Virtual Private Servers vs. Shared Hosting: What’s Best for Your Website?

Deciding on the best technology to host your online presence will ensure that your website performs well, remains secure, scales with demand, and stays within your budget. When it comes to website hosting, you have three main choices — dedicated hosting, shared hosting, or virtual private server (VPS) hosting. If you’re just starting to build your website, or you don’t have extremely high numbers of visitors, it’s unlikely you’ll need the resources or want to pay for the costs associated with dedicated hosting. VPS hosting and shared hosting are both good options though, so we’ll break down the differences between them so you can make the right choice.

We’ll cover each of the key sections below.

Server Resources

All websites are hosted on a “server” with a web hosting company. Just like your computer, a server has a certain speed, bandwidth, amount of memory, storage space, and other limitations. When you host your website on a shared server, you share those resources with everyone else who also hosts their website on the same server. This can mean that if you or other websites are receiving a large number of visitors or consuming lots of the server’s capacity, those constrained resources must be shared between all the websites.

Here at Media Temple, we minimize and eliminate these issues through our Grid architecture. This means we balance website loads across shared resources and route traffic to less busy nodes. We also continually monitor all websites for performance, and continually refresh traffic to keep websites performing well. 

VPS hosting also means you host your website on the same server with other websites, with one key difference — the resources each website uses are separate and assigned to that website. This means you don’t have to compete with other websites to get enough memory, bandwidth, or other resources. 

Performance

Every website on a shared hosting server uses resources from the same “pool” that the server assigns based on website needs. This can mean that if one or more websites on a server are receiving a lot of visitors, the performance of other websites on the server can suffer. For example, if a website has a viral post and consumes a lot of bandwidth, visitors going to other websites may suffer from slow loading speeds or timeouts.

As we mentioned above, our specialized approach to website load balancing means that we can mitigate the impact of events that create high traffic. This allows websites to function well even if you receive unexpected amounts of traffic.

VPS hosting allocates each website to its own set of resources on the server, and these won’t be impacted by other website demands. This generally means better performance when your website is working within normal limits, but if your website suddenly becomes popular, VPS won’t allocate resources from elsewhere on the server to help you meet performance demands. In almost all cases though, VPS website performance is going to be better than shared hosting.

Website Security

Shared hosting is likely to be slightly less secure than VPS hosting. That’s because a clever attacker can sometimes use a vulnerability in one website to attack others on the same server. If your web hosting company has good server security in place, this can limit cross-website attacks.

At Media Temple, we’ve found an elegant solution to this problem. Each of our Grid servers that we use for shared hosting is created with its own user that does not have access to root level files or content in other Grid accounts. This effectively “ring-fences” data, so if an attack does happen, the only access would be to an individual account. We also provide security tools on Grid Pro and above plans to assist with security monitoring and protection. 

VPS hosting is typically more secure than shared hosting. Firstly, server resources are separate and controlled individually, and secondly, VPS hosting often has more security tools built into the server. You should definitely consider VPS hosting if you’re going to be taking payments or processing sensitive information on your website.

Scalability and Expansion

You need to plan for the growth of your website. Shared hosting is best if you’re not going to have an enormous number of visitors consuming large amounts of bandwidth. Shared hosting can meet your scalability needs.

VPS hosting is much better at handling higher numbers of visitors due to separately allocating resources. This makes it an ideal choice if you want to significantly grow your website and are expecting lots of bandwidth use.

Hosting Pricing

Shared hosting is the least expensive hosting option you can buy. Here at Media Temple, we charge between $20 and $60 a month for shared hosting. 

VPS hosting does cost more. We provide dedicated VPS hosting plans for developer and managed environments, of between $30 and $2,500 a month, depending on needs.

Should You Choose VPS or Shared Hosting?

Ultimately, the type of hosting you choose will depend on your aims for your website. If it’s just a small project and you want to keep costs down, then shared hosting is a great choice, especially with the advantages of our Grid plans. If you have bigger ambitions, then VPS hosting is the way to go.

About Media Temple

In business since 1998, Los Angeles-based Media Temple empowers creativity by taking care of your web hosting needs. Our expertise in hosting campaigns, web publishing, ecommerce, and digital presence allows digital professionals and agencies to achieve their full potential. 

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