Shared hosting vs. dedicated hosting: a direct comparison of the two hosting models
Publishing a web application is associated with numerous challenges. Apart from the content and technical planning and design of the project, the selection of a suitable hosting environment plays a decisive role here because, without the right hardware equipment, you unnecessarily limit the chances of success and growth of your web project. From the very beginning, you should therefore think very carefully about the capacities you need, both in the short term and in the long term, and what financial resources you have available or can plan for this.
If you do not operate your own server, but want to rent the resources from a provider, you will most likely also come across the terms “shared hosting” and “dedicated hosting” during your research. These two hosting models, both older than the now-ubiquitous cloud hosting, are characterized by a different approach to managing or allocating hardware resources (on merchant sites). What this means in concrete terms and to what extent dedicated hosting and shared hosting differ in terms of costs, performance or security, you will learn in this article.
Dedicated hosting vs. shared hosting: What is behind the two terms?
Anyone who uses the services of a web hosting provider basically rents hardware on the basis of which a web project can be operated. The provider thus provides ready-made servers that offer the corresponding computing power in the form of CPU and RAM as well as the necessary hard disk space to get the operating system, web server, databases, etc. up and running.
If you choose dedicated hosting, the provider assigns you one or more specific servers whose resources are at your disposal only. The situation is somewhat different with shared hosting: In this model, too, the provider usually assigns you one or more specific servers from its contingent, but you share the resources with other customers. Put simply, a dedicated server runs only your own projects, while a shared server runs not only your web applications but also those of other users.
The differences between shared hosting and dedicated hosting at a glance
At first glance, it doesn’t seem to make too much of a difference to customers whether a dedicated hosting or a shared hosting package is selected: In both cases, the rented resources are controlled remotely so that in principle it is not at all comprehensible whether the data of other customers are also stored on the target server or not. However, if you look at factors such as costs, security, or utilization, it quickly becomes clear that the two hosting models are very different in practice. To make it easier for you to choose the right package for your web project, we have summarized the most important differences for you in the “Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting” comparison.
Projects hosted on the server (“Server-Hosted Sites”).
As mentioned before, the main difference between dedicated hosting and shared hosting is the fact that in the latter not only your own projects are hosted on the server, but also the websites of other clients. In this case, you have neither the power to decide with how many users you share the hosting resources, nor knowledge about what kind of projects the “server neighbors” websites are. With dedicated hosting, on the other hand, you can always be sure what data is stored on the rented server since you are the only customer with access.
Security and privacy
Regardless of whether you host a website on your own server or on a provider’s server, the issue of security plays a significant role. Protective measures against malware attacks, data theft, or DDoS and brute force attacks are therefore a must for responsible website operators.
The requirements for fulfilling this responsibility are very different for shared and dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting customers must install, configure and monitor security solutions such as firewalls and security applications on their own. On the other hand, the provider is always responsible for setting up and monitoring the basic security measures on shared servers, so you only need to take action in this regard if you want to take additional measures. However, the fact that you and the other users share the hardware increases the general security risk — especially if you should share the server with customers who run dubious or insecure web projects.
Bandwidth and performance
A decisive point when choosing a hosting provider is always the offered bandwidth. The providers’ data centers often have excellent Internet connections, which is, however, also necessary in order to move the enormous amounts of data of the various customers back and forth at maximum speed. Nevertheless, the individual servers are of course always subject to a bandwidth limit, so that this service can be offered to all customers as reliably as possible and without any losses. When comparing shared hosting and dedicated hosting, this circumstance is not entirely irrelevant:
In both cases, you do agree with the provider when signing the contract on how much bandwidth you have available as a minimum or maximum. However, on a shared server, the principle of “shared” resources can result in the actual bandwidth being significantly less than agreed because another customer’s project already exceeds the limit, thereby restricting the resources for all other parties. Since this so-called “noisy neighbor” effect causes, among other things, long loading times, overloaded web servers and other technical disruptions, and thus dissatisfied customers, most hosting providers usually take such projects out of circulation in the event of repeated bandwidth violations.
Control over the rented server
When choosing between dedicated hosting and shared hosting, it also depends on how much control over the rented server you need or want. On a dedicated server, you usually have to root rights and thus the possibility to install your own scripts and programs as you wish. In addition, you can change all server and operating system settings at any time. Conversely, this also means that you have a high degree of responsibility and have to take care of updates or maintenance work yourself, for example.
With shared hosting, you don’t have such obligations: updating and maintaining the server and the installed software components is entirely the provider’s responsibility. However, since he must also ensure that all parties have exclusive access to his own web server and webspace, the access rights granted are significantly restricted, unlike with dedicated hosting. Software installations or changes to central server configurations can therefore only be carried out by the provider himself, whereby you always have to contact him first for this purpose, which makes short-term or spontaneous adjustments impossible.
Risk of IP blacklisting
One of the biggest worries of website operators is to end up on the blacklists of search engines and thus to be automatically kicked out of the search results. In this way, your own web project becomes practically invisible to numerous web users to whom you do not directly enter the URL in the address bar, will then only discover it via links that lead to your pages.
Basically, you have the power to avoid such a scenario by following the guidelines of the search engines when designing your website and hosting it with a reputable provider. However, if you book a shared server, you run the risk of sharing the server with operators who violate the guidelines or even spread spam and malware via their own websites. In this case, it is possible that Google will blacklist the entire IP range. When using a dedicated server, however, this danger does not exist.
Unsurprisingly, the costs for shared hosting and dedicated hosting also differ significantly from each other: With the latter model, you claim a complete server and its performance capacity, which is why the provider naturally asks you to pay accordingly. The price for this exclusivity is significantly higher than the costs incurred when using a comparable shared server, where you share the costs with the other tenants according to the sharing principle. Especially if you don’t need too much computing power and storage space for your web project, you will benefit from this option. For this reason, shared hosting is especially in demand in the private sector and among small businesses.
Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting: Conclusion
The presented points make it clear that dedicated hosting and shared hosting are aimed at the different clientele. Dedicated servers are the first choice for those who are looking for a hosting solution with maximum freedom and who are also willing to pay a bit more for it. For customers with a smaller budget, on the other hand, a shared server proves to be a suitable solution as long as aspects such as performance and server administration are not in the foreground. In addition, the “shared servers” are predestined for projects that only require a few hardware resources and therefore could not exhaust the capacities of a dedicated server anyway.