Web hosting comes in several different forms and packages. From the large-scale option of grid hosting, where a number of servers are clustered together with multiple nodes, it goes all the way down to home servers, where a consumer-owned machine hosts a site through an end-user Internet connection.
However, the two most popular options for the consumer are Shared hosting – where hundreds or thousands of sites are hosted on the same server – and VPS hosting. VPS stands for “Virtual Private Server”, which already shows you one major advantage the VPS has over shared hosting. Yes, I mean privacy.
Several experts have compared shared hosting to living in an apartment block. You share a common staircase, elevator, passage, perhaps even a laundry room and chillout zone. This means that any safety threat to one person may end up affecting all the others – a computer virus, like a fire, does not discriminate between the intended target and the passers-by.
VPS, on the other hand, is like a townhouse. More privacy, slightly higher cost, but more control or more responsibility – for example, over operating systems and installed programs. VPS hosting allows you control over configuration and firewalls, but within strict limits set by the owner of the server you are on. This means that the others sharing a server with you cannot harm you too easily.
This is not to say that shared hosting is unviable and inherently sets you up for disaster. Quite otherwise – some people handle control well, while others do better with people to take over the headache for them. For technologically inept users who require only basic levels of bandwidth and disk space, shared hosting from a reliable service is a much more viable option than the hassles of a VPS host.
One of the steps you can take to nullify the liabilities of shared hosting is to get a dedicated IP address. This will allow you to accept credit cards on your site for eCommerce, and – more importantly – will prevent you from being blacklisted by search engines just because a spammer was sharing your IP. Anonymous FTP download and better search listings are among other perks that come with a dedicated IP. So by investing an additional 1-4 dollars, you buy yourself security as well as a number of useful features that come in use for every webmaster.
To argue in favor of VPS, not even a dedicated IP will give you the security you get with a VPS system. Several cheap VPS plans are available, starting at a meager $10 per month – a sum which most end users find themselves paying even for shared hosting plans.
Finally, the conclusion I have arrived at is that shared hosting – with a well-known, reliable host – is definitely the best option for personal or small-scale users. But for people with big plans for their web presence, VPS is a long-term investment that will last for a lifetime. The additional privacy, control and scalability it offers is worth ten times its cost.