7 Key Differences You Should Know
Start your hosting journey today as we reveal the key differences between shared and VPS hosting.
Hosting can be an intimidating subject. If you’re not overly tech savvy, it’s difficult to even fully understand what hosting is, let alone know what the different types are!
It’s our job to rectify all that. At Website Builder Expert, we’ve been around the block a few times, and know all the tricks of the trade when it comes to web hosting.
Not only that, we’ve also conducted our own, real-life research to help you choose the right hosting provider for your needs. But let’s start with the basics.
There are many different types of hosting, but we’re going to focus on two of them: shared hosting and virtual private server (VPS) hosting:
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting in Brief
Shared hosting means sharing a server – and its resources – with other sites. That’s bandwidth, storage… the lot. VPS hosting creates a virtual environment that imitates a dedicated server (where you get a server, and all its resources, to yourself), but within a shared hosting environment.
Another way to get your head around the difference is to think of them like renting property:
With shared hosting, you ‘share’ space on a server with other websites. It’s like renting a room in a shared house – you’ve got your own little area, but you’re part of a larger communal space.
Shared hosting is the cheapest type there is. It’s got its benefits, but naturally, things can get a little cramped at times.
VPS hosting is where you have more than just one slice of a server. This can be thought of like renting an apartment in a building block – more rooms, more space, more flexibility, and a little more expensive. You have a greater level of control, but you’re still operating within a shared server with others.
Generally, shared hosting is for static websites – in other words, websites with fixed content that doesn’t change, no matter who visits it. Shared hosting is best for basic personal sites, like blogs, and for startups. You don’t get a wealth of features, ironclad security, or ultra-fast loading speeds, but then again, you don’t really need all that.
VPS hosting is a step up, and ideal for small businesses, online stores, and larger personal sites. You’ll see an increase in features, security and performance, all for a very reasonable rise in cost.
VPS hosting is also great if you’re looking to grow your site. Think of it as an investment – you want to pick a plan that matches your ambitions, not just one for the here-and-now.
Throughout this article, we’ll tackle the main pros/cons, and show you the top-rated providers for each type of hosting. We’ll also talk through the main areas to be aware of, assess the key differences, and pinpoint which hosting type is right for you: shared hosting or VPS hosting.
While shared hosting is the least expensive option, VPS can also offer great value for money – the trick is knowing which type of hosting you’ll need. Most beginner and personal websites will be more than prepared with the features of shared hosting. But if you’re setting up an online store or a site that’s likely to outgrow those basic furnishings, then you’ll want to upgrade to the more scalable and personalized offerings of VPS hosting.
|Shared Hosting Pros||Shared Hosting Cons|
|VPS Hosting Pros||VPS Hosting Cons|
Everyone needs certain resources. Your mobile plan, for example, comes with a set limit on calls, texts and data. Hosting is the same, except the resources are things like storage space and memory.
As the name suggests, on a shared hosting plan, you share resources with the other sites on your server. If one website uses up too much bandwidth, the other sites all suffer. It’s a bit like wanting to cook in your shared kitchen when all the hobs are already taken.
VPS hosting is less limited. Because you hold a larger portion of the server’s hardware, you have more resource. You’ll also get root access over the server environment, which basically means you can install extra software and edit any file on the server.
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Resource Allocation: Verdict
You get more resources with VPS hosting than with shared hosting. More hardware equals more resource. You won’t have to worry as much about how other websites are affecting your performance, meaning you can get on with more important matters. With shared hosting, you’re too reliant on those around you.
We’d like to start by saying that, for the most part, shared hosting is very safe. Providers do a lot of work around their security, but there are no guarantees. This, again, is down to the other sites you share a server with.
If one site makes a mistake and has a security breach, every site on that server is then vulnerable. You can lock your bedroom, but if one of your housemates leaves the front door open, you’re still at risk!
VPS hosting is more secure. For starters, you’re on a server with other VPS users, meaning everyone has a higher level of security. You also have more say over your own protection, just like how you’d be free to install CCTV and alarms in your own flat. There’s no need to panic, even if someone leaves the entrance to your block open.
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Security: Verdict
With VPS hosting, security is more under your control than with shared hosting. You also get greater security features from your provider. We’d advise anyone who processes users’ personal data through their site to steer clear of shared hosting.
You can have all the resources and security in the world, but what your visitors really care about is how smoothly your site runs. Things like the amount of bandwidth you get will vary from plan to plan, while uptime is different depending on the provider you choose.
Research suggests that nearly half of all internet users expect web pages to load in two seconds or less. With that in mind, you’ll want to be on a plan that can handle larger waves of traffic, without compromising on loading speeds.
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Performance: Verdict
VPS hosting outperforms shared hosting. You generally get more bandwidth, and it’s better equipped to deal with spikes in traffic. Shared hosting is absolutely fine for small sites without large volumes of visitors, but be wary of how a sudden increase in a site’s popularity will impact performance.
- Web Hosting Comparison Chart – Take a side-by-side detailed look at the best hosting providers and what they all offer.
Your hosting’s configuration (or in other words, set-up) is usually taken care of for you. On shared hosting plans, configuration is all sorted by your provider, meaning you can get on with more important things.
VPS is a little more complex. There are two different types of VPS hosting: Managed and Unmanaged. Managed plans are the same as shared hosting, in that the set-up process is taken care of for you. With Unmanaged, it’s up to you – although this only tends to be used by developers and experts.
When it comes to customization, there is a clear difference between the two hosting types. To explain, let’s use your mobile plan as another example. While shared hosting has set limits which you cannot exceed, like call minutes and amount of data, VPS hosting lets you customize your plan, so you can alter your limits on a month-to-month basis.
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Configuration and Customization: Verdict
VPS hosting beats shared hosting for customization. Especially since most people will opt for a Managed plan – you don’t need to worry about setting anything up, and it’s so much more flexible. With VPS hosting, you decide your own limit needs; shared hosting is far more regimented.
The way to look at shared hosting vs VPS hosting is to decide what your ambitions are. If you own a small website that only gets a few hundred visitors per week, and you don’t plan on scaling up too much, shared hosting is perfect.
Problems start to creep in when your website grows. If your visitor count turns from the hundreds to the thousands, your nice homepage could turn into an error message.
VPS hosting can grow with you; if you’re a small business, paying a couple of bucks extra a month at this stage gives you that leeway. Sure, living in a shared house is fine if it’s just you, but when you get a partner, things can get a little cramped!
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Scalability: Verdict
When it comes to scalability, VPS hosting wins again. Like we said, shared hosting has its perks, and for personal sites or small startups, it fits the bill. But if you want to scale without the worry of your website crashing, VPS hosting is the one for you.
Now the technical stuff’s out the way, it’s onto the important question: how much is all this going to cost?
Well, the first thing to mention is that both shared and VPS hosting comes at different tiers of pricing. Naturally, the more expensive the plan you go for, the more of the stuff above you get (resource, security, performance etc.).
Secondly, all providers mentioned in our table have different promotional prices. These are discounted sign-up rates that are valid for the first few months (or years) of your plan. InMotion, for example, has a great offer where you can get shared hosting for $3.99/month for the first two years, and VPS hosting for $27.99/month!
With that in mind, the prices you see below exclude promotions and cut straight to the full price:
As you can see, shared hosting is the cheaper of the two. It’s great for personal websites and startup businesses who just need an online presence. And if you’re still looking for the best way to make a website, why not check out our website builder comparison chart?
Website builders are online platforms that help you create a website without having to code. They cost a similar amount to shared hosting plans, but include the design of your site, domain, and hosting. Website builders are the perfect all-in-one solution.
Shared Hosting vs VPS Hosting – Price: Verdict
Shared hosting beats VPS hosting on price – seriously! If you want to host your website on the cheap, there’s no real argument, as shared hosting is undeniably cheaper than VPS hosting. It’s still important to note, though, that shared hosting is a little limited for sites with big ambitions.
- InMotion Review – Find out why InMotion is rated as the best provider of Shared and VPS hosting.
- Bluehost Pricing Review – Delve deeper into the value of Bluehost’s pricing plans.
- 4 Best Cheap Web Hosting Providers – Looking for a bargain? These providers barely cost a dime!
- Best Cheap Shared Hosting Providers – Looking specifically for a cheap shared hosting plan? Here’s the best of the bunch.
We’ve mentioned our research a few times throughout this article. It’s what sets us apart from other websites, and something we take great pride in.
We’ve reviewed tons of hosting providers, testing their features, analyzing their help and support, and seeing if they give you real value for money.
Because different types of hosting meet very different needs (as you now know), we’ve researched each provider and tested each type of hosting they offer. So, who came out on top?
Top 3 Shared Hosting Providers
You’ll work off a cPanel, which is the industry’s standard dashboard, and get unmetered transfer, free backups, and a free domain. Plans include unlimited email accounts, an SSL certificate for security, and unlimited disk space – something rarely offered.
While you’ll also get a cPanel, unmetered transfer and unlimited disk space, HostGator doesn’t provide free backups or a domain. You do get unlimited email accounts though, and an SSL certificate. HostGator really comes into its own when looking at dedicated hosting.
cPanel, unmetered transfer, unlimited disk space – check. Free backups are also available, but only on the $18.99/month plan. A2 Hosting is all about the help you receive: there’s 24/7 live chat and phone support, and a ticket system where you can raise issues. Its online help center is pretty handy, too.
Top 3 VPS Hosting Providers
Where to start. InMotion provides between 4-8GB of RAM (Random Access Memory), optional root access, unlimited CPU (Central Processing Unit) cores, and 4-6TB of bandwidth. You also get unlimited websites and email accounts, and up to 260GB of storage.
A2 Hosting matches InMotion for the most part in terms of features, but it does fall down on storage space. It offers up to 150GB of storage, significantly less than InMotion, but you get the same reliable help and support, and the option of Windows server hosting.
Bluehost again has great features, but the storage space and bandwidth is lower. Up to 3TB of bandwidth and 120GB of storage space isn’t something to turn your nose up at, but when competing with the giants of VPS hosting, it’s enough to knock it down a couple of places in the rankings.
You should now have a good understanding of what both shared hosting and VPS hosting are, and the key differences between them. Not only that, you’ll know which type of hosting suits which type of website.
To refresh your memory, here’s a quick recap of shared hosting vs VPS hosting, looking back at the areas we’ve discussed and summarizing their differences:
|Key Differences||Shared Hosting||VPS Hosting|
Winner: VPS Hosting
|Share resources with other websites on your server. If one reaches the limit, others will also run out.||Resources are still shared, but you have a greater say over your website’s own personal limits.|
Winner: VPS Hosting
|Generally very secure, but if one site on your server gets hacked, you’re at risk.||Can install personal security software to ensure you’re protected, even if others on your server aren’t.|
Winner: VPS Hosting
|Good uptime and enough bandwidth to support hundreds of visitors a week (provided other sites don’t use too much!).||Good page loading speeds, and enough bandwidth to support thousands of visitors every week.|
Configuration and Customization
Winner: VPS Hosting
|Set limits on the amount of resources you have; very little customization.||More control over your resource limits; can be customized with extra software.|
Winner: VPS Hosting
|Not very scalable beyond static websites.||Capable of growing with your site, right up to massive corporate sites.|
Winner: Shared Hosting
|The cheapest type of hosting on the market.||More expensive than shared hosting.|
While shared hosting is best for personal sites and startups, VPS hosting wins for larger sites and small businesses. VPS is more expensive than shared hosting, but in return you get more flexibility over your resource limits, as well as greater security and improved performance. However, performance levels still shouldn’t be an issue with shared hosting, and it’s pretty much designed for beginners.
If shared hosting sounds like it’s for you, we’d recommend checking out InMotion, HostGator or A2 Hosting. Similarly, if you need the more advanced VPS hosting, take a look at InMotion, A2 Hosting, or Bluehost.
When should you switch from shared hosting to VPS hosting?
If you’re already on a shared hosting plan but have ambitions to scale your website, the sooner you upgrade to VPS hosting, the easier it’ll be. Generally, if your website is starting to get thousands rather than hundreds of weekly visitors, it’s time to switch.
What is Dedicated hosting?
Dedicated hosting is where your website is hosted on its own server. It’s considered the most comprehensive type of hosting, and comes with tons of features. If shared hosting is like having your own room, and VPS hosting like having your own apartment, Dedicated hosting is like having your own house.
What’s the difference between a VPS and a VPN?
Similar acronym, very different meaning. VPS stands for virtual private server, and is where you host your website on a shared server with separate hardware and software. VPN stands for virtual private network, and is a way of browsing the internet anonymously from various locations.
What other providers offer website hosting?
There are hundreds of different hosting providers, but a few of the top ones include 1&1 IONOS, SiteGround and GoDaddy. 1&1 IONOS and GoDaddy also have top-of-the-range website builders you can use, while SiteGround is known for its reliability.
Website Builder Expert aims to provide you with honest data. That’s why we conduct our own research and obtain direct, personal insight.