Launching of a new website always requires taking multiple decisions – from choosing the theme, plugins, and graphics, all the way to selecting the right hosting. And it’s the latter that has a very big impact on the functioning of your site. But which one to choose?
Unless you are an already established web entrepreneur with a portfolio of popular sites, you will be choosing between a shared hosting and a VPS – virtual private server. What are the differences between the two, and which one is better for both beginners and more advanced users? To find the answers, and a winner of this “hosting duel”, I’ll compare them in five different categories.
Round 1: Server Resources & Performance
One of the first differences that distinguish both types of hosting are the available resources, which you get access to with each of the hosting packages.
Shared Hosting: As the name suggests, on a shared hosting you share the resources of a Web server with other users. This means that while some companies claim that you get “unlimited” RAM or CPU power, in reality, you are constrained by other users who have their server instances deployed on the same machine. On top of that, if someone receives too much traffic, all server users get affected and the performance of your websites can go down significantly.
VPS: Unlike a shared hosting, a (good) virtual private server guarantees that you get an exclusive access to the resources. Thanks to that, while the allocated memory or CPU power seems small (at least when compared to what’s sometimes written in shared hosting pricing tables) they are all yours what guarantees great server performance. On top of that, no matter what other users do, you can be sure that your sites won’t be slowed down.Winner: VPS – an exclusive access to resources provides you with a much more stable hosting environment.
Round 2: Price
How much do you have to pay for an average hosting tier? And does what you get resource-wise justify the money spent?
Shared Hosting: If you base your search for hosting exclusively on price, you can’t get a better deal than that available for some of the shared hosting packages. It’s not unusual to see shared server deals for as low as $0.99 per month – at least for new customers. The drawback is, those are often unusable as soon as you start getting any traffic and come with very expensive renewal plans.
VPS: While usually slightly more expensive, VPS remains unbeatable if you were to compare the price to resources ratio. Especially if you picked an unmanaged one (that’s what we are focusing on in this article), which demands slightly more work on your part but (if configured correctly) allows you to host websites receiving hundreds of visitors per day for 10 or so bucks per month.Winner: Draw. While most shared hosting deals are hard to beat, if you add resources and performance to the mix, they no longer look so enticing.
Round 3: Scalability
Being able to scale your business without worrying about throttling your server, getting suspended, or having to change it is very important if you plan on building a long-term venture.
Shared Hosting: Usually, most companies offer 2 to 3 shared hosting packages. This, together with very slight differences between them, means that it’s hard to scale your business beyond a website that receives a few hundred visitors per day (assuming that you want to provide them with quality user experience). Because of that, many of those who started on a shared hosting are forced to migrate once their business grows.
VPS: The scalability of a virtual private server will often depend on the hosting company. Some of them still offer just 2 to 3 tiers but the differences between them are much bigger compared to shared hosting, which means that you will be able to host your site much longer. Keep in mind that if you want to be able to scale easily, you should look for those that offer at least five or more packages. A great example of a very well-planned VPS offer is Hostinger - you can check their different tiers under this link: hostinger.com/vps-hostingWinner: VPS. A well-configured VPS from a company that offers multiple different tiers is hard to beat. Especially that most of the time, you can upgrade your hosting in just a few clicks.
Round 4: Customizability
Not all users will benefit from being able to choose their own features, install multiple different apps, and select the control panel – but for those who know how to leverage this freedom, customizability can be a very big benefit.
Shared Hosting: Most of the time, shared hosting is a completely closed environment. While this doesn’t mean you can’t install any new applications – quite the opposite actually, as you can often choose from a few hundreds of them – you have no control over the critical system settings. On the plus side, many of shared hosting packages come with a high-end control panel such as cPanel.
VPS: If you choose an unmanaged VPS, you are free to choose any control panel and applications that you want. While you’re sometimes constrained by the choice of OS, it’s not something that you change that often and most brands offer the most popular options anyway. But, if you want something really specific, just choose the company that offers the one that you want.Winner: VPS. No matter how many applications you add to a shared hosting, it will never offer as much flexibility as an unmanaged VPS does.
Round 5: Management Difficulty
The ease of use and the learning curve can be a decisive factor, especially for beginners.
Shared Hosting: Probably all of the popular shared hosting solutions come pre-configured and with intuitive control panels. Thanks to that you don’t have to worry about anything – just sign up, deploy WordPress and start working on your project. This also means that the hosting is fully secured out of the box, and there is little that you can potentially mess up, even if you don’t know what you’re doing.
VPS: Unfortunately, the things aren’t that easy on an unmanaged VPS. While some come with pre-installed control panels, there is still more work that needs to be done. On top of that, to make your server fully secure, most of the time you will have to deploy extra applications and addons manually, via an SSH connection. The good news is, there are plenty of tutorials and step-by-step guides available, which make managing of a VPS easy even for beginners.Winner: Shared Hosting – if you’re a complete beginner who doesn’t have a clue about hosting and doesn’t want to learn new things. Otherwise, I would still sign up for a VPS – even if it would mean some extra hours spent on learning (but the skills and knowledge that you acquire can be applied to many other projects).
Verdict – And the winner is…
Virtual private server. The only person that I could recommend a shared hosting to is someone who is just starting out and wants to experiment with WordPress or other CMS/website builder, without worrying about any technical details. But, if you have any experience with web hosting, or are willing to put in some more effort, signing up for a VPS is a no-brainer.
It will provide you with access to a lot more resources, allow you to understand many hosting processes, and scale your business once it starts growing effortlessly. All that makes a VPS a much more versatile, long-term solution.