Types Of Web Hosting And How To Choose The Right Plan

If you search for a web hosting service provider on the Internet, you will quickly find that there are many providers offering various types of website hosting servers. The most common ones include:

  1. Shared (Virtual) Hosting
  2. Cloud Virtual Hosting
  3. VPS (Virtual Private Server)
  4. Cloud Hosting / Cloud VPS Hosting
  5. Managed WordPress Hosting
  6. Managed Cloud Hosting
  7. Dedicated Server

These different types of web hosting options have significant differences in terms of price, features, and technical specifications. If you are new to web hosting, these different types of hosting servers can easily confuse you.

In this article, we will discuss the most popular types of web hosting servers. After reading it, you will have a basic understanding and judgment of various hosting options and know which type of web hosting is suitable for your website.

What is web hosting?

Web hosting provides the hardware support for your website and makes it accessible to visitors from around the world. In other words, it provides the network space for storing and managing your website files and content.

Today, almost every website, whether it is a large website like YouTube.com or a small website like freeforwptheme.com, uses some type of web hosting server.

When you purchase web hosting, you are essentially renting space on a server to store and manage your website programs, files, and SSL security certificates. This “space” can be a portion of a shared server that you and other users share or it can be space on a server network (also known as the “cloud”), or even an entire server in the provider’s data center.

Unless you are using a dedicated server, the hosting space you use is partitioned and resource-configured by the service provider on a network server using virtualization technology, allowing multiple users to maximize the resources of a single server.

Web hosting service provider servers are connected to the internet. These are not just servers, but web servers. This means that these servers can receive HTTP requests, process them, and send responses back to the website visitor’s browser client. These servers run special web server software that enables them to respond to HTTP requests. Apache and Nginx are two popular web server software used by many web hosting providers.

Once you purchase web hosting from a provider, you can access the web hosting server they have configured for you. On the web hosting server, you can install/upload website programs and files. These files can include images, HTML, JavaScript, CSS stylesheets, and dynamic code like PHP.

Typically, the purchased web hosting includes an IP address. After configuring the domain name to point to that IP address through domain name resolution, people can access your website using the domain name. Some shared hosting providers may ask you to provide your website domain name at the time of purchase and automatically handle the website domain name resolution for you. Once you have web hosting space, you can start using it just like installing software on your computer. You can install website building programs and other applications on your web hosting server.

For example, if you want to create a website, you first need virtual hosting (hardware). Then, you can install WordPress (software) on the virtual hosting.

Typically, high-traffic and resource-intensive websites require powerful virtual hosting or even VPS to handle the workload, while low-traffic websites can be hosted on lower-configured virtual hosting.

Introduction to Different Types of Web Hosting Servers

Shared Web Hosting-Virtual Hosting

Shared hosting, also known as virtual hosting, means that you share the resources of a single server with other clients. The web server attached to shared hosting is similar to a computer, with disk space, CPU, and memory. These server resources are shared among multiple users.

The shared virtual hosting environment is like driving a car on a highway with many other cars. Hundreds or even thousands of users share the same server, which means they also share the cost. This “collective” platform makes shared virtual hosting the cheapest option among all types of web hosting. Because of its affordability and ease of use, many personal bloggers, startups, and small businesses use shared virtual hosting to store and manage their websites.

For convenience, I will continue to refer to it as virtual hosting. SiteGround is still the recommended choice for foreign trade website hosting.

The reason for this recommendation and a comparison with other virtual hosting providers can be found in this article: Which web hosting is good? Reviews of 24 web hosting service providers.

Shared hosting is the most basic web hosting/server type on the Internet. Almost all websites use this type of hosting. Why?

Because the biggest advantage of virtual hosting is its affordability and relative ease of use.

Features of virtual hosting:

  • Multiple user accounts on the same physical server
  • Multiple websites under one user account
  • Same underlying operating system
  • Shared CPU, memory, and other resources (bandwidth and storage space allocated fixedly)
  • Websites of different users are isolated from each other

While the low price of shared hosting can be attractive, there may be some drawbacks in terms of performance, reliability, and security. If other users’ websites sharing the same server resources are consuming a lot of resources, it can have a negative impact on the performance of your website because there may not be enough resources available.

Now you should have a general understanding that when you purchase a shared hosting package, you are actually getting a hosting account, not the entire network server. Within a shared hosting account, you can create websites, users, set up databases, and so on. To fulfill users’ various management needs, shared hosting providers offer user control panels to facilitate user operations. cPanel is a well-established and classic hosting resource management control panel.

How much does shared hosting cost?

Depending on the package configuration, users typically need to pay between $3/month and $15/month for shared hosting space, the price varies.

Good shared hosting providers do tend to be more expensive than cheaper ones.

Pay attention to discount price deadlines when purchasing.

When purchasing hosting from a shared hosting provider, it is common to find that the package prices are heavily discounted for the first purchase. The main purpose of offering significant discounts to new customers is to gain market share and allow potential customers to experience and evaluate the hosting products and services at a lower initial cost.

To enjoy the super-low discount price for a longer period, most users will choose longer durations, typically 3 years, to lock in the maximum discount for an extended period.

If you choose only one year, the price after the first year’s new customer discount period will return to the normal price, which is usually 4-5 times the discounted price. Many users cannot accept such a significant price increase, and they may choose to purchase alternative shared hosting and enjoy the first purchase discount price from other hosting providers.

Basically, all shared hosting providers only offer significant discounts for the initial purchase and do not provide any discount for renewals. Companies like SiteGround, Bluehost, GreekGeeeks, Hostinger, and others do not offer renewal discount incentives because they have already provided significant discounts for new customers. Therefore, there are usually no discounts for renewals.

Misleading by shared hosting providers.

In the price package description, some shared hosting providers may also advertise:

  • Unlimited Websites
  • Unlimited website space / Unlimited Storage
  • Unmetered bandwidth
  • Unlimited subdomains

Of course, these are just marketing tactics and are not truly unlimited. The usage of each shared hosting is still monitored by the hosting provider and needs to comply with the “fair usage” policy. In reality, there is nothing truly unlimited in this world, and all the advertised unlimited features are “limited.”

Generally, shared hosting providers have file count limits ranging from 50,000 to 200,000 files. However, in general, the number of files for a typical foreign trade enterprise website will not exceed this range.

WordPress Hosting

The so-called WordPress Hosting is essentially a type of virtual hosting that comes pre-installed with WordPress and some commonly used WordPress tools. It is not much different from regular web hosting. When you sign up for hosting, you will be provided with an installation wizard that allows you to choose some WordPress tools in addition to the pre-installed WordPress, similar to pre-installed software tools on a new computer for beginners. The computer itself remains the same, and there is no difference between buying a computer without any pre-installed software tools.

Disadvantages of virtual hosting:

Shared IP Address

Disadvantage 1:Shared IP addresses have some obvious drawbacks

1.If the server is targeted by a hacker, all websites on the server with the same IP will be affected. If illegal information is found on a website hosted on the server and it is reported to the regulatory authorities, the IP may be blocked, affecting all websites sharing the same IP.

2.If you are building a small B2B showcase website, it usually doesn’t require a dedicated IP. For small websites, it may not be necessary to pursue a dedicated IP.
However, if you are building an e-commerce website using WooCommerce or Big Commerce, which typically involves payment gateways, the data security and online payment requirements are higher, and a dedicated IP is recommended. Or if your website is marketing-oriented and you care about brand image, or if you plan to use the free email provided by the hosting company as your corporate email for sending emails (this is not a wise choice), then it is still necessary to use a dedicated IP.
Some hosting providers offer dedicated IP addresses as an additional service, while others do not. If you need a dedicated IP for your virtual hosting, you should choose a provider that offers dedicated IP addresses, such as SiteGround and ChemiCloud.

Disadvantage 2: Some configurations and parameters are limited

To maintain security, the server configurations of virtual hosting are locked, and users cannot modify or adjust them through the user panel. This means that if some website building tools require more resources or need to bypass certain usage restrictions (such as file upload size), you need to contact customer service to see if they can make the necessary modifications for you. In this regard, there may be some limitations compared to VPS Hosting, Cloud Hosting, and Dedicated Servers.
However, this can be understood as virtual hosting is like renting an apartment in a fully furnished apartment building. After moving in, you find that the windows can only be opened halfway for ventilation. If you feel it’s not enough, you ask the service provider if they can fully open the windows to improve air circulation. Whether they will allow this depends on the service provider. If they agree, they will arrange for professionals to set it up for you. If not, there’s nothing you can do.
The package configuration of virtual hosting is fixed and cannot be customized like cloud servers in terms of resource utilization. Virtual hosting is limited by resource allocation on the virtualized server.

Is virtual hosting secure?

This depends on the hosting provider. Good virtual hosting providers take necessary measures to isolate one account from another, so one user cannot access another user’s files. However, if someone gains root access to the operating system, it can compromise all accounts, even if your own site is secure.
Therefore, you need to trust the hosting provider’s ability to provide a secure environment. Some virtual hosting providers raise concerns about security, while others like SiteGround, Cloudways, and Kinsta generally excel in this aspect.

What kind of user is Virtual hosting for?

Virtual hosting is suitable for the following types of users or businesses:

  • Users with limited knowledge of web hosting
  • Users looking to save on website hosting costs
  • Users with limited familiarity with website building technologies, who want to minimize their involvement in website management
  • Individuals or small businesses in need of a simple website for personal or small-scale enterprise use
  • Beginners learning web design, programming, or WordPress

In general, virtual hosting (shared hosting) is the most economical choice for small-scale websites. Typically, business showcase websites or personal blogs have relatively low traffic, making virtual hosting a good option due to its affordability and convenience.

Additionally, B2B websites are also well-suited for virtual hosting as most users have limited experience with website building technologies and tools. They require a user-friendly hosting environment that allows them to run B2B websites efficiently with minimal technical knowledge. Virtual hosting providers like SiteGround, with global data center coverage, are particularly suitable for such needs.

SiteGround implements server isolation technology on their virtual hosting, which means that an infected or compromised website will not affect other websites on the same server.

However, as website traffic significantly increases, users may need to upgrade their virtual hosting package to provide more stable access services. Some users may choose to switch to more advanced types of web hosting services to improve website performance and reliability.

Cloud Virtual Hosting (CVH)

Cloud Virtual Hosting, also known as CVH, is a virtual hosting product that combines the simplicity and user-friendliness of traditional virtual hosting with the powerful features of cloud computing. In terms of usability, it is comparable to regular virtual hosting, and users do not require any technical expertise as all installation, configuration, and update activities are handled by the hosting service provider’s technical staff.

When using traditional virtual hosting plans, there are limitations on customization and modification of PHP, Apache, MySQL, and other components. In contrast, cloud virtual hosting offers higher flexibility and scalability. Users can easily change server capacity, add processors, increase RAM, expand disk space, and more. Even the entry-level configurations of cloud virtual hosting packages can support enterprise-scale websites and handle significant traffic.

Cloud virtual hosting providers isolate each user in a lightweight virtualized environment (LVE), providing a set of pre-allocated resources that cannot be oversubscribed. This invisible fence on resource usage enhances the overall reliability of the server. A user cannot misuse server resources, which eliminates any negative impact on your website.

In simple terms, each cloud virtual hosting service is completely isolated from other users’ services through virtualization technology. Each cloud virtual host has its own operating system, which users can select and customize through the configuration panel. Some cloud virtual hosting providers may also offer separate website backup systems, making it easy to back up the hosting server and databases.

VPS Hosting (Virtual Private Server)

VPS, or Virtual Private Server, is a virtual machine that provides virtualized server resources on a physical server shared with other users. Similar to virtual hosting, multiple users can be hosted on the same physical server.

With VPS, you get dedicated server space with reserved resources, offering better control and customization compared to shared resource virtual hosting. In essence, a VPS acts as an isolated virtual environment on a physical server, utilizing virtualization technology to split a single physical machine into multiple private server environments with shared resources, allowing the creation and management of multiple virtual machines.

Each virtual machine runs a separate instance of an operating system, often with options like Ubuntu or CentOS Linux systems. VPS configurations generally offer higher resource allocations, such as CPU and memory, compared to virtual hosting. Additionally, you have the flexibility to use predefined amounts of resources without sharing memory, CPU, disk space, or bandwidth with any other users.

VPS provides stronger data isolation compared to virtual hosting. Therefore, another VPS on the same server will not affect your VPS, ensuring better performance consistency. Moreover, you gain more server-level control, including root access.

Characteristics of VPS:

  1. Full control over your virtual server with root access.
  2. Freedom to configure the system environment and install custom software.
  3. Guaranteed 100% dedicated system-related resources.
  4. Separate operating system instance.
  5. Better isolation from other users.
  6. Pricing based on memory, CPU cores and count, disk type (typically SSD), and is generally higher than virtual hosting.

Additionally, the responsibility for server maintenance falls on you, so you need to ensure server security and updates. If you lack the necessary operational and technical skills, it can be a challenging and complex task. You would need to set up server environments, manage and maintain them, have knowledge of Linux, SSH, and implement security measures. Either continuously learn and practice operational skills to become a VPS administrator or consider outsourcing to individuals with sufficient technical expertise.

Who is VPS suitable for?

VPS is ideal for users who are hands-on, have a certain level of web development knowledge, are unsatisfied with virtual hosting, and have website requirements that cannot be met in terms of performance and configuration. It is not recommended for beginners in web development.

Is VPS faster than virtual hosting?

Under the same conditions, a high-quality VPS provider will be faster and more reliable than virtual hosting. Additionally, VPS is often cheaper than virtual hosting for equivalent performance, but it does require some technical knowledge to use.

Are VPS and Cloud (VPS) Hosting the same?

They are very similar. The main difference is that traditional VPS uses a single physical server, while cloud servers utilize a network of multiple servers in a cloud-based infrastructure. Regardless of the type, you can obtain fully dedicated resources to your server package through virtual isolation provided by the service provider.

Is VPS beginner-friendly?

Although VPS is relatively user-friendly for those who are tech-savvy, it is not the best choice for beginners in web development or individuals with no technical background. VPS is more complex, whereas virtual hosting is typically beginner-friendly with a lower learning curve, making it the preferred hosting option for most people when creating websites.

Can you provide an example illustrating the difference between VPS and virtual hosting?

Think of it like sharing an apartment with roommates (virtual hosting) versus having your own apartment in a building (VPS). Alternatively, it’s similar to moving into a fully furnished apartment (virtual hosting) versus moving into a larger, unfurnished space that requires you to design and set up utilities (VPS).

Cloud Hosting (Cloud VPS)

While traditional VPS hosting services used to be popular, they have somewhat taken a backseat with the development of cloud servers.
Cloud hosting, also known as cloud VPS hosting, is similar to VPS hosting. The main difference is that VPS hosting uses a physical server, which means your website gets its dedicated resources from a single physical server rather than the “cloud.” On the other hand, cloud hosting utilizes a network of multiple servers that form a cloud, allowing for quick response to user demands such as adding servers or modifying configurations. For this reason, cloud hosting is sometimes referred to as “cloud VPS.”
Some common cloud hosting providers include Linode, DigitalOcean, and Vultr.
Advantages: Compared to traditional VPS, cloud hosting allows for faster creation, deletion, or expansion of virtual servers. It also has less downtime because it is not reliant on a single physical machine.
When comparing VPS and cloud hosting, most people would choose cloud hosting because it provides greater flexibility and scalability. In other words, if you need to easily upgrade or downgrade your configuration, you can do it with ease and make changes to resources on your own. This is why cloud hosting providers can offer pay-as-you-go pricing. For example, if you have a 1GB Linode instance, you can scale it up to 2GB or more within seconds.
Cloud hosting also offers excellent reliability because of the server network that provides support, ensuring that the failure of a single server does not affect other users. Like VPS, cloud hosting provides 100% dedicated hosting resources that you purchase, rather than shared resources. This improves website performance, and you don’t have to worry about other websites impacting yours.

Characteristics of cloud (VPS) hosting:

  • Includes all the benefits of VPS hosting.
  • Better scalability and reliability.
  • Pay-as-you-go pricing.
  • Cheaper pricing compared to traditional VPS.
  • Server maintenance, updates, and management are primarily the user’s responsibility.

In recent years, cloud hosting has been one of the fastest-growing types of hosting for building websites. Many cloud hosting providers have experienced rapid growth. Popular cloud hosting providers include Google Cloud Platform, Amazon AWS, Microsoft Azure, DigitalOcean, and Linode.

Managed WordPress Hosting

Managed WordPress hosting is primarily targeted towards WordPress users who do not want to deal with the technical aspects of website creation and have a more generous budget. Due to the high-quality service provided, it is noticeably more expensive than regular shared hosting.
Managed WordPress hosting providers typically handle hosting-related issues and offer specialized services such as regular website backups, security checks, automatic backups, core WordPress updates, pre-set WordPress features, performance optimization tools, improved reliability, and access to a professional WordPress expert support team, ensuring that users’ websites are both secure and fast.
The underlying infrastructure for this type of hosting can be shared hosting, cloud servers, VPS, or dedicated servers, depending on the provider.
Well-known providers of managed WordPress hosting services include Kinsta and WP Engine, both of which are built on the Google Cloud platform. Additionally, many shared hosting providers offer similar managed services, such as SiteGround, which not only sells shared hosting but also VPS. However, in terms of managed WordPress hosting, Kinsta and WP Engine are more specialized.
The main difference between managed WordPress hosting and regular web hosting is that managed WordPress hosting offers a set of “concierge services” tailored specifically for WordPress websites. The main benefit is peace of mind, as managed hosting packages provide many value-added services that save you time in maintaining your website. However, the price is relatively higher than regular WordPress shared hosting because users need to pay for these additional services.

Managed Cloud Hosting

With managed cloud hosting, users can still benefit from the advantages of cloud servers without having to worry about server security and maintenance.
One common provider of managed cloud hosting is Cloudways, which offers hosting services built on top of other cloud infrastructure providers such as Google Cloud, AWS, DigitalOcean, Linode, and Vultr. In addition to providing service support, they manage everything, including server configuration, software installation, and maintenance.
The price of managed cloud hosting is higher than self-managed cloud servers because it includes configuration, maintenance, and management services on top of the base infrastructure.
Apart from Cloudways, there is also Liquid Web, which offers a wide range of website servers and hosting servers with highly detailed and in-depth services. However, the prices are quite expensive, and there are many other options available at the same price point.

Dedicated Server

Also known as a dedicated hosting server, a dedicated server is a physical server that you have full control over and do not need to share with any other users. You have the freedom to configure the server and install applications as you wish.
Dedicated servers are typically considered when a website requires more resources than what VPS and cloud servers can provide. With a dedicated server, your website has higher levels of privacy, security, bandwidth, storage space, and speed, as the entire server is dedicated solely to your website.
However, dedicated servers are significantly more expensive. They are the most expensive type of web hosting (server) and require a high level of IT skills to manage.
Dedicated servers are generally used by large websites or online service platforms, such as game hosting providers, popular social media platforms, streaming and entertainment platforms, and large-scale portals.

Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting is a relatively straightforward concept that is often popular among web development agencies and website service providers. They create and manage multiple client websites. If you are a web development company or agency, you can generate additional income by reselling hosting services and domain names from a popular hosting provider.
After becoming a reseller, the hosting provider sells hosting packages to the reseller at wholesale prices. The reseller can then set a certain profit margin and sell these packages to their own customer base, generating revenue. If the reseller has effective marketing strategies to attract potential customers to register and purchase, this business can be quite profitable.
As a reseller, you can set up multiple cPanel accounts under a reseller account and assign them to your clients, or you can manage them yourself. Resellers often have the option to white-label the services, which means removing the hosting or domain service provider’s branding, copyright, and logo information. In simple terms, it is rebranding. This way, the reseller’s customers only see the reseller’s logo and do not see the hosting company’s branding.
Many popular web hosting providers offer reseller hosting plans.

Finally: Common Choices for Website Hosting

  1. For trade websites, beginners often prefer shared hosting. Examples include SiteGround, ChemiCloud, and FastComet.
    Reason: It’s simple and easy to get started, with relatively user-friendly operations and affordable prices.
  2. When shared hosting cannot meet the requirements due to various reasons, such as a sudden increase in website traffic or the desire for high-performance cloud VPS, or when the website has significant revenue potential that attracts many important customers, upgrading to managed cloud hosting is a wise choice. One popular service provider in recent years with a good reputation is Cloudways.
    Reason: Using VPS and cloud servers requires technical expertise, making it not suitable for everyone. Managed cloud servers, or managed cloud VPS, solve this issue through additional services and slightly higher prices. Compared to traditional VPS and cloud servers, they significantly reduce the technical requirements for website maintenance and management. Users can also enjoy better performance and reliability compared to shared hosting.
  3. For those with a more generous budget or who prefer premium options, managed WordPress hosting is an option. This involves hosting WordPress websites managed by a team of technical experts.
    For users with a flexible budget, Kinsta, a well-known managed WordPress hosting provider, is a reliable choice.

Additional Note:

For all the types of hosting mentioned above, if the name is prefixed with “Managed,” the price will be 5-10 times higher than regular hosting because of the additional services and costs involved.

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