What is shared hosting?

If you are seeking a web hosting service for the first time, you are very likely to stumble upon a shared hosting service. Shared hosting is the most basic and inexpensive form of web hosting. Shared hosting allows you to create a fully functional website at a fraction of the cost offered by other types of web hosting. Shared hosting can offer competitive prices (even in Australia) since these services store multiple sites on a single physical machine. If you are working with a tight budget, or are simply new online, shared hosting is the logical first step in your web page experience.

The easiest way to imagine shared hosting is through the apartment complex metaphor. Imagine a large apartment complex with dozens of individual apartments. While every apartment has their own resources (water, electricity, internet, cable), these resources are fed through the overarching supply of the apartment complex. Tenants are responsible for managing their own resources and paying the appropriate fee. However, in the event of a severe problem such as a water main break, tenants are forced to contact the apartment complex to correctly resolve the issue.

These same ideas can be applied to a shared hosting service. Every customer has access to the resources of server space, bandwidth, or even email. These resources are provided and managed by the overarching (Australian) web host. While each customer is responsible for managing their own server space, they are powerless in situations where the entire web host server goes down. It is ultimately the web host’s responsibility to ensure that the server does not completely crash, which would leave their customers without a website.

There are a few reasons why people use shared hosting. The most obvious benefit of shared hosting is the price. Most shared hosting sites with a fee cost under the $100 price point. These services are effective and will leave beginners with little guessing room. There are even shared hosting sites which offer server space for free. These sites are obviously filled with advertisements and limited features, but free is free. If you are not required to pay an absurd amount of money for a web host, you have more funds available for other aspects of your web page.

Another major benefit of shared hosting is that new web developers can use these services as a “test drive” for their new site.

Pros & Cons of Shared Hosting

Pros

Low Price:

Unless you are a seasoned web hosting veteran, you are likely unaware of the extreme costs of web hosting outside of the shared hosting market (keeping in mind that Australian web hosting companies are usually more expensive than US ones). Other forms of hosting can cost hundreds (like Managed WordPress hosting), if not thousands of dollars to have precise control over a given web page (think a VPS or dedicated servers). If you are new to web hosting, or simply working with a limited budget, these other forms of web hosting are not feasible solutions for your web page.

Easy to Use

Since shared hosting services are the first choice of many new web designers, they do not offer features that are overly complex (like one-click installers for WordPress & most other popular CMS’s). While experienced designers would feel limited (and should really be using reseller hosting providers for their clients), new designers can play around with the features and gain a better understanding of how websites work within the server space.

Cons

Quality

There is an old expression which states, “You get what you pay for.” This expression is typically true with shared hosting services. While you may spend little to nothing for server space through a shared host, do not expect this space to be unlimited, or offer you detailed control of your web page. These hosts are meant for those working with limited experience or a limited budget. If you are experienced with web pages and have disposable income, your sites should be set well above the basic features of a shared host.

Privacy

Since a shared host could be serving hundreds of websites through one machine, there is little room for personal site privacy. While this is not an issue for people creating blogs or informational websites, this could be a major financial security issue for websites attempting to engage in e-commerce. If you have a website which requires server privacy, a shared service would not be an appropriate web host.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Is Shared Hosting Unlimited?

Shared hosting is often advertised with the claim that customers will receive unlimited server space. For starters, no server is ever “unlimited,” whether it be a simple shared host, or an expensive private set up. Shared hosting services often advertise the notion of “unlimited space” because they are predicting that individuals will use well below their individual cap on server space and bandwidth. This prediction is often correct, especially since most sites on shared hosting service are small and used for basic functions.

Why is Shared Hosting so cheap?

(Australian) Shared hosting is offered for competitive rates because there are multiple people investing into the same physical server. Any service which offers shared hosting owns a large physical server, which stores every customer site. Server maintenance cost a consistent fee, so shared hosting services should make sure every customer is paying their fair share of the bill. Given the typically small size of web pages on shared hosting services, many companies never utilize their full quota for server space. This means that these companies can constantly offer server space to potential customers to turn a profit. Other companies can tend to do business the dishonest way and oversell space on their server. This practice involves taking on more customers than the server has space for. To accommodate for the lack of space, these companies discreetly delete pages which lack web traffic or have not been accessed in a certain amount of time.

Does a shared host have an impact on my website?

Yes. Given the amount of data which is processed every time you load a website, a server works hard to process content every second. Since shared hosts put multiple websites under one server, the server can only process content requests for each of these websites one at a time. If there is a website on the server which attracts heavy web traffic, it will dramatically slow loading speeds for other websites on the server.