One of the most important decisions any small to medium business must make when looking for a web host is whether they need a shared or dedicated server. A shared or virtual server is a computer based server provided by a third party web host that is shared between more than one user or website. A dedicated server is also provided by a third party host, but one user gets the exclusive use of the entire server on which they can host as many websites as they like. The one main advantage of a shared server is their price, which can range anywhere from $5-$50 per month, whereas dedicated servers usually start at around $100 and go to $500 or more per month. The other major advantage is that shared servers usually come with technical support and require very little if any technical ability. Shared servers also usually have a shared IP address, which can cause email deliverability problems if someone on your server is blacklisted for sending spam – everyone else on that server is also blacklisted. Some shared hosting plans will allow you to purchase a unique IP address at an additional cost – which may be well worth it.
A shared server may host anywhere from 50 to 1,000 or more websites, so depending on the traffic the other websites on a shared server get, and depending on the number of sites on the server, it can significantly slow down the page load time of your site. Shared servers are usually more than adequate for lower volume or entry-level sites that don’t require any highly specialized software and don’t get thousands of daily visitors. Dedicated servers are typically used in cases where there is a high level of traffic, you have multiple websites, there is a strong need for security, or the user wishes to run their own customized software and applications rather than the standard ones supplied by the host. They also come with their own IP address which is a must. Unless you are very computer savvy, dedicated hosts require the help of someone who knows what they’re doing to set up and get going. Also, they usually don’t come with any tech support included in the monthly plan. Another option is to go with a “managed dedicated” hosting plan. With a managed dedicated plan, technical support is included as part of your hosting plan just as in shared hosting plans. This makes is a great alternative for larger site owners that lack the technical ability to do things themselves, but still need the benefits of a dedicated server. Managed hosting plans are more expensive than a dedicated server without support and start at around $200 a month.
Here are few quick questions to ask yourself to determine if you require a shared or dedicated web server: 1. Does your website get more than 10,000 page views a day? 2. Do you have 5 or more websites that require hosting? 3. Do you need to install any special software on your server? 4. Do you require a unique IP address? If you answered YES to most of the above questions, chances are you need a shared server. If you answered NO, you’ll probably do just fine with a shared server for now. It goes without saying that dedicated servers are more expensive than shared servers – typically costing about ten times more, but depending on your specific requirements, they may be well worth the added cost.