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Shared and dedicated hosting is among the most popular hosting services. Most hosting providers offer either option at different price points. However, it’s not always clear which hosting type is right for your website. Fortunately, there are distinct differences between shared and dedicated hosting. Therefore, making a decision shouldn’t be difficult if you know the benefits and drawbacks of each hosting service.
The 8 Best Web Hosts for Dedicated Hosting
While shared hosting offers many advantages, most websites are better off with dedicated hosting. We tested more than two-dozen service providers to compare the best dedicated hosting plans. Our recommendations include the following:
- Bluehost – The best overall dedicated hosting plan
- InMotion – The best dedicated web host for small businesses
- HostGator – The most reliable dedicated hosting
- A2 Hosting – The fastest dedicated hosting
- Liquid Web – The best bundle packages for dedicated hosting plans
- Media Temple – The best dedicated hosting for enterprises and resellers
- AccuWeb & Hostwinds – The cheapest dedicated hosting plans
Now let’s explore the primary differences between shared hosting and dedicated hosting.
1. Server Allocation
The main difference between shared and dedicated hosting is how the service provider allocates servers and their accompanying resources. This disparity is the basis of all other differences we’ll explore in this post. With this in mind, the terms shared and dedicated hosting are self-explanatory.
Shared hosting means that multiple users share the same server. Therefore, numerous websites and applications share the same server resources. For example, the service provider may divide a server’s central processing unit (CPU), random access memory (RAM), and storage space among multiple websites or clients.
The obvious problem with shared hosting is one website or application hogging most of the server’s resources. However, most hosting providers implement measures to ensure that each website uses a reasonable amount of the shared server resources. For instance, the service provider may use an operating system like CloudLinux to control server usage.
The operating system creates LightWeight Virtual Environments (LVEs), which work like isolated servers. The host allocates resources like CPU, RAM, and storage to each virtual environment, independent of the central server. Therefore, a website can only use resources as it is allocated.
Dedicated hosting is exactly how it sounds. The provider only hosts one account or website, so the website can access 100% of the server’s resources.
Resource allocation is one of the dedicated hostings’ main selling points. You don’t have to share much-needed computing power. Instead, you can access all the resources at your service up to the server’s capability.
2. Server Management & Customization
Server management refers to the tasks performed on the server to ensure that it runs optimally and reliably. The main objectives of server management include minimizing slowdowns and downtime, securing and protecting the server environment, and scaling the server to keep up with the website’s resource requirements. You’ll notice a considerable difference in server management between shared and dedicated hosting.
Generally, shared hosting requires little server management at the user level. Instead, the web host takes primary responsibility for server management, including hardware maintenance, setup and configuration, software management, and server monitoring.
Shared hosts also offer limited administrative access. This design rules out customization options like bespoke software configurations or using your preferred software and operating system. However, most shared hosting providers offer a cPanel for simple administrative tasks like organizing web files and managing domains.
On the plus side, shared hosting is user-friendly, especially for people with limited technical skills. In addition, you don’t have to worry about back-end maintenance and other technical details. However, you’re also at the mercy of your host’s operating system, server configuration, and security policies.
Dedicated hosting provides more freedom for server management and customization. It’s a terrific choice for tech-savvy administrators who want the server to match their exact specifications and requirements. In addition, most dedicated hosts provide unrestricted root access.
Root access allows you to customize the server to meet your specifications. For example, you can install your preferred operating system and software, adjust hardware specifications, and install custom server-wide applications. For technical users, this freedom is critical for optimizing performance.
Dedicated hosting isn’t just for tech-savvy administrators. Many providers offer managed dedicated hosting. It is a good alternative for users who don’t have the technical skills to manage a server independently.
Naturally, sharing server resources has an impact on your website performance, and it’s the main reason many prefer dedicated hosting versus shared hosting. Sharing resources with other websites means you can only access a portion of the servers’ true capability.
Service providers can host hundreds or thousands of websites on one server. As a result, you can expect some performance issues. For example, lower loading speed is a common downside of shared hosting.
It’s worth mentioning that shared hosting doesn’t always mean limited performance. For example, a content-light website requires few resources to run optimally. Therefore, you may not notice differences in page loading speed and other performance metrics with shared hosting.
Similarly, there are things you can do to speed up your website, even with shared hosting. For instance, optimizing images, using a CDN solution, or executing web caches can speed up your website. Again, most shared hosting providers readily allow you to implement these measures.
On the other hand, dedicated hosting gives you access to 100% of the server resources. As a result, there’s a perceptible performance boost, especially for a content-heavy website like an ecommerce store. Plus, with enhanced customization, you have more control of server performance at your fingertips.
Overall, your website type plays a primary role in performance when considering shared vs. dedicated hosting. For example, a resource-heavy website with a lot of traffic will likely have performance issues with shared hosting. Therefore, dedicated hosting is the safer bet if website performance is a primary consideration.
4. Web Hosting Bandwidth
Web hosting bandwidth refers to the maximum amount of web traffic transferred between a user, website, and the internet during a specific period. Web hosts typically measure bandwidth in Megabytes per Second (MB/s) or Gigabytes per Second (GB/s). Each web visit eats into your total bandwidth allocation. Therefore, a higher bandwidth limit is preferable, especially for a quickly growing or high-traffic website.
Shared hosting typically imposes lower bandwidth limits compared to dedicated hosting. Shared hosts usually limit access to the website or lower its performance if you go over the bandwidth limit, referred to as bandwidth throttling. All this is understandable since you must share the server resources with other websites.
Many shared hosting providers claim to offer unlimited bandwidth. However, a quick look at your contract exposes a “fair use” clause. You’ll notice limitations such as CPU or bandwidth usage in your contract, and the web host may reserve the right to interrupt service if you exceed this limitation.
Dedicated hosts have vastly higher bandwidth limits than any shared host, and it’s unsurprising since you’re paying for total server capacity. Typically, the bandwidth is more than most websites need to operate optimally.
Many dedicated hosting providers also offer unmetered bandwidth. This means you don’t have to worry about sudden traffic spikes or exceeding your bandwidth limitation. The hosting provider doesn’t throttle your bandwidth if you exceed the allocated bandwidth.
Most websites don’t have a baseline for assets and web traffic. Instead, there are frequent fluctuations, especially during peak seasons, when running a promotion, or from a sudden spike in demand. Similarly, a growing website uses more resources with every piece of new content or additional web page.
Scalability refers to the hosts’ ability to keep up with your website’s fluctuating system resource demands. Furthermore, scalability works both ways. Ideally, the web host should allow you to increase or decrease computing resources as needed quickly.
Shared hosting packages are generally not flexible. Often, you can only reduce your computing resources if you downgrade to a lower package. Similarly, you’ll likely need to upgrade to a higher package to increase computing resources.
Furthermore, you may need to contact the shared hosting provider to upgrade your package. Alternatively, the hosting provider may allow migrating to a higher package manually. Regardless, you may waste valuable time while you attempt to scale your computing power to keep up with a sudden traffic spike.
On the other hand, dedicated hosting is inherently scalable. If nothing else, most dedicated hosting providers add bandwidth, processing power, and storage space on request. They’re also willing to downgrade system resources, so you don’t have to pay for unnecessary computing power.
6. IP Address Management
With shared hosting, all websites share the same server IP address. Therefore, there could be illegal or scam websites among the shared server’s hundreds or thousands of sites. If one of these gets blocked, your website is also blacklisted.
There are ways to recover a blacklisted website in case you’re caught in the crossfire. Your hosting provider may also work diligently to recover your website. However, the downtime can do irreparable damage to your website’s reputation and client trust.
Dedicated hosting solves this problem by assigning each server a unique IP address. This way, you’re solely responsible for your online reputation since you’re not sharing an IP address with anyone. The peace of mind is sufficient to choose dedicated hosting over shared hosting.
It’s worth mentioning that shared hosting providers take extra precautions to detect and remove dubious and illegal websites. Unfortunately, however, dishonest actors can fall through the cracks. This inherent risk is one of the major drawbacks of shared hosting.
Shared hosting isn’t inherently insecure. On the contrary, shared hosts go to extreme lengths to secure the server. However, shared server infrastructure introduces additional security risks you don’t find with dedicated hosting.
Firstly, shared hosting plans use a common directory. The directory contains all website core files. This structure means your website is interlinked with other sites sharing the server.
Theoretically, a hacker could access the main directory. Unfortunately, this situation means that all the websites are potential targets for the hacker’s dubious activities.
Shared servers are also common targets of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks. Such an attack can cause the server to slow down or crash. In addition, such an incident may slow down or crash all the websites on the shared server.
Dedicated hosting offers more robust security by default. If nothing else, you’re not sharing space with vulnerable websites that could provide hackers an access point to the server. You also don’t share a directory with other websites, so you only have to worry about your security policy.
Furthermore, dedicated hosting allows you to customize your server for added security. You can limit admin access, set up new firewalls, use your preferred malware protection program, and install an intrusion detection system (IDS). Dedicated hosting provides added security for users with robust web security policies.
Shared hosting is inexpensive, which is one of the main reasons why many users prefer shared hosting. The hosting cost is spread among multiple users, reducing the per-user cost.
On the other hand, dedicated hosting is more expensive. You’re paying for extra benefits, but some may find the added cost inaccessible. Still, you can find affordable dedicated hosting providers if you price shop.
The Similarities Between Shared Hosting and Dedicated Hosting
There are undoubtedly stark differences between shared vs. dedicated hosting. However, there are also similarities between the two hosting types.
For example, shared and dedicated hosting providers offer technical support. The quality and support time may vary depending on the hosting provider. Regardless, you can count on technical support in case there’s an issue with your website or server.
Both types of web hosting also eliminate the need for physical or on-premise servers. Instead, the hosting service offers virtual servers that run from the cloud. These servers also don’t require technical staff to maintain.
Additionally, shared and dedicated web hosts provide a cPanel account or other interface to monitor critical metrics. For example, you can keep track of server status, daily process logs, system performance metrics, and server availability and uptime. This information is often delivered in real-time.
Furthermore, web hosting providers offer built-in security. These features may vary depending on the hosting provider. However, most web hosts provide DDoS protection, regular data backups, SSL certificates, firewalls, and scheduled malware scans. Most providers also offer these security services at no extra charge, depending on your hosting plan.
Final Thoughts About Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting
Shared and dedicated hosting are vastly different. Choosing the best hosting type should be easy. The best option depends on your hosting requirements.
While dedicated hosting offers more advantages, shared hosting plans are good enough for some people. For example, a small website with minimal traffic and computing requirements can get by with shared hosting. In addition, you can always migrate to dedicated hosting when you scale the website.
However, most users will benefit from dedicated hosting. This goes doubly for websites that collect and process personally identifiable information (PII), anticipate significant growth, or have custom hosting requirements.
Finally, compare the best hosting companies before choosing your preferred web host. The specific services vary depending on the provider. So a little research goes a long way in making the best purchase decision.