One of the many great things about the World Wide Web is that it offers a well-suited ecosystem where you can create, grow and evolve any kind of web project. The entry barriers to become a website owner have been getting more and more surmountable through the years. So much so that today over 1.7 billion sites exist , inhabiting their small part of the internet. This is in large part thanks to web hosting.
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Web hosting in a nutshell
Hosting is an integral service for any webmaster, experienced or not. You are essentially renting server space and system resources to build and power different web projects. Furthermore, because you are sharing the server with many other users, everyone divides the costs as well, making the service a great first step when you’re on a tight budget.
Starting out, many people choose shared hosting as the most affordable solution with enough features to satisfy the needs of a simple website. That’s not a big surprise, really, given that most sites can easily fit on a small account, space-wise.
Still, when you are running a business, you want to establish and maintain a spotless brand image. As shared hosting comes with some inherent problems, it is rarely the most optimal solution for enterprises, not in the long run at least.
Here are some of the ways shared hosting can kill your business.
Bad neighbors and overselling
Shared hosting users often suffer from two very common effects of shared hosting – bad neighbors and server overselling.
When opting for such a service, your account gets a certain amount of CPU power, RAM, disk space, bandwidth, etc. The problem is, those resources are not constant.
Every client that lands on the same server utilizes the same pool of system resources as you. If any other user starts draining much more CPU and RAM than previously allocated – all other accounts will become more sluggish.
Now, imagine if you’re not just sharing the same server with just 5-10 people but over 100 – performance issues and downtime are right around the corner. The process of stuffing one server with as many users as it can handle is called overselling and quite common with shared hosting providers nowadays.
Sharing your system resources
When you take a look at the typical shared hosting architecture, it spells trouble right off the bat.
You have a server that, even with heavy optimizations, has some limits. Hosting providers are like banks. They rely on the notion that even if you put 100 projects on the same server, their needs can easily be fulfilled in normal circumstances. That is true to some extent, as the majority of client websites are rather lightweight.
But what happens outside the normal circumstances?
Let’s say one user decides to run a marketing promotion and gets a sudden influx of new visitors. The same happens with another website on the same server, getting more popular after a successful ad campaign. Even those two are enough to cause severe problems to a hundred other websites, even though their projects kept the same resource demand.
Shared hosting and stellar performance just don’t match…
Room for growth
As we mentioned, starting off with shared services will accommodate pretty much any new project. However, every successful entrepreneur knows that you should always be planning for the future. So what fits today might be far from perfect once you start to gain traction.
Sure, you can find various shared plans with different capacity and resource allocation, but even the most powerful often prove insufficient for businesses with moderate to high traffic.
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Given that client accounts in a shared environment are not really isolated from each other, server modifications are a very tricky thing. Even the smallest alteration will have an effect on all users on the same server, which is why root access is forbidden on shared accounts.
Whenever you find that you are hitting some limit, you will have to contact the support team to check if they can increase it. Unfortunately, most of the time, such caps are predetermined and fixed by the host, so raising the bar would often require upgrading to a different hosting package.
Impact on cybersecurity
Another underlying problem with shared servers comes with the extent of security precautions you can take. Cyberattacks are getting more persistent and create all kinds of troubles for webmasters.
Say you are prepared for this. You’ve taken all known measures and secured your website to perfection. But then again, you still have your neighbors. Many people still neglect their own security, exposing the entire server to various vulnerabilities. A breach into a neighboring account is just as good as gaining access to your own online premises.
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So what can we do about that? What else is there apart from shared hosting?
VPS Hosting – Virtual private server (VPS) solutions solve many of the integral issues associated with shared hosting. All accounts sit in an isolated environment and get their dedicated share of resources. The services are often very scalable as well, allowing you to adjust resources as per your current consumption.
You then have the customization aspect. Unmanaged virtual server solutions give you full root access so you can tweak even the smallest details of your account and website.
Naturally, some hosts do VPS services better than others. Companies like ScalaHosting include custom-made management and security solutions for every client, making the deals more cost-effective than ever.
Application-based hosting – If you intend to use specific software to build your website, there is another route you can take. Some hosts offer app-optimized packages for users of various CMS solutions, like WordPress, Joomla, or Magento. Such accounts are specifically optimized for the smooth performance and enhanced security of one particular software.
App-based hosting is not a different type of service per se, as it can utilize shared, VPS, and dedicated services alike.
Dedicated servers – this step might be a bit of an overkill for new businesses, especially given the huge price jump from shared hosting. Still, some enterprises grow in leaps and bounds, so an upgrade to a dedicated server is not unheard of.
Exactly as their name suggests, dedicated services give you full control over an entire physical server to operate as you wish. There are no other clients to interfere with your performance and virtually no limits to your customization freedom.
Worth the upgrade
To summarize, there is nothing wrong with opting in for shared hosting for your first online experience. The service is quite user-friendly, offers enough features for starters, and comes at just a few dollars per month.
But while hosting issues are not that crucial when hosting personal projects, putting up with sub-par performance and security on a commercial website can easily ruin a business. Upgrading sooner rather than later might be your only option.
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Managing Editor, TechRadar Pro
Désiré has been musing and writing about technology in a career spanning four decades. Following an eight-year stint at ITProPortal.com where he discovered the joys of global techfests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. He has an affinity for anything hardware and staunchly refuses to stop writing reviews of obscure products or cover niche B2B software-as-a-service providers.