Why shared web hosting sucks

Server Racks

Shared web hosting sucks. What is shared hosting? Well, it's when the service provider loads a bunch of websites on a single hardware server, each one sharing the same IP address and physical resources, including its CPU and memory. Often database and email servers are shared as well which is hugely problematic from both a performance and security standpoint. The total number of server instances can be in the hundreds or thousands. While shared web hosting is generally a quick, easy and cheap way to get a website up and running since the host does most of the work for you, it is also the worst way to go. This is especially true if you're running a dynamic website which relies on a database such as WordPress and most other publishing platforms these days.

Because the physical hardware and software is shared, every website on the server is less secure compared to a better isolated environment. Many compromises must be made in order to meet everyone's needs and, frankly, companies selling shared hosting often care little about security or performance. Because each website is not properly isolated from the others, any site that uses a lot of resources can negatively impact the performance of all the other sites on the server and this can and does result in downtime for everyone on the server. Shared hosting is basically a one-size-fits-all solution. To make matters worse, shared hosting providers often oversell the space on their servers which also leads to performance issues. Since the mail server is shared, if (more like when) one website starts pumping out spam, thus causing the mail server IP to get blacklisted, everyone's mail sent from that server will be treated as spam. This can be a big problem if your website needs to notify customers about a purchase they made or a response to a comment they left, or if you run an email list.

And then there's the infamous claims shared hosting providers often advertise, such as "unlimited" bandwidth and disk space and databases and email accounts and whatever other hype they spew. This is pure marketing garbage used to attract those that simply don't know any better. Try starting a new YouTube and see how far those "unlimited" claims get you before you're booted off the server.

In the end you have far less control over your website than you would with a virtual private server (VPS) and the problems associated with shared web hosting can lead to slow page load times, poor search engine rankings and endless frustration. Unless you require nothing more than a personal website for casual use and you intend to keep regular backups of your data and you're not overly concerned about security, my advice is to forget about shared hosting.

Enough talk about some of the pitfalls of shared web hosting. Let's talk VPS!

You can think of a Virtual Private Server, or VPS, as a complete server with its own operating system that exists within a host computer, much like a virtual machine. In this way a VPS is similar to shared web hosting in that there is more than one instance running on a single hardware computer, however the differences in performance, security and flexibility are enormous. Each instance of a VPS is far better isolated from one another and you have pretty much full control over every aspect of the server, right down to the operating system, just as if it were a physical machine sitting in your lap.

According to my understanding there are basically two kinds of VPS packages; managed and unmanaged. For those on a budget an unmanaged VPS is usually far less expensive, roughly comparable to a cheap shared hosting package, but the learning curve is very steep unless you already possess the technical prowess. You will start with basically an empty box. There is no web server, no mail server, no database, no PHP, no control panel and, very possibly, not even an operating system installed. Many packages will need to be installed and configured before you have a complete system and you will usually be expected to do everything yourself. You will also be responsible for the security and maintenance of your virtual server. Once all that is sorted out, only then can you focus your attention on creating and managing your website. As you might have guessed, all of this can require a great deal of time and expertise in several areas, including Linux (because you're not going to run a Windows server, right?), web and mail servers, databases, security, SSH, SSL, DNS, etc, etc.. That said, if you have the time and willingness to learn, go for it! I think running a self-managed VPS a great feeling since you have pretty much total control of your server and the expense is minimal.

Unlike an unmanaged VPS, a managed one is where the service provider does all the heavy lifting for you as they would in a shared hosting environment. Pretty much everything you require should be preinstalled, preconfigured and ready to go, leaving you to just make arrangements to have everything transferred if you're moving an existing website and address whatever little problems that may crop up. While a fully managed VPS may sound like a no-brainer compared to shared web hosting or an unmanaged VPS, the cost is likely to put a nice dent in your wallet. Unless you come across a good deal, you can expect to spend roughly $40-80 per month or more for a fully managed VPS and this is simply a no-go for those of us running a blog or selling a few widgets. There are exceptions however.

Pride Tech Design (PTD) offers fully managed VPS packages for a fraction of the cost and the support is very good to boot. Never heard of them? I hadn't either until i stumbled across a mention of PTD on the Let's Encrypt website as one of the companies that fully supports their free SSL certificates, and yes, you need an SSL cert. Along with the other websites listed on Let's Encrypt, i clicked the PTD link and started reading some of the stuff on their website and i liked what they had to say and how they said it, especially the part about shared web hosting. Their spiel just kind of resonated with me, as in an absence of bullshit. My thoughts were mixed however; while Pride Tech seemed like an unusually ethical outfit that genuinely cares about their clients, the very competitive price for a fully managed VPS made it seem a little too good be true, but since they offer a free trial period i decided to roll the dice and i'm glad i did.

Pride Tech is also quite security and performance conscientious (see here for example). My website loads fast and scores very well in GTmetrix tests and i have experienced no unexpected downtime. Without my asking they offered advice to better protect my website in addition to measures i had already taken, plus i'm quite sure they monitor everything more closely than other hosts normally do. In short, Pride Tech has proven to be at least as good as they advertise on their tin.

As far as the package i ordered, i'm pretty happy overall. cPanel is not installed, nor am i paying for it, but Webmin is and, while i find it to be rather convoluted to use, i don't have to use it for anything much since i can just ask Pride Tech to deal with server related issues. And it feels good to have my website better isolated with its own dedicated IP address, database and mail server.

Unlike many other companies, PTD does not strike me as yet another fly-by-night hosting provider that oversells the space on their servers and inflates the perceived value of their business with the goal of selling it to the highest bidder. It is comforting to feel like Pride Tech has my back for the long term.

If shared hosting isn't doing it for you but you're not quite knowledgeable enough to run your own server, or even if you're just starting out, get a hold of these guys. If you sign up for service, tell Simba that "12bytes" sent ya. He'll give us both a little break.

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