Shared vs. VPS Hosting

Discussion in 'Digital Marketing' started by mikey.hill, Aug 15, 2009.

  1. mikey.hill

    mikey.hill LawnSite Member
    Messages: 145

    Crash course in web hosting
    Web hosting has made incredible strides as much of the computing industry, but picking a good host requires knowledge of the different options available to you and how to look past the marketing techniques that hosts use to what's really important for your business. There are many many hosts out there, personally I have used ~70 or so for both my personal sites, client projects and for other reasons. The main types of hosting are shared, VPS and dedicated. We are going to explore the benefits and pitfalls of both the shared and VPS hosting. Dedicated falls outside the scope of this post simply because dedicated hosting is a powerful solution that requires a ton of experience and to put it simply - if you need a dedicated server, you most likely already know.

    To understand hosting you must look first at what web hosting is as a basic concept. When you type into your web browser, your internet service provider looks up information similiar to a postal address called an IP. That ip address helps your computer connect to the server that contain Once lawnsites servers receive notification that your home computer is requesting lawnsite it sends files such as images, html, javascript and other files that are required to make lawsite look and operate the way it does in your web browser.

    Lawnsite being a higly visited site is actually a cluster of servers that all run together in order to be able to serve lots and lots of requests without becoming overloaded and unavailable. For a small site, this is unneccesary, however when picking hosting it is important to take into consideration the users that will be visiting your site. Some(this number is increasing) will be visiting your site using mobile devices, but a majority will be visiting your site using their home or work computers. Having fast and responsive web hosting is important to allow these people to be able to connect to your site without your web server being the 'bottleneck' or the reason that your site is running slowly. It is also extremely important for the simple fact that a slow host can cost you business by losing customers who would otherwise be interested but won't wait for your page to load, don't know your page exists because google has failed to index it or not give it good indexing ratings because it's takes too long to load, or simply because the visitors internet connection is not capable of downloading your website at an acceptable speed(i.e. mobile devices). Side note: anyone from lawnsite staff reading this... please fix your JS errors so it doesn't crash my mobile browser.

    So what are your options?:


    What is Shared Hosting:
    Shared hosting is essentially a low cost method to provide slightly better than free web hosting(yes there are many free web hosting providers out there - I for one don't suggest you use them for many reasons). Shared hosting is both popular and cheap and for many people it's a great solution for now. However, shared hosting has many pitfalls that often times aren't explained to you in terms that the average customer can understand.

    Shared hosting is what it says - shared. Think of this like your home computer and sharing the applications that are running on that computer with 100's of other users simultaneously. This means you share all resources of the server. Memory, CPU, bandwidth, power and other hardware and software factors. Most of the time this is not an issue, however shared hosting providers are notorious for overselling their web hosting meaning that the exact same server that serves your website most likely host a hundred or so others at the same time. This is simply a problem of increasing profits/decreasing quality. However, there are some quality share hosts out there who promise not to do this. Also something you should be aware of when selecting a host is being sold on features that you won't ever use. I visited to see what they were offering for plans. One of their basic plans which costs 8.95 includes UNLIMITED + 50GB of storage space for your files. It also includes unlimited bandwidth, unlimited databases and about 20 other unlimited features. First off, if you offer me unlimited disk space, why would I need an extra 50GB? Second problem with this, is these are unrealistic numbers. They know that it is impossible for you to reach these numbers without bringing down the entire server and every website hosted on it. This is exactly why their terms of service have several clauses that allow them to charge you for 'additional fees' or suspend your hosting all-together for the good of the entire server. So essentially, shared hosts market their services by making you promises that are essentially unattainable. However shared hosts are not always bad.

    Benefits of running a website from a shared host:
    • Minimal/easy setup
    • Most common services provided
    • Low cost/basic services
    • Normally good customer service thru phone/email/ticketing
    • Multiple websites possible

    Pitfalls of running a shared host
    • Server CPU/Memory/Bandwidth is shared amongst all websites running on the same server regardless of your plan - biggest pitfall here, 1 other customer running an intensive website will effect your sites as well.
    • Inability to run and install and configure applications optimized for your site
    • Must use Apache web server software
    • Insecure - since your website is run from the same OS as hundreds of other sites, that means that potentially every other customer can access your files. Shared hosts do quite a bit to eliminate this but crafty people find ways around it.
    • Doesn't properly support HTTPS

    Shared Hosting providers(feel free to add your own)

    Additional Resources:


    What is VPS Hosting
    VPS hosting is an alternative way of not only serving websites but also running multiple operating systems(clients) on a central system(host) and has been around for quite a long time but recently has been picking up speed with regards to hosting websites. Virtual hosting unlike shared hosting provides dedicated environments that are capable of physically partitioning off memory, cpu, bandwidth and other server resources so that all clients on the same server are guaranteed optimal services on a continual basis*. Unlike shared hosting a server with 10 different clients won't experience the same server issues that a shared host would at peak web browsing times(6-10 a.m., 4-9p.m.). Running a virtual host can be slightly more expensive, especially during the initial setup stages simply because virtual hosts give you a clean slate and let you make the decisions of what and how to run so that get the most benefit of your server. Here's a rundown of running a virtual host:

    Benefits of running a VPS Host

    • Complete control over your hosting environment, choose Operating system, web server software, backup applications, monitoring, web panel etc...
    • Guaranteed memory, CPU, bandwidth, hard disk space regardless of what is happening with other nodes on the same server.
    • Install any application and configuration of those applications to your needs
    • Not affected by other sites on the same server unlike shared hosting
    • Backups are easily setup, stored or transfered offsite
    • Extremely secure, no system files are shared
    • Multiple site easily hosted with exacting control over each site
    • Firewalled to your specs, not to the specs of the hosting company which may open your application up to vulnerabilities
    • No need to run apache, instead can run nginx,lighttd to increase site speed and responsiveness
    • Lower latency for file transfers
    • Easy to manage
    • Excellent documentation
    • Scalable to your needs without having to change anything on your part
    • Low-medium cost/High quality

    Pitfalls of running a VPS Host
    • Requires intial setup of server
    • Updates to server software not done automatically(~good and bad)
    • Installing applications must be done by you or administrator
    • Security of your server falls on you

    VPS Hosting providers

    Additional Resources:

    Pricing of Shared and VPS hosting

    Shared pricing -
    Low End - 2.95/month(lunarpages) - contract normally required
    High End - 30.00/month(cihost)

    VPS Hosting -
    Low End - 7.95/month(vplink)
    High End - 800.00+/month(slicehost)


    So out of all these great packages which do I prefer? I'd have to say linode is still my favorite in the VPS category although while writing this I discovered vpslink which looks great and I may give them a try based on the good record of their service. For shared hosting dreamhost seems to be the clear winner, although I had a client who's site was previously run on a lunarpages shared host and they seemed to like their customer support and ease of use. Personally I won't go near a shared host though, however, the cost and management benefit of running a shared host definitely appeals to some.

    And finally, I'm sure this article will have some criticism especially those who think running a vps host is out of the question for your average company website, but I recommend you really look at the benefits of using a VPS and consider that VPS servers which were once out of reach financially of most business, but are now a clear competitor in the low end hosting market.
  2. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I have a small business and I'm looking to build a website. All I need is a couple of basic HTML pages that describes my business, what I do, what areas I serve, pictures of my equipment, and how to contact me.

    What do you recommend I do and why?
  3. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    I want a real answer Mikey because like it or not, 95% or more of the people that are looking to build websites in this industry fit my "request" to the T.

    You keep promoting VPS servers, at least several of which you do business with, yet you are COMPLETELY unaware of the market you are pitching it too.

    Information is great, options are great, but your intentions here are somewhat less than honorable as is clearly evident given the other thread.
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2009
  4. mikey.hill

    mikey.hill LawnSite Member
    Messages: 145

    Like I said before that decision is up to you. I've simply presented the facts about shared hosting and VPS hosting in an unbiased manner so that people can make they're own decision. I do work w/ a mix of dedicated and virtual solutions for my own projects but I have no issue with using a shared host if a shared host meets my needs, however this post is not about you or what you think is best or me. It's simply a presentation so that people who have questions about hosting can make an informed decision.

    To anyone reading this post I would recommend you take kiril's posts with a grain of salt because he has obviously developed some weird fascination or vendetta against me and has decided to police the web site forums to spread his ideas to anyone and everyone that will listen to his rants.
  5. Kiril

    Kiril LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 18,334

    Come on Mikey ..... give the people here some credit. It is quite clear your "good intentions" is nothing more than a clever bait and hook. You and I both know 99% of the people here don't know the first thing about setting up and managing a VPS, but of course you do know ... and can provide that service for a fee.

    No issue with using your typical shared host?

    Which is it Mikey .... you keep contradicting yourself?

    Then why didn't you mention that VPS servers can also suffer the very same problems that typical shared servers do ... over allocation of resources? You speak of bottle necks, yet both types of services can potentially suffer from this type of problem(s).

    You also failed to mention that like your typical shared server, a VPS may also share IP's with other users, which presents the very same problems as your typical shared hosting.

    And lets be honest here, successfully setting up and managing a VPS basically requires a person to have the knowledge of a web server administrator, with the ability to work inside a Linux environment (as least for the VPS packages you are recommending).

    Your "unbiased" presentation is anything but.

    Nothing against you personally, I just don't like seeing someone come on any forum trying to sell something to people they don't need. What you are doing here is no different than what the SEO guys do when they come in here looking to "educate" people.

    BTW Mikey, I haven't made ANY recommendation here with respect to the type of hosting package to choose from. The only idea I am spreading here is the idea that there are people out there looking to take your hard earned money selling services/products that you do not need.
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    Don't forget to mention that when you lease your own server,
    you are the system administrator.
  7. HostColor

    HostColor LawnSite Member
    Messages: 9

    Excellent opening thread by Mikey. I'll add only a few things.

    Shared Hosting

    When it comes to Shared Hosting (a class of It hosting service in which site owners share resources on a physical or virtual machine) anyone would stay away from overselling hosting providers. those are companies who claim to provide "unlimited resources", but at the same time put hidden paragraphs in their "Terms of Service". I say "hidden" because those paragraphs are never clearly stated in the service description.

    The leading discussion board in web hosting industry is and community with a very dedicated moderator's team. It is very clean and people there help new site owners to get a reference.

    When it comes to Shared Hosting my advice to anyone would be to create a list of requirements (it does not need to be technical specification) and to send emails to a couple of providers. The response that the potential customer will get says a lot about the web hosting company.

    VPS Hosting (Virtual Private Servers)

    It is more complicated here. There are different approaches to virtualization of computer resources. So there are different virtualization techniques and solutions. I recommend Virtuozzo Containers (a technology of Parallels). It is quite good for web hosting. Other good solutions are Xen, OpenVZ, VMware (expensive).

    Dedicated Hosting

    In a standard, traditional hosting environment, this is a physical machine, a server. The client rents a physical machine and receives a certain service that includes internet connection, back up of the information, system restart/reboot and etc.

    In a Cloud computing generation infrastructures a "Dedicated Hosting" is an isolated environment dedicated to one customer. It is a quite close to virtual environments as far as all the instances on a cloud a re virtualized.

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