Following on from my recent posts Static or Dynamic (Content Managed) Website and Choosing the Right Type of Website Design, part 3 of my Choosing the Right Website Series focuses on the different hosting options websites and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
There are many different types of website hosting services available each of which depends upon the website requirements and your budget. I wont be discussing all types of hosting services, but explaining the most common hosting services for standard business or personal websites.
Types of Website Hosting
A Shared Hosting service is when a website is placed on a server alongside other websites, usually completely unrelated to one another, each one sharing the computer resources like memory and processor. A shared server could have anywhere between hundreds to thousands of websites on it.
Typical costs for a shared hosting account would be as little as a few pounds (sometimes free) to up to £10 per month depending on the services and resources purchased*.
The advantages of a shared hosting server are typically cost benefits. Having just one server host hundreds of website means the service provider can share the cost of the server between many customers, each one paying a relatively small amount compared to the full server cost.
The server is also managed on your behalf, you would not need to worry about any installation, monitoring or maintenance, that should all be taken care of by the provider.
With so many websites hosted on one server, each sharing the computer resources, the server may struggle to provide high performance for each website. The websites may be slower and the server unable to handle a high number of visitors at the same time. It is for this reason only small websites with relatively few visitors would gain a benefit if using a shared server. It would not be recommended to have a very popular website, that is business critical (perhaps an ecommerce site) on a shared server with a very high number of websites.
The exception to this rule is if the shared server does not have that many websites on it. The dedicated server may be more than enough to handle say up to 50 websites of average usage.
Another disadvantage is the configuration of the servers are usually fixed. If a certain module is missing on the server that you need to run your website, it is unlikely the host will add it on for fear of affecting the other sites already on there.
Check with your web hosting provider if they provide a shared server and how many other websites are on it. You could be unknowingly suffering from a slower than expected website.
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is when a server is divided into separate “virtual” machines, which are like mini-servers operating within their own environment, and with their own operating systems and resources. What this means is the VPS can be treated like an individual server, configured as you like, without impact on the other VPS’s on the same server. With an allocated amount of resources you can feel safe knowing that other VPS websites will not impact on your resources as much as a shared environment. Only your websites on your VPS will impact on one another, and you have full control over them.
Typical costs for a VPS would range from £20 per month with a budget hosting company to approx. £100 per month with a good quality hosting company*.
Fixed server resources can be allocated to your websites and isolated from other VPS websites so you have the confidence other high resource websites will not impact on yours.
Usually full server control (root access) can be provided and the servers configured how you need them so you are not restricted by only being able to use what the service provider installs.
VPS servers can be considered relatively low cost, or a sort of mid-way solution between shared and dedicated. Whereas shared may not be suitable, and dedicated may be too expensive, VPS can fill the gap providing what you need for the suitable price.
VPS are not totally isolated from other VPS’s. It is still possible your VPS may be affected by other high resource usage VPS’s, although the impact is not as great as with shared hosting.
VPS’s will not provide as much disk space or memory as a dedicated server. VPS’s will be good for a low number of websites, but the more websites added to it will soon eat up any space and memory available.
VPS’s would not be suitable for very high resource usage websites as the memory and CPU is not as much as dedicated servers.
Some server hosting providers may not provide a managed solution, or a limited managed solution, and so you would be responsible for the server management (at a software level). Mistakes can be made if you are not experienced.
A dedicated server is when you have an entire computer at your disposal to host your websites and any other web services, therefore completely isolating your websites from others on another machine.
Typical costs for a dedicated server would range from under £100 per month with a budget hosting company to over £600 per month with a good quality hosting company*.
You have full control over the server to do as you please, install what you want and use as much resources as you want. For any bespoke or specialist website this would be the preferred option to remove any limitations in the system.
The server will have high resources at it’s disposal. The full computer CPU, memory and disk space. If you have a high resource website then a dedicated server should be able to handle it.
Dedicated servers are usually far more costly than shared or VPS servers, so it may be overkill and too costly to use a dedicated server for one, small, non commercial website.
The costs are not so much a factor in recent years, with many providers providing dedicated servers below £100 per month. Although you must ensure the server and server provider are of good quality. You do get what you pay for when it comes to hosting.
Cloud hosting is a new type of hosting service that allows you to only use and pay for what you need, rather than what you could use. It is an expandable, scalable, stretchable, whatever you want to call it service. Imaging having a small website that all of a sudden explodes with visitors and grows rapidly… there is no need to worry about getting a new server, the Cloud hosting service can just expand with it and take care of any resource change.
Having your website in the “cloud” and not on any one physical potentially means you have more reliable service due to not having your one and only server go down. Spreading your server around the cloud ensures a single point of failure in one server is removed.
The pay per use plan could potentially be a welcome cost saving. You may want a dedicated server to cope with the high resources or space that you may need for your website(s), and initially could be a lot of wasted space. Yet you are paying the full server resources. With Cloud computing you only pay for what you use, so no wasted money on wasted server space.
If you you have a variable usage website it is difficult to know what your costs will be as the costs may vary regularly. Worst case is your website becomes so resource intensive overnight your costs escalate beyond any budget.
Some people are worried about not knowing where their website is stored, and if there is a problem, then who is looking into your problem? It is likely to be a problem with the overall infrastructure and not with your server, so you may feel you are not getting any individual attention. With a dedicated server the problem is physically in front of an engineer who is working on it, but with a problem in the cloud it may not be quite as identifiable and fixable.
Additional Factors to Consider
- Server Performance and Resources – servers range in performance depending on cost of the service provider
- Server Backup – make sure your server is backed up with easy restore whichever option you go for
- Uptime & Downtime History – find out how reliable the servers have been in the past year, read reviews, speak to other customers
- Server Support – make sure the provider give good and fast support. There are a lot of budget companies out there that provide low quality support when you need it most
- Managed Hosting Service – find out to what level the provider managed the hosting solution, you don’t want to be an inexperienced Linux server administrator
- Budget or Quality Hosting Provider – You get what you pay for with hosting, so decide upon your provider based upon the importance of your website. Don’t make cut backs if it is a business critical website you have.
See web hosting companies reviews here
Other types of hosting and more detailed information can be found on Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_hosting_service