There are several types of hosting to choose from today. How do you find the right one for your website? What if you need a free web hosting service?
This guide covers the five basic types of web hosting available right now, including entry level, low-cost options. With a quick overview of all the hosting choices on the market, you can find the one best suited to your website’s unique needs.
1. Shared Hosting
One of the most common types of hosting is shared hosting, which most websites and developers start with. Shared hosting is usually the most affordable and accessible web hosting option, making it a great fit for individuals, small businesses and other small to medium sized groups and organizations.
As the name suggests, shared hosting gives users access to servers they share with other websites. The exact amount of space a website has varies depending on their plan and hosting provider. However, shared hosting always uses shared server space.
The main benefit of shared hosting is accessibility. Most free hosting options are on shared servers. This is a great entry level hosting option, especially for new developers.
The main drawback of shared hosting is security. Shared hosting isn’t inherently vulnerable to cyber attacks, but the fact that servers are accessible by numerous parties does make it less secure than some other options. If you use shared hosting, you may want to choose a provider with robust security features or add your own third-party tools.
2. Dedicated Hosting
Dedicated hosting is one of the most expensive types of hosting and considered the gold standard by many. Websites have their own completely private servers that aren’t shared with anyone else.
This type of hosting is typically only an option for large organizations that are getting a lot of traffic on their website. For instance, a retailer whose website gets 50,000 monthly visitors would most likely want dedicated hosting.
On one hand, only large organizations can afford the cost to purchase and maintain dedicated web hosting. Of course there are exceptions to this. For instance, you could have a popular online-only small business that gets a lot of website traffic. Dedicated hosting providers typically offer pricing on a custom quote basis, meaning businesses in this position may be able to get a more affordable price for their unique needs.
On a practical level, large organizations are also the only ones that typically need their own private servers. If your website is getting a lot of traffic, it’s more effective for everyone if you have your own server. On shared hosting, one popular website can slow down performance for every other website trying to use the same computing resources.
3. VPS Hosting
A VPS or Virtual Private Server blends the traits of two other types of hosting. Providers use a type of application called a hypervisor to virtually segment their shared server, creating simulated private servers.
VPS hosting can be thought of as mini dedicated servers within a shared hosting environment. Your website uses a private partition of computing resources in a larger shared server system. It’s a bit like a duplex house – two people can live in the same structure without having access to each other’s private areas of that structure.
VPS hosting is a good option if you want more privacy than traditional shared hosting but can’t afford or don’t need dedicated servers. It’s not ideal for those on a tight budget, though, since it is typically more expensive than shared hosting. VPS hosting can be thought of as a mid-range option between shared and dedicated servers.
4. Cloud Hosting
Cloud hosting has boomed in popularity over recent years with providers like Google and AWS becoming leaders in this niche. It can include the above three types of hosting. The main difference is the type of server that hosting is based on.
As the name suggests, cloud hosting uses cloud servers. There are two main types of cloud hosting: public and private. Public cloud is the equivalent of shared hosting while private cloud is the equivalent of dedicated hosting. You can have a cloud environment that mixes the two in a “hybrid cloud”, as well.
Flexibility and scalability are the main benefits of cloud hosting over traditional options. In the cloud, your website’s data isn’t tied to any specific physical server resources. As a result, it’s easier to upscale or downscale as needed. This makes it more resilient to cyber attacks and natural disasters, as well.
Unfortunately, cloud hosting can be quite expensive. Most providers only disclose pricing on a custom quote basis, but will only charge you for exactly what your website uses. So, compared to dedicated hosting or VPS hosting, cloud hosting may be more cost effective for a high-traffic website. It isn’t usually ideal for small websites or new developers, though.
5. Managed Hosting
With managed hosting, users create or migrate their website to the provider’s servers and the provider does the work of updating, monitoring and maintaining it. Managed hosting can offer any of the above types of hosting.
The most well-known example of managed hosting is WordPress’s in-house hosting service. It includes a mix of hosting options, including shared, VPS and dedicated hosting. For instance, you can use WordPress’s basic shared hosting service for free. At the same time, they offer full-service dedicated managed enterprise hosting for thousands of dollars per year.
Managed hosting is more a category of hosting providers than a type of hosting itself. The defining feature of managed hosting is the ability to outsource server updates and security. You can do these things yourself, but it may be convenient to have someone else take care of them.
Wix, Weebly and other website building services also offer managed hosting. WordPress is generally acknowledged as the industry leader in this niche, though.
Understanding the Types of Hosting
Finding the right hosting option is a crucial part of starting and running a website. It can be confusing at first, but it’s really about matching your traffic and budget to a certain hosting option.
Shared hosting is best for those on a tight budget or with low-traffic websites. VPS hosting is a middle ground between shared and dedicated servers. Dedicated hosting is mainly for large enterprises with high-traffic websites. Cloud and managed hosting offer a mix of services for a range of budgets.