The age old question…well at least since it became a thing at least is “what in the world is shared web hosting?” Yes you are right there are an amazing number of people who still have no idea what it is. In fact many of them don’t know that it takes a web host company to get a website up on the internet for the world to find and view.
I think the biggest challenge for many people on making a decision to start a website is just understanding the options that they have. Shared web hosting is the first level of hosting for the vast majority of web host providers and many specialize in this type of service only. As you search for what works best for your needs you will notice that there are plans such as shared, vps and dedicated. Each is designed for a specific reason and gives you the ability to upgrade your hosting as the need arrives. Of course the cost of each is different with shared web hosting being the lowest cost alternative and dedicated being at the top of the food chain.
For small and new websites normally shared is the way to go and provides you with a low cost alternative to the others without the knowledge that is needed to run a VPS or Dedicated Server.
So how does shared web hosting work?
I understand your confusion. You simply want to get a website up and running and have no idea what this shared hosting thing is. However, it is pretty important that you understand how it actually works.
Web hosting providers take a dedicated server and divide it into multiple website accounts. Each of these accounts is given an allotment of the resources such as RAM & CPU of the physical server. The system resources are shared using an on-demand need basis. They are share a single MySQL, Apache and Mail server.
The benefit of shared hosting is the cost savings. Since dedicated servers are expensive to maintain and operate, this environment allows hundreds and sometimes thousands of websites to share the cost: hence Shared Web Hosting.
The downfall to a shared server is that you are also limited on the number of resources as well as the fact that other websites can have an effect on your website if they are causing a drain on the resources of the web server.
Even though you will be responsible for setting up and running your own website, you will have a team of experts that can help guide you through most of the problems you will come across. It is like having a teacher available in the event you do not understand the math problems you are learning.
Unlike a dedicated server of your own the web hosting provider will be responsible to support, maintain and upgrade the software and hardware of the server.
Is there really such a thing as Unlimited?
This debate has been going on for the past 10 to 12 years, since the first unlimited shared web hosting plans started appearing. Most web hosts were reluctant to embrace what is essentially a marketing idea. Why do I call this a marketing idea? It is simple. There really is no such thing as unlimited. If you read the fine print of hosting companies terms of service you will find some type of limits to their unlimited hosting plans. You will have unlimited space and bandwidth as long as you are using your account for an active website and not storage of your personal images. (by the way there are storage plans for that need also)
Also if your website is a frequent violator of the resource limits they place then you will be asked to upgrade or have your website basically throttled.
You are probably asking how they can do this if the plan you chose is unlimited. It is quite simple. When you look at the plans that are advertised you will notice that they say Unlimited Bandwidth and Storage and nothing about resources. Also if you look at their terms of service you will notice that they mention not only the fact that your account must be used for an active website, it also states that there is a resource limit.
Frustrating, but necessary to maintain the low cost web hosting plans that are being offered these days.
The truth is that if a web host sets up their shared servers correctly and maintains them as they should you will never really notice to much of a difference between your new website and one that is operating on a VPS or Dedicated Server. Well at least until your website becomes to popular for shared web hosting.
This type of hosting is affordable to the masses
In the early days of shared hosting the cost of putting up a website was out of the reach of the average person. Costing between $25 to $100 per month. However, with the creation of hosting control panels such as Plesk & cPanel in addition to lower hardware costs the price of shared hosting has dropped. It is not uncommon to see web hosts offering $1 per month hosting, but I do caution you. At this price there are some catches. Some hosts will give you that price as an introductory special and then it would go up to the regular monthly price once the renewal period is reached.
The other problem is with hosts that sell at this price, but oversell under powered dedicated servers that have consistent issues with downtime and lag. I am pretty sure you do not want that as problem for your website. It kind of makes it hard to get people who visit your website to take you seriously.
Shared web hosting plans can be easy to use, even when you are a new website owner that has little to no experience. Many offer “one-click” application installers for scripts such as WordPress, that can have you up and running in a matter of minutes, barring designing and adding information.
Security is another issue
Everything that pertains to the maintenance of the web server is the responsibility of the hosting company – this includes the security of the server. However, as hard as most web hosting providers work to keep their servers secure there is a big issue that they face….. the websites themselves. Website owners in a shared hosting platform can find themselves at the mercy of other website owners. When one website becomes the victim of a malicious hacker it is easier for this to spread to other websites that operate on the same web server.
Since you are on a shared server there are normally no options for you to install your own firewalls and anti-malware. There are, however, options to purchase anti-malware plans that allow you to scan your website on a daily basis to ensure that you do not become a victim.
Who is shared web hosting best for?
As we stated before it is best suited for small sites that get a relatively small volume of traffic to their website and do not need huge amounts of physical resources such as RAM or CPU’s.
As your website grows make sure you can grow your hosting as well. It will eventually become important that you upgrade to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or even a dedicated server. While the cost is higher, the returns will normally be higher as well as you are not competing for resources and your customers notice an increase in the speed of your page loads. This can definitely translate into higher sales volumes.
However, with low costs shared web hosting is a great and affordable way to start your online website adventure.