When it comes to hosting, there is a wide range to choose from nowadays. Aside from the good old shared hosting, there are virtual private servers, dedicated servers, virtual dedicated servers, on-demand SaaS servers and a few other solutions. The competition is tougher than ever, and the companies are forced to provide the best service possible for the lowest price, which is just perfect for the customers.
And yet, everybody still seems to choose the aforementioned shared hosting, simply because it’s the most used, it’s dirt cheap (you can get it for like $3 a month) and it provides everything one needs to get started with a site on the Web. But shared hosting is not always the best solution – in fact, I would argue that it’s the worst choice you can make, and even a cheap VPS or dedicated server would be better, right from the start. Here are just a few reasons why you should not go with a shared hosting, even if you’re just starting out and you’re low on money.
It’s not very reliable. Shared hosting is by definition not very reliable. While hosting management software does a pretty good job at managing the resources on a physical machine, running over 20-30 shared hosting clients on one physical server (most of the times the number is much higher) takes a toll on both the hardware and the software, causing slowdowns (to which Google is now very sensitive) or even outages, with your site being inaccessible for several minutes or even hours.
Most of the times, the resources you’re getting are also oversold, so you can’t really store an “unlimited” amount of Gigabytes as you’re promised – the limit is actually under 50-100 GB at most, if you’re lucky, and even then you can get suspended for overusing the server’s resources. Sure, you can pay for a package that has guaranteed resources, but the price would often be equal to a cheap VPS, which offers a higher flexibility and other advantages and would be a better choice.
It’s pretty slow. Because of the large number of sites and apps that a shared machine hosts, the whole thing is obviously slower, and sometimes MUCH slower than a dedicated server or cheap VPS. Even if the processor isn’t loaded with 50 processes in queue and the hard drives aren’t swapping like crazy, you’ll still run into network bandwidth limitations pretty often – as other sites get traffic spikes, yours will get slower or even become inaccessible, and vice versa. A dedicated server is the best in this regard, but a VPS is also much better than shared hosting, since there are often less than a dozen virtual machines running on a physical server.
It’s not flexible enough. As I mentioned above, an expensive shared hosting package and a cheap VPS cost about the same, yet you get so much more with a VPS (which is basically a dedicated server, only running in a virtual instance). You can configure it however you want – with root access to the operating system, you can change the settings in the web server (which you can also choose – if Apache is not fast enough, you can install Nginx), PHP, FTP server, setup a private VPN, and make the most of the resources you get. With memcached, Nginx and a few other optimizations, you could be serving hundreds of thousands of visitors to your blog without a crash, especially if the machine your server is on has a 100 Mbps network connection (and most do). Good luck trying to do that with a shared hosting package, even an expensive one.
As you can see, there are many disadvantages that come with a shared hosting package, and most of the time a VPS (even a cheap one, which can cost as low as $20 per month for a decent configuration!) or a dedicated server ($100 per month can get you a very nice machine) are much better. If you’re just starting out online, it would be wise to go with a better solution from the start, avoiding the headaches that come with moving your site to a new hosting package in the future.