If you are shopping around for web hosting solutions, you will likely see the term “shared hosting” quite often. This is especially true if you are looking for budget hosting solutions. The most popular and least expensive of all paid hosting options is shared hosting.
It may seem like you should also jump on the shared hosting bandwagon and it is quite likely that you should. But, shared is not for everyone so before making that decision, know exactly what you are in for and whether shared is really the best option for your hosting needs.
What is Shared Hosting?
In order for your website to appear on the Internet your files, pages and software applications need to reside on a server. That server then connects to the Internet and allows people to access your site.
There are several options of how to get your site on the Internet. You can host your own server in your facility, use another facility (co-location), choose to have your files on one server provided by your host (dedicated hosting) or you can choose to share server space with others at your provider.
Shared hosting means you share the server resources with others. You have complete access to your account and only your account and a set amount of resources and features.
Responsibilities: Your Web Host and You
With shared web hosting the provider is responsible for all server maintenance. General maintenance and upgrades to both server hardware and software are the sole responsibility of the host. The host may, for example, replace drivers or upgrade their operating system software.
You are responsible for your won site. You will use a control panel to have access to your site where you can monitor your traffic, upload files, set up your email and install applications. Most web hosts will not help you maintain your site as part of your hosting package. You will share the server with several other clients. Each of you will be allotted a certain amount of bandwidth, disc space and features that you control via your control panel.
Why Choose Shared Hosting?
While you may not necessarily fit well within a shared hosting environment there is a reason shared hosting is the most popular. It is the most affordable option available for paid hosting solutions. Most individuals, small businesses, medium sized businesses and moderately trafficked web sites will thrive in a shared hosting environment.
Web hosting is a highly competitive industry, thus it is common to find hosts that provide affordable packages rich in features. Some advantages include:
Price – Monthly fees are very affordable and you will often get even more of a discount if you pay in a lump sum for the entire year.
Scalability – Most hosts have a variety of packages. The smallest package comes with the lowest disc space and bandwidth allotments and may also only have a minimum amount of additional features. Then there is typically graduating packages that include additional features for a greater price. You can choose the minimum package you can get away with then upgrade as your site grows.
Features – Most hosts these days have ample options in features that will suit just about everyone’s needs. Included in this is often one click installation of popular scripts that will add functionality to your website. Forums, blogs, chat, calendars and more are examples of scripts that may be included in your package.
When Sharing May not be for You
While sharing suits the vast majority of purposes, there are those who are not suited to a shared environment. Enterprise businesses and high traffic sites are among those. The reasons you may not want to consider a shared solution include:
Performance – These days performance is not usually an issue because software and hardware on the server is much more robust and reliable. However, if there is a site that has a spike in traffic, you may see system problems.
File Restrictions – Because everyone on the server must be considered in order to maintain high uptime percentages and to guarantee the security of the server, some applications and functions may be restricted. You may not be able to run particular applications that are needed on your site.
Resource Restrictions – Although many web hosts claim unlimited resources, if you read the fine print you will see this is not really the case. If your site starts off on a shared server and becomes popular, something in your site bogs down the server or you start eating up too much bandwidth you will likely be asked to leave. There is a chance that you may have outgrown the possibility of shared services.
With dedicated hosting you have a lot more freedom to do what you wish and you have a greater amount of resources. However, you will also pay a lot more for those benefits. The fact is, most sites do not need the resources afforded dedicated servers and can instead use shared hosting. But, before making that decision, make sure you know exactly what shared hosting entails and whether or not you will likely fit into that model.
Want to learn more? Check out all of our great web hosting guides!