Shared Hosting vs VPS vs Dedicated: How Do You Choose?

August 4, 2016 lwdevadmin

When comparing prices on shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated hosting, it can seem like a no brainer to sign up for the cheapest option – at a first glance, that is. If you are running a web agency, you aren’t alone in thinking that shared web hosting – often as little as $5 per site monthly – is the most cost-effective solution for your business. But, take a deeper look and you will quickly see how the financial, functional, and emotional benefits of a more robust plan from a managed hosting provider are by far the best bang for your buck.

As a veteran in the hosting world, you are already well aware that with shared hosting your clients’ sites are going to sit on the same server as many others. It’s the most economical, but for a trade-off. It means you have to cope with usage limits, shared bandwidth, and limited administration features. A shared hosting provider will do all the bare minimum work for you to manage your servers, and, as long as your needs are pretty basic, it can provide you with adequate functionality. We use the word ‘adequate’ pretty loosely.

You don’t have to take our word for it. Let’s compare shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated hosting for performance and security, and see which one comes out on top.

Ready, set, compare! Make sure you are choosing the best hosting option.

Comparison No. 1: Performance

Performance matters - and if you want to keep your clients happy, you need to provide them with top-notch performance. A survey conducted by Kissmetrics discovered that nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. Furthermore, 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with website performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online. The bottom line? Mere seconds of difference from slow page loading can lead to a loss of many potential sales.

Of course, there can be huge variations between what different providers offer for shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated hosting – so how do you compare performance?

Let’s start with an analogy: think of your hosting plan as a computer. Shared hosting is like a family computer. If one person downloads every single episode of Game of Thrones and fills up 60% of the hard drive, the rest of the family only has 40% of the drive to use – because all the resources are shared.

VPS is more like working in an office where one computer is partitioned into sections and connected to 4 monitors, keyboards, and mice. While the resources are effectively divided up evenly, there are limits to how much each user can do – and if one user did something that crashed the computer, everyone would be out of luck.

Having a dedicated server is like having your own computer. No one else is using your space or consuming your resources – all the memory and power is for you, and you alone. Not sure which is right for you? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will your clients’ sites have heavy or highly variable traffic?
  • Do you need to minimize downtime or guarantee high availability?
  • Do you want control over your server and its performance?

If none of these issues sound important to you, you might be fine on a shared hosting plan. If you answered “yes” to any of the above, consider VPS or dedicated hosting.

Comparing shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting is not comparing apples to apples.

Comparison No. 2: Security

While Risky Business was big in the ‘80’s, business today is all about minimizing threats. When comparing shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated servers, the differences become clear very quickly. Can you afford the risk of a client’s site being hacked? As a business owner, in addition to the costs of downtime and repairs for a client’s site going down, your reputation is also impacted.

Hosting Security Level Comparison

To simplify, let’s compare online security to home security:

Shared hosting is like a frat house. Your experience can be good; as long as your roommates are. A VPS is like owning a starter home – unlike a shared space, your resources are your own - but they can be very limited. A dedicated server is like owning a home – you are fully in control of where you live and don’t have to worry about the noisy people upstairs.

Don’t underestimate the value of premium support offered with managed VPS or dedicated server hosting. A cheap shared plan will offer basic technical support to get you back online, but not much above and beyond that. There is immense value in having access to a full team of experts (heroes even?) who have specifically tailored your server for the idiosyncrasies of hosting and securing your clients’ sites. 

Bonus Consideration: Managed or Unmanaged?

Throughout this piece, we’ve been comparing shared hosting vs VPS vs dedicated hosting – three different options. But in actual fact, there are five options here for you to choose from. While shared hosting is always managed (albeit without many of the services that are associated with managed plans for VPS or dedicated servers), the other two hosting levels can also be managed or unmanaged, effectively doubling your options. So now how do you choose?

The decision between managed and unmanaged hosting will come down to how much work you want to put in to keep your clients’ sites up and performing as they should be. With unmanaged hosting, you’ll pay less, but you’ll get less support too; whereas with a (somewhat pricer) managed hosting package, you’ll be able to rely on your provider for a lot more.

Comparing Managed and Unmanaged Hosting

All in all, there is a lot to consider when evaluating shared hosting vs VPS vs a dedicated server. What’s it all worth to you?

Begin with the End in Mind

In the end, when deciding between shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting, make sure you select a hosting provider that will not only meet your needs today but also be able to accommodate your needs into the future. While it is easy to see that shared hosting is a cheaper service, it can also get much more expensive for web agencies in the long run.

Liquid Web’s VPS and dedicated hosting allow you to focus on your core business, instead of worrying about servers or configurations. We’ve helped hundreds of companies transition from shared to VPS or dedicated hosting and are always happy to answer any questions you might have. Contact us today for a customized managed hosting solution.

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