The Essentials of Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting is the most common form of web hosting because it’s both the cheapest and easiest to use. Knowing the operational capabilities and expected services of your provider are smart things to consider before choosing the shared web hosting solution that suits you.
What is Shared Web Hosting?
Shared web hosting is a service that uses one server to host many web sites. This single server is partitioned and each partition is dedicated to a single domain name. Since only one server is used, all customers share in the cost of maintaining that server. Additionally, engineering has only that single server to maintain, which passes on further savings to you, making shared hosting a highly economical model.
Shared hosting is also called “virtual hosting” because it makes your domain name look like unique location even though that domain sits on a server that lots of other web sites share. (“Virtual hosting” shouldn’t be confused with “virtual private server hosting”, which creates a complete virtual server rather than just a virtual domain.)
A shared server is overseen by a system administrator who handles administration, maintenance and support services. This basically means that every shared host provides you with a technical staff, so your web site is essentially plug-and-play. All you have to do is choose a plan and your site can be online with very little effort.
Types of Shared Hosting
Shared plans offer two types of web site hosting:
- IP-Based – Hosting that assigns a dedicated IP address to each domain name
- Name-Based – Hosting that groups multiple domains under the same IP address
Both types have their respective advantages and disadvantages.
Name-based shared hosting is highly economical because you don’t have to pay for your own IP address, whereas IP-based hosting can be more secure because you’re not sharing your IP address with other domains.
IP-based hosting takes advantage of security protocols (known as Secure Socket Layers or SSLs) that aren’t available with name-based hosing, which assures an especially high level of security when dealing with Internet transactions.
Which one should you use?
If you want the most economical hosting package possible and don’t plan on conducting business transactions on a high level, go with name-based hosting. If you’re doing a lot of business online and sending large amounts of secure data, choose an IP-based hosting solution.
What Can You Expect from Your Shared Hosting Provider?
Shared hosting is an easy out-of-the-box solution that usually delivers the following:
- Server Management
- Server Installation and Maintenance
- Tech Support
- User Control Panel
Shared hosts don’t always offer live tech support because most of the issues encountered are relatively easy to solve. This is because everyone on a shared server has about the same level of service – there’s not a lot of customization like you might get with dedicated or virtual server hosting because you simply don’t need it. There are, however, differences in allocated web space and database usage, commensurate with how much you’re willing to pay and how much you need.
A web-based content management system or control panel is another advantage of shared hosting packages. You use your control panel to manage every aspect of your site, from billing to e-commerce and web design.
Control panels give you a level of management that eliminates the need for an applications designer. They act like a WYSIWYG interface, allowing you to concentrate on design without getting bogged down in coding and other engineering activities.
Some Commonly Used Control Panels
Shared Hosting Operating Systems
Back in the day there were significant differences between the operating system (OS) software that web hosts used to support their hosting solutions. These days not so much.
The two most common OSs are Linux-based and Windows-based. Linux is the most popular, probably because it’s based on open-source software and thus can be slightly more adaptable than Windows. But when it comes to installing patches and updating, especially in tandem with proprietary Microsoft applications and technologies, Windows has the advantage of taking less time to design and implement.
Ultimately, which OS you choose might be a matter of taste, or a matter of which system you’re more comfortable with for content development or data migration.
What Are the Best Uses for Shared Hosting?
- Startup Businesses
- Small Businesses
- Photoblogs and Written Blogs
- Personal Web Pages
If you’re just starting out – even if you have big plans aimed toward becoming a large-scale enterprise – choosing a quality shared hosting solution is a great way to start.
Whom Do I Choose?
This is probably the toughest question you will face for shared hosting. Shared hosts range from one-person operations to global conglomerates, and the list is overwhelming. How to choose one is beyond the scope of this entry, but luckily for you we’ve spent the time compiling a short list of the best shared hosting providers.