Shared vs VPS Hosting – What’s the Difference

VPS
Shared vs VPS Hosting – What’s the Difference

Don’t know whether so stay with your shared host or switch to a VPS? Find out what’s the difference between shared and virtual private servers, and which solution is better for your business.

Choice of hosting provider is a pretty challenging task: it’s normal, if you feel confused and lost while trying to decide on the level of service and select a provider. Even experienced web-developers face difficulties picking up options for hosting. Let’s compare shared hosting (traditional starting point for new websites) and VPS (Virtual Private Server) to decide which type of service can be suitable for you.

In fact, Virtual Private Server is a great step up from shared hosting plans: its cost ranges from $5/month on the low end to $20–$55 for some worthy mid-range service. Is the extra cost justified?

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting presupposes putting many users on one server. Such server simply serves as a computer with its processor, memory, and a hard drive: if you had one computer in your house used by all family members, you have the idea of what the advantages and disadvantages of shared hosting are.

The main upside is a low cost. If you use a single computer and share the expenses, it can be very beneficial. A shared server features several hundreds or even thousands of users who can afford the service for $5 a month or even lower!

But here comes a serious downside: the resources available to every user are limited, and other users’ actions can affect your business, too. For instance, if another user’s website experiences traffic spike, he may be using 70% of hard drive. Besides, if others’ websites contain viruses, it could potentially harm all the rest customers.

Shared hosting is like having a family computer: the server you’re exploiting can be pretty powerful, but there are hundreds or thousands of users on it, which allows keeping the cost down to $4–$8/month. If you want to use a server alone, a powerful dedicated server will cost you around $350/month.

Of course, you shouldn’t expect much from a server for such a low charge. If there’s a website with memory leak on this server, your project can be damaged, too. If one website uses 80% of memory, all the other websites will have to share the remaining 20% (though providers prevent such situations).Besides, malicious attacks on one server can cause problems in the entire user base. Such phenomenon is usually called the “bad neighbor” effect. What’s bad – you can’t predict such situations.

VPS Hosting

What is the difference between shared hosting and VPS (Virtual Private Server)? In comparison with shared hosting, VPS is a bit more advanced hosting solution in every way. From technical standpoint, VPS is still “shared” environment, because there’s still more than one user on the same physical machine. However, VPS allows assigning resources flexibly, and separates users from one another in a more sophisticated way.

The basic difference is the way how resources are divided. The hardware is used by a much lower amount of users, and each of them has “private” environment, which feels like they have their own server. Shared hosting works by the principle “first come – first served”, e.g. whoever grabs the resources gets them.  But when it comes to VPS, the amount of resources is divided in advance, and users are not able to overstep their individual memory limits.

Such type of resource allocation makes the environment more predictable and stable. Can you still come to the limit of memory? If you have a poorly-coded website, or experience a sudden traffic spike, then yes. But today VPS plans allow getting extra memory wherever you need it (of course, for extra fee). Note that you won’t be adversely affected by other users and websites on the server.

Another benefit of VPS is better security. There are different scripts that can bypass the hypervisor (the process that creates the virtual servers), though it’s a rare occasion.

Should I consider VPS?

Yes, you should! If you run a more or less serious business, you should definitely consider moving from shared hosting. There are only two considerations for leaving things as they are: first, shared hosting is a very cost-efficient solution. Secondly, if you have several low-traffic websites that are insignificant, shared hosting can make sense. If you don’t want to “pollute” your VPS account with such low-traffic websites, you may not spend time and efforts on moving them – a little downtime won’t be a serious issue.

If you’ve just launched a company with tight funds, you may want to select a hosting option that costs $5/month instead of at least $20/month. Just keep in mind that your website’s success depends on efforts and money invested. Therefore, it may be a better option to spend more on your website and its development. Any serious business is advised to switch to VPS at the earliest opportunity, when the budget and requirements are estimated.

You may ask “What about storage and bandwidth? While shared host allows for unlimited storage and bandwidth, VPS has limits that I can exceed”. Yes, it’s true. But be sure: you will hardly find yourself reaching storage limits unless you have a very large website (with a huge volume of your own uploaded files, not just streaming video). Storage space on simple VPS accounts is about 40 Gb, which is already a lot.

However, remember that every host with “unlimited” anything also has a “fair use” policy. That means that you cannot use VPS server as a repository of your own private files. For example, you cannot order a cheap hosting account and store gigabytes of ripped DVD there. Otherwise, your account will be cancelled as soon as that’s revealed.

The same applies to bandwidth: a low-end VPS usually provides about 1 Tb of data, which is enough for about 500,000 monthly visits, or even more. If you have such amount of users on a sharedhost, you certainly need more resources than you have now, because otherwise your website will be down for the most part of the time. With such an amount of monthly visitors you should definitely have enough money to afford a decent VPS solution.

Types Of VPS

Generally, VPS accounts are differentiated depending on the amount of allotted resources. The cheapest plans come for about $20 per month, and usually give user 1 core and 1 Gb of memory, 20 Gb of storage, and 500 Gb of bandwidth, while some more expensive plans offer 8 cores, 10 Gb of memory, 150 Gb of storage and 1.5 Tb of bandwidth. Such solutions are worth $150/month and higher.

Practice shows that if you’ve been getting away with a shared host normally, a VPS for $20/month will be more than agreeable to suit your needs. Besides, VPS hosts allow scaling up and down in a matter of a few minutes – just pay a little more, and your website’s resources will be allotted accordingly.

Is there any alternative?

Aside from VPS, there’s another great solution: if you run a WordPress website, you can opt for managed WordPress hosting. Technically, you will be using a shared or VPS server, but such services are specifically tailored to run WordPress websites only, and come with a myriad of considerable benefits including strikingly fast speed. If you’re looking for a hosting solution to run only WordPress websites, this can be the most cost-efficient option.

Conclusion

From technical standpoint, VPS outperforms shared hosting, and even if you can’t afford a $20/month decent VPS server, you can go with a $5/month cheap VPS instead of staying with a shared host, because sooner or later your website may start experiencing real shared-hosting-related difficulties. Shared environment is hard to control, which can be very frustrating.

If you run WordPress websites solely, a managed WordPress hosting solution is a way to go. They are typically more expensive than VPS servers,  but ensure reliability and exceptional speed.