web builders.
Collocated hosting is the only alternative for people who want to own the actual hardware that powers their server(s) instead of just leasing it. With this type of hosting, a customer purchases the physical space that their server is on and is responsible for maintaining the equipment. Some companies will offer something called “managed hosting,” where they keep the server hardware and operating system in good condition. Needless to say, this is an extremely expensive operation. Small businesses probably shouldn’t bother with collocated hosting, but if you run a large company and you don’t mind the extra cost, collocated hosting might be a good alternative for more traditional types of web hosting.
Web builders aren’t exactly a type of web hosting per se, but they do provide the fastest, most user-friendly way of setting up a website. Web builders will provide consumers with a selection of templates and design options to make the task of building your website as streamlined and effortless as possible. Web building companies will usually offer to host your website as well. However, the ease of use and low cost of web builders come at the cost of personality: because almost everything is predesigned, customers who desire highly customized changes will find they lie outside the scope of this type of hosting. Furthermore, the number of pages on your website might be limited depending on your subscription plan.
So, Which Type of Hosting Service Should I Pick?
The type of web hosting service you choose will ultimately depend on your budget and the kind of business you are running. Luckily, you don’t have to be stuck with a single type of hosting forever—hosts may provide data transfers and other methods of “upgrading” from one type of hosting to another. Once you’re done reading up on the types of hosting alternatives available, it’s time to start looking at the companies that provide them. Get a head start by taking a look at our top 10 web hosting service providers.