Shared, Virtual, and Dedicated Hosting
An Introduction

server rack
photo credit: reynermedia

If you are considering a server hosting contract, knowing about the three most common server hosting arrangements can help you choose the right kind of hosting contract for your needs. Shared hosting, virtual hosting, and dedicated hosting each have different characteristics with regard to pricing, security, and reliability, and understanding these options can help you achieve the best performance for any given hosting budget.

First, a few definitions:

Each of these options offers advantages and disadvantages fort the potential client. Shared hosting is generally priced by how much network bandwidth is used, and is usually the cheapest of the three options. However, this model also requires that you share server resources directly with other clients, and that problems that affect those clients (such as downtime due to high traffic, attacks by cyber-criminals, or system-destabilizing program errors) are likely to affect you as well.

For an added degree of isolation and security, many hosting clients choose the virtual hosting model, which provides your website or service with a separate virtual server environment in which to run. The software-based virtual server may reside on the same physical server as other virtual servers, but the separate virtual server architecture means that there is less competition for physical resources such as memory and bandwidth, and less risk of someone else’s security or performance problems becoming your problems as well. Virtual hosting also requires more up-front setup and maintenance, and so generally costs more than simple shared hosting.

If you don’t like the thought of your website having to compete for server resources with other clients, or being affected by somebody else’s security problems, dedicated hosting offers a greater degree of isolation, by assigning the full resources of a physical server to a single client. The cost for this type of hosting is greater than the other two alternatives, but more server resources are available by default, and a client is far less likely to be affected by traffic considerations or security problems of other clients.

Knowing the advantages, disadvantages, and trade-offs of shared hosting, virtual hosting, and dedicated hosting, you can look at these three options as a sliding scale from cheapest to most expensive, and from least reliable to most reliable. With this understanding, you can determine the best solution for your business needs and your budget.

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