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What is Shared Hosting and How Does it Work?

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WRITTEN BY
Timothy Shim
UPDATED
January 27, 2023
what is Shared Hosting?

Shared Hosting is a web service where multiple user accounts occupy a single web server. The accounts don't have permanently assigned resources but tap into a general pool. Because of this sharing, Shared Hosting plans are incredibly cost-effective. However, performance often takes a back seat, especially on overcrowded servers.

 

Shared hosting is the cheapest form of web hosting available and a popular choice for anyone looking to launch their first website.

 

This simple-to-manage hosting service divides single web servers into hundreds of slices. Each slice can be sold to a single user but can be capable of hosting more than one website.

 

Today, we’re answering all the questions you’ve ever had about shared hosting!

 

 

what is shared hosting featured image

 

The Pros And Cons of Shared Web Hosting

 

As we’ve mentioned – shared hosting comes with buck-saving benefits.

 

And although all shared hosting plans come with resource limitations, it’s important to note that all accounts will draw from a shared resource pool. Since resources are limited, website performance may suffer during periods of heavy usage on the server.

 

Server resources are the things necessary for applications to work on the server. The most significant resources to watch for are CPU time, memory (RAM), storage space, and bandwidth.

 

Pros

  • ✓ Low cost of entry
  • ✓ Fast account setup
  • ✓ Easy management
  • ✓ Less maintenance necessary
  • ✓ Generally unlimited bandwidth
  • ✓ Often includes email services

Cons

  • • May suffer from erratic performance
  • • Potential security issues
  • • Support may take longer
  • • Little control over server configuration

 

 

Is Shared Hosting Right for You? Here’s What To Consider

 

Thanks to its distinct characteristics, it’s quite easy to tell if Shared Hosting is the right choice for your website.

 

As a rule of thumb, shared hosting is an excellent choice for smaller websites that expect low visitor volumes. After all – hosting uptime is seldom a top priority for most shared hosting users.

 

If you’re unsure if that means yours, here are some areas to consider when wondering if shared hosting is right for you;

 

1. How much are you willing to pay for hosting?

 

New websites often have low monetization (income). Because of this, the cost of hosting new websites is often a serious consideration. It’s always best to run your website like a business and consider all necessary costs over an extended period.

 

Even though the hosting plan may cost just a few dollars each month, you often need to foot an extended bill of anywhere between 1-3 years up-front. This “bulk cost” can put anything beyond Shared Hosting out of reach for new website owners.

 

Shared Hosting also comes in various price ranges. Most plans at the lower scale can cheaply support a single website. More powerful shared hosting plans cost more, but you may get access to more resources and freebies – like a complimentary domain name.

 

Expect to pay between $1/mo to $3/mo for the cheapest Shared Hosting options. Prices will also vary depending on the service provider. For example – Hostinger

 

2. What website traffic volume do you expect?

 

As a website gets more visitors, its resource consumption increases. New website owners often overestimate their traffic volumes. If you’re establishing a brand new website, your visitor traffic will take time to build.

 

Shared Hosting is capable of handling the initial visitor flow. You can upgrade to a better web hosting plan if your traffic volume increases. Most Shared Hosting plans can easily handle up to 10,000 to 20,000 visitors per month.

 

Take these numbers with a pinch of salt, though. There are many caveats to the actual number of visitors that web hosting plans can handle. Some web hosts, however, will limit Shared Hosting plans to a specific number of visitors per month, although this isn’t common.

 

3. Think of the features you need

 

Resources are only one part of hosting a website. Depending on the type of website you build, Shared Hosting may or may not be suitable for your needs. For example, most Shared Hosting plans don’t offer much leeway in server configuration.

 

If you need specific features, check if the Shared Hosting plan will allow for that. If not, you may not be able to use that plan.

 

Some features you can consider;

 

  • Free domain name
  • Free SSL certificate (SSL certificate prices vary wildly depending on the type)
  • Easy web application installation
  • Automated or manual backup systems
  • Uptime guarantees

 

For those who are moving from an existing host, check if the new host is willing to offer hosting migration. Many web hosts will help you move your website at no cost if you sign up for one of their hosting plans.

 

4. How important is host security?

 

The most glaring weakness of Shared Hosting plans is the poor overall security profile. Aside from your website, malware or other cyberattacks can collectively affect all accounts on the same server.

 

However, while an important issue, not all websites may need extreme levels of security. For instance, it’s less vital if you’re running a small blog or portfolio website. The need for security increases once other elements like payment processing and customer/personal data get involved.

 

Some web hosts remain focused on the security of their network infrastructure and servers. However, a truly secure web host knows that customers are likely the biggest security loophole. To address this, they often provide access to some security tools like malware scanners.

 

 

How To Pick The Best Shared Hosting Provider

 

There are hundreds of web hosting providers available online. Some are global brands, while others may serve a more localized customer base.

 

When picking out the best hosting providers, we always look out for:

 

  1. Speed
    host is built to deliver speed, both in its hardware and software offerings. It’s the reason why we use the Bitcatcha website speed test tool whenever we write a host review.
  2. Value for money
    Different hosts offer different features and resources under shared hosting plans, and some even offer ‘unlimited’ offerings – e.g. unlimited bandwidth.
  3. Uptime
    offers an uptime guarantee.
  4. User-friendliness
    A beginner friendly control panel and supporting tools.
  5. Excellent customer service
    offers 24/7 helpful support in a range of options.
  6. Security
    helps keep your site secure, be it via SSL certificates, firewalls, proactive monitoring, backups, etc – without charging extra for the basics.

 

That said, picking the BEST Shared Hosting provider involves matching your needs with what the host provides.

 

For example, if price is your chief concern, some web hosts offer highly budget-oriented plans. One of our top picks, Hostinger, offers entry-level Shared Hosting plans for as little as $1.99/mo.

 

WordPress users may want to prioritise a Shared Web Host that’s specially attuned for WordPress websites. DreamHost, for example, is one of only three WordPress-recommended hosting providers, and comes with a drag-and-drop WordPress website builder.

 

 

Other Alternatives To Shared Hosting

 

shared hosting illustration

 

If Shared Hosting doesn’t sound right to you, there are other options. Web hosting plans offer progressively better features as prices increase.

 

The next step up from Shared Hosting will be Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting.

 

1. Virtual Private Server Hosting

 

Like Shared Hosting, multiple VPS accounts occupy a single server. However, each VPS plan is assigned a dedicated amount of resources and sits in an isolated space. These characteristics of VPS mean they offer users much better performance potential and security.

 

However, the former is generally more expensive when comparing VPS vs. Shared Hosting. There is also a broad price range in the VPS space. You may find VPS plans that cost as little as $10/mo or some that range into well over $100/mo.

 

2. Cloud Hosting

 

Cloud Hosting is similar to VPS except that resources extend over several servers that form a “Cloud.” These servers may not be in the same physical location but are spread across the globe.

 

This characteristic means that Cloud servers are virtually limitless in scalability potential. Arguably, you can scale a Cloud Hosting plan well beyond the capabilities of even a dedicated server.

 

3. Dedicated Server Hosting

 

For those wanting something more powerful than VPS, there is the option to rent a Dedicated Server. As the name suggests, you occupy an entire server for yourself. This power comes at premium prices since you have to pay for the server even if you aren’t fully utilizing its resources.

 

VPS, Cloud, and Dedicated Servers all require more technical expertise to manage. While some hosts may help you to manage these plans, the assistance comes at a premium price. You may pay more for server management than the hosting plan itself.

 

4. Reseller Hosting

 

There is also a more niche plan called Reseller Hosting. This category of web hosting plan allows you to sell or provide hosting space to others. You can technically start a web hosting service using a Reseller Hosting plan.

 

These plans often come with unique features like Whitelabel invoicing and control panels. However, elements like support need to be provided by you.

 

5. WordPress Hosting

 

Thanks to the popularity of the CMS, many web hosting companies now sell WordPress Hosting plans. These plans are built around the WordPress CMS but operate on any type of web hosting.

 

For example, a WordPress hosting plan might run on Shared Hosting, VPS, or anything else. The intent is to help WordPress users get started quickly, and the plans often come with the CMS pre-installed and ready to use.

 

 

Wrap Up: Is Shared Hosting Right For You?

 

As you can see, there’s something available in the Shared Hosting space regardless of your needs. Don’t get too caught up in choice, though. Think of your Shared Hosting plan as your stepping stone into web hosting.

 

When you’ve built a decent website and gained a steady flow of visitors, you’ll be ready to migrate to a better hosting solution like VPS Hosting or Cloud Hosting.

 

 

 

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About The Author

Timothy Shim is a former tech journalist who has turned his experience towards his business as a writer, editor and content strategist. Today, he helps businesses craft compelling messages and advises on SEO, content marketing, and social media strategy.