Shared Hosting Meaning
When you contact a hosting company to host your website, they will provide you a lot of options. You will be greeted with various hosting types, and you might not know what is the difference between each. The most basic and cheapest of those will be Shared Hosting.
What Is Shared Hosting?
Consider yourselves as living in an apartment. There will be a lot of other residents along with you. The apartment will have a lot of resources like parking area, swimming pool, gym, playground etc. All these resources are shared by the residents of that apartment. There is nothing among these, other than their own rooms or flats, which they own for themselves.
Same is the concept of Shared Hosting. You contact a hosting company and sign-up for a Shared Hosting plan with them. They will place your website in a server along with many other websites – just like you live in an apartment. The server’s CPU, memory, bandwidth etc will be shared by all these websites together. You or anyone else are not allowed to consume any of these resources beyond a limit. You may be surprised, but a shared host will accommodate 1000 or 2000 websites like yours.
How Shared Hosting Works?
A hosting company rents or buys a physical server. A server is a large computer with high specifications like huge disk space, huge memory, many processors etc. The hosting company, with the help of any control panel like cPanel, Plesk etc, will divide the server virtually into a large number of pieces so that they can be allocated for each website as the requirement comes. Each website will have fixed amount of disk space, fixed bandwidth, fixed number of email accounts etc. You will not be able to use anything more than what is allocated to you, based on your plan. Now, the interesting question is – Since a shared server contains a large number of websites, are shared servers the ones with best specification in terms of CPU, RAM etc? The answer is NO. Shared servers and their hardware and software goodness depends on the hosting company actually. They can either use the best server, or an average performing server. However, a shared server performs good mostly, because it has been designed such that even though the number of websites will be large, not all websites will use all the resources allocated to them at a time. Some websites may have a lot of traffic, while many of them will have very less visitors. This helps a shared server to manage the resources effectively, without collapsing.
Do I need Shared Hosting?
Shared hosting works best for anyone with limited resource requirements.
- Are you a newbie trying to learn about websites?
- Do you own a personal blog with limited traffic?
- Are you a startup company trying to start your online business?
- You are not a technical person, but needs a website of your own?
- You need a website to showcase your talent?
If you belong to any of the category mentioned above, then you can start with a basic Shared Hosting plan and upgrade gradually as your business or requirements progress. If your website is small, and the visitors to your website are also not huge in number, then you are perfect for shared hosting.
Unlimited Shared Hosting
Above, I said that shared hosting provides only limited resources. However, these days the concept of Unlimited Hosting is gaining popularity. The provider tells you that you can use as many resources as you like for the same price of a limited plan. Is that possible? The honest answer is NO. It is not possible for any host to provide unlimited resources, whether it be disk space or bandwidth or number of files or anything. It is mostly a marketing gimmick used to attract customers. It is a natural tendency for anyone to buy a product which gives you a lot of features at a very cheap rate. It is this greed of common man that the hosts are trying to exploit.
Facts Behind Unlimited Shared Hosting
As I mentioned, Unlimited Hosting is mostly a marketing term. Many hosts use it these days for promotion. A host might offer unlimited disk space, but is it possible to give unlimited disk space to their clients when their entire hard disk size is only 500G? No, right ? Same applies here. It is mostly advertised considering the fact that no-one would use that much resources. Before signing up, you should always check the Terms of Service (TOS) of the hosting company. Somewhere they would have mentioned the rules pertaining to Unlimited Hosting. If you are a website owner who gets a 2G disk space at the price of 1G, then Unlimited Hosting is fine for you. However if you starts using 500G, or if your website starts driving a lot of heavy traffic, or you try to upload very large files, then you are sure to get resource warning emails from your provider. They would then ask you to upgrade to a costlier plan. Hence, as long as your site do not get heavy traffic, and it does not eat up resources too much,? unlimited hosting is a boon for you. If it is the other way, identify your resource requirements and choose a plan which meets it. You are sure to get quality hosting for the amount you spend.
Another term that is quite common these days is WordPress Hosting. WordPress is so far the most popular and widely used content management system in websites. It is easy to understand and learn. Even a person who is not at all technical can just go through the various options and setup a website with WordPress, without much difficulty. This easiness has brought a lot of acceptance for WordPress in the internet world.
Now, do wordpress websites require any special features? Any normal shared host can host your wordpress site. It is not at all a big deal. However, if your website is huge and drives a lot of traffic, then it is recommended that you find a wordpress host. A WordPress host is nothing but a shared host who has tweaked their servers to match all the technical requirements of running a wordpress website. This includes wordpress installation, website speed, website security, plugins, backups, updates, caching and anything and everything required by wordpress to run perfectly. So if your website is huge with a lot of traffic, it is recommended to get a WordPress Hosting, where your host will take care of technical side, and you can be relieved and concentrate on building your website. Cost wise, wordpress hosting will cost more than normal shared hosting, because of the extra features provided.
How To Choose A Shared Hosting Plan?
A hosting company will have multiple shared hosting plans. How to choose a good Shared Host and which plan to choose is sometimes a difficult decision to make. Before choosing a host and their plan, consider the following factors.
Identify what you need – Before going into any detailed check of a host, you should first identify your requirements. If a host is good but they cannot meet your requirements, then there is no use. You should know what all features you require and in what amounts. The following are the major requirements, and see if the host provides it.
- Disk Space – This includes an approximate space you would require for your website files +? databases + emails together
- Bandwidth – The actual traffic expected to hit your site. If your website receives a lot of traffic, and stays busy always, then you would require higher bandwidth
- Domains – The number of websites you plan to host. Shared hosting is normally for a single website. However the hosts provide features like addon domains and parked domains where by you can host multiple websites by purchasing a single shared hosting account. Parked domains will display the same website on top of which the new domain is parked. For example, if abc.com is your website, and you create a parked domain xyz.com then the URL will read xyz.com and contents displayed will be that of abc.com. On the other hand, addon domains are separate websites created under the same account. You can create a sub folder xyz , create the website files there and host xyz.com based on those files. That way abc.com and xyz.com will display separate websites. So if you plan to host many websites, then check whether the hosting plan provides it.
- Email Accounts – How many email accounts do you require? How many staffs are there in your company, and how many more are expected to join – make a list and create a ball park figure.
- FTP Accounts – The least the better, as weak FTP Accounts are a common source of hacks.
Reviews – The host provides the plan you require, so next step is to check whether the host is good or not. For that reviews will help you to an extent. Sadly, most reviews that you read these days are fake, and genuine reviews are less. If you know someone who has hosted their website with the host that you are planning to sign-up with, it would be best to get reviews from them straight. From our personal experiences with various hosts, and based on the genuine feedback we have collected from actual customers, we have summed up our opinions on the various hosts.? Please refer our Reviews section for more details.
Uptime – You hear good reviews about the host, well and good. Time to check about them in detail now. What is their uptime guarantee and do they meet it? Uptime means the time for which the site has been online without a single failure. Most hosts offer 99.9% uptime guaranatee. The 0.1% they leave, because after all everything runs on computers, and none can predict when a hardware failure strikes or when an attack commences. There are many websites which might give you details on uptime, however this factor is something which you cannot measure without signing up.
Reliability – Reputation of the host is an important factor. You will get some details about the host from reviews as mentioned above. However, you should dig deeper and find more info regarding the host. The host should be reliable and should be in business for atleast a couple of years (minimum). You can check their whois details for getting details about the host and their address.
Support – A major factor that should be considered while signing up for any plan is Support. You should make sure that you have an excellent support team on board to help you with any issues that might come across. In order to check the customer service attitude of any host, contact the pre sales team with any questions and see how they respond. Check the response time offered by the host and confirm that they follow it. Nowadays a few hosts offer a response time of 10-15 minutes, which guarantees that any tickets you raise will be addressed in less than 15 minutes. A response time within 1 hour can be considered acceptable. There are various ways by which a host offer support.
- Phone Support
- Live Chat
Live Chat and Help Desk are the most helpful means, because emails may sometimes be not responded, and phone support will be helpful only if you are in the same country as the host. For international clients, phone support might not be very helpful.
Fast response times alone does not make a support team excellent. They should know all the services they provide, and they should know what they are doing. Any issues in their servers are their responsibility, and when clients contact them with their concerns, they should have the mind to help them. Hence technical knowledge, speed and attitude matters when we think of support.
Backups – Almost all providers give assurance on your data safety. They claim that they keep multiple backups and in case any issues arises you can restore data from a previous day. However, we would strongly recommend any customer to always keep local copies of their backups. We have seen the worst happening to certain customers who request for backups. Their backups which the host took got corrupted, or sometimes the support won’t reply to a restore ticket for days. This is where the importance of having local backups, in addition to the host’s copies becomes relevant and essential. Hence, before signing up, you should check with the host that they provide proper backups.
Upgrade Options – As the number of people browsing your site increases, or your resource usage increases, a shared host might not work for you any more. You would be forced to upgrade or move to a higher plan, to keep the site stable. In such situations, you should make sure that your host can provide you with any other hosting plan like VPS, dedicated server etc. You should foresee such situations before signing up, or eventually you would have to switch host to keep your site up.
Price – An important factor that helps you in decision making is price. You should choose a plan which is affordable and at the same time provides all your requirements. This doesn’t mean you should go for a cheap hosting. When you go after cheap hosting, you should also be mentally prepared to accept any issues whether in site uptime or bad support. Because there is a hidden truth – you get what you paid for. So go for a standard hosting which you can afford. Many hosts will have discount coupons running, and you can reduce cost that way also. For the ease of our readers, we have added the coupon codes of various reputed hosts in our website. Please take a look at “Hosting Coupons” section for more details.
Refund – Many hosts these days provide money back guarantees. It is normally given from 15-45 days. It means you can sign up for the hosting plan you wish, try them out and if you are not satisfied you can switch to another host, and the current host will return the money back. This is actually a very good option for a customer as it gives him ample time to test everything he needs, test the support team’s responsiveness, site uptime, backups and all. If you go for such a host, well and good as you don’t have to make a toss based on fake reviews.
Control Panels – A shared host always provides a control panel with their plans. A control panel is an interface through which the customers can manage their website, add email accounts, databases? and upload and download files etc. The most popular control panel available today is undoubtedly cPanel, and it has the major market share. Almost 90% of the shared hosting providers provide cPanel control panel. There are also a wide variety of other control panels like Plesk, Webmin, Virtualmin, Interworx, ISPConfig etc. cPanel, Plesk etc are licensed software while there are a lot of free open source control panels as well. Make sure your host provides a good panel.
Site Builders – Site builder is a software that helps a customer build their website easily by dragging and dropping contents. There is no need to design a site from scratch, instead the site builder will have readymade templates which make the tasks easier for you. Not all providers give site builders, but it is a good addon especially if you are a newbie to the IT world.
One Click Installers – This is also commonly found with shared hosting plans and I would say it is a good feature? if provided. Most websites use third party software like? WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Phpbb forum, Gallery, Magento, Whmcs? etc. It is not always an easy task for customers to download the installation source and install it manually. Hence most providers provide one click installers like Fantastico, Softaculous etc which helps the customers install these software at a single click. This makes your task easy and hence is a must for all hosting providers.
Freebies – This is not a must, but some providers offer many freebies if you purchase their hosting. This comes as an added advantage. For example, some hosts provide free domain registration if you sign up with them. Some other offer domain registration and yearly renewals free as long as you stay with them. Many provide free website migration. Some provide free SSL certificates. Hence, it is a good practice to understand if they are giving you any offers.
Software – When you use shared hosting, the effect of the hardware and software specification of the server might not be very evident for you. Still it is recommended that you always check with your host if they provide the latest of all software. For example, Apache and Mysql used to be a good combination for a long time. Now it has been replaced by Litespeed and Mariadb.? Also, check with the provider if they have the latest version of PHP installed. Also you need to make sure cgi and python support for your scripts (if needed).
Monitoring – Web Hosting is a 24X7 available service. Your websites should be online always, and should be accessible to people not only in your locality, but world-wide. A failure or downtime of your website would affect your business badly. Hence the hosts must provide 24X7 monitoring of your websites. Not only should they monitor, they should correct any issues found and bring the website back online at the earliest. This is something that needs to be confirmed by the host before signing up.
TOS – You should fully read the Terms of Service of the hosting company before signing up. This is extremely important, because even though the host offers a lot of features there may be hidden rules set by the host, which the customer will not be aware of. Such rules will be provided in their TOS.? For example, a host providing unlimited bandwidth or disk space would have mentioned it somewhere in the TOS regarding the actual limits. A customer who signs up expecting unlimited resources, without checking the TOS, would eventually be suspended for exceeding the limits.
Abuse handling – It is a good practice to know the abuse handling policy of your host in advance. Internet is not at all a safe game, and hackers are present in every nook and corner trying to attack your website and steal data, or inject malware and spread it. Most hosts, when detect spamming or any abuse activities, will inform the customers about it. If the abuse is very serious, they will suspend the domain and give the customer a chance to correct the problem. You should know the exact process that is followed by your host, and should not let your data be wiped out or terminated without informing you.
Pros And Cons Of Shared Hosting
- The main advantage of shared hosting is its simplicity. This is the best form of hosting for anyone who starts learning or anyone with a medium sized website.
- Another attracting factor is that it is the cheapest? form of hosting. Shared hosting is available for as low as $1, which makes it affordable for all.
- You can choose any plan based on your requirement, and can also upgrade it in parts, like it is possible to increase bandwidth alone, increase disk space or increase number of email accounts etc.
- With Shared Hosting, anyone can start a website without knowing anything. You don’t have to be a technical person. Just sign up, and use their control panel to create and manage your website. You don’t need to worry about anything else, like managing the server,? what all software are required, how to troubleshoot issues etc. Everything will be taken care of by your host.
- Support is another advantage, which comes free with shared hosting. Any issues you have, you can contact your support team and they will correct it for you. Support, unlike other hosting types, is not chargeable here. You can contact them any time round the clock, which is another advantage. Most hosts provide 24X7 support through various mediums.
- Your access is very limited, just like your resources. You are not allowed to do anything other than what is available through the control panel.
- Your website reside in a shared environment, and all related issues should be expected. If any other website in the server starts using resources heavily, or if an attack originates against any single website in that server, then all other websites also will experience issues. Your site can be slow or inaccessible due to any other website in that server, which is sometimes unacceptable for many.
- If your website or scripts require any particular software or module installed, then you will have to contact your support team for that. Most shared hosts limit the use of such custom requirements, and deny installing it. In such scenarios, your website becomes difficult to be used.
- If you have many addon domains, and any abuse issue pops up in any one domain, then your entire account will be suspended for abuse. This will make all your other websites inaccessible. So a problem of one will affect all your websites.
Recommended Shared Hosts
New hosting companies pop up on a daily basis, mainly because one can get into this field and start business for as low as $15. There is no heavy investment required, and since it is online business they can start it from the comfort of their home as well. This has brought heavy competition in the field of Web Hosting. Among these, some hosting companies always stand on top and we are listing below a few such recommended hosts.