You may have seen the words "shared" or "dedicated" hosting, when learning about hosting plans. But what do these terms really mean? Is one "better" than the other? This article will provide a simple explanation of the difference between these server types to help you pick a hosting solution that best fits your needs.
As the name implies, shared hosting is when a server shares its resources among multiple users. Here's an example to help illustrate how this works:
Imagine you're a business owner (user) and need a space to run your business (website or application). But purchasing an entire building (server) to yourself is beyond your requirements and/or budget.
So you decide to reach out to Media Temple. They operate commercial buildings (hosting provider). They offer buildings that are divided into smaller office spaces (shared server). This is the perfect size for your needs!
There are other tenants in the Media Temple building. So you share some utility resources like the electricity and water (CPU, Memory, etc). But everyone has their own private space, so your business is secure and private from your neighbors. Media Temple will also monitor the resource usage of your neighbors to make sure no one starts hogging it all to themselves (bad neighbor effect), keeping your space running smoothly and efficiently!
Shared servers are great options because they are usually cheaper, as you don't need to purchase an entire server to yourself. It also saves you much of the hassle of managing and administering a server on our own. Keep in mind that the Grid servers in particular are made with stability in mind, so they may be subject scheduled or emergency maintenance from time-to-time.
Shared servers generally require less technical skill when compared to a dedicated server. You may still want someone on your team with at least some technical experience, but it's generally much easier than some of the more heavy command-line and server maintenance tasks required of a dedicated server. At Media Temple, our shared servers (Grid and Managed WordPress) include control panels to help with tasks like installing applications, managing databases, or setting up additional users.
Referring back to our previous example, let's suppose you've been on your shared server for some time. Now your business is booming and you're getting lots of traffic!
It's looking about time to expand. You'd like some extra resources (Disk space, CPU, Memory) and are starting to think you might want to make some bigger customization to your space (root access). Media Temple suggests getting an office space that is "dedicated" to your needs.
There are a few different options of dedicated servers to choose from. The first would be the VPS servers. This would be similar to renting the floor of a building to yourself, and is the natural progression when you outgrow a shared server. If you find the need for larger enterprise level solutions, then you may want to consider the Dedicated or AWS Hosting. This would be similar to getting an entire building to yourself.
One of the most notable benefits of a dedicated server is the fact that resources are no longer shared. Thus allowing you to dedicate your resources to your sites needs and eliminate the bad neighbor effect, which was eluded to before with shared servers. Therefore speed performance is generally expected to improve, but of course you will want to ensure your website or application is optimized to maximize this benefit.
Another distinguishing factor for a dedicated server is "root" access. This will allow you to make server customization that is not possible with a shared server. This can include thing such as installing advanced modules, setting up server monitoring, or having more control over your email server.
Dedicated servers though generally require more technical skill, as more customization options means more responsibility for the user making these changes. So you will want someone on your team who is comfortable with control panels and/or command-line.
Media Temple also offers Managed and Self-Managed server options. We suggest reading up on the differences between the two when comparing VPS and dedicated server options.
We hope this has provided are more easily understood illustration of shared vs dedicated hosting.