For people looking to start a website, an amount of various web hosting services may seem a little bit intimidating. But for regular users, the hosting options boil down to two choices - shared hosting and VPS hosting.
So, in this shared hosting vs VPS review article, I'm going to make your choice simpler by explaining the difference between the two most common web hosting formats.
That includes technical distinctions between shared and VPS servers, the difference in how they handle hardware resources, and the general difference in hosting experience.
So, let's have a look:
What is the difference between VPS and shared hosting?
On both shared hosting and a VPS you will have to share the server space with other users.
But in shared hosting, your website may get slower if there are too many people on the server. And a VPS will assure that you have a section of a server purely for your own needs - with no one getting to use it.
Additionally, going for a virtual private server will assure that you can scale the resources easily (storage and bandwidth, for example).
With shared hosting, the clue is in the name.
At one end of the hosting spectrum is something called 'dedicated hosting', which is when a web hosting company gives you an entire server to yourself. Shared hosting is the opposite. It's when a single server hosts multiple websites at once, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of them. Every hosted site shares the same server's computing power and resources.
Exactly how many other people share the server with you, and how powerful the server is in the first place, varies from host to host. Obviously, you'll have a better experience if the server is more powerful and there are fewer people sharing it.
It's a bit like being on a bus; sometimes the bus is large and there are only two passengers, so you have a tonne of space to yourself. But sometimes it's tiny and overcapacity, making life a pain for everyone.
With a shared host, you can't really tell which bus you're getting on until you sign up, so make sure you read a review of the host you're considering before starting a contract.
VPS stands for 'Virtual Private Server' and, again, the name tells it like it is.
VPS servers sit halfway along the scale between shared hosting and dedicated hosting. Technically, you will still share a single server with other users, but the host guarantees that a minimum number of resources will be assigned to your site at any given time.
That's where the 'Virtual' bit comes in. A VPS server isn't its own separate thing, but it acts like one because the server resources are partitioned, virtually, into different hosting environments.
With VPS hosting, you're no longer on a bus, but riding in a coach where you've booked out a whole row of your own seats. You still don't own the whole thing, but it doesn't matter how crowded it is anymore because you won't have to stand up!
VPS vs Shared Hosting: Comparing the Features
Because of the different allocation of resources in the server, shared hosting and VPS greatly vary in their features. To understand which one of the two is the better choice for you, let's discuss the main characteristics.
Site load times should always be one of the first things you consider when deciding what type of hosting service to use. A general rule of thumb to go by is if your site takes more than three seconds to load, over 50% of readers will abandon it. Site visitors are a fickle bunch!
Unquestionably, VPS hosting is better if performance is your primary concern. With shared hosting, resources are split between all server users, so if someone hogs all the bandwidth, your site's performance could drop. But with a VPS server, your site's loading speed will stay consistent because your resources are partitioned.
You can mitigate shared hosting performance issues by choosing a hosting service I've tested and rated as providing solid performance.
These hosts tend to place fewer users onto the same server or may have measures in place to prevent users from taking up more than their fair share of resources.
When it comes to shared hosting vs VPS security, VPS is the clear winner again. Shared hosting servers are inherently insecure. If one of the other users on a shared server has poor security measures in place and allows their site to be hacked, you could be affected too.
With a VPS server, however, the host will install software to fully partition your site and prevent malicious activity from spreading to it.
If you're an advanced web developer, VPS hosting will be more suitable than shared hosting. That's because VPS packages often include root server access which gives you complete control over your hosting environment by letting you install your own server management software.
By contrast, shared hosting packages limit you to using a standardized server set up.
Shared hosting plans are undoubtedly more affordable than VPS hosting packages.
As it doesn't make sense to compare different types of hosting from multiple providers, I'll demonstrate this with a comparison of two shared plans and one VPS plan from my favorite web host, Hostinger.
|Single Shared Hosting||Business Shared Hosting||Starter VPS Hosting|
|Processor||N/A||N/A||1 Core 2.4GHZ|
|No. of Domains||1||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|HDD or SSD||SSD||SSD||SSD|
|Customer Support||24/7 live chat||24/7 live chat||24/7 live chat|
|Money-Back Guarantee||30-Day Period||30-Day Period||30-Day Period|
The table shows that even though the starter VPS plan costs the same as the top-end shared hosting plan, it offers less storage space and its bandwidth is more limited too.
Obviously, these figures will change if you look at the plans from a different web host, but the general rule that you'll pay more for the same amount of storage space with a VPS plan will be true more-or-less across the industry.
Why does this happen? With VPS hosting, the web host has to partition off part of the server for you and only you, so it has to assign you a limited amount of storage space.
When using a shared hosting architecture, its possible for the host to offer unlimited server space because the proportion of server resources assigned to your site can change over time. Of course, even this unlimited has its limits, but they often tend to go beyond the ones of a cheapest VPS plan.
VPS or Shared Hosting: Should you Pay to Upgrade?
In the end, it comes down to your personal needs. As we've seen, there are some big advantages to using a VPS hosting set up, but whether they matter or not depends on the kind of site you want to run.
A VPS hosting plan will ensure that your site loads faster because you won't be competing with other users for the same server resources. VPS hosting is also more secure than shared hosting and offers a greater amount of control over your server environment.
The choice boils down to whether you feel confident enough that you'll be able to run a private server yourself and that you're ready to pay more. Shared hosting can be very good - but VPS can be even better.