Web hosting for small business customers is easy to come by and works well for most common
needs. However, with virtual server hosting becoming more popular, making sense of your
choices and picking the best option can be difficult. If you’re wondering whether it is time to
investigate changing web hosts. Here is a guide to help you!
Shared Vs. Virtual
The food service industry is a useful analogy for understanding how these different types of
servers work. Fast food is convenient, inexpensive, and quick. Meals are prepared rapidly by
limiting the meals you can choose, as well as by restricting the ways in which you can
customize your order. The result, while perhaps not as satisfying, is ideal for times when you’re
hungry and in search of something in a hurry.
By contrast, restaurants typically offer a wider array of choices at a higher price point. Meals
take longer to prepare and can be tweaked in more ways. Restaurant food is generally better
but at a higher cost of both money and time.
Shared hosts make it easy to launch a website quickly. They also cost less and typically include
user interfaces that ease many common administrative tasks. But they achieve this by limiting
what applications and tasks you can use. Here are just a few limits included in most shared
hosting packages, and instances where you may want to make the leap to a full VPS.
Which Technologies Are You Using?
WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and other modern commodity web applications use a standard
set of programming languages and database servers for which shared hosting is ideally tuned. If
you’re running one or more of the above, chances are you can get up and running quickly with
shared hosting. But many modern languages and frameworks, such as Rails or Node.js, operate in ways that
are difficult to support on shared hosting. These technologies often require you to make
changes to your server that are not supported on shared hosts. Additionally, these frameworks
often run programs that must be left active, whereas shared hosting aggressively terminates
such tasks to keep systems running smoothly.
If your business relies on fairly common apps like WordPress, then shared hosting should be
sufficient. But if you’re using additional frameworks or building custom applications to design
your website, then you may wish to transition to a full VPS.
How Popular Are Your Sites?
Just as fast food retailers can only survive by serving many customers efficiently, shared hosts
must pack as many customers into each server to turn a profit. Each website on a shared host
likely runs alongside tens or hundreds of neighbours on a single server.
Running on a tightly-packed server is no big deal for many sites, particularly if they only receive
a few visitors per day. But if a site grows popular, it may encounter constraints as it competes
with its neighbours for resources.
If you’re running a commodity web application and notice that it is slowing down, it may be time
to investigate switching to a VPS server. With a VPS, your app runs alone on its own virtualized
system and is typically guaranteed a specific slice of resources regardless of how active its
Are Your Needs Complex?
Fast food is efficient because it limits how your meals can be customized. While diners can
generally request changes in a full-service restaurant, fast food customers typically limit your
changes to a significantly larger degree. Shared hosts are optimized for running web applications,
which is all many businesses will ever need. But there are many more things you can do with a VPS
that is impossible with other types of web hosting. If you expect your server to do more than running simple websites,
then it may be worth transitioning to a full VPS.
Shared hosting is a great starting point for most businesses and organizations. But if your
technical needs grow more sophisticated, or if your performance begins to suffer, then it may be
time to investigate switching to a more capable virtual private server.