Building a website is just the start. To get your business online, you’ll need to make that website accessible to your customers. Web hosting allows you to do that.

In this guide to the different types of web hosting, we’ll start with a very simple question – what is website hosting? Then we’ll look at five types of web hosting – shared hosting, dedicated servers, virtual private servers, cloud servers, and managed WordPress hosting. We’ll also explain which hosting option is best for different websites.

What is Website Hosting

To understand what website hosting is, you first need to understand what a website is. Files make up every website. Those files contain the website’s content. They also contain instructions about the layout of the website, written in a language that web browsers can understand. So, when you ‘visit a website’ what you’re really doing is opening a set of files in your web browser.

Powerful computers store those files – known as servers. These servers have a connection to the internet. This makes it easy for people all over the world to access the files they contain. When a server holds a website’s files, we say that the server is ‘hosting’ that website. Simple!

Now you understand what website hosting is, let’s look at five different types of hosting…

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is the most popular form of hosting. Shared hosting just involves storing lots of websites together on one server. This makes it a very affordable option. Most web hosting companies offer shared hosting as their standard option.

Shared hosting is usually the best option for small-to-medium-sized websites. If you’re a local service provider, small-business owner, or just starting out online, then a shared hosting plan will almost certainly meet all your needs. Paying more for an advanced hosting plan probably won’t provide any benefits. If you’re concerned about the costs of hosting a website, then this is probably the right choice for you.

Although this is the best option for most websites, it isn’t suitable for everyone. Some website owners want extra control over their server and resources. That’s where alternative options like dedicated hosting, virtual private servers and cloud hosting come in.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting provides you with a server all of your own. This means that you don’t have to share the server’s resources and computing power. This can have performance benefits – like making your website load slightly faster. The downside is that you’ll need to pay a lot more for dedicated hosting.

The other reason to buy a dedicated hosting plan is control. When you use shared hosting, you have control over your own website, but the server itself doesn’t belong to you. It’s a little like renting a room in a house someone else owns.

If you choose a dedicated server, you’re essentially renting the whole house. You can log in and change the set-up of that server. Of course, making these changes is complex, and the vast majority of website owners don’t need (or want) this level of control. Added to that, the performance benefits are only significant for the most advanced websites.

Virtual Private Servers

Dedicated hosting is very expensive, and really only suitable for business owners who need the ultimate control and power for their large, popular and complex websites. A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a little cheaper – while still offering some of the same benefits.

Separating physical servers and sharing them between virtual servers is how to create virtual private servers. Each of these acts just like a single physical server – even though they’re really just part of a larger computer. These virtual private servers are then rented out to website owners who choose VPS hosting plans.

As with dedicated servers, virtual private servers can be complex to manage. Both options are best suited to experts in system administration who need extra control over their server environment.

Cloud Servers 

Cloud servers offer a flexible alternative to shared servers. Instead of storing your website on one server, cloud hosting uses lots of servers to deliver an ultra-flexible experience. These cloud servers form a network and share the work of storing websites and transferring data to visitors.

Many cloud hosting plans come with a flat monthly fee – but also have the option to scale-up your resources, as needed. This is especially useful for websites that see huge spikes in visitor numbers. Overall, you can expect to pay a little more for cloud hosting than shared hosting.

Managed WordPress

Is your website a WordPress website? If so, then you’re in good company! WordPress is a powerful Content Management System (CMS) that’s used by millions of people to build and maintain high-performing websites. There are plenty of content management systems around, but WordPress is the most popular.

One of the downsides of WordPress is the maintenance involved in keeping it secure and reliable. Managed WordPress hosting takes care of that for you. Optimised servers for WordPress host your website. That could result in better performance and faster speeds for your visitors.

Managed WordPress hosting is normally a form of shared hosting, so it meets all the needs of most businesses, while also being very affordable.