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Nov 8 2012

Shared hosting, dedicated server or cloud server — what’s best for you?

By at 16:02 in Dedicated servers, Featured


You’ve chosen your hosting provider (hopefully taking into consideration some of the ideas suggested in our 10-point guide!) and next you need to decide on the hosting platform you’re going to use: should it be a shared account, a physical dedicated server, or a virtual server in the cloud? In this post, we’ll take a look at each hosting type in turn, summarising the benefits of each platform.

Shared hosting

As you might have guessed, a shared hosting account sees your website take up residence with a number of others on a single server. Your site is allocated a chunk of disk space, and taps into the available processing power and memory on that server at any one time.

  • Perfect for smaller-scale, one-off websites and email hosting.
  • Server management (patching, maintenance and backups) is taken care of for you, so there’s no technical overhead to worry about.
  • Great if you’re a web designer who wants to steer clear of the whole hosting game — find a trusted provider and refer your clients to offload that responsibility to somebody else.

Dedicated physical server

Whereas shared hosting sees your site competing with other “residents” for the resources of a server, with a dedicated server, the hardware is all yours. Every bit of processing power, RAM and disk space is dedicated to you and you alone.

  • The additional resilience and privacy offered by your own server makes them ideal for hosting commercially strategic or important revenue generating sites.
  • For a particularly busy site, the specification offered by a shared server might not be enough, necessitating a move to a suitably specified server of your own in order to provide a smooth experience for your visitors/users. It’s worth noting that if you’re swamping a shared service with high load, you might even be obliged by your provider to move to your own box to maintain service quality for other shared hosting customers.
  • You might have a requirement for system-wide, deep customisation, which would not be possible within the constraints of a shared environment.
  • If you’re hosting more than one site (typically, the threshold is around seven or eight sites with our particular pricing model) it becomes more cost effective to host them all on your own server and flat-line your costs – the more sites you host, the greater the cost benefit.
  • Servers usually come with the option of a managed (the technical side is taken care of for you) or unmanaged (you look after the system yourself) service, so you can be as involved as much or as little as you like.

Virtual cloud server

For those seeking the benefits offered by a physical server, a virtual cloud environment has emerged as a viable alternative. Rather than a dedicated piece of hardware however, a cloud server draws on pools of resource to deliver a similar end result.

  • Again, you may need the resilience and privacy of your own, dedicated resources.
  • A cloud server is a suitable home for a website (or application) that has outgrown shared hosting and needs that extra power to offer the smoothest, fastest visitor/customer/end-user experiences.
  • A cloud server gives you the same capacity for customisation as a physical server.
  • The same rules of economics that work for a physical dedicated server apply if you’re hosting multiple websites.

Dedicated servers versus virtual cloud servers

With advances in the way in which virtual cloud servers are now deployed, the path to deciding between physical and virtual cloud servers has become slightly less obvious. There are, however, considerations that can be influential in your decision:

  • A physical server will likely give you more bang for your buck if you you’re happy to take a longer term contract (years rather than months) to secure the best value deal — the improved flexibility and even greater resilience of a cloud server adds a relative premium to the price.
  • If you’re dealing with a relatively stable requirement, where your rate of growth can be predicted with a fair degree of confidence, again, a physical server will offer a less expensive route.
  • If you really do need to ensure maximum uptime, then a cloud server will offer a greater level of resilience, simply because no single piece of hardware is relied upon. In the event of a hardware fault, the demands made by your server are simply routed to another resource, and service continues without the potential delays of physical migration.
  • If you have a dynamic (seasonal, perhaps) or unpredictable requirement (maybe you’re working within an unknown market or launching a new service) then the flexibility offered by cloud to quickly spec up/spec down as your requirement changes would be more attractive than a static, traditional server.
  • Similarly, if your requirement is short term (for example, a pilot project or testing environment) the monthly contracts typically associated with cloud services would make more sense than taking out a long term agreement on a physical server.

Any questions?

If you’re looking for advice on which type of hosting is best for you, get in touch and tell us a little about your business and what you want to achieve — we’ll be happy to help!


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