Running a website means you’ll need some form of web hosting and shared hosting is generally the first place to start. These plans are readily available, and competition among web hosts often means highly affordable prices.
Before you jump into things, though, you should understand a bit more about shared hosting plans. The plans differ somewhat between web hosts and choosing the right one is vital for the success of your website.
Shared hosting is a category of web hosting where many users share the resources of a single physical server. These plans are easy to handle since you get a graphical web hosting control panel to manage your website.
Vital resources such as CPU, memory (RAM), and storage space are pooled and served when needed. Despite resource sharing, you will get access to almost all features of the server. Examples of this include database engines, email hosting, file management tools, and more.
Think of shared hosting as staying in a highly overcrowded condo. You get a little hovel to call your own, but most facilities like the tennis court are shared. If someone else has booked the tennis court, you’ll simply have to wait your turn.
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Shared hosting is generally the cheapest hosting solution you’ll encounter, with an average price range between $3 to $7.50/mo. This price range makes it great for new websites that require time to develop and build traffic volumes.
The ease of management also makes shared hosting plans newbie-friendly. You won’t need excellent technical skills to configure your hosting plan, and you can get your website up and running quickly.
In a way, shared hosting also has some potential. If you opt for a higher-tier shared hosting plan, most web hosts will even allow you to host multiple websites on the same account. Doing so will impact the overall performance of your websites, though.
Shared hosting plans are entirely configured and deployed by the expert technical staff of the hosting provider. That means you won’t have to worry about updating server applications and other administrative tasks necessary to keep things going.
While that may sound great, shared hosting isn’t always the ideal choice.
Because of the many users hosted on each server, resources aren’t always available when needed. If a website visitor requests a page from your website and resources aren’t available, they’ll need to wait longer for the page to load.
There are also generally stricter limits in other areas aside from the core resources needed. For example, web hosts may limit the number of input/output operations per second, inode count, simultaneous processes, and more.
Since the web host manages the server, you also have limited customizability options aside from what’s available from your web hosting control panel.
Many excellent websites offer comprehensive web hosting reviews, but knowing what to look out for can help you make a better choice. Keep an eye open for the general areas below to assess the web hosts you’re considering;
All web hosting providers will tell you that theirs offers excellent performance. However, this is seldom the case. Server quality is difficult to gauge until you use the service. Make sure to test server performance once you’re on board. If it falls short, you can always opt out during the money-back guarantee period.
Also, check the fine print in the host’s Terms of Service (ToS) or Service Level Agreement. Some will specify a guaranteed uptime percentage – the higher, the better. If they can’t deliver on this, you can generally claim limited refunds (typically in the form of credits).
While all web hosts will say their servers are secure, this doesn’t mean they’ll help safeguard your website. Keep an eye open for web hosts that offer additional tools like Immunify 360 that can help guard your website against malware.
One important thing to be aware of is that shared hosting is the least secure form of web hosting. Because of the unified environment, anything that affects other websites on the same server may affect your website.
Look past the standard resource allocation and see if the web host offers extra with their shared hosting plan. If you’re starting a new website, having these freebies means you won’t have to cough up as much cash.
Some examples of things that are good to have will be a free domain name, easy installation of free Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates, automated backups, and more. You might also want to ensure that they support the web apps you wish to run – like WordPress or Joomla.
Regardless of how excellent the hosting service is, you will eventually need assistance from customer support. Check to see what support channels the service provider offers. Email support should be the barest minimum.
If possible, look for those offering multiple support channels. For example, one which provides a comprehensive knowledge base is useful for initial do-it-yourself troubleshooting. Ideally, a good web host will offer a combination of this plus a support ticketing system, live chat, or even phone assistance.
Finally, we come to the biggie – price. While shared hosting usually comes within a general price bracket, not all web hosts follow these averages. Some charge an astronomical fee for shared hosting compared to the average service provider.
The most important thing to keep in mind isn’t the price alone, but what you’re getting for that price. Make sure that whatever price the plan you’re interested in meets the needs of the website you’re planning to build.
Should You Choose Shared Hosting?
Now you know more about this type of plan, the million-dollar question comes next: Should you choose shared hosting? The answer to this lies in what kind of website you’re going to run. Shared hosting is cheap but unsuitable for certain types of websites.
As a rule of thumb, websites that can survive on shared hosting are typically less complex, don’t handle large volumes of web traffic, and aren’t overly commercial. Examples of websites you can run on shared hosting include;
- Personal blogs
- Portfolio websites
- Simple, static websites
If yours doesn’t fall into these categories, you may want to consider alternative types of web hosting plans.
There are other options available for those who feel that shared hosting lacks the power to run their site. Don’t be fooled by marketing gimmicks that web hosts use, such as selling web hosting plans built around specific applications like WordPress.
The most common web hosting plans aside from shared hosting are;
Virtual Private Server –
These plans are the next step up from shared hosting and can be extremely powerful. They offer dedicated resources and scalability beyond what you’ll find on shared hosting. However, they require technical skills to handle correctly.
Cloud Hosting –
Similar to Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting, Cloud hosting combines the resources of multiple servers. This architecture means the plans are far more scalable and reliable. Like VPS, Cloud hosting can be challenging to manage.
Dedicated Servers –
If you plan to run a high-traffic -volume website that needs every ounce of power possible, then a dedicated server is the way to go. Here, you’re essentially renting an entire server on your own. While powerful, dedicated servers are hard to handle and can be incredibly costly.
Web hosting should be one of the core considerations for your website since your choice of plan and host can affect it severely. Shared hosting, while cheap, isn’t ideal for all use cases. However, if you’re new to web hosting, it’s an excellent place to start.
Don’t worry about what will happen if you need more than shared hosting offers. If you outgrow the shared hosting plan, you can always migrate to VPS or something else further down the line.