When building your first WordPress website, you probably googled WordPress hosts or how to install WordPress and went down the rabbit trail of exploring the most popular WordPress hosts. If you’re new to WordPress, you were likely confused by the wide variety of hosting packages offered by companies.
What is shared hosting? Can it run WordPress? And what is a VPS?
Some hosts say they’re managed, some are unmanaged: what’s the difference? I’ll be breaking down what you need to know about different types of web hosting. So first, let’s start with shared hosting.
Shared hosting explains itself in the name; you’re sharing your hosting with others. But, what does that mean? Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Web hosting is a server or souped-up computer where your website files live. When someone types in your domain name, their computer points to the server, downloads the website files and displays the website So, with shared web hosting, you’re sharing a server with many people. It really varies based on the web host but, there may be as many as hundreds or thousands of other websites hosted on the same server as yours.
The pros to this are that you can get hosting at a crazy affordable cost: anywhere from $2 a month to $10 a month is pretty reasonable for basic shared hosting. It’s the most economic way to start a website and, it’s where I recommend you start unless you know you’re going to get a huge surge in traffic on your website.
Disadvantages Of Shared Hosting
Resources: The main downside of shared hosting is resources. Your website is on a server with potentially thousands of other websites and everyone is sharing the same RAM and processor. It’s not always as bad as it sounds, because hosting platforms have a way to compartmentalize resources and make sure that there’s not a hog website, using up all the power, but it’s still a limitation.
If you’re getting one 100th of the RAM and processor of a server, your website may load quickly for a light or medium load. But, say you’re an eCommerce store and you get a spike in traffic from a Black Friday sale.
These types of scenarios are not handled well by shared hosting.
Denial of service attacks: The other downside of shared hosting is being affected by denial of service attacks, or other forms of malicious attacks that can happen on other user’s websites.
I want to be clear here and say: just because someone else’s site on your server gets hacked, doesn’t mean your site is hacked. Again, shared hosting platforms separately and compartmentalize hosting accounts to stop that from happening.
But your site can be affected by specialized forms of attacks, like a denial of service attack on another website. Think of it this way; say you’re in an office building with 100 cubicles, If one cubicle gets breached, you’re still safe. But if the power to the entire office building gets compromised, everyone in the office is affected.
Even if the hacker didn’t even know your website existed, and they were just trying to mess with someone else’s, it could cause your site to go down, if they do a certain type of attack that affects the server and not just the website.
So, is shared hosting really worth it?
Well, again, if you’re running a casual blog or small business website, I think shared hosting is absolutely worth it. It’s readily available, offered by almost every hosting company, and highly affordable.
If you just want to build your first WordPress website, I think you’re good to start out with shared hosting.
A VPS is a virtual private server. Now, this is a bit of a wacky concept. A VPS acts like its own isolated server, but it’s shared with other virtual private servers on a single physical hardware server. You’re probably like, “Wait a minute! So, shared hosting is shared on a server and a VPS is shared too. What’s the difference?”
Well, a VPS takes the level of separation a step further, giving you dedicated resources, X amount of RAM, X shares of a CPU, and a virtual server that’s your own. Oftentimes with cheap shared hosting, companies oversell their servers.
This means that they put more websites on the server than it can theoretically handle. And they bank on X percentage of customers never setting up their website, or setting up a website that never gets any traffic. This usually works out, but if their load is higher than expected, say on Black Friday, everyone’s website suffers. This really comes down to the web host.
And with premium hosts like GreenGeeks, WP Engine, and Flywheel, you won’t face this problem.
With a VPS, while you’re still sharing a physical server, you’re guaranteed the resources you’re paying for. It’s a virtual computer that requires its own set of RAM, CPU, and disk space, and no one else can pull from that.
It has to be reserved for you. Think of it like this: with shared hosting, you have a folder on a computer with hundreds of other folders on the same computer. With a virtual private server, you have a virtual computer all to yourself. So, a VPS can have any operating system, Windows or Linux, and you can change any setting and configure anything exactly how you want.
This effectively beats the two downsides to shared hosting:
Easily scalable: You can have significantly more server resources than with a shared hosting account, and VPS’ are known for being easily scalable. You could go from 4 gigs of RAM to 8 gigs of ram with a click: upgrade storage, etc. With a quality VPS host, everything is modular and can be upgraded and downgraded with a snap.
So, this time on Black Friday, if the server is unable to handle the load, click a button upgrade to a more powerful VPS for the day that can handle the surge in traffic. And then when you’re done, simply downgrade to the VPS you had. It’s really cool. Furthermore, with a VPS, someone would have to target your virtual private server with a hack specifically, even if someone took down another virtual private server that’s on the same physical server as yours, your server cannot be affected since it’s treated as an entirely separate computer.
With shared hosting, there are sometimes a few different plans you can upgrade to, offering vague promises like,’ double the speed.’ But what does that really mean? Your server resource customization options are highly limited with basic shared hosting.
Since a VPS is your own private server, you get to make the rules for the most part. You can host as many websites as you’d like, host email (although I don’t recommend that); the sky’s the limit. With shared hosting, there are often limits to how many SQL databases you can create, or how many domain names you can connect to one hosting account.
But with a VPS, it’s all yours and you can do whatever you want with it. Of course, it’s your job to find a VPS with the appropriate power for your needs. And if you’re going to put a large number of websites on it, you’ll want to pay for a beefier VPS that can handle the load.
The downside of VPS hosting
A VPS on its own is a massive headache to manage if you aren’t a tech geek. I consider myself tech-savvy, but it’s a challenge for me to manage a traditional VPS… by itself.
I say traditional VPS by itself because this is where the concept of managed hosting comes in. Typically, with a VPS, you’d have to get your hands dirty and mess with a command line, but with a managed VPS, you just have a convenient panel like shared hosting, but you get to leverage the big power advantages of a VPS.
Obviously, this is a lot more expensive than an unmanaged VPS, but it can definitely be worth it depending on your needs.
Dedicated Hosting Or A Dedicated Server Hosting
And this one’s pretty easy to understand. Take all the advantages of a VPS but now visualize yourself having an entire physical server to yourself. Picture a server in your head… Got it? Do you see it? Yeah, that’s yours, all of it, the entire thing. It’s only your stuff hosted on it and nothing else. In my honest opinion, a dedicated server is in some ways worse than a VPS. Sure, it’s theoretically the most powerful option because you’re not sharing it with anyone.
But you can’t easily upgrade or downgrade it like a VPS. It’s also insanely expensive and, I personally would stay away from a dedicated server, unless you already knew what it was.
There’s really no reason to use it unless you’re a giant company, and you need multiple dedicated servers working together to host your files. But then again, if you know what a dedicated server is, you probably know what AWS, Azure, and DigitalOcean are too, and modular cloud computing is looking like a far better choice, for very advanced hosting projects instead of dedicated servers.
Alright, so that was a lot to process but, I want to give some examples of real-world hosting packages and categorize where they fall, to help you better understand different types of web hosting.
What is managed WordPress hosting?
Is it shared?
Is it a VPS?
Well, in this case, it’s shared but it’s premium managed WordPress hosting. Think GreenGeeks, DreamPress, WP Engine, Flywheel, and Kinsta: these hosts go above and beyond, to provide a reliable and fast experience using isolated containers similar to a VPS.
In other words, with a premium managed WordPress host, it is shared but, you’re not going to face the major throttling problems or other issues you get with economy shared hosting. Since it’s managed, you can expect great support, access to staging environments, and automatic backups with one-click restore.
If money is no factor for you, this is arguably the best WordPress hosting you can get for your site. When it comes to the different types of web hosting, I think you need to step back and look at the features and practicality first over the category.
Is the hosting within your budget?
Finally, remember that your hosting should work well with any website builders that you may choose to use. Things like Elementor, Wix, etc. will play a role in your choice of hosting company.
Do you require hands-on support or are you okay with poking around and figuring things out? Do you need development tools like a staging environment and automatic daily backups?
Focus on these first and the features will help you narrow down whether you need shared hosting, VPS hosting, and managed or unmanaged hosting.
If you’re starting out, I’d recommend basic shared hosting from Namecheap or Dreamhost. If you need more power or features like a staging environment or high-end support, go with GreenGeeks, Flywheel, or WP Engine if you just have one website.
If you host several WordPress websites, and they’re looking for the ultimately managed VPS host, where you can host as many websites as you’d like.