Which Hosting Option is Right for Your Website? A Comparison of Shared, VPS, and Serverless Hosting

Choosing the right website hosting option can be intimidating and confusing. And it’s important you make the right decision from the start because changing hosts later can be a time-consuming, frustrating, and costly process.

This article breaks down the key benefits and drawbacks of the major hosting options as clearly as possible to help you determine which type of hosting best suits your needs.  

Shared website hosting

Shared website hosting is the most common option. When you see an extremely affordable website hosting plan, often costing between $5 and $40 a month, it is probably a shared hosting plan. Of course, that affordability comes with some significant downsides — but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad option for certain situations.

Shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like. Your website will be hosted alongside many other websites sharing the same server resources. If one of your “neighbors” gets a lot of traffic, it means there will be fewer resources available for your site to use. If your site gets a lot of traffic on the same day, there may not be enough resources for you both, so your website’s performance will suffer. Your site may become very slow and may even stop working temporarily. Shared resources also create security concerns. If one of your neighbors gets hacked, it may use up the resources available to you — and it’s possible the hacker could compromise your site as well.

Although shared hosting is economical, due to the risks involved it is not a good option if you have a popular, high-demand website or if a reliable, secure, high-performing website is important to your business. If you need your website to be up and be fast so that you can continue to do business uninterrupted, you’ll want to skip over shared hosting and consider either a VPS or Serverless hosting plan. However, if you have a hobby site, a personal blog, or a business website that isn’t mission-critical, a shared hosting plan offers an affordable solution.

Another consideration is that even if your website is not popular now, you’ll find that you can quickly outgrow a shared hosting plan if your site does become popular. That means transferring to a different hosting solution later. If you expect that your site will become popular, or if your plan is to grow your traffic over time, it might make sense to start out with a more robust hosting solution from the beginning to avoid the downtime and headaches that come from discovering your site has grown bigger than its hosting plan.

VPS website hosting

VPS hosting solutions give you what shared hosting does not — dedicated server resources. Your site isn’t affected by what other websites around it are doing, so its performance will be steady and predictable. You can add more memory, storage, and bandwidth, to your VPS plan to scale your site up as it grows more popular. In general, when compared to shared hosting plans, a VPS plan also gives you more freedom to control and manage it as you see fit. You’ll also usually have more developer tools at your disposal. And dedicated resources are more secure than shared resources.

As you can probably guess, having dedicated resources for your site comes at a cost. VPS hosting plans are more expensive than shared hosting plans. And, you’ll pay for those dedicated resources — whether you use them or not — which can lead to “waste.” You need a server configuration that can handle your peak days, which means you’ll pay for those resources even when your website isn’t at peak usage. The upside to this pricing model is that your bill will be predictable each month. You’ll know exactly what to expect, making budgeting a breeze.

Serverless hosting

Serverless hosting offers some interesting advantages over both shared hosting and VPS hosting while avoiding many of the downsides of both, making it an excellent option for many websites and companies. With Serverless hosting solutions like NorthStack, your website can dip into a pool of nearly limitless resources as needed. If your website receives a lot of traffic, the resources it needs are automatically allocated to it. Your hosting resources expand and contract as needed (elastically) in real-time. There is virtually no cap on the resources available to you, so you’re unaffected by other sites dipping into the same resource pool. Serverless resources are walled, offering security similar to VPS options.

The pricing concept of Serverless hosting is pay-only-for-what-you-use, which makes it very fair and transparent. So if you have a slow month, your bill will be very low. If your traffic explodes, you’ll have a more expensive month. This elasticity means a reduction in “wasted” resources. If your site is not using many resources, Serverless may actually be cheaper than a shared hosting plan. The downside of this fluctuation is that your website hosting bill will be less predictable, which makes budgeting more difficult. If you’re working for a company that emphasizes predictable budgeting, you may be better off on a VPS plan, such as the ones offered by Pagely.

Another consideration with Serverless is hosting is that you’ll need to have an understanding of the technical aspects of hosting. Serverless options are best-suited for people with a technical background. Generally speaking, these solutions are geared toward developers so if you’re intimidated by things like using command line tools, you might be better off with a fully managed VPS solution or a shared hosting plan. On the other hand, if you do have a technical background, you’ll be pleased by how much power and control you have over Serverless hosting.

Serverless hosting is ideal for development and design agencies and firms that are regularly spinning up sites as well as app developers.

Which hosting option is best for you?

To make choosing the best hosting solution for your website as simple as possible:

    • Shared hosting is usually best when you have a low-demand website, it’s not critical your site be available to do business, and low pricing is your primary concern.
    • VPS is usually best when security and performance are critical, cost is less important, and predictable billing is important.
  • Serverless is usually best when security and performance are critical and predictable billing is not important. You’ll also need to be somewhat technical to use it.

In general, if predictable billing isn’t important and you have the skills, serverless hosting offers a lot of value at a very affordable price and that’s exactly why it’s such an important innovation in the hosting world. As dashboard tools improve and evolve, even that technical barrier becomes lower and lower.

Learn more about NorthStack Serverless Hosting.

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