Half of your website's visitors expect it to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% will click away if it hasn't loaded by then. One of the most important factors in your load speed is your web hosting.
By web hosting, we don't mean the company you choose, although that does matter. We mean the type of hosting your website runs on - shared hosting or VPS software.
Let's look at the advantages and disadvantages of each type of hosting, and how to make the right choice.
Shared Hosting vs VPS (Virtual Private Servers)
Shared hosting is the least expensive type of hosting. You can find shared plans for as little as a few dollars per month. But there's a reason it's so cheap.
Shared hosting shares the server between many different websites. Each website uses some of the server's resources, like RAM and processing cycles. If one website is doing something that uses a lot of resources, it leaves less for the rest of the sites on the server - including yours.
Some hosting companies oversell shared hosting, putting hundreds of websites on a single server. This can cause your site to load slowly, and sometimes it may not load at all.
Virtual Private Servers, or VPS, also share the server's resources but in a much more efficient way. The server is split into several virtual servers using VPS software but each VPS gets a dedicated amount of resources.
The RAM, storage, and CPU (processing) cores included in your plan are dedicated to your use. If a website running in a separate VPS on the same server is using too many resources, that site will suffer but it won't affect yours. As far as the software running inside it is concerned, the VPS looks like a stand-alone server.
Security is another concern with shared hosting plans. Because all the websites on the server are sharing resources, if one site gets hacked, it can cause problems for all the sites. It doesn't matter how thorough you are about security when there are dozens or even hundreds of other websites on the same server. The security is only as good as the weakest link.
A VPS is much more secure because it's dedicated to your use. Even if another VPS on the same server gets hacked, it's completely independent of your website, so you'll stay safe.
Advantages of Shared Hosting Plans
There's only one advantage of shared hosting vs VPS hosting - the cost. If you're looking for the absolute cheapest hosting plan, shared hosting is the way to go.
There are many levels of shared hosting packages, with varying amounts of RAM, storage, bandwidth, and other features. You'll find shared plans that cost as much as or more than many VPS plans, so even the price isn't necessarily an advantage.
We only recommend shared hosting if you are on a tight budget and don't expect to get a lot of visitors to your website. If you plan to grow your website over time and work on increasing your traffic, you should do everything you can to step up to VPS hosting.
Don't Be Fooled by Reseller Hosting
Another type of hosting you'll see from some providers is called "reseller" hosting. This type of plan lets you add multiple websites to your hosting account, the idea being that you could resell the hosting to other websites.
Instead of reselling the hosting, you could also run multiple websites of your own through one plan. If you're building several sites, this sounds attractive, but it's simply another form of shared hosting.
Servers that offer reseller hosting tend to be the most overloaded because each user can host multiple websites. If the hosting company puts 100 users on the server, for example, each one could be running 5 or 10 websites. You could end up on a server that's hosting 1,000 websites or more.
We recommend avoiding reseller hosting, especially since you can also host multiple websites on a VPS without the problems.
Advantages of VPS Software
We've already pointed out the performance and security advantages of virtual private servers. There are also a couple of other important benefits of VPS:
• Control over the server
Control Your Own Destiny
Not only does a VPS give you a dedicated amount of resources on the server, but it also gives you complete control over the configuration, even down to the operating system it's running.
A VPS is essentially a "PC inside a PC," so if you have specific requirements for your website, you can configure it that way. You might need a particular version of the operating system or support software like PHP and MySQL. You can configure your VPS to meet your needs, but all sites on a shared server have to use whatever version the hosting company has installed.
This control can be a bit of a double-edged sword, mind you. It means you need to either be comfortable managing the server or have someone who can do it for you. If you don't have an in-house IT department, we recommend looking for a managed VPS plan.
Managed hosting means the hosting company looks after things like software updates, security patches, script installations, and so on. You'll pay a little more compared to an unmanaged plan, but it's far less than hiring your own IT staff.
Scale up as Your Site Grows
The other advantage of VPS hosting is its scalability. If your website starts to get more popular and your traffic begins to grow, you may need more resources to keep up.
With VPS hosting, your hosting provider can allocate more resources to your VPS, letting you increase RAM, storage, CPU cores, and other factors seamlessly.
Choosing the Right VPS Plan for Your Needs
When you're shopping for VPS hosting, you'll find various levels of service. As you move up the scale, you'll get more RAM, more storage, more CPU cores, and likely more bandwidth.
Some of the things that will use more resources include:
• Content management systems (Wordpress, Drupal, etc.)
• Specialized scripts
• Database-based websites
• High-traffic websites
Speak to your hosting company about what plan best suits your needs, but the scalability benefits of VPS software mean you aren't locked into whatever plan you start with.
If you're looking for a server to host a blog, check out these 10 quick ways to boost your blog's page views. You'll be glad you chose VPS hosting when your site gets popular.