by Paul Rudo on 21/10/10 at 5:31 am
When shopping for online hosting for your web site, the choices can seem a bit overwhelming. There are a lot of different options with many different buzz-words attached:
- Reseller hosting
- Shared Hosting
- Virtual Private Servers
- Managed Dedicated Servers
This can be a lot to take in. But most businesses will fall into one of 3 categories: Shared Hosting, Managed Dedicated Servers or Virtual Private Servers.
Thankfully, 2 of these options – Virtual Private Servers and Managed Dedicated Servers – are almost the same thing. So for this article, I’ll only be talking about the VPS and Standard Hosting options. And in another article, I’ll dig a bit deeper into the more technical differences between the other technologies.
Standard web hosting is dirt cheap, and you get what you pay for. For most simple, low-traffic, small businesses web sites, you won’t need more than this. However, you will run into some limitations if you want to run more sophisticated web-based applications from your server.
With a standard hosting account, your account will be crammed onto a box along with a whole bunch of other customers. And you will all be sharing resources (RAM, Processor, Storage, etc…) with them.
Normally, this is fine, because smaller web sites don’t have consistently high resource requirements. Instead, they have brief peaks, followed by long periods of stagnation.
Take a look at the bandwidth chard below to see what I mean:
This system only works if nobody takes more than their share.
But what would happen if:
- One of these accounts decided to host never-before-seen scandalous pictures of a major celebrity
- One of the accounts decided to send a bulk-email to 100,000 people
- One of the accounts opened an online store containing over 30,000 products
Not only would the sudden load take down the web server, but it would also affect other users on the same account.
For some retail companies, an hour of web site downtime could cost hundreds of dollars in lost sales. For other companies, downtime might hurt the trust image of their brand. For this reason, they might want to avoid this route and invest in their own server.
Just like with physical real-estate, you might want to buy a big property in the suburbs in order to avoid having to deal with bad neighbours, street crime or other annoyances.
In order to prevent users from hindering each other’s performance, your webhost will also put restrictions on your account to enforce good behaviour. (And nudge you towards more expensive plans)
Some common examples include:
- Limiting the number of emails that your online script can send
- Placing restrictions to the formatting of automated emails
- Limits on the number of simultaneous processes you can run
- Limitations on SSL implementations
- You won’t be able to pick your own name server
- Limiting the amount of bandwidth you consume
- You won’t get Root access because it’s not your machine
- You have to share your IP address with others
- Limits on the numbers of files that you can save on your server
- Restricted access to system resources
- Unable to host streaming content
- Limits on the number of databases you can host
This way, you get to be king of your own castle and do pretty much whatever you want.
And a managed web server is more than just hardware. You’re also getting highly-trained IT staff that will manage and monitor your web server for you.
In the early days of the internet, this would have meant paying for a physical box of components what would be manually screwed into a rack and maintained by the web hosting company. There was a lot of cost and labour associated with this, and you often ended up buying much more than you would ever use.
This option is still available today, and it’s great for companies with very heavy requirements. But there is also a “medium” option available for companies.
A Virtual Private Server is the same as having your own machine all to yourself, except it’s completely virtualized. I’ve already gone into heavy detail about the benefits of virtualization in previous articles, so I won’t bother repeating them here.
But the main point that you need to keep in mind is that it allows you to get all of the power and control of your own personal machine… while paying only for what you need. Now you can have all of the power and control of a private managed server, while still enjoying the cost savings of a shared web hosting account.
It’s a great cost-saving alternative for businesses.
If you have any other questions about the Virtual Private Server vs. Shared Hosting debate, please leave it in the comments section below and I’ll be glad to answer them.