What are the Different Types of Hosting Packages?
Sure, you have an idea forming in your head about a specific type of website or blog, but are you overwhelmed by the numerous hosting plans and types of web hosting? Relax, you are not the only one. There are probably hundreds of companies with maybe 10 times the number of web hosting plans, and naturally, getting confused about a specific host or service can be very confusing.
Once you have started your online business, know that your web hosting needs will too, and not remain so simple as they were when you started. Sure, when you started off, free, or inexpensive hosting plans seemed like a good idea, but as you start getting more traffic, you may find it getting sluggish, indicating that you may need a new plan after all.
That said, let’s take a look at what exactly does web hosting mean and how many types of web hosting are available these days. Following that, we will look at what their pros and cons are and if they are suited to what you’re looking for or not.
What Is Web Hosting?
Before we get into the business of finding out the different types of hosting, it is essential that we know what exactly hosting is. Well, when you are looking at a website, you don’t realize it, but what you really are looking at is code that your computer has translated through the browser into a more visual form for you to understand.
Think of this as something you see in a concert; the papers with the music written on them is the code, you can think of the browser as the player, and the song that you actually hear is the website that is in front of you.
The files of this website that you see are stored on a server somewhere, that is connected to the internet, so you can download, access or convert these files using your browser. This storing of files is called hosting. The server is, of course, something like your PC or your Macbook, but something so powerful that others can access it at the same time as you are. It has the same components as your computer, such as a hard drive, a CPU (or many), and loads and loads of RAM, and usually runs on a Linux-based operating system.
When you say host, it refers to the company that is providing you access to these servers where your files are stored. Apart from access to the hardware, they also provide other, useful services such as support, malware scanning, server management, website building backups and so on.
Now that you somewhat understand what a hosting provider is, let us move on to our next section.
Different Types of Hosting
Web hosting is a term that broadly covers more than just storing a bunch of files in a remote computer. Therefore, almost all hosting providers offer a multitude of services and packages that are priced quite vividly. But before you get into that, you need to make up your mind about the type of hosting you are going to be using for your website or blog.
Web hosting may differ in terms of services, such as management or website building, but one way to look at a service is by the type of technology and server power on offer. You will soon find out what we mean because this would also determine the scalability, security, performance and the amount of effort it would require on your part.
So instead of looking at various companies (and there are hundreds out there!) and how they package their services, it’s more important for you to learn what kind of web hosting is suitable for you. Once you have determined that, you can move on to determine which host to go with.
In the following section, we will look at some of the most common types of hosting that is available on the market today. These are:
You can also categorize the hosting based on the level of management the hosting company is providing you. This is because a server is a computer, after all, and needs upgrading and maintenance from time to time. And a lot of hosting companies offer both managed and unmanaged hosting.
If you have opted for unmanaged hosting, it essentially means that you will be doing the upgrading and hosting yourself with a lot of flexibility on the side.
Yet another way to categorize them can be according to the additional services which are being provided. These services can range from including SSL certificates, site creation, backups or malware scanning. These are only some components that make up for a hosting plan; you can have a plan that offers all these services and more, and naturally, the cost will go up with the addition of services.
Once you know what each type of hosting is about, you can determine which one to go with. Let’s now take a look at the different types of hosting:
As the name suggests, having a dedicated server means exactly that; you get a server all by yourself, and hence you do not have to worry about other users using up all the resources. With a dedicated server, quite a few hosting companies will let you customize your server to a certain degree. You can pick and choose how much and what type of RAM you want to use, what type of CPU and the number of nodes and depending on the hosting service, even the operating system.
In short, you have complete control over your server, and this is great if you are running a customized version of some software. Having this type of functionality sounds great and has many upsides, but also has some disadvantages. Let’s take a look:
Advantages of Dedicated Hosting
- Administrative Powers: If you are on a shared server, you can’t even think about it. With admin rights, you can custom configurations, install software and have root access to the system. You can also run monitor programs to see if there are any likely issues that may become a problem later on.
- Performance and Reliability: Not to say that shared hosting is not reliable, but with dedicated servers, you go that extra step. The main reason for this is because you are not worried about your resources being used up by other users and can have all the bandwidth that you have been promised. This, in turn, lessens the chances of your website crashing or stalling while handling large volumes of traffic.
- Control and Flexibility: We said this already but with dedicated hosting, you have greater control over the hosting and the server, because you are managing the configuration of the server yourself and are not dependent on the hosting company. You can customize the server to your heart’s content — whether it is the CPU’s processing power, the RAM configuration, the disk space (even choose between HDD and SSD!) or the operating system. You can upgrade it as your business increases and you start getting more visitors.
- Better Security: When you have a dedicated server, no one but you and the hosting company has access to the said server. This straightaway means that you would not be sharing space with other websites that may or may not have malicious content or worse. You will also be spared any cyber attacks that would have targeted other sharing hosts because you are practically isolated. This is particularly useful when you handle a lot of SSL or FTP traffic.
- Increased Scalability: With dedicated hosting, you can manage system configurations easily as your requirements mount. All you need to do is increase your server space, without having to look for a new host or a new server.
- Unique IP Address: You will never have to be worried about being blacklisted ever again. This is because a dedicated server will come with a unique IP address. If too many people use the same IP addresses, they could be blocked, filtered or blacklisted.
- Zero Maintenance Cost: Maintaining a server on your own can be costly. But in this scenario, you are only managing the server virtually, but it is maintained by the hosting company, all included in the package you paid for.
Cons of Dedicated Hosting
- High Cost: With all these goodies, you are expecting a high price, and you are right. In exchange for this exclusive hosting, you will be paying a hefty sum per month (or year, depending on your plan) to the hosting company. Besides, you will need to know more about servers and technology than the average Joe. Even if you go for managed services, you would need to be savvy. In case you decide to hire a server administrator, you would have to pay them, hence moving your cost up.
- No Physical Access to Server: It is your hosting provider that is in access of the server at all times and not you. This is hardly a problem if your host is of good repute. But if that is not the case, there is the danger of you losing or corrupting your data or not getting all the services that you were promised.
- Everything in One Place: As opposed to a shared or cloud hosting environment, where other modules take over if one fails, you are on your own. Getting back up in case of a hardware failure could be a lengthy process.
Is Dedicated Hosting for Me?
Most people are misled into believing that a dedicated host is the answer to all your hosting prayers because you are the only person using it. There are more versatile options such as cloud and VPS hosting these days which are more scalable (which we will come to in a bit). Besides, when you compare dedicated hosting to another option, such as a high-end VPS, the latter is much more cost effective.
If you have specialized needs (hardware wise) that can only be catered to by a dedicated host, then by all means, go for it. You can be sure that you have more control over the privacy of your data compared to other options.
As the name suggests, your website is hosted on the same server as some other websites and this brings the price down. The number of websites you share it with depends entirely on the provider you go with. Your website shares space with other websites on a server and this number can be as high as 1,000. Also, a single user can have more than one website, so this number can go even higher!
This is one of the reasons that you may feel your website is running sluggish, but since this is a shared option, you have no way to know why. Some providers work towards solving this problem, but considering the fact that a shared hosting plan costs anything between $2 to $20, do not expect miracles to happen.
Advantages of Shared Hosting
- Low Cost: Cost effectiveness is the name of the game when it comes to shared hosting. The reason is that your website is sharing server space with literally hundreds or thousands of other websites and the cost is shared. The providers, owing to this cut-throat business, also throw in a few essential features.
- Efficiency: A shared web host makes excellent use of available server resources, bandwidth and server space. Typically, you have enough server space to run more than one website if you do not have a very large operation.
- Faster, Better Support: This has a very simple reason; if by any chance your website encounters some trouble, there is a likely scenario that it may affect other websites that are hosted on the same server. In a situation such as this, the host has no choice but to look for a solution promptly.
- Easy Configuration and customization: You don’t really have much to do while setting up your website on a shared host, because everything has been done already. You do not need any professional or technical skills in this type of environment. The control panel provided by the host will take care of nearly all the customizing and configuring you will need.
- Security: Knowing that there are thousands of other websites being hosted by your provider, you don’t have to individually tighten the security of your website, it will be taken care of. Some providers even offer you the option of regular and free backups as well, so your site would be safe.
Cons of Shared Hosting
- Limited Port Functionality: Some providers may limit the functionality of certain ports or connections on the server because of security vulnerabilities. The security features on a shared host could also be limited. Shared hosts are also prone to hacking. If the server suffers any malicious activity, it may affect the rest of the websites that are using the server.
- Limited Functionality: You may not be able to run certain utilities or software except the ones provided by your provider because the server may not be capable of running them.
- Slow Performance: Since the resources of the server are being shared by others, your website is likely to experience sluggishness. Remember that the RAM, CPU and the hard drive is being shared with other users as well. The server may also get swamped by requests and become overloaded and eventually come to a stop.
Is Shared Hosting for Me?
This is the type of hosting that you will ever need if you run a blog or a website which has niche clientele or if it’s a personal website. It is perfect for you if you are not too bothered by uptime. This type of hosting would also be quite suitable for you have just floated a new business and you just want to make your presence felt on the internet, but do not have the budget for the fancy stuff.
The cost of a shared hosting plan is negligible compared with VPS or dedicated hosting, and even with this price, you still get PHP and MySQL support. What more can you ask for?
Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting
Now that you are familiar with shared hosting and want an upgrade, VPS is the next best thing. It is still a shared environment, but you will find it a definite step up, in terms of cost and other points of view. You will still need to share server space with others, but the way this is achieved is different from traditional methods.
The best thing about VPS is that the number of users on a server is brought down to double digits instead of thousands. All the websites still share one physical server, it is made up of several virtual machines (or guest machines). For example, if there are 20 users on a server, the server will be equally split into 20 virtual machines. This is, in particular, a relief to the server and ultimately your website, because fewer resources are in use at all times.
Advantages of VPS Hosting
- Reliability and Stability: As we just mentioned, since the server does not have to share the resources, this makes it really reliable if you are comparing it to shared hosting. Also, the number of users are also limited, which decreases the load on the server. Since the resources are divided equally, no website can draw more resources than it is allotted.
- Flexibility: Unlike shared hosting, you can choose the operating system that best suits your needs. You are also free to install any software that you wish to because there is no question of conflict.
- Scalability: Your site is being hosted by a virtual machine which is drawing its resources from a physical server. If you want to upgrade, making the changes takes only a few minutes for the provider, without the fear of any downtime.
- Root Access: Since you are granted root access, you have greater control over your server configuration or installation of other applications. And all these changes can be made via a control panel.
- Managed Services: Most of the providers offer fully managed services, which means that the hardware, virtualization and even your operating system is maintained and updated to take care of any security patches as and when required.
Cons of VPS Hosting
- More Expensive: If you are migrating from shared hosting, you will find this option a bit expensive. So if your budget is a bit tight, you may want to reconsider.
- Security Risks: These risks are similar to that of shared hosting. If you are not using a reputed hosting provider you may end up facing security issues.
- Wobbly Performance: Some providers oversell space, which can lead to problems like websites slowing down over time or repeated error messages. Be sure you sign up with a reputed provider.
Is VPS Hosting for Me?
Without a doubt, if you have already used traditional shared hosting, VPS is a great step up if you can afford it. A VPS at a lower tier is better than a shared solution any day! You should upgrade as soon as your website starts getting traction and visitors. Sure, the price difference is a bit off putting, but it is worth the performance upgrade.
In essence, cloud hosting is similar to VPS hosting because both use a virtual machine to host websites. But the similarity ends here. In VPS hosting, you are allotted a certain amount of resources using one server, whereas on cloud hosting, you gain access to a massive number of servers, and virtually limitless resources, which you can dip into as and when you need them.
So it does not matter how big your business gets, you will always have resources from to draw upon. And the good news is that this type of hosting is becoming more and more common these days, and may very well replace the traditional methods of hosting websites.
Advantages of Cloud Hosting
- Scalability: There is virtually no limit to scalability while using cloud hosting, unlike VPS hosting where it is limited by the hardware. Cloud hosting is a network of several servers forming a massive virtual machine, so you can draw as many resources as you require.
- Flexible Pricing: Regardless of the resources you use, you pay a fixed monthly amount to the provider in a traditional hosting environment. But when you are in the cloud, you only pay for what you use.
- High Uptime: Traditional hosting is dependent upon the physical server environment. If that goes down, so does your website. Not so with cloud hosting; your website is using the resources of multiple servers, so if one of them goes down, you are simply transferred to another.
- Fast Setup: You can set up your website on a cloud host extremely fast. No more waiting for the server to get ready!
- Great Performance and Speed: Since the resources are shared among multiple servers, the stress on a single server is reduced, resulting in a boost in performance.
Cons of Cloud Hosting
- Security Risk: Remember Code Space? Though cloud service providers have since then learned from the mistakes and are expected to take the necessary precautions, great intentions are often mislaid by bad implementation. And since every component is online, it is prone to security vulnerabilities.
- Downtime: Though we listed uptime as an advantage, this could very well be a disadvantage, because since the system is internet based, it is dependent on your internet connection, and so is your access.
Is Cloud Hosting for Me?
If you are looking for scalable options that go beyond the traditional ways of hosting, by all means, yes it is for you. Don’t be surprised if this replaces dedicated or shared hosting options in the near future. This is an option that is mutually beneficial for both the user and the provider.
We hope that this article has given you the background needed to understand the different types of hosting that are available and will help you decide while choosing a hosting package. If you are just starting out, shared hosting is an option as good as any, and you can also upgrade it to better, more expensive options as your business grows. As it is, it is a good idea to zero in on the kind of hosting first, and then look for the contenders. Eventually, it will be a matter of personal preference.