Dedicated Hosting Vs. Shared Servers

Michael Kwan
Web hosting and network servers

It is easier than ever to have a website of your own! In addition to all the other considerations you might have, like the actual website design or what content management system to use, you also need to spend some time thinking about web hosting. While there are many subtle nuances and complexities involved, web hosting can be roughly broken down into one of two categories: dedicated hosting or shared servers.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated servers, which are also sometimes known as private servers, are servers that are generally rented by a single customer to host his web properties exclusively. No other websites and no other companies are using that server, so the resources are wholly dedicated to a single customer. The monthly fee paid by the customer typically covers the rental of the server computer itself, as well as the software installed on it, the Internet connection running through it, and any management of the system that is needed.

How It Works

The most typical configuration has the customer paying on a monthly basis for the dedicated server, but it is also possible to buy all the components of the server and to have it managed by a hosting company for a different monthly fee instead. Standard pricing for dedicated server hosting with EZP.net ranges from $219 to $399 per month. A dedicated server with iWeb starts at $89 per month and can go up to $899.

Pros

  • Most flexible option, as the customer has complete control over his or her private server
  • Can install your choice of operating system and supporting software
  • Able to select the underlying hardware for the private server
  • Not sharing resources with other customers, so access to system memory and bandwidth is more reliable
  • Better overall performance
  • Generally more secure, as you are not directly affected by potential viruses and attacks on other websites

Cons

  • Usually much more expensive than shared hosting plans
  • Not as easily scalable as shared or cloud hosting solutions
  • May require additional management to maintain hardware and software
  • May be very costly to replace or repair server hardware

Bottom Line

Customers who wish to have the greatest degree of control over their web hosting will benefit from having a dedicated server. This way, they can more easily install any software or modules needed to run their websites in exactly the fashion that they desire. As the physical hardware is not being shared with any other customers, reliability and performance are generally much better than with shared hosting. The dedicated resources mean that page loading times are more consistent and overall security risks are generally reduced. This does come at a price, however, as dedicated hosting can be quite expensive, particularly if you choose to buy and manage your own server. In this way, private server hosting is best utilized by companies with the budgets to support such a need.

Shared Web Hosting

Whereas dedicated server hosting is geared more toward larger websites and companies with larger budgets, shared web hosting is the most common type for hosting websites on the Internet. On each individual physical server, several customers with several web properties are all hosted, meaning that they share all of the resources of that single server. This includes all of the physical hardware inside, like the hard drives for storage capacity and the RAM modules for memory. This also means that they share the same connection to the Internet, so if one customer's website suddenly experiences a surge in traffic, this would impact the performance of other customers hosted on the same server.

With most shared hosting plans, customers pay according to the resources that they require, like the web storage capacity and the amount of monthly bandwidth. Many accounts may also be limited to the number of email accounts they may have, the number of databases they can create and so on. Since the server is shared among multiple customers, the web hosting company is then responsible for maintaining everything about server, both from a hardware and a software point of view, providing updates and upgrades as needed.

Aside from a few select free services with limited functionality, the most economical way to have your own website on the Internet is usually with shared web hosting. Shared hosting plans with HostGator range from approximately $4 to $10.50 per month, while shared hosting with Bluefur starts at just under $6.50 per month and goes up to around $22.50.

Pros

  • Typically far more affordable than dedicated hosting
  • Shared web servers are usually kept up to date by the hosting provider
  • More easily scalable when bandwidth or storage needs grow
  • Most shared web hosts provide users with an easy web-based control panel like cPanel
  • Basic software and modules, like blog creation and e-mail management, are typically pre-installed

Cons

  • Less choice over what server hardware components are used
  • Performance is contingent on the traffic and resources used by other customers on the same server
  • Inability to install your own custom modules or programs on the server
  • May have limited number of FTP accounts, mySQL databases and other restrictions

Bottom Line

By far, the most appealing aspect of shared web hosting, as compared to paying for a dedicated server, is that it is far cheaper. With many hosting companies offering packages for only a few dollars a month, it is incredibly affordable for just about anyone to have a website of their own on a domain of their own. It also helps that the hosting companies will take care of all the maintenance and upgrades, so customers can be reasonably certain that everything is kept up to date and in good working condition. However, companies that may have higher bandwidth needs or require greater control over software and modules will benefit from dedicated servers, albeit at a substantially higher price. For everyone else, shared hosting is usually more than adequate.

VPS Alternative

Another alternative is known as a virtual private server or VPS. This type of web hosting effectively dedicates a segment of the server to a single customer, rather than the entire server. The segment is functionally equivalent to a dedicated server, but the underlying physical hardware is shared with other VPS customers on the same server. VPS hosting is cheaper than paying for a dedicated server for hosting.

Choosing Your Best Hosting Solution

If you anticipate modest traffic to your website and your online storage needs are minimal, then shared hosting is probably the best place to start. Most hosting companies will install all the basic core software on their shared servers, like cPanel, one-click WordPress installations, e-mail servers, database servers and so on. If your needs grow, you can always upgrade to a larger monthly plan or even upgrade to VPS hosting.

If the planned website is for a larger corporation or a larger website and you anticipate much higher bandwidth needs, then paying for private server hosting may be in your best interest. This is particularly important when issues like security and control are paramount. Shared hosting plans may allow for SSL certificates for secure encryption, but dedicated servers may offer a more robust solution overall. This does come at a much higher cost.

Different customers will always have different needs, so it would not be fair to say that shared hosting is better than having a dedicated server or vice versa. You just need to understand the main differences between the two types of web hosting.

Dedicated Hosting Vs. Shared Servers