What is Website Hosting?
Most internet users are familiar with the term “hosting” and know that it is required to run a website, but specifics on what exactly it means are less common amongst those new to web design. Essentially, a website must be hosted on a server that stores its files; such as the website’s images and code. The hosting marketplace is full of competing offers that all have their own merits and drawbacks. Shared Servers and Dedicated Servers are the most common types of hosting.
Shared Servers vs Dedicated Servers
Simply put, a shared server contains multiple users, websites, or accounts on a single server whereas a dedicated server is a lone server with a single user.
Shared Server Hosting
The most immediate benefit of using a shared server is that people with little technical experience can set one up. Outsourcing the hosting operations like this can ensure that there are dedicated technicians on hand to assist if there are problems with the server that someone with no technical experience would struggle to fix.
Perhaps expectedly, the nature of a shared server means users have limited administrative access to the software configuration. Additionally, sharing a server can elicit unexpected performance issues that would not occur on a dedicated server. The chances of such issues occurring depends greatly on who is hosting your shared server. Many web designing agencies also offer hosting services. If a web agency has already designed your website, you can be more confident that all of the sites on the shared server are legitimate, secure and well managed. When you utilise a less trustworthy provider, you are often more likely to experience performance issues when there is a spike in traffic on other sites, as they pull resources away from your site. This can affect your loading speeds and your responsiveness, or sometimes even cause crashes.
Dedicated Server Hosting
Having your own dedicated server means that you can manage and configure the server however you’d like to. This level of control is also a benefit in the fact that no other independent sites hosted on your server are redirecting resources to their site. These both ensure that it is down to you and you alone to manage and improve your hosting. This flexibility and freedom that dedicated servers allow for can run essentially all types of software. This facilitates your ability to set up extra security software which can improve the reliability of your site. For example; a blacklist of IP addresses (a list of specifically blocked addresses) can be made on both shared and dedicated servers, whereas a whitelist of IP addresses (a list of specifically permitted addresses) could only be achieved on a dedicated server.
The requirement of technical knowledge is of course the most immediate drawback for those new to web design and hosting. Another drawback of a dedicated server is that it always ends up being significantly more expensive. On a shared server, as the cost of running and maintaining the server is split between the different users, it always results in it being a cheaper option.
The Third Way – Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
A VPS is essentially a shared server aspiring to act as a dedicated server. It requires a strong enough server which can be split into multiple, individual, virtual servers. This addresses the serious problems with shared servers as resources such as RAM and CPU time are not shared. This also allows for more control and personalisation, as users can make more changes to the software. Some claim that VPS systems are at times more inconsistent than true dedicated servers. However, these issues are more likely to occur when there are multiple high traffic sites hosted on the same VPS. These only become issues through mismanagement, and a web agency would be able to utilise VPS as a best-of-both-worlds solution.
Should I use an Agency to host my website?
The main options for hosting have been set out throughout this blog. Hopefully, if you are new to the industry this blog has been helpful. To summarise; shared servers are often the cheapest option and work fine for lower traffic sites, a dedicated server will cost more but can ensure your website runs as efficiently as possible, and a VPS is a shared server aspiring to act as a dedicated server.
Hopefully, this blog has provided you with the knowledge you were looking for. It of course can not provide you with the skills to set up your own server. If this sounds like you, an agency may be your best option. If you have an existing or developing relationship with a web developer who offers hosting services, this is often a very wise move. Most agencies can offer dedicated, shared and VPS hosting and are more likely to offer consistent technical support.
Ultimately, there are few decisions as important as your hosting provider when it comes to your website. Researching your options as much as possible and reading reviews on the services should help you spot any untrustworthy resellers and better understand your options. If you are not primarily a techy person and are just getting started in growing your online presence, a dedicated agency undoubtedly creates the best results.