If you’re building a website for the first time, hosting is critical — and often confusing. Three of the most common methods are shared hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting and cloud hosting. Thankfully, extensive technical knowledge isn’t a requirement to get up to speed with these hosting techniques.
Choosing the best fit for your website depends on a number of factors including performance demands, security requirements, cost constraints, scalability requirements, and server administration preferences.
Let’s take a look at how each hosting technique works, it’s key benefits and drawbacks and how it compares to the alternatives.
With a shared hosting approach the website server and its resources, including bandwidth and storage, are shared with all other hosted sites. Typically, a website owner won’t know who or which websites will be sharing the hosting platform with them.
Each customer on the platform has a server resource limit determined by the hosting platform’s package. While many shared hosting providers have multiple packages with differing resource access levels, all customers ultimately occupy the same space.
Think of shared hosting as renting an apartment with roommates: You have one room within the larger apartment space. Access to key resources, such as the kitchen, bathroom and living room — is shared among all residents.
Shared hosting is the most common method of hosting because it’s the most affordable, but does come with potential drawbacks. If server resources aren’t robust enough to handle multiple users or if security controls are lacking, your website may be slow to load, difficult to access and potentially at risk of compromise.
With virtual private server (VPS) hosting, users still share the same physical server space but the hosting provider installs a virtual layer on top of the server’s operating system. This layer separates the server into partitions and allows users to install their own operating systems and software.
In this case, you’re renting your apartment — you’re not directly sharing rooms and resources with other website owners, but you’re still subject to the larger resource limits of the building itself.
For example, if everyone turns their hot water taps on full blast, the entire complex will quickly run out. If all sites are using maximum bandwidth space, everyone will experience slowdown.
The partially-private nature of VPS makes it the ideal hosting method for consumer-focused sites including online stores and small businesses. With this strategy, you’ll experience faster loading times, improved security, and a boosted overall site performance.
While this approach certainly has its benefits, VPS also has some downsides. VPS requires much more technical knowledge to manage the server, so if you’re a first-time website builder you may want to stick with a shared server approach.
In addition, you bear greater responsibility for website protection — an improperly configured VPS server can create critical security vulnerabilities.
A cloud server is essentially a virtual server that runs in a cloud computing environment. It’s built, hosted, and delivered through a cloud computing platform accessed remotely via the Internet.
Here, you’re renting out the entire apartment building. There are other buildings on the same block using power and water resources from the city, but there’s no physical connection.
Cloud servers give website owners a sense of stability and security because any possible software is isolated from your website environment. Any other cloud server won’t have an impact on your cloud server, and your cloud server won’t have an effect on any other servers. With physical servers, an overload from another user could possibly have an effect on your site.
This speaks to the primary benefit of cloud hosting: Reliability. The distributed nature of cloud deployments means that even if one server goes down, others can quickly take over. Cloud servers also offer a level of scalability not found in other options.
If you’re looking to grow your website and want your server to accommodate these changes in server power, a cloud server allows you to add memory and processing power as needed. With a physical server, that sort of growth requires purchasing pricy new hardware to keep up with the site’s growth.
But this doesn’t mean cloud hosting is without potential problems. It’s the most expensive hosting option and without a clear plan for website deployment and optimization you may find yourself using — and paying for — more resources than you need.
With the basics covered, let’s dive into a more detailed comparison of these hosting types.
We’ll start by speaking to some of the key similarities and differences between shared hosting and VPS deployments.
Shared Hosting vs. VPS
Shared hosting has multiple users sharing the same physical server resources. VPS solutions, meanwhile, logically partition server resources to provide greater privacy and control.
Is VPS faster than shared hosting?
While VPS and shared hosting rely on the basic principle — multiple users sharing the same physical server — VPS solutions provide greater access to server resources. As a result, VPS hosting delivers better performance than shared hosting options with decreased loading times and improved bandwidth.
Is VPS or shared hosting more secure?
By implementing a virtual layer on top of server operating systems, VPS instances are logically separate from other server “pieces”, allowing you to implement your own security controls.
In shared hosting environments, meanwhile, all users rely on the same set of security best practices — and if your digital neighbors make a mistake, your data may also be at risk.
Are VPS or shared hosting solutions more expensive?
Shared hosting solutions are typically cheaper than their VPS counterparts, and for good reason — you don’t get the same level of server access, performance or security. Worth noting? Not all VPS and shared hosts are created equal. Compare features, options and prices for each before buying in.
Now let’s break down the differences between cloud and shared hosting.
Cloud Hosting vs. Shared Hosting
Cloud hosting provides access to on-demand, scalable resources in the cloud. Shared hosting relies on a single physical server shared by multiple users.
Is cloud hosting faster than shared hosting?
Cloud hosting is significantly faster than shared hosting thanks to a different hosting model: Virtual servers replace physical stacks, making it possible for providers to optimize speed and performance.
While cloud and shared hosting both leverage a shared pool of resources, those in the cloud aren’t tied to specific physical hardware — instead, they can be scaled up on-demand.
Is cloud or shared hosting more secure?
Cloud hosting is more secure — so long as you implement the right security controls. While cloud solutions typically include basic security tools, customization at scale is left up to individual web hosts. The better your best practices, the better your security in the cloud.
Are cloud or shared hosting solutions more expensive?
Shared hosting solutions are cheaper than cloud options. While costs are scalable in the cloud — the more you use, the more you pay — they outpace basic shared options.
Finally, let’s dig into a comparison of cloud hosting and VPS solutions.
Cloud Hosting vs. VPS
Cloud hosting solutions use virtual servers to deliver on-demand service scaling and improved speed. VPS offerings, meanwhile, use virtual partitions on physical servers to provide dedicated resource access and enhanced privacy.
Is cloud hosting faster than VPS?
Provided your last-mile connection is speedy and secure, cloud hosting is faster than VPS alternatives. The sheer amount of resources available to cost-hosted websites means they outperform VPS offerings head-to-head.
If you purchase multiple VPS instances on the same physical server, however, performance is often comparable.
Is cloud hosting or VPS more secure?
It depends. Cloud providers typically offer pre-built security controls which limit the overall risk of attack or compromise. Basic VPS security isn’t as robust, but if you have the technical skill to deploy and manage advanced security controls you can effectively defend key assets.
The distributed nature of the cloud also plays a role in security. If physical hardware is hacked, your site can quickly be moved to other resource stacks. If VPS hardware is compromised, all sites — regardless of their individual security controls — are at risk.
Are cloud hosting or VPS solutions more expensive?
The costs of VPS and cloud hosting solutions are often comparable. Here’s why: You’re paying for different priorities. In the cloud, scalability and accessibility are paramount. In VPS environments, control and security are your top priority.
If you're a visual person or simply want to compare these hosting options side-by-side, check out the following table we created.
Web Hosting Comparison
|Limited by other users
|Based on the number of server “slices” purchased
|Access to large resource pools but dependent on your connection
|Based on existing server controls
|Logically separate from other users but governed by physical server limits
|Complete control over security access and environment
|New hardware required
|New hardware required
|Resources can be added on-demand
|Easy to manage, limited control over hosting environment
|Requires more technical knowledge to ensure security and regular updates
|Servers can be automatically managed or modified to suit your needs
|Fixed resource and feature access
|Greater control over deployments but potential risk if servers aren’t properly configured
|Add software, tools, and resources on-demand — but pay more as you scale up
Now let's review a few web hosting examples to see how all of these options and variables are applied and offered by real providers.
Web Hosting Provider Examples
Considering the move to a new hosting provider? Some standout options include:
- SiteGround: SiteGround offers both shared and cloud hosting to help get your website up and running. This solution also comes with a website building tools, free website transfer and 24/7 service. Web hosting plans start at $3.95 per month, while cloud hosting packages get off the ground at $80 per month.
- Flywheel: Flywheel is a VPS solution designed for WordPress sites. It offers a scalable, powerful platform for everything from personal sites to freelancer pages to agency web offerings. The “Tiny” plan starts at $15 per month, while the Freelance and Agency plans cost $115 and $290 per month, respectively.
- WP Engine: WordPress Hosting, perfected. That’s the tagline of VPS provider WP Engine, which relies on four key pillars — agility, performance, intelligence and integration — to deliver top-tier Web hosting. For small websites, the $25 per month “Startup” plan is a solid choice, while the “Scale” plan offers substantial storage and bandwidth increases for $241 per month.
Choose a Type of Web Host
Shared hosting, VPS and cloud hosting offer unique benefits and drawbacks for your website. Compare and contrast the options to weigh out what will be the best move for your website and your business needs.