Types of Web Hosting

Website hosts play a crucial role in making sure your business’ website is available and lightning-fast. All web hosts offer different types of web hosting packages, which can overwhelm new site owners. The best thing you can do is to learn what types of services are available. Then, you can go about selecting the right option for your business.

To help you make an informed decision, this guide outlines the main types of web hosting, how they work, their pros and cons, and which businesses they suit best.


Web Hosting’s Role

The main role of a web hosting service is to provide a storage place for your business website. But, different types of web hosting services vary in their storage capacity, server speed, and reliability as well as how much control you have and how much technical knowledge you need.

Behind every website you’ll find computer programming code stored in various files. For internet users to access those files, you need to house them somewhere. That’s where web hosting providers come in.

These providers store your website’s files on their servers, which people can access through their web browsers. A server acts like a computer, but with far more power so many people can access its data simultaneously.

Many web hosting providers also offer additional services, such as server management, website building and backup, and security screening.

Web Hosting Options

Web hosting services come in six main types: shared, virtual private server (VPS), dedicated, cloud, managed, and colocation hosting.

To decide which will best meet your needs, you must understand the services each type offers, how much technical support you can provide for your website, and how much you can afford to pay for this service. Here’s an overview of each type.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting services make an ideal choice for beginners and websites with low traffic volumes.

How It Works

Your website shares space with other websites on the shared hosting provider’s server. Because a server can house thousands of sites, shared hosting is much cheaper than other types of web hosting.

While each server is powerful, all the websites it stores must share its resources. This includes its random-access memory (RAM), central processing unit (CPU) speed, and hard drive space. Depending on the traffic a server receives, it may experience a strain on its resources while responding to data requests from visitors on each website it hosts.

The Pros and Cons

Shared hosting offers several benefits. First, it’s affordable. Second, a shared hosting provider will take responsibility for administering the server that stores your website and any technical issues that might arise. This means you only need to build and manage your website.

If you need any technical support, shared hosting providers usually respond faster than if you opt for a dedicated server. Why? Because these providers don’t want problems from one website to spread to others stored on the same server.

But, shared hosting also comes with a few drawbacks. For example, shared resources can slow websites down — especially if one website on a server receives a huge number of visitors.

Another potential issue can arise if one site on the shared server has problematic code. That site may end up using more server RAM and leaving less space for the other sites, which can slow them down. But, shared hosting providers typically disable problematic websites temporarily to fix issues and monitor for potential problems to help keep their servers running smoothly.

In addition, when you choose shared hosting, you have no control over the type of software, hardware, and other technical equipment the host uses.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

If you don’t expect your website to receive a high volume of traffic, shared hosting can offer an ideal place to start. Once your site traffic increases, you may want to consider another option.

Many businesses also choose shared hosting if they want others to manage their website or if they’re still in the development process.

Depending on the plan you choose, shared hosting also can prove very affordable for new or small businesses on a tight budget.

VPS Hosting

VPS hosting represents an upgrade for business owners who want more control over the server that houses their website, but don’t have the need or experience for a dedicated server. Besides offering more options, VPS hosting also provides a cost-effective service.

How It Works

While your website will still share a server with other sites when you choose VPS hosting, the provider will allocate your website its own bandwidth, disk space, and operating system.

The provider makes this allocation via the hypervisor of its virtual machine monitor. A hypervisor is a piece of software that runs on the host server and allows multiple virtual machines to operate on the same server. Known as “guest” machines, they each get an equal, allocated share of the hypervisor’s dedicated CPU speed, RAM, and hard disk drive (HDD) capacity.

The Pros and Cons

One of the main advantages of VPS hosting is that it costs less than a dedicated server. You also can set it up quickly while its flexibility allows you to make any configurations that won’t affect others on the VPS server.

Because you’re the only user, other sites can’t impact your website’s speed. You also don’t have to worry about your site going down if another website exceeds its resource limit.

In addition, VPS hosting provides scalability for your website. If you need more resources, you can request them from your provider who can typically deliver them within minutes. As with shared hosting, you also have access to technical support from the web host.

One key drawback of VPS hosting is that you’ll lack the autonomy a dedicated server can offer.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

Some VPS hosting packages can cost the same as shared hosting plans. That means even businesses with a small budget can afford to upgrade to VPS hosting.

Companies that need more space and computing power do pay more, but the cost is worth it because their websites will never suffer from downtime and slow loading speeds.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting ensures you have your own resources because you don’t share a server with anyone else. It comes in two versions: managed and unmanaged dedicated hosting.

How It Works

With unmanaged dedicated hosting, you have the maximum level of control, flexibility, and power because the server is yours. If you have a problematic website or faulty coding, you have no one to blame.

Because only you have access to your dedicated server, you’re responsible for its administration, operations, and security. This may require you to employ someone who can manage your server if you lack the technical know-how.

In contrast, managed dedicated hosting allows you a certain degree of server customization while the hosting provider takes responsibility for operating and maintaining your server. You also may choose the type of RAM, operating system, and other hardware with this version of dedicated hosting.

The Pros and Cons

One of the best aspects of dedicated hosting is you can choose the software applications and tools on your server. This ensures you have a fast website that meets your specific business needs.

While both versions of dedicated hosting allow you to customize your server and its security, they also come with a few drawbacks — unless your business has extremely specialized hardware requirements.

For example, your costs will increase with dedicated hosting because you don’t share your server with other sites. It also takes more time to install a dedicated server, and you’ll need the technical expertise for its ongoing management.

A server administrator can help with many of the ongoing maintenance tasks associated with a dedicated server. But, if you experience a hardware issue, it may take some time for you to realize it and for your dedicated hosting provider to fix the issue.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

Businesses that need specialized hardware or have to protect a huge amount of data typically turn to dedicated hosting. Most businesses with high-traffic websites, but no need for the extra security of a dedicated server prefer cloud hosting.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting, which involves the pooling of computing resources, supports a website using multiple machines. With cloud hosting, it doesn’t matter how many other websites use the hosting provider’s resources. Its huge network of servers can deliver uninterrupted web hosting.

How It Works

With all the other services that web hosting providers offer, you can draw only so much RAM and use only as much space as they allocate to you.

Cloud hosting has no such restrictions because these providers have a massive network of servers that they combine into a giant virtual machine. By splitting that giant virtual machine into multiple, smaller machines, they can offer unlimited scalability for hosted websites.

The Pros and Cons

Cloud hosting has no resource restrictions, and you only pay for what you need. That means your site can scale easily as your business needs grow.

In addition, cloud hosting ensures your site will remain online even if one server within the network goes offline. That cloud-based network ensures your website visitors have a seamless experience while also providing a strong defense against cyberattacks.

Another benefit of cloud hosting is its efficiency in protecting your site from distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks. A DDoS attack occurs when a server receives a huge influx of requests that cause it to crash. While this type of attack may not stem from a security issue, people sometimes use it for malicious reasons to bring a website down.

The best defense against a DDoS attack requires a website to block as many requests as possible and then spread the rest across a big network. This is much easier to do with access to a cloud hosting provider’s huge network than with a physical server.

The only drawback of cloud hosting is that you don’t have full control of your data.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

Cloud hosting offers easier maintenance and less work, making it a great option for all business websites — especially those that need unlimited scalability.

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting combines web hosting with other services. WordPress is a good example of a managed hosting provider.

How It Works

In managed hosting, the provider manages the technical side of your website to keep it running smoothly without any issues. Specifically, managed hosting providers manage improvements to page-loading speeds, security, scalability, daily site backups, and software and hardware updates.

The Pros and Cons

With managed hosting, you’ll get all the website support you need so you can focus on running your business. Even if your site receives an unusual spike in traffic, managed hosting servers can keep up and respond quickly because they have their own content management system (CMS).

Managed hosting providers also scan their customers’ sites constantly for any malware or hacking attempts, which provides extremely strong protection.

In addition, these providers offer automatic CMS updates and daily backups of your website files so you never have to worry about restoring lost or corrupted files.

In terms of drawbacks, managed hosting costs a bit more than shared hosting even though your website still shares server space with other sites. You’ll also be limited to the features offered by the provider, who can block any plug-ins that slow your site’s speed. For example, some older plug-ins may no longer work with an updated version of your managed host’s CMS.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

Managed hosting works best for bloggers. It also can provide an ideal solution for freelancers and small business owners who don’t know much about managing the technical side of a website.

While managed hosting comes with limited flexibility and a slightly higher cost than shared hosting, it does offer worry-free website hosting. With this option, you’ll never have to deal with updates or issues related to site security, speed, and uptime.

Colocation Hosting

Colocation hosting provides a good option for those who don’t have enough space for a dedicated server or don’t want to house servers on their premises or at a private data center.

How It Works

With colocation hosting, you buy your own server and then rent space for it at a colocation center. These centers rent space in their server racks or cabinets and provide the power, bandwidth, internet protocol (IP) addresses, and cooling systems required for each server’s operation.

With colocation hosting, you have maximum control of your hardware and software as well as full responsibility for the installation, management, and maintenance of your server.

The Pros and Cons

A key advantage of using a colocation center is that they provide better bandwidth levels than any normal office server at a more reasonable cost.

In addition, this hosting option allows you to maintain full control of your web server and install all the applications or scripts. You also retain full responsibility for maintaining the hardware, software, and services on your server.

Some colocation centers do offer management services, but you must still replace any hardware that fails.

In terms of drawbacks, colocation hosting is an expensive form of web hosting with costs that can fluctuate based on the amount of data traffic. Another downside of housing your web server in a colocation center is that it may take some time to find someone to fix any issues that occur on a holiday.

Which Businesses Does It Suit Best?

Colocation hosting suits businesses that want a large web presence, but can’t find a solution for their specific needs from the other types of web hosting. But, cloud hosting will provide a far better option if you lack the expertise to set up and maintain your server.

How To Choose a Hosting Plan

Once you decide on the type of web hosting that will best meet your business needs, choosing the right hosting plan can seem like a daunting task given all the available options. To help you make the best possible decision, check out these hosting provider comparison guides:

Some businesses require enterprise-level web hosting from either Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS). But, in most cases, the options offered by Bluehost, SiteGround, GoDaddy, or DreamHost will suffice.

Finally, remember to compare not only the prices of various hosting plans, but also each provider’s resources and services before you make a final decision.

Additional Resources