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What is Shared Hosting? Definition & Guide

September 26, 2022

If you’re looking to set up your first website, one of the first things you’ll need to do is find a web hosting provider. But if you have little knowledge and experience in websites, you might find it challenging to figure out the hosting that suits your business needs and budget.

As a small business owner running a small-scale operation with minimum budget requirements, a shared hosting plan can be a great way to bring and grow your brand and business online at a low cost.

However, every business is different. Does shared hosting have enough resources and tools to accommodate your small business? Or is choosing a higher plan worth the extra cost?

Read this guide to understand how shared hosting works, how it’s different from other hosting plans, and other vital considerations to help you make an informed choice.

Here’s what we’ll cover:

What Is Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting is a web hosting service model where a single web server rents space to multiple websites.

Although shared hosting offers the least flexibility, security, and performance compared to other hosting plans, it's a cost-effective option for small websites requiring little resources.

Renting a shared server is like taking the bus. You get your own seat (server space) and share specific resources (RAM, CPU, and bandwidth) with other passengers.

You may experience a few stops along the way, causing possible delays, but you still get to reach your destination while paying less and enjoying a convenient mode of travel.

How Shared Hosting Works

In this service model, many users share resources on a single web server — which keeps the costs low. Each user gets an allocated section of the server to store and host their website files.

This type of web hosting can host hundreds of users, with each user getting access to features such as monthly traffic, disk space, email accounts, databases, FTP accounts, and additional features offered by their host.

With shared hosting, the host (or service provider) is responsible for maintaining the server and its security, which means less work for users.

Advantages of Shared Hosting

Here are five advantages that make shared hosting the go-to option for small website owners:

Cost-Effective

When you share a server with other users, you pay for a small portion of the entire server cost. That is why shared hosting costs less.

Most shared hosting plans cost between $2.51 to $4.63 per month.

Easy To Manage

If you don’t know how to host, secure, and maintain a website, you don’t have to worry because the shared hosting provider does all that. Once you sign up for a shared hosting plan, the web host will handle server maintenance and provide basic security services.

Scalable

While shared hosting plans have limited resources, many providers offer an option to scale up when needed.

Once your website has reached a point where it needs more server space and traffic, you can always upgrade your shared hosting plan to a plan that can support your growth.

User-Friendly

Managing web hosting can be difficult if you’re starting out. With a shared hosting plan, you get a dashboard with an intuitive interface to make it easy for you to manage and make changes to your website.

Supports Multiple Domain Hosting

If you want to save time and money managing multiple websites, many shared hosting providers offer packages that let you manage multiple domains in a single account.

By using multiple domain hosting, you can manage all your websites via a single interface instead of using a separate dashboards for each one.

Control panel showing how Nexcess supports multiple domain hosting.

Disadvantages of Shared Hosting

Shared hosting also has two primary disadvantages.

Slow on Busy Days

Shared hosting providers restrict server resources to avoid single-site overuse. If your site (or someone else’s site) suddenly starts getting more traffic than usual, it can crash or slow down.

That’s bad news if your site experiences an influx of traffic — such as on Black Friday or if your site suddenly goes viral.

Vulnerable in Terms of Security

In a shared hosting environment, all users are in the same boat. If someone hacks a single website on a server, that potentially threatens other websites that share it too.

That means you can still be at risk even if you don’t do anything that compromises the security of your website. Shared hosting companies try to prevent security breaches by isolating websites, but it doesn’t work 100% of the time.

How Does Shared Web Hosting Differ From Other Hosting Types?

Answering the question “what is shared hosting?” isn’t helpful if you don’t compare it with other web hosting packages. Here are other types of hosting plans and how they differ from shared hosting.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is similar to shared hosting, except that it uses virtual machines instead of a physical server.

Cloud hosting comes with many benefits over shared hosting. For example, it provides unlimited storage space, which means you won't run out of disk space while your site is growing in popularity over time.

You can host multiple websites on one cloud server. However, you'll need to pay extra if you want more than one domain name on the same server.

Enterprise Hosting

Enterprise hosting is a more advanced web hosting level, requiring a greater degree of technical expertise and more complex configuration than regular shared hosting.

Businesses use enterprise web hosting for their customized applications and websites that require higher reliability, security, and performance levels.

Enterprise hosting also offers access to more advanced features like dedicated servers, virtual servers, and managed servers, making it easier for businesses to manage their online presence.

Managed Hosting

If shared hosting is a setup where you share resources with other users on the same server, managed hosting is when you’re the only one using the server.

Shared hosting costs less, but upgrading to managed hosting makes sense if you need more server resources and want the hosting company to take care of your website's specific requirements.

Dedicated Hosting

With dedicated hosting, you’re also the only one using the server. However, you get complete control of the server and its resources. Without other users competing for server resources, you get optimum website performance.

Dedicated hosting may be less expensive than managed hosting, but the responsibility of maintaining the server and its security falls on you.

VPS Hosting

VPS hosting is similar to dedicated hosting, but it's cheaper because it doesn't have a dedicated server. Instead, you're sharing resources with other websites on the same server. For example, if you have three websites on one VPS server, each website will get its own CPU and RAM.

Who Should Use Shared Hosting?

If you’re a beginner who owns a small website that requires minimal traffic (a maximum of 3,000 visitors per day), you’re better off with shared hosting.

That goes for most startups and SMBs, where cost-effective solutions are crucial to bringing their brand and products online in a way that supports growth.

When you’re just jump-starting your online journey, your website is not yet at a stage where it needs a lot of traffic and bandwidth. In that case, you don’t want to invest a lot of money yet into building and maintaining your small website — cheap hosting has hidden costs, so be careful.

Shared hosting is also the right choice if you want more time to focus on your business and customers. You don’t have to get tied up doing server maintenance and monitoring because the web host will do everything for you.

Things to Consider When Choosing a Shared Hosting Provider

Now that you know what shared hosting is and when it’s best to choose it, you may be considering hosting your website with a shared hosting plan.

If that’s the case, here are seven things you need to consider to ensure you choose a reliable hosting provider:

1. Uptime

Your website’s availability or uptime is essential for two reasons. First, your website needs to be available to visitors. And second, search engines penalize websites with sizable downtime. A good web hosting provider will have a minimum uptime of 99.9%.

2. Traffic and Disk Space

When you want to start a website, you need a certain amount of disk space for things like databases, media, and code files.

You also want to allow visitors to access the data, which is where bandwidth comes in. Picture it as a tunnel — the wider it is, the more information can go through. Plenty of hosts offer unlimited bandwidth, but they limit traffic speed.

Pay attention to bandwidth traffic speed when searching for a shared hosting solution since it can affect your overall website performance.

3. Security

Security is a top priority for any website owner. Your web hosting provider should offer features like DDoS protection, an SSL certificate, and site backups to keep your site secure and protect your visitors’ information.

4. User-Friendliness

Most shared hosting providers include an easy-to-use dashboard that makes managing your website a breeze. Be sure to check out what the provider offers before signing up for their service.

5. Flexibility

As your website grows, you’ll need to upgrade your hosting plan to accommodate spikes in traffic. Look for a web hosting provider that offers multiple service tiers so you can easily upgrade when necessary.

6. Customer Support

If you encounter any issues with your website or have questions about using your hosting account, it’s important to have 24/7 customer support available so someone can help you as soon as possible.

Customer service personnel taking calls from users who need shared hosting support.

7. One-Click Installation of Popular Applications

Another great feature to look for is the ability to install popular applications with just a few clicks easily — this can save you a lot of time and hassle down the line.

These are the seven most important qualities of a web hosting provider. When you keep these factors in mind, you’ll be able to narrow down your options and choose the best provider for your needs. It also never hurts to ask the hosting provider if something's unclear.

Final Thoughts: What Shared Hosting Is and How To Tell if It’s Right for You

Choosing a hosting package can be difficult when you’re faced with many options.

But knowing the features to look for helps you make an informed decision. And while shared hosting has its limitations, it helps to know what key considerations you need to mull over before you choose the best hosting provider that fits your business needs.

When it comes to choosing a low-cost alternative, shared hosting is a good choice. However, if you need to take further steps as your website grows, you need a more robust hosting solution.

Check out the following Nexcess hosting solutions:

This blog was originally published in August 2021. It has since been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Maddy Osman
Maddy Osman

Maddy Osman is a WordPress expert and WordCamp US speaker. She is a WordCamp Denver organizer and also operates The Blogsmith, an SEO content agency for B2B tech companies that works with clients like HubSpot, Automattic, and Sprout Social. Learn more about The Blogsmith's process and get in touch to talk content strategy: www.TheBlogsmith.com