Types of Web Hosting and Their Differences – A Beginners Guide

Last updated:
Author Kevin Ngure
Disclosure: When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn a referral fee.
Learn More

With the world shifting most of its affairs online, the need to have a website for your business cannot be overlooked.

But for you to create a website, there are two crucial things that you cannot do without. That is – a reliable web hosting provider and the right web hosting plan.

The problem with most first-time website owners is that they jump into the “website creation bandwagon” too early only to realize later that they went into bed with the wrong hosting provider or they chose the wrong web hosting plan with the wrong resources.

Well, mistakes happen –and you don’t have to beat yourself up because there is also a lot to learn when it comes to web hosting. But it doesn’t have to be difficult.

In this guide, we will examine the basics of web hosting and then “take a walk” through the different types of web hosting.

Whether you need to bring your blog, business website, or applications to life online – you need to get yourself set up with a web hosting provider.

But what is web hosting? You might ask.

Web hosting is a service that provides your website with the server space it requires so that it can live on the internet.  

But for the service to be provided, there must be a web host – or the company that rents you the server (s) space and the necessary infrastructure to power and store every piece of code, image, CSS file, HTML file, and pretty much everything that makes ups your website.

How Web Hosting Works

Web hosting entails two key components. A domain name that people type in their browser and a server.

The domain name – which is normally adopted from your brand name, includes a unique IP address that points the web browser to the server where your website is stored.

On the other hand, the server, or what web hosting providers refer to as a data center, is a special computer that runs 24/7 without interruptions – allowing your visitors to access your website anytime on the web. 

The server – which essentially provides the hosting, stores all your website files, and connects other millions of other web users to your website from all over the globe.

Servers or data centers are maintained by the hosting company. Beyond hosting they offer such crucial services as data protection, backup and anti-malware, and anti-DDoS attacks.

Now the way web hosting works is a bit more complex. It starts with a visitor keying in your website’s domain name in the browser to initiate the retrieval process.

The browser then decodes the query and outputs the result. By the time of giving the output, however, a lot will have happened. The HTML code, text, image, video, CSS files, and JavaScript, all have to be read and translated.

Different Types of Web Hosting

Web hosting is an important cog in making a website available online. And because all servers are different, web hosting exists in diverse forms.

Before we take you through them, you must understand that picking the right hosting plan is critical for the success of the site online. Like choosing a perfect pair of shoes, the hosting type chosen has to be perfect-fit, well-suited for the site, and still easy on your budget.

You wouldn’t want to choose WordPress hosting for a large, corporate website – or pay for shared hosting when you could have settled for a dedicated plan instead.

A wrong hosting plan has its fair share of ramifications. You go for a hosting plan that’s too big for your wallet and it eats well into your budget. You rush and subscribe for a host type that’s too small for your website and it negatively affects your site’s growth.

Without further ado, let’s walk through all the main hosting types, shall we?

1. Shared Hosting

We start with what's largely the most basic type of hosting – new and small personal and business website’s favorite. Shared hosting, as the name suggests, is what it exactly sounds like, “shared.”

It is shared because several customers, thousands of them, share one server. They all draw their resources equally, essentially because they own simple websites without a need for too many resources.

Of all hosting types, shared hosting is the cheapest and indeed the most cost-effective. The limited resources drawn from the single server are enough to power hundreds of sites without any glitch. RAM, processing speed and Hard Drive space are all enough.

You could think of shared hosting as akin to renting a room within a large apartment that also has other people renting other rooms. You will be sharing power, water, internet, and other basic amenities with them.

And apart from charging a dirt-cheap price for hosting, shared servers are great for a start. Some hosts even offer lots of exciting freebies; free domain names, free unlimited bandwidth, free CDN, and free SSL certificates.

However, not everything about this type of hosting is bliss. Considering that the server is shared among countless users, the drawbacks are aplenty as well. One among them is the sporadic slowing down of bandwidth, which usually happens as a result of an unexpected traffic surge.

Another main issue with shared hosting is its susceptibility to hacks and malware attacks.

Pros and Cons of Shared Hosting

Pros

First, even without prior web hosting experience, Shared Hosting ensures you finally have your website up and running.

For just a few bucks, you get a lot of features. You get a free domain name, lots of bandwidth and Hard Drive storage space, sustainable traffic, and freedom to grow. Mostly, it is the host who does regular maintenance and backup in case things get awry, on your behalf.

Shared hosting is the cheapest, but that doesn’t mean your site isn’t secure enough. Depending on whom you host with, you could get free SSL, free anti-malware, and free anti-DDoS to secure your site from attacks.

Cons

Despite all the positives about Shared Hosting, it’s sad to report that it isn’t the best for someone who wants to guarantee a pleasant web hosting experience. A problem in the server means everyone is affected.

It’s also prone to slow load speeds, which arise due to traffic surge in other websites. Bandwidth speed is a matter of how much each website uses. A win for someone is a loss for another.

The last and perhaps the greatest demerit about Shared hosting is the glaring risk of getting blacklisted because of other users’ spammy behavior.

Is Shared Hosting best for you?

Apart from beginners who are getting started in the world of web hosting, Shared Hosting works best with websites that do not expect massive traffic. It is the cheapest and never requires techies, geeks, and those with advanced technical expertise.

If you are on a budget, you’ll more certainly get a  shared hosting deal with a good web host. Bloggers who are yet to make a name for themselves have this to start with. I’m talking about those whose average monthly visits can’t possibly go beyond 10,000.

It shouldn’t be hard to choose a Shared Hosting provider. SiteGround is on everyone’s lips, particularly because of its outstanding reputation in the industry. It also offers the best features, top-notch customer supper services, and the all-important 30-day money-back guarantee.

2. Dedicated Hosting

If you are tired of slow load speeds and wouldn’t prefer to share your IP address with a thousand other websites, dedicated hosting certainly has your back.

With dedicated hosting, you get everything is under your control – dedicated server, dedicated IP, dedicated bandwidth, dedicated services, etc. What’s more, you will be operating at peak performance all the time.

A website hosted by a dedicated server will comfortably handle a traffic spike of up to 30 times a day. Furthermore, client websites can be hosted and perfectly controlled from one dedicated host server.

The user is granted complete control over their server settings that endears many to dedicated hosting. One has absolute freedom over their software, configurations, and all they need..

Pros and Cons of Dedicated Hosting

Pros

First of all, the greatest benefit of choosing this plan is the convenience of owning the entire bandwidth. I mean, you will never have to worry about other websites hogging up your resources. It is you and your server – alone!

On a dedicated plan, you don’t just tweak and customize the server. Instead, you own the entire system and choose how much RAM, HDD Space, bandwidth, and pretty much everything you need. You may even dictate the OS you need and the host avails it for you.

The degree of flexibility and control over the server is quite beneficial. You set up your applications and software, install your tools, and customize your website for peak performance.

Dedicated hosting is the apex of web hosting, which simply means you can receive as much traffic as you want without worrying about your website crashing. Security is on the highest level, and even if you have no customer support, answers to every issue are within your reach.

Cons

Dedicated hosting works best on websites that handle throngs and throngs of traffic. That means, for an average Joe, this isn’t the ideal go-to hosting type.

It doesn’t come on cheap. Like everything valuable, dedicated hosting costs an arm and a leg.

Another limiting factor is the responsibilities that the server comes with. Every freedom comes with responsibilities and so is dedicated hosting. You must be skilled, techies, and smart enough to keep an eye on the health and wellness of the server.

How can you tell if Dedicated Hosting is good for you?

It is a good choice for sites that swell with traffic and can’t be sustained by other hosting types. Think about an enterprise-level website or a large e-commerce store that receives tens of thousands of monthly visitors.

For anyone who would comfortably pay the high price and won’t mind handling the customization bit, dedicated hosting would still be great for them. It’s even better for someone looking to handle multiple websites, including client websites.

3. VPS Hosting

It is regarded as the next step, or simply “an upgrade” from Shared hosting because it’s many beginners’ next stop. VPS, which ideally stands for Virtual Private Server, is a hosting type whose features are almost the same as those of Shared hosting.

Basically, VPS is a type of Shared hosting, with the only difference being the significantly reduced number of websites using the same server. Hosting resources are split into sub-compartments called virtual servers and these servers are customized for specific uses by the websites.

Every VPS will share its hardware and resources, with each user getting a dedicated portion of the computing resource. This simply means that with the resources brought closer, competition reduces drastically.

The best part of it all is the segmenting of the server accounts whereby users of similar account requirements are grouped together. They will draw their computing power from a single dedicated resource.

A perfect example is when 10 websites, each running on 1GB of RAM and 20GB HDD Space share RAM of 10GB and 200GB space. With each user getting 1GB RAM and 20GB disk space, anyone who depletes their RAM limit automatically experiences performance lags as the other websites work normally.

In VPS hosting, stability is maintained by management software called a hypervisor, and whose role is to maintain integrity across the board. One other benefit of this type of hosting is the ease of configuring the servers. Changes made on one VPS account cannot affect other virtual machines.

If you hate Shared hosting because of limited freedom and flexibility, then you will be glad to settle for VPS hosting. It is much more scalable and allows one to increase the number of resources with much hassle.

Pros and Cons of VPS Hosting

Pros

VPS hosting is a bit costlier compared to Shared hosting. However, because the benefits can be compared to those of Dedicated hosting, yet the prices are lower, this alternative is great for an upgrade.

You get all the resources you need to manage your website without worries; from top-notch security, peak performance, and priority customer support to value for your money.

VPS servers are a lot more scalable, flexible, and perform better. A VPS hosted-website is less likely to experience lags.

Furthermore, you will make tweaks and changes on the server without affecting other accounts. The best part of it all is that changes don’t require extreme technical expertise.

Cons

Price is probably the greatest turnoff, as far as choosing VPS over Shared hosting is concerned.

How can you tell if VPS hosting is good for you?

We could say that VPS hosting is perfect for small and medium-sized enterprises, especially those which can’t withstand constant downtimes of Shared hosting.

But as much as it is the best for mid-level enterprises that can’t balk paying significantly higher, VPS is great for personal blogs whose traffic volumes are way above 20k a month.

If you are tech-savvy and need a hosting type that allows you to customize your server, VPS hosting will be good for you. It gets even better if your website or blog deals with large files.

4. Cloud Hosting

VPS hosting is great in all aspects. It is scalable, flexible, and great for mid-level enterprises that can’t afford Dedicated hosting. Where it only falls short and possibly scares away a vast multitude of website owners is its price.

Fortunately, Cloud hosting is here to bridge that. As the name probably insinuates, Cloud hosting entails cloud-based hosting. And indeed it is a hybrid version of VPS hosting – similar features, yet cost-effective price.

Cloud hosting is described by the multiple remote servers that work together to ensure a smooth and reliable web hosting experience. The entire analogy is that, in case one server dies, the next one automatically takes up the responsibilities.

There’s never a hosting dilemma with this type of hosting. Uptimes are consistently high and the site generally performs at its best. What excites, even more, is scalability whereby the user only pays for the computing resources he/she needs. You scale resources on-demand.

Pros and Cons of Cloud Hosting

Pros

Nearly everything surrounding this hosting type is wonderful. However, it is the ‘pay-for-what-you-use’ pricing structure that charms most. It’s actually one amazing feature that no other hosting type comes with.

Today’s cloud hosting infrastructures are so advanced that they can identify a server situated near a customer and use it to deliver the smoothest customer experience. With this arrangement, one is guaranteed of reduced delays and exciting page load speeds.

Top-level website security is also one of the greatest benefits of choosing cloud hosting. Cloud is a lot more efficient protecting a website against DDoS attacks. In fact, it’s so rare for a cloud-hosted website to crash due to DDoS attacks.

Scalability aside, you will never be prompted to perform any maintenance works.

Cons

It is a bit more expensive than shared hosting, regardless of the ‘pay-for-what-you-use’ pricing structure.

Would you like to switch to Cloud Hosting?

If you own a small business and you’ve been experiencing a traffic upsurge, but wouldn’t want to spend more, don’t go for VPS hosting. Cloud hosting is perfect to bring that ‘wow’ effect. Visitors will enjoy terrific load times, even when traffic peaks. You will also pay for what you use only!

5. Managed WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting is synonymous with Bluehost and it’s easy to see why. As the name goes, this very specific type of hosting is exclusive to websites powered by WordPress alone. In simple words, it is solely made for sites optimized for WordPress – the world’s most powerful CMS.

The rise of managed WordPress hosting is largely influenced by the growing popularity of WordPress, which already powers over 35% of all websites on the planet today. And while it is not as inexpensive as shared web hosting, it is also one of the best plans for beginners.

It is feature-rich and comes with what every WordPress enthusiast dies for: 1-click WordPress installation feature. The host handles everything, removing the need for a cPanel, Plesk, etc. – as well as what almost everyone loathes – coding.

Interestingly though, managed WordPress hosting depends on the web hosting provider one goes with and the plan they choose. It could be a form of Shared, VPS, Cloud, or Dedicated hosting as everything basically depends upon the type of server or portion one is renting.

You are probably wondering why Managed WordPress Hosting?

Well, WordPress, being the single most trusted CMS in the world, is always a perfect target for cybercriminals. And hosts use this hosting type to customize security, perform automated backups and maintenance activities, and handle all that pertain to WordPress-powered websites alone.

Managed WordPress hosting is also a great pick for easy management of CMS. It eliminates the need to learn all the complex technical ins and outs of managing such websites. Enhanced website security, server caching, staging, and epic loading speeds are just some of the benefits of this hosting type.

Pros and Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting

Pros

The fact that it is just a normal hosting type, but specific to WordPress is actually great. It means you get all the features of your favorite hosting type, and still avoid the complex steps of customizing your WordPress website.

The promise of great features, including 1-click WordPress install and both automatic and manual backups – is arguably the best that this hosting type could offer. No cPanel, no coding, no nothing! You just get a fine-tuned and easy to use dashboard, better-caching functionality, and assured security of your website.

In short, WordPress hosting makes a site load quickly, looks great, and still handles unprecedented spikes in traffic, all while having WP oriented lifeguards on standby. You will never worry about slowdowns, security attacks, and so forth.

Cons

WordPress hosting is great for a beginner until it reaches the point of installing plugins. With limited control and flexibility, not all plugins would work on the servers. Furthermore, the host might block a plugin that your site direly needs.

Another issue with Managed WordPress hosting is the fact that it is the host that calls all the shots. You have little or no say at all, which sometimes gets pretty irritating. You can imagine when you need to alter one thing or the other, but the host doesn’t allow it.

One example is when there’s a newly updated version of WordPress that isn’t compatible with your valuable SEO plugin. And there’s nothing you can do to ask them to relax until they update your plugin as well.

Is WordPress Hosting good for you?

Of course, if your website is powered by WordPress, then you’ve got all the freedom to go for this hosting type. But remember, this plan could limit your freedom and flexibility and only tie you to what the host thinks you can work with.

Still, this hosting type is good for the non-tech-savvy group who wouldn’t prefer to fiddle with the behind-the-scenes stuff. Go for it and you will never have to worry about the security of your website, backup and maintenance, SEO, uptime, and so forth.

Other Types of Web Hosting Services You Must Know

The main kinds of web hosting services go beyond the obvious five. Reseller hosting, which isn’t as popular as the mainstream ones, and Colocation are just a few of them. The list could go on and on. For now though…

Thinking about Reseller Hosting?

This isn’t your ordinary type of hosting. It will only work well with you if you would like to resell hosting services. You will be the one to determine the pricing structure of your clients while paying wholesale rates to your provider.

One thing with reseller hosting is that it fits well with large, well-known agencies, including web designers and well developers with massive client bases. As a website designer, you will be selling the entire resources to whoever you design a site for.

Perhaps the best part of being a reseller is sustainability. If you get 100 subscribers and they like your services, you will easily grow your base without necessarily doing lots of marketing. And your agency will remain with a sustainable list of clients.

Pros and Cons of Reseller Hosting

Pros

White label technical support is probably the greatest benefit of choosing this type of hosting. It is the hosting company that handles the client’s tech support issues; not you, the reseller.

Another benefit is the freedom to set your prices. You will have the freedom to increase or slash the prices at your own convenience. Other than that, it is a great way to earn a recurring and sustainable income.

Cons

It may not take off right away. You will need to do lots of marketing to break even.

If things go south and the main host doesn’t act in time to save your image, you could end up in deep trouble. Your image might be irreparably damaged.

What about Colocation Web Hosting?

The main idea behind this type of web hosting is simple; you co-locate rack space from a data center. What this simply means is that you install your server hardware, and only rent power and cooling systems and internet uplink. Everything else, including authority over the servers, remains with you.

Colocation is good and evil at the same time. You rent the site and basic resources, but bear the shoulder of responsibility, including overseeing server software, data storage, and backup procedures on your own.

Woe unto you if hardware fails and the entire system goes off. Or the server backup misbehaves and it demands hours to get it back up again.

That inherently means you will need to be smart on tech and brilliant with technical know-how. The data centers will only provide you with an enabling environment to keep your servers working.

Conclusion

As you can see, choosing the right web hosting plan gives you access to the right resources. However, you must understand your needs and most importantly be willing to conduct your own research.

Something else you need to remember is that regardless of the hosting plan you decide to settle for, the hosting company you choose dictates the overall experience. You can check our guide on how to choose a web host here.

If you are a website owner who is just getting started, you’d be better off with shared hosting or managed WordPress hosting. However, if you a more active website that cannot afford a second of downtime, you should consider cloud hosting or dedicated hosting.

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding of how the various hosting types differ. With all that information, getting started shouldn’t be an issue anymore, I suppose.

Leave a reply
Comment policy: We love comments and appreciate the time that readers spend to share ideas and give feedback. However, all comments are manually moderated and those deemed to be spam or solely promotional will be deleted.