[ glossary ]


In the Levels Of Service we learned about 4 different "flavors" of web hosting. Now we are going to discuss this topic a little more, but first let's simplify things a little bit.

Simplified Terminology.... For Simplicity's Sake

Let's lump together the "shared" ("virtual") and the "virtual dedicated" hosting options and call them (for the purposes of this article) "SHARED HOSTING". After all, in both of these scenarios there are going to be other customers placed on the same server computer as you.

Furthermore, let's do the same thing with the other two levels ("dedicated" and "colocated") - we'll join them together and call them "DEDICATED HOSTING", because in both of these cases you are going to be the only customer running web servers on your computer. Even though it's not precise terminology, we'll be able to talk about advantages and disadvantages of both classes of service in general terms.

Below are just some of the characteristics of shared and dedicated solutions, compared side-by-side.

SHARED SERVER HOSTING (lumping together shared and virtual dedicated hosting) DEDICATED SERVER HOSTING (lumping together dedicated and colocation
Cheap Expensive
Average of only ~80-100 MB of online storage Ample storage space - typically from 4GB and up
Bandwidth shared with "neighbors" (other customers) Bandwidth is either guaranteed or metered, but normally with generous upper limits allowing for episodic "spikes" of traffic
One IP address Normally, multiple IP's can be purchased and managed independently
Limited control of the server Complete control of the server

While there are many factors in this decision, the two fundamental issues are the amount of control you need over your web site and the amount of money you are willing to spend for that control. Below we have provided a list of factors that would indicate shared hosting is not ideal for you.

Dedicated Server Hosting: For the Pros

Shared hosting is not ideal (and thus, dedicated hosting is recommended) if...

  • You run a complex web site (i.e. one with many CGI's, or one that uses non-trivial database applications, or one that's entirely 'dynamic').
  • Your web site requires integration with your company's network systems.
  • You have high volume of traffic.
  • Your site requires a high level of security (for example, when your site stores credit card information or some other sensitive data).

For sites with any combination of the above requirements, a dedicated hosting plan is highly recommended.

† TIP A proven way to find a good deal on dedicated hosting plan is be to send RFP's (Requests For Proposal), describing your future web site(s), to several reputable web hosting providers. Serious providers who value your business will definitely get back to you with proposals. Some will offer the standard "off-the-shelf" pricing, yet others may quote a special price depending on your requirements and server availability.

Shared Hosting: For the Majority

With all that said, perhaps 95% of small business users will do just fine with shared web hosting. After all, most of us don't run high-volume web servers: we simply need our web sites to be efficient tools for communicating with customers.

The largest benefits of shared hosting are significantly lower costs and relatively low maintenance levels. The biggest drawbacks are the lack of flexibility in choosing how you serve your web content and access your site, and much more modest performance guarantees.