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Shared hosting explained

In this article I’ll answer the following questions:
What is shared hosting?
What can you expect from a good quality shared hosting?
Is it good even for high-resource websites, or must they use a VPS?

Table Of Contents (T.O.C.):

  1. What is a server?
  2. What is shared hosting?
  3. What makes a good shared hosting service?
  4. What if it’s a large website, with many visitors?
  5. Common shared hosting myths
    5.1. Myth 1: fewer resources – slower
    5.2. Myth 2: lower security
    5.3. Myth 3: sharing the same IP address with “bad” websites
    5.4. Myth 4: less freedom (customization)
    5.5. Myth 5: VPS is cheaper
    5.6. Myth 6: lack of scalability
  6. Shared hosting recommendations
    6.1. For the tech-savvy users
    6.2. For the less tech-savvy
    6.3. Veerotech – a solid all-rounder
    6.4. Hosting providers to avoid
  7. Conclusion


1. What is a server?

You can understand hosting after knowing the basics about servers – briefly and simply:

When you clicked on a link to read this article, a computer sent all this text with the accompanying pictures to your computer (or smartphone) over the Internet. That computer is called a “server.”

Here you can learn more about what happens when you are opening a (WordPress) website page.

A server is nothing but a computer designed and built to work 24/7, in an air-conditioned room, and serve other computers.

The room is usually large and is called the “server-room,” or a “data-centre” if an entire building is dedicated to housing servers.

For a server to be fast and secure, you need high-quality hardware, software, and an expert to do regular maintenance and monitoring (called the server-administrator). All that costs a lot of money.

– T.O.C. –


2. What is shared hosting?

Server running and maintenance, along with all the software needed for speed and security, is expensive. It makes no sense to run a server for only one website. Even if the website is large (only huge websites can justify running a dedicated server).

Resources are better used if many people host their websites on one server – sharing it. That is what shared hosting service boils down to.

One decent server can easily serve around 1,000 websites like the one you are viewing now. Instead of paying hundreds of dollars per month, I can rent the room for my website using a shared hosting provider company and pay only a few dollars per month. In return, the company rents the same server to hundreds of customers, so they have the room to cover all the costs and make a profit. It’s a “win-win” arrangement as the Americans say. 🙂

In a separate article, I explained what other types of web-hosting exist.

– T.O.C. –


3. What makes a good shared hosting service?

High-quality shared hosting service includes the following:

  • A good data-centre, with backup electric supply, fire-protection, air conditioning and fast Internet connectivity.
  • Servers with high-quality hardware (“enterprise-level hardware”) and software.
  • A good technician and server-administrator team.
  • Good customer technical support.
  • Not placing too many customers on one server, so it doesn’t get overloaded.

The point is to make the hosting server secure, stable, and fast, while also making the customers happy.

With low and mid-priced shared hosting providers (under 5$ per month for basic shared hosting) you usually get to pick two out of these three:

  1. Fast.
  2. Stable and secure.
  3. Very patient and polite technical support.

For WordPress websites, I’ve had the best results with LiteSpeed caching plugin, which requires a LiteSpeed server in order to do its magic. Even though servers and websites can be well optimized using other tools as well, for me as a customer, this is the simplest way to get the job done.

– T.O.C. –


4. What if it’s a large website, with many visitors?

What I often hear when people ask about hosting a large website is “you need at least a VPS for that” (if you’re interested: what is a VPS?). That is nonsense (based on my knowledge and experience so far). It had some sense about 10 years ago, but not today. Why? I’ll explain that in the next chapter.

I wrote in a bit more detail about the pros and cons of VPS-s here: Is VPS better and faster than shared hosting?

– T.O.C. –


5. Common shared hosting myths

A long, long time ago, hosting server hardware and software were a lot less sophisticated. Also, even today, there are many poor-quality hosting providers that probably attribute to the perpetuation of the shared hosting myths – but they don’t apply to the high-quality providers.

I must note: as with all my other articles, everything written here should be taken as: “to the best of my knowledge,” or “based on my experience so far.” Nothing more, nothing less.

What are these myths?


5.1. Myth 1: fewer resources – slower

This myth is usually “sold” like this: “With shared hosting there are over 500 websites on one server, so your website won’t get enough RAM, or CPU resources to run fast.” Followed by “get at least a VPS.”

Here are some facts:

  • Modern technologies, like CloudLinux web-server software, allow for an easy limiting of resources hogged by any one particular hosting account (“website”). So one rogue website can’t take down the whole server.
  • Some shared hosting providers offer very high resource limits (at a reasonable price). So today you can easily find shared hosting with 4 vCPU cores and 6 GB of RAM, for example.
  • High-quality providers make sure to not put too many users (“websites”) on one server – to make sure that every website runs smoothly (for more details, see my Overselling vs Overloading article).

Simply put: shared hosting can provide powerful resources, at a reasonable price, relieving you of the worries about VPS/Dedicated Server management (monitoring, securing etc.).

Oh, I almost forgot: a VPS also shares server resources with other VPS-s (when that’s not the case, it’s outrageously expensive). And, if you want a control panel (like cPanel or DirectAdmin) so you don’t have to only use a command prompt, know that the panel requires about 1 GB of RAM and one vCPU core to run smoothly. With shared hosting, all the software is run on the whole large server, so your “slice” doesn’t get directly burdened with this.

– T.O.C. –


5.2. Myth 2: lower security

Google “expert” shouts: “If they hack one customer’s website, your website will automatically be jeopardized too!” Followed by: “A VPS is better isolated from the other VPS-s on the server.”

I’ll mention CloudLinux again, which does a great job of isolating each account, efficiently preventing the above-described scenario.

Having said that, if you put five websites on one account, hacking one of them will jeopardize the others. That is why it’s not a good idea to host several websites on one shared hosting account (it’s better to use reseller hosting for this). But you are running the same risk if placing several websites on one VPS. However, saying that hacking of a client X’s website will automatically put your website at a risk is nonsense.

I’d say that your website is more likely to be hacked on a VPS (or a dedicated server) if you don’t pay someone to secure and monitor it.

– T.O.C. –


5.3. Myth 3: sharing the same IP address with “bad” websites

You know, the websites men in puberty like to visit? Various “SEO experts” say: “Your website will be on the same server, sharing the same IP address with some ‘bad’ websites, so ‘Google will penalize you’ (and you’ll get 7 years of bad luck).”

In separate posts I explained what SEO is, and I wrote at great length about the “SEO experts/ninjas.”

You know what? The last time I checked, people at Google have heard about shared hosting. They know that a thousand websites can share the same IP address, without having any other relation with each other.

What does Google do when you search? It tries to give you the best answer to your query. Wouldn’t they be shooting themselves in the foot if they disregarded a website only because it shares the same IP with “some bad websites?”

Even the people from Google claim that shared IP addresses don’t affect website ranking – using explanations similar to mine.

I’ll add that for better speed and security, it makes sense to configure your website to use Cloudflare. Then, even if you use a VPN with a dedicated IP address, Google and all the visitors will only see a Cloudflare proxy IP, shared with hundreds of thousands of other websites.

This should not be mixed with IP address location. If you want more visitors from UK for example, it can help a little if you use a server with a UK IP address (or Cloudflare, which has proxy servers around the globe). But that’s a completely different topic – again not related with what other websites use the same IP.

This myth is partially technically true. Yes, your website may share the same IP address with some “bad sites.” But that has no measurable impact – so it doesn’t matter.

– T.O.C. –


5.4. Myth 4: less freedom (customization)

A myth that is technically true, but still dangerous because it leads to a wrong conclusion.

Yes, shared hosting provides you with a LAMP stack, and the most commonly used software and tools. If you need something “exotic” (custom), you’ll have to get “at least a VPS.”

Still, a vast majority of websites can run on what’s readily available on a decent shared hosting server.

For a custom setup on a VPS, you need to know exactly what you are doing in order to set it up and to monitor it later. Before opting for a VPS in order to customize, make sure you really need a custom setup.

– T.O.C. –


5.5. Myth 5: VPS is cheaper

It is true that you can get a VPS for only a few dollars per month. But that’s a “bare” VPS – you need to install (and pay for) all the software yourself, worry about configuration, security and monitoring. Do you have enough knowledge, experience and time for this?

If you do all the maintenance and repairs on your car, you have an idea of how much learning, tools, and time is needed to get the hang of it. With a caveat that a server will often not start to squeak, or thump in case of any problems or hacks. If you don’t have enough knowledge and experience, you may not notice anything until it’s really too late.

A managed VPS is a different story – there an expert takes care of most monitoring and maintenance, but it costs a lot more than a decent shared hosting.

I’ll repeat – for more details about this, see: Is VPS better and faster than shared hosting?

The bottom line: high-quality shared hosting is very likely to give you everything you need, at a reasonable price and with minimum worries about maintenance.

– T.O.C. –


5.6. Myth 6: lack of scalability

Some say: “You can’t easily get more resources if your website grows, or scale them down so cut costs if the number of visitors drops.” That’s usually followed by recommending “cloud hosting.”

Here, I’ve explained what cloud hosting really is. Many providers bragging to offer cloud hosting don’t satisfy one, or both of the cloud hosting criteria: redundancy and scalability (for more details see the link at the start of this paragraph). “Cloud” is often just a marketing gimmick.

Guess what? Many shared hosting providers allow you to upgrade or downgrade your package and the allotted resources. Very simply, without the need to migrate your website.

– T.O.C. –


6. Shared hosting recommendations

Starting with a disclaimer: I only recommend providers with whom I’ve personally had experience. With every recommendation, I’ll include a link to an article that documents my experience in detail – so you can read it and decide for yourself whether you like it, or not. I think that’s fair.


6.1. For the tech-savvy users

This website runs on HostMantis hosting (my review). See the review for more details, briefly: fast, stable, secure, at a price that is unmatched for such quality.

They offer servers in several locations worldwide (though server location isn’t too important).

Downsides?

  • Fluctuating pricing and business policy (again, see the review).
  • Technical support here is least likely to offer what is cloquially called “hand-holding.” It is understood that you know how to configure everything that users need to configure. They will quickly and efficiently solve any server/service related problems, but that’s it.

– T.O.C. –


6.2. For the less tech-savvy

From my experience, Gnu-Host (my review) offers the best customer support. Performance-wise, this hosting is solid.

This is the hosting I recommend to friends who want to learn how to do everything by themselves (without me doing the website migration, hosting account configuration etc.). For more details see my review.

– T.O.C. –


6.3. Veerotech – a solid all-rounder

Veerotech hosting (my review) have been in the business for a long time. They have their own data centre (their own servers), not renting it from other companies.

Reliable, fast, well-secured. My only reason for leaving this company was a crazily cheap offer from HostMantis (that turned out to be surprisingly good).

Technical support is very good. Not as good as Gnu-Host – because Veerotech is a large company, so you will be a customer number 29429424, but it’s still very good, very competent tech. support.

– T.O.C. –

6.4. Hosting providers to avoid

Poor quality hosting providers outnumber the good ones by a thousand to one ratio. They aren’t worth listing, every month several new ones spring up, take the money, then run, or keep swindling people.

Having said that, I must note a few most advertised ones, since I’ve seen people fall for them. Some are even officially recommended by WordPress (don’t know why… money?). The list below is based on my knowledge, experience and available information – it is my personal opinion.

So, without further ado, well-known hosting providers to be avoided like the plague:

  • Dreamhost
  • IONOS (former 1&1)
  • BlueHost
  • HostGator
  • iPage

That’s just to name the most popular ones. For more details and an explanation, read my article about web-hosting providers.

– T.O.C. –


7. Conclusion

High-quality shared hosting is a great choice for a vast majority of websites. It allows you to get your website up and running, at a reasonable price, without any worries about server maintenance.

Remember this article the next time you hear: “you need at least a VPS for that.” 🙂

– T.O.C. –

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