Why shared web hosting sucks

Pride Tech Design logo, cropped

For those unaware, shared web hosting is when the service provider loads a bunch of websites on a single hardware server, each one sharing the same IP address and physical resources of the server, including its CPU and memory. The total number can be in the hundreds or thousands and database and email resources are usually shared as well. 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, database server and mail server are all shared, every website on the server is less secure compared to a virtual private server environment. In order to meet everyone’s needs in this environment, many compromises must be made and, frankly, companies selling shared hosting often don’t give much thought to security or performance. Because the websites are not properly isolated from each other, one website using a lot of resources can negatively impact the performance of all the other sites on the server which can and does result in downtime for everyone on the server. To make matters worse, shared hosting providers often oversell the space on their servers. Since the mail server is shared, if (more like when) one website starts pumping out spam causing the mail server IP to get blacklisted, everyone’s mail 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 make, 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.

In the end you have far less control over your website than you would in a virtual private server environment 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, don’t bother with 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 server, 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, but unless you possess the technical prowess, the learning curve is steep. 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 be expected to do everything yourself. You will also be responsible for the security of your virtual server and you will need to be able to fix anything that breaks. 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.. Like i said, the learning curve is steep if you’re just starting out. That said, if you have the time and knowledge, or are not in a hurry and willing 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, roughly comparable to that of a decent shared web hosting package.

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, the cost isn’t. Unless you come across a deal, you can expect to spend roughly $40-80 per month or more for a fully managed virtual private server 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 along with excellent support. 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. Along with the other websites listed on Let’s Encrypt, i clicked the PTD link and started reading stuff on their website and i liked what they had to say and how they said it, especially the part about shared web hosting. What they say and advertise just kind of rang true to 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 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). The website loads fast and scores well in GTmetrix tests and i have experienced very little 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 would. In short, Pride Tech has proven to me to be at least as good as they advertise on their tin.

As far as website performance and the package i ordered, i’m very happy overall. cPanel is not installed, nor am i paying for it, but Webmin and Usermin are and, while i find the former to be rather convoluted to use, i don’t have to use it for anything much if i don’t want to since i can just ask Pride Tech to deal with whatever i need.

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 builds up the perceived value of their business with the goal of later selling it to the highest bidder. It is comforting to feel like Pride Tech has my back for the long term. And it feels good to have my website better isolated with its own IP address, its own database and its own mail server.

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. Visit the Pride Tech Design website and spend some time reading what they have to say. If you sign up for service, tell Simba that “12bytes” says hi! He’ll give us both a little break.

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