VPS or Dedicated Server? A Guide to Website Hosting Services

When researching how to start a website, you’ll probably come across the term “web hosting” fairly often. Every website needs a hosting service, but there are many different options. Do you need a VPS or dedicated server? Should you choose shared or self-service hosting?

Here’s what you need to know about website hosting services and how to decide which is best for your needs.

What is web hosting?

Before delving into the types of web hosting services available, it’s important to understand the basics. Essentially, the data on your website needs to be stored somewhere. This is where a web host comes in. Web hosting companies sell storage space on their own computers (referred to as “servers”) and ensure that your website is always available when people want to visit it.

Types of web hosting services

Web hosting options vary in complexity, features, and price. Here’s a summary of the five basic types to help you determine which is right for your website.

1. Free web hosting

The most basic, beginner-friendly type of web hosting is free web hosting. When you create a website on WordPress.com, you’re using a free web hosting service.

This type of service is free because your website is technically a subdomain of WordPress.com. You have the option of dropping the “.wordpress.com” from your URL by purchasing a custom domain.

The major advantage here is that you don’t have to pay a monthly hosting fee, making it a popular option amongst new bloggers and first-time website owners.

2. Shared web hosting

Another popular option for new websites is shared web hosting. With this type of plan, you get your own domain and your website shares a server with hundreds (or thousands) of other websites. Since you’re sharing storage space with so many other sites, shared web hosting is generally quite affordable.

The downside to shared web hosting is that if one (or more) of the websites on your shared server receives large amounts of traffic, they will use up that server’s resources, which can potentially slow down your site.

3. Virtual private servers

Resource hogging is solved by another type of shared hosting: virtual private servers (VPS). Although you’ll still be sharing a server with other websites, each site gets its own dedicated resources, which means that you’re not competing for space and speed with your fellow server-mates.

However, as you may imagine, the cost of VPS hosting is significantly higher than standard shared hosting. While it’s a desirable option for many website owners, the monthly costs aren’t always feasible for those just starting out.

4. Dedicated hosting

Large companies with busy websites often opt for dedicated hosting. With this option, you get a dedicated server all to yourself. By opting to use a dedicated hosting service, you receive all the resources your site needs, and you can even customize the hardware on your server.

As you might have guessed, dedicated web hosting is one of the most expensive options. As Hosting Facts suggests, it’s generally unnecessary for small websites. If you’re going back and forth between getting a VPS or dedicated server, the former is likely sufficient for your needs.

5. Self-service hosting

If you’re thinking to yourself, “can’t I just host my own website,” the answer is yes — but it’s not as easy as it sounds.

Self-service hosting is a do-it-yourself option, but it requires significant investments and upkeep that’s beyond the capabilities of your average small business owner. Typically, this type of web hosting is only employed by large corporations with dedicated teams to configure, program, and maintain the servers.

As with most website solutions, the right type of web hosting depends on your particular needs. If you’re just starting out or want more time to decide, you can always begin with free web hosting and switch services as your needs change.


Camryn Rabideau

Camryn Rabideau is freelance writer specializing in digital lifestyle content, ranging from pop culture to smart home technology. Camryn has contributed to popular media sites such as InStyle, Taste of Home, Martha Stewart, Food52, USA Today, The Spruce and more.

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