This guest post is by Jesse of Professional Intern.
Blog owners have a lot of decisions to make if they want to be successful. What will my blogs focus be? What audience do I want to target? Should I use a formal tone or a more personal one?
One of the questions to which blog owners rarely give enough thought is what kind of web hosting solution they’ll use. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between shared and dedicated servers, as well the benefits that each can offer you and your blog.
Shared web hosting is the lowest cost hosting option available. With this type of hosting, your server is basically one of many server programs run on a single piece of hardware. You share physical resources with other clients whose servers also inhabit the same machine.
This spreads out the cost of hardware, bandwidth and maintenance among all of the hosts clients, but it also means that each client only gets a portion of the power and speed of the server, which can significantly degrade performance if one or more of the clients starts using more resources.
If, for instance, your site is hosted on a shared server and begins attracting significantly more visitors than normal, the performance of the other sites on the server will be degraded and, eventually, your site may be temporarily deactivated to reduce the strain on the server and its impact on other clients.
Customizing a shared server
Most shared web hosting services offer simple, one-click management options for their servers. While this makes it easy to set up a basic WordPress or Drupal blog, the options are often limited to whatever the host decides to support and, often, more extensive customization is not available.
With this specialization, however, often comes better customer support. Because the host carefully chooses the programs and options available, they’re better able to serve their users.
While shared web hosting can be a great choice for blogs that are intended to be personal and small, if you want to grow your blog, host multiple blogs or begin offering additional content, like forums, you’ll need to start considering a switch to a dedicated server.
Dedicated servers offer a wealth of benefits you can’t receive with shared servers, but they do have one major drawback: increased cost.
Even a moderately-priced dedicated hosting package can cost upwards of $99 per month. If you add on management, technical support, a firewall or upgrade to a more powerful server, the price can increase dramatically. A powerful, fully-configured, managed and serviced dedicated server will often cost over $1000 per month.
How can that kind of expense be worth it to a blog owner?
Reliability and security
The biggest advantages of dedicated hosting are increased speed, reliability, security, and control. If you’re not sharing resources with other clients, you won’t have to worry about their sites slowing down your site’s load times and degrading your site’s user experience.
Further, because the server won’t be split among multiple clients, there’s less of a chance of it experiencing a critical failure that could take your site down.
Hosting your site on its own server also results in fewer security vulnerabilities. If you share a server with someone who doesn’t practice good security measures, your site is vulnerable, too; on a dedicated server, however, your site’s security rests on your choices, not those of another user you may never meet.
With a dedicated server, you’re in control
Having a dedicated hosting plan gives you far more control than a shared plan would. After choosing your server’s operating system, you may have as much or as little control of the workings of your server as you desire. Unless you wake up every morning excited about server administration, you may want to look into either hiring someone to perform those duties for you, or look into a managed hosting plan on your server.
Many hosts will give you several levels of management options, ranging from little user intervention to full user configuration. The more control you give someone else over your dedicated server, the more you’ll end up paying, but it can definitely be in your best interest to let someone with experience in server administration handle those tasks for you.
In addition to multiple levels of control, you’ll be able to choose which features you want to include on your site. Generally speaking, the more features you want on your site, the better off you’ll be with a dedicated server.
When to switch to dedicated hosting
If you already have a shared web hosting plan, you might be wondering when it would be most beneficial to switch to a dedicated host. If you’ve noticed an increase in user complaints about slow server response times, degraded performance or an inability to access your site reliably, that’s a good indication that it’s time to start looking into alternate hosting.
Also, if you’ve been experiencing a marked increase in traffic, you might want to switch to a dedicated server to head off any capacity problems you might experience if your growth continues. As I previously mentioned, if you plan on adding more advanced features to your site, you should definitely consider a switch from shared hosting.
Who needs a dedicated server?
Basic shared web hosting is a great choice for a new or amateur blog, but if you’re planning on getting serious with your site, you’ll probably end up needing a dedicated server at some point.
Shared servers often end up slow, crowded and vulnerable, in addition to leaving you with few options for control. Dedicated servers, while the more expensive option, feature none of those drawbacks and give you as much performance as you need. You also have a wider range of options for control over your site’s server.
If you desire a faster, more reliable site or want to add many advanced features, you should seriously consider switching to a dedicated server. Your users will have a much better experience and you’ll likely end up dealing with fewer performance issues.
How’s your blog hosted? Have you transitioned from shared to dedicated hosting? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.
Jesse L. is a recent college graduate who blogs at http://www.professionalintern.com and enjoys all things social media and Apple-related.
I currently use Hostgator VPS. It’s a good middle ground between shared hosting (which I would never go back to) and dedicated (which is very expensive). Most small blogs should do just fine on shared hosting.
Thank you for this article! My blog http://www.thirstydudes.com has been getting a lot more traffic in the last few months and we have been having a few server issues (we are on a shared hosting plan). This has got me thinking a lot about our future plans.
I am looking forward to the day when this becomes a concern! ;-)
You didn’t mention a VPS (Virtual Private Server) as an option. Costs more than shared, less than dedicated, but sort of the best of both worlds, in that it gives you a guaranteed “slice” of a dedicated server.
I know that I will end up on a dedicated hosting… Finally, my Linux experience will pay out :).
I’ll be very happy when this becomes an issue for me!
Thanks for the post Jesse.
I too hope that I have too pay more for hosting because it means I am getting good traffic! I think that it is well worth it to be on a dedicated hosting plan because you have complete control over your blog, and that means better content and usability. This post will help a lot of people, good job!
Wouldn’t the amount of traffic be an indication it’s time to move to a dedicated server? If so, how many visitors/month? Thanks.
Hey Ulisses – I finally ran into problems on my shared host when I started getting in the 1000-1500 visitors per day range. I was also running a hosted open source analytics program on top of my wordpress installation, so I probably ate up a bit more server resources than most.
The same day that I went to my site and saw the “Account Suspended” page, I signed up for a VPS and haven’t looked back.
A good caching plugin will dramatically increase the amount of traffic your blog can handle. I have had WordPress with WP SuperCache handle spikes of 30,000+ visitors a day on a shared host. But by the time you really need a caching plugin, it is usually too late to install it, so its good to always have a caching plugin installed and setup.
Could you give some more information about hosting company that you were using for that WordPress blog that handle 30,000+ visitors? What was the name of hosting company?
I’m always into the technical side of blogging, especially web hosting and performance of blogs. I’ve never considered buying a dedicated server, mainly because of the increased cost, but because my blog falls in between the amateur blog and the sophisticated, high trafficked blog.
I’ve always trusted Media Temple’s GS package to keep my blog afloat and online.
Great post Jesse!
I think the real question is WHEN do you need to switch? How much traffic do you need before you have to start thinking about this?
I think you should also consider switching to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) after a shared hosting.
You will be surprised how much traffic a well optmised VPS can handle. For some websites that don’t use alot of server resources a VPS works well even with huge traffic.
If you’re just starting out, there’s little reason to start with dedicated hosting unless you’re starting a web company that will need to scale quickly from the start. Otherwise, I think everyone else should start with shared hosting and work their way to dedicated as needed. There are so many levels of shared and dedicated (& cloud) hosting, that anyone can move up as slowly or as quickly as they need.
I think that starting out with a dedicated hosting plan can have huge benefits such as customizability, abilities to interact with readers better, and having a good foundation from the start. I started on a dedicated hosting plan, and I am really glad I did. It also looks a whole lot more professional.
Starting on dedicated hosting is not cheap and also it may vary from the region you belong as the currency difference might be a hindrance in the process. Not all have enough in their pockets to afford all the luxuries. For the people starting new shared hosting would be better only to change to dedicated when enough traffic is achieved and the blog starts generating it’s own expenses.
VPS (virtual private server) hosting gives you the best of both worlds. The price is about the same or slightly more than shared hosting, but you get most of the benefits of dedicated hosting. Rather than an actual physical machine, you get a virtual machine all to yourself. In most cases you can increase the memory & disk space as needed & install your own OS.
Some companies offering VPS hosting include DreamHost, media temple, slice host, & linode.
Ok, as an amateur blogger who still has a .blogspot.com page, I get this post, but I don’t know any shared or dedicated hosting companies. Could you give me some examples of shared and dedicated hosts? Recommendations for either??
Try hostgator, I use them. They offer both dedicated and shared hosting plans. :)
I’d also like to start a Software firm
I think the answer depends on
1) If you have the budget to move to a dedicated host
2) If your traffic is slowing down your site and you need higher bandwidth
3) If you concerned about security and want to have certain options you can’t get from shared hosting
In my opinion the first two are usually the reason most site’s move to a dedicated host, but the third answer is definitely something to be considered as well. Especially when your business grows.
What no one tells you with shared hosting is that the day you go over a certain amount of traffic, a place like Hostgator just pulls your website offline. It’s not like they send you an email that says your traffic is getting up there, so you may want to consider your options over the next couple weeks. One day you look, your website is gone, you email them to figure out why it’s not there and find out they pulled it. When my website hit this point, it took 2 weeks of complete down time to upgrade to a dedicated virtual server and recode the blog to remove the mess I’d made from adding and subtracting plug-ins for the previous year or two. Keep in mind, the LAST time you ever want forced down time on your website is when it’s at peak traffic. And when my website came back online, of course all the pages were renamed because I was using a new design and theme. So all of those Google gold mine links were now dead links. It was extremely stressful to have interest finally, then an error message to anyone visiting the site. Any potential new readers will see this and probably never return. If you’re a growing blog, always have a growth strategy plan in mind. It helps you prepare for where you’re heading. The last thing you want is the chair kicked out from under you when you finally get traction! I should also say that if you use a lot of videos on your site, that brings the overall activity of your site up, needing even more hosting power.
For me shared is better because my traffic isn’t that great.
I agree. In the beginning it’s definitely more cost effective to use shared hosting. Spending extra money for something your not sure your going to use may not be worth it.
On a positive note if your really on the fence about choosing a hosting service finding a dedicated host that offers a monthly plan it may be worth testing out for a month to decide what is better for you.
Sure it’s more work, but if your seriously considering it than that may be an option.
Personally I’d say stay with a good shared hosting service until you can grow your traffic to the point where you need to upgrade.
I definitely don’t have the money for a dedicated server. I have websites with two different hosting companies. One just suspended my account and forgot to unsuspend it until I emailed him 8 days later. I have about six sites using subdomains with that account. None of them worked for 8 days. I was given an apology. I get a lot of spambots going to one of my sites at that host. That’s why he says it needs suspended every now and then for a few minutes. With that host, I don’t need a dedicated server, I just need to leave.
I am on a dedicated server and this is because I do have plans to expand my blog (creating art/education subdomains) and I have yet to implement the changes and additions as of yet, but the best thing about a dedicated server is that I have full tech support for any of the problems I have on my site. Site goes down, I just call or fill in a ticket. Great articles and great comparisons. Dedicated server is the best way to go.
At what point does a blog stop being a small blog? How much traffic does it take before being on a shared server will become a concern?
I think as long as the blog is running smoothly it’s ok to stick with shared hosting.
At what point does a blog stop being a small blog? How much traffic does it take before being on a shared server will become a concern?
Thanks for the tips Jesse. I never needed the power and the advantages of a dedicated hosting solution. And I think most bloggers are OK with using a shared hosting plan.
In my opinion bloggers should be thinking of switching from a shared to a dedicated hosting plan only if the amount traffic they have can’t be handled by a machine which is shared between more websites/blogs.
I am looking forward to the day when this becomes a concern! ;-)
Dedicated hosting may be good but I am still staying at shared hosting. I use two host first is Bluehost and second is Hostgator, both plans are shared hosting plans, in future I can go for VPS.
Well, I’m still on Blogger .. and I’m happy for the time being. The price is right. (0$)
I don’t see that changing in the next few years.
Who knows what will happen after that…
Read Aloud Dad
I don’t understand why you jump from shared, which is the lowest, to dedicated, which is more than 99% of people need. Cloud or VPS might have been a good topic to add in the middle. Cheers
I use VPS hosting right now, but with increased traffic and the addition of a “community” (forum) area, the load is still occasionally too much. I made the decision to switch to a fully dedicated server a couple weeks ago, and will be making the switch in the next week-ish. The difference in cost per month is $110, which is significant. Still, in the long-run, I believe it will be worth it.
I figure hosting options rest on three considerations: your traffic, your budget, and your future plans for your site. VPS was an excellent choice, for as long as it would work for me, but now it’s time to go up another step.
Thanks for the article. It helps confirm the decision!
Nice post but one question. If someone on shared hosting and needs an upgrade then he will definitely look for a VPS hosting. But you have discussed about Dedicated hosting.
I have also got a mail form my hosting service provider that my site needs upgrade and suggesting to upgrade to a vps plan from my shared plan.
Is VPS also comes under shared hosting?
You missed the best option. VPS. You have a virtual machine on a shared server. You have the admin rights of a dedicated server while being cheaper.
I’m surprised that you missed Virtual Private Servers. Even this site, Problogger.net, runs on the Amazon VPS offering. Linode is a great host, I reviewed them at http://ertw.com/blog/2011/06/30/linode-review/
On my flagship blog, which gets about 1,400+ monthly visits is on Shared with Cloudflare. With the right Drupal plugins and optimization the site’s bottleneck is the database. But I certainly have been considering VPS in the next year or so.
I host and manage 38 moderately high traffic blogs and websites on a dedicated server from Hostgator. The cost is $174 per month which includes full professional management of the server including hardware & software maintenance, monitoring and timely upgrades. The downtime is virtually zero and my extremely resource intensive photography blog http://www.TodaysPhoto.org (over 40 WordPress plugins and widgets) loads in a flash compared to when it was on a shared server. It’s without a doubt the best $174 dollars I have ever spent. I tried a VPS at one point but it just didn’t work out for me. I do believe a VPS is an outstanding option under the right circumstances however. Yous can always give it a try and move on up to dedicated if you need to since Hostgator and several other companies will move all of your sites/blogs for you.
When I started my first website, I used a shared server and was less than impressed with the results. With my new blog, I’ve switched over to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) and am very pleased. I have no downtime and after the first few days of waiting for the name servers to be resolved with the folks I bought the domain through it is perfect. (Those first few days were a little glitchy.)
Thanks for this great article. Hopefully, one day I’ll have enough traffic/revenue to justify a full-on dedicated server.
I’ve used a reseller account for my websites the last several years. It’s not as reliable as a dedicated server, but it does help cut down the costs of hosting and gives a bit more play room than a basic account does. I have a feeling at some point I will need a dedicated server though. Thanks for the tips!
Very nice discussion about share hosting and dedicated hosting… they are useful and it sure cleared my minds on some very important issues.
Why not keep it simple?
All bloggers are going to start out on a shared host.
When the need arises you can upgrade to a cloud, vps, or dedicated server.
Your hosting company will contact you when it becomes necessary as they will refuse to host high traffic blogs on their shared servers (it will draw complaints from their other customers).
I’d like to try out a virtual private server, I wouldn’t mind that at all. Seems like the perfect balance of affordability and control/speed.
Dedicated hosting isn’t just $20 more….the average rate for dedicated hosts look to range from $100 – $250. You should only be buying dedicated if you have a solid strategy to utilize that hardware and are growing some type of business. If you can’t generate a dime from ads you probably shouldn’t get one.
Sure it comes with all the bells and whistles, but the cost is a huge hindrance in most cases. Unless you’re making good money, the difference between $15 a month to $150 a month is pretty darn drastic. Stacked onto that, you have the price of domain names, internet, phone, cable, etc. Gotta be smart with your planning and purchases.
Generally I agree with you. However, if you go with the right companies, I would say that you can get a great performance out of shared hosting, where growth can be handled.
Good points you have there. When choosing a hosting service, always analyze how much your usage will be.
Thank you so much for such a informative information.It will really helpfull to us.Shared hosting and dedicated hosting has their own uniqueless.Shared hosting is used at beginer level and dedicated Server is used for gaming purpose.
According to my perception dediated servers are best fit to my solutions.
That will provides good reliability and high secure to the client’s data. which shows more impact towards to client’s safe zone.
Yes, I knew much high cost than the shared hosting.