What is Shared Hosting?

When you sign up to a shared hosting plan, your website will be hosted on a single web server with many other sites. You essentially share the software, hardware and capacity of the server with other users. This includes sharing things like bandwidth, CPU, disk space and RAM.

Shared Hosting Pro’s – Advantages

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Choosing a shared host is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, there are several advantages to choosing this type of web hosting.

Cost – This is the biggest benefit. Service providers can afford to charge very low prices when they get clients to share servers. A single server can potentially hold thousands of sites. Expect to pay as little as $3 USD (about £3 GBP) per month.

Ease of Use – Shared hosting is effectively a managed service. After signing up, you can expect to manage your account and many aspects of your website via a user-friendly control panel.

No Technical Knowledge Required – You have no responsibility for technical issues when compared to a VPS or dedicated hosting plan. Hardware upkeep and software management is taken care of by the service provider.

Main Disadvantages

Variable Performance – If you think about it. A server can only cope with a limited load at any moment in time. Too many users and processes being run at the same time will slow it down.

In extreme cases, a server will be unable cope. It will stop responding and, your visitors may not be able to reach your website at all if that happens.

Lack of Flexibility – Web hosts have to take steps to minimize potential security risks. As a result, you may find that server features and software features may be limited in a shared environment.

No access to the command line via SSH and, limited or no configuration options for server software and scripting languages (such as Apache and PHP) may seem overly restrictive. However, these are sensible precautions that a shared host should consider given the potentially devastating consequences.

More Security Risks – Your website, files and data are simply more vulnerable in a shared environment. Especially if other users are able to run server-side scripts and write .htaccess and .ini files.

This does not mean that this type of plan should always be ruled out. However, it is critical that you think about the potential consequences of any type of breach. If you plan to store sensitive user data such as passwords, addresses and credit card information you should be doubly cautious.

It is not that all other users are malicious. They may let attackers in inadvertently. By using weak FTP passwords, easy to guess database credentials and poorly written scripts they have downloaded and installed in their web space to run their own sites.

Choose Cheap Shared Hosting Providers with Care

The disadvantages listed above are drastic but, using a shared host is still a suitable choice for many website projects. Especially those that do not contain sensitive user or company data.

If you think this is the right choice for you then the best advice is to choose a well-known host. Good companies monitor usage and activity carefully. If users are consuming more than their fair share of resources, their accounts tends to be suspended pretty quickly.

All good hosts (such as NameCheap and GoDaddy) have a terms of use policy that prohibits activities that are known to have a bad effect on server performance. In the event that users breach those terms, they can expect swift action such as a terminated account.

This means you can rest relatively assured that you can expect acceptable server performance from a good host. My last word of advice, would be to make sure you make regular backups of your site – just in case!

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