When it’s time to go online with a business website, most entrepreneurs are so excited about graphics, content, and domain names that they often forget about where their site will actually reside. Picking a proper web hosting service is the centerpiece of how your site will react to traffic, how much it will cost you, and how much control you have over the day-to-day operations. There are multiple types of web hosting services out there, but two that are popular for those seeking to lower their costs are virtual private servers (VPS) and shared web hosting.

First, a brief overview: Shared hosting refers to your site and several others being hosted on the same server and sharing the same resources. VPS also has shared resources, but they are located on the cloud and each site has its own partitioned area where it uses as many resources as it needs.

While these two have some similarities, picking the right one for the job relies mostly on what you’re looking for in a web hosting service. This guide will break down the features and functions of both VPS and shared hosting to give you a better perspective on which is the better fit for you.

Allocation of Resources

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Not surprisingly, when you use shared hosting, you share all the server’s resources, including bandwidth. In a perfect world, shared web hosting is like cutting up a pie into equal pieces to be enjoyed by you and seven friends. However, if one of your friends is extra hungry, he might gobble up an extra piece or two and leave everyone else hungry and unhappy. The same thing is true of shared hosting. If one website ends up taking up more resources for something like a viral video, those resources are drained from the common pool, potentially leaving your website short of available bandwidth to function correctly and take care of your own customers.

Website owners have a bit more freedom when it comes to VPS resources. The actual web server, in this case on the cloud, is still shared by more than one website, but each owner pays for his or her own resources, including bandwidth. If your website starts getting more hits, you can purchase and increase bandwidth to accommodate. Likewise, if your site is bustling for a short period, then sees a reduction in visits, you can scale the amount of bandwidth back down.

Access Control

Shared hosting services are often the favored choice for first-time websites of new business owners, offering limited access to server-level controls. They also try to help site owners streamline the process of getting a website online by providing templates, graphics, and tools to create blogs. These can help first-time users get a professional site online quickly. Since resources are limited, there isn’t a lot of extra control. The opposite is true for VPS. When you opt for VPS, there are two types of hosting: Managed and Unmanaged. Managed VPS is a lot like shared hosting. There are specific limits and defined structure to your hosting plan. The web-hosting site will do all the setups on for you.

Unmanaged VPS sites are built differently and are geared for code writers and site designers that demand a more personal touch. This plan still incorporates set limits for resource allocation, but what the site owner does in terms of building the site or installing any software is entirely up to them.

Scalability

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Nobody has a crystal ball to see how large their website might grow, but this category requires some serious research and decision-making, or your site could be doomed. Shared hosting servers offer a fixed amount of space and resources for a price. If your site grows too big, you risk overtaxing its resources and failing to be seen by web users as it grows in popularity. Determine the purpose of your site and if you can see it growing beyond its means. If you think there’s a chance of someday exceeding allotted bandwidth, then the VPS is the much better option as it can expand and retract with the popularity of your site without charging you for services you’ll never use.

Price

Let’s face it: If it weren’t important, it wouldn’t be called the bottom line. Using a shared hosting server is a lot cheaper than using a VPS, and some shared servers go for as little as $2/month, with an average between $5-10. Those low prices usually mean forgetting about customer service. However, if budgets are a concern, it is the favored choice. VPS server space costs between $20-50/month, which is definitely an investment. Be sure to assess your needs, now and in the future, before making your decision.