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7 Different Types of Web Hosting Explained

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges when setting up a website is deciding what type of web hosting plan you’ll use. There are a lot of options to pick from, and they vary widely in price, so you’ll need to be sure you’re making the right decision.

Choosing the best web hosting plan isn’t just about the cost, though. An e-commerce site will have different needs than a WordPress blog, just to give you one example. Selecting a plan that offers you the right level of resources and features is essential, so you can set up your website for success from the start.

In this article, we’ll explain the different types of web hosting plans you can choose from, discuss their pros and cons, and help you decide between them. Let’s get right to it!

What Is Web Hosting?

Every website you’ve ever visited lives on a server. Most servers are computers, much like the ones you’re used to, only configured from the ground up to display content online and handle web traffic.

When you sign up for web hosting services, you’re essentially renting server space — or in some cases, the whole computer — from a provider. You can use that space and a limited amount of resources to build and maintain a website that anyone can visit.

The concept is very simple on paper. However, hosting plans vary a lot in what they offer and how they work. For example, trying to run your site on a web server with only 512 MB of RAM or an old single-core processor would be as painful as trying to work on a computer with similar specs.

As your website grows, so do its requirements. That’s why when you look for hosting, you can find a broad range of plans that range from the inexpensive to the bespoke.

Various hosting plan options at DreamHost.

Ideally, you’ll want to use a type of plan that fits your specific needs and your budget. Opting for the most expensive hosting plan you can find works, but it’s usually a waste of money unless you have a website that gets massive amounts of traffic every day.

If you’ve never had to sign up for hosting before, the sheer range of web hosting services available can be intimidating. That’s why throughout the next few sections, we’re going to introduce you to each individual type of hosting plan. We’ll talk about which might be the best fit for your site, as well as how much you can expect to spend on hosting solutions.

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7 Different Types of Web Hosting (Plus Their Pros and Cons)

The differences between hosting plans go well beyond costs and hardware. For example, in some instances, you’ll find entire hosting services built around specific platforms such as WordPress. With that in mind, let’s look at the seven most common types of web hosting you’ll run across, so you’re well-equipped to make an informed decision.

1. Shared Hosting

Shared hosting plans are the most common choice for website owners. On this type of plan, a single server is shared among multiple users. That means a single computer (a shared server) will host several (or even hundreds of) websites.

Although you’ll share resources with other users, you don’t have access to their files, private information, or any other data. The upside to shared plans is that they tend to be cheap, since hosting providers can divide server upkeep costs among multiple users.

Shared hosting doesn’t always have the best reputation, but the quality of the service you get will depend largely on your hosting provider. While some shared hosting plans are very limiting, others can handle websites that get decent amounts of traffic.

If you’re on the market for starter web hosting, shared plans are probably your best option. The world of web hosting is so competitive nowadays that it’s not uncommon to find shared plans at below $5 per month.

Two types of shared hosting plans.

Keep in mind that a lot of web hosts hope to lock you into multi-year contracts to get the best rates. That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you’re sure about the web host you’re using, but it can be intimidating if this is your first time signing up for a plan.

Pros of shared hosting:

  • It’s easy to find plans at less than $5 per month.
  • Depending on your service provider, you can get excellent performance on small- to medium-sized sites.

Cons of shared hosting:

  • Shared plans often don’t perform well for websites with heavy traffic.
  • For the best rates, you’ll often have to sign up for a multi-year contract.

Who should use shared hosting: Shared hosting should be your go-to option if this is the first time you’re building a website. With the right provider, you’ll have all the tools you need to get your project going, and plenty of room to scale up over time.

2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) Hosting

Virtual Private Servers (VPSs) are a step above shared plans when it comes to performance and customizability. The way a VPS works is that a single physical server will contain multiple virtually-partitioned sections. Each container, or VPS, acts as a full system devoted just to your site. So you get dedicated resources, and in some cases, access to that server’s configuration.

In practical terms, VPSs provide a higher degree of isolation between users, although you do still share the same physical server. Nevertheless, this can enhance performance and security. Plus, depending on your hosting provider, you might be able to configure your VPS from scratch, so you get precisely the resources you need.

Three types of VPSs.

To give you an idea of what you’re looking for, a single-core VPS with 1 GB of RAM is enough to run a simple WordPress website. However, figuring out the amount of resources you need for each project can be tricky, which might make a VPS a less attractive option if you’re new to web hosting.

With VPSs, you may not get access to a control panel out of the box. That means you might have to use the command line to configure your server and set up a website. Unless you have experience using the command line, that can be a complicated process.

Since VPSs are all across the board when it comes to resources, prices can vary a lot. Just as with shared hosting, it’s not uncommon to find VPSs starting at around $5 per month. However, if you plan on using a VPS, we recommend you budget at least $10-20 per month for hosting.

Pros of VPSs:

  • You get fully dedicated resources for your website.
  • Depending on your host, you might be able to configure your VPS to your specific needs.

Cons of VPSs:

  • Calculating the amount of resources you need can be challenging.
  • Configuring a VPS often requires some technical know-how.

Who should use a VPS: If you want full control over your server without spending hundreds of dollars on a dedicated plan, consider using a VPS. The high level of customizability on offer with these plans also makes them an attractive option.

3. Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is where things get a little trickier. When people talk about the “cloud,” they’re usually referring to distributed VPSs. The way this works is that instead of having a virtual server stored on one computer, it’s hosted on a whole network of them. 

That network of computers is what we call the “cloud.” The advantage of this approach is that with a network, you can easily scale your server’s resources as needed. Plus, with cloud hosting, downtime is rarely an issue, nor is data loss thanks to the system’s built-in redundancy.

This all sounds excellent on paper, but cloud hosting is not always newbie-friendly. For example, a lot of cloud hosting providers charge by the hour. You “spin up” an instance, which is essentially a VPS, configure it to your needs, and start accumulating charges.

Examples of different VPS configurations.

Cloud hosting can be either very cheap or incredibly expensive, depending on your server configuration. It’s the type of setup that a lot of massive internet-based companies, such as Netflix, use to power their operations. However, for a regular website, you probably don’t need anything like Netflix’s setup.

Pros of cloud hosting:

  • It offers a high degree of scalability.
  • You can customize your server as you see fit.

Cons of cloud hosting:

  • The payment structures for cloud hosting can be a bit complicated.
  • It’s not well suited for users who don’t have experience with configuring a server.

Who should consider using cloud hosting: If you like tinkering with your server’s configuration and want a high degree of scalability, cloud hosting is an option worth looking into.

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4. Dedicated Hosting

So far, we’ve only talked about hosting plans where you share servers with other users. Servers are expensive, and if you desire a private server all to yourself, you’ll need to pay a premium for it.

With a dedicated server, you’ll get exclusive access to a single server (or sometimes more than one). That means you’ll have full control over its configuration, and the web hosting provider simply houses it for you.

Dedicated servers are basically the top-of-the-line option when it comes to web hosting. At this level, you can expect to pay at least $100 per month, and prices only go up from there.

Two dedicated hosting plans.

If you’re launching a new website as a hobby, a dedicated server would be overkill. This is the kind of hosting solution that only makes sense for businesses and established websites that need access to powerful hardware.

Pros of dedicated hosting:

  • You get a whole server to yourself.
  • In most situations, you can configure your server to your liking.
  • Uncapped bandwidth for DreamHost users

Cons of dedicated hosting:

  • It’s an expensive option.

Who should consider using dedicated hosting: Dedicated hosting is the go-to choice for websites that require the very best when it comes to performance and have the budget for it. 

5. Managed Hosting

Managed hosting is a little different. It’s not a type of plan, but a kind of service. With managed hosting, your provider takes care of a lot of the day-to-day maintenance tasks that would otherwise fall on your shoulders. Some of those tasks include backups, security monitoring, software updates, and more.

It’s important to understand that managed hosting plans can come in every flavor. There are managed shared plans, managed VPSs, and even managed dedicated servers. In all of these cases, you pay a little extra so you don’t need to worry about the nuts and bolts of hosting, and you get to focus on growing your blog, portfolio or e-commerce website.

An example of managed WordPress hosting services.

What passes for managed hosting varies a lot from one provider to another. Some hosting companies offer around-the-clock support with just about every aspect of running your site. Others will simply take care of maintenance. 

Before you sign up for a managed hosting plan, therefore, it’s essential to check out precisely what “extras” your provider offers. In our experience, managed hosting usually starts around the $15 per month mark, although you will find more expensive plans.

Pros of managed hosting:

  • Your provider will take care of basic maintenance tasks for you.
  • Depending on your web host, they might optimize website performance for you.

Cons of managed hosting:

  • It tends to be more expensive than regular hosting plans.
  • You have less direct control over your server’s configuration and your site’s optimization.

Who should consider using managed hosting: The idea behind managed hosting is that it makes your life easier. If you don’t like taking care of website maintenance tasks and don’t mind paying a little extra for white-glove service, consider using managed hosting.

6. WordPress Hosting

To understand the concept of WordPress hosting, it’s crucial to grasp just how enormously popular this particular Content Management System (CMS) is. As a platform, WordPress powers over 30% of the web. The DreamHost blog itself uses WordPress, as do millions of other sites, ranging from giant businesses to hobbyist blogs.

Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lot of web hosting providers offer plans tailored to WordPress users. Usually, WordPress-specific plans include some level of managed service. They often also come with free licenses for premium plugins, themes, or other tools.

Two WordPress hosting plans.

Keep in mind — you don’t need to use a WordPress-specific plan to set up a website with the platform. However, these types of plans tend to be optimized to provide better performance and make your life much simpler. If you plan on using WordPress, this type of hosting can be a smart pick.

On top of WordPress-specific plans, there are also entire hosting platforms that only work with this CMS. Often, that means they have WordPress experts on staff as a part of their support team, which can be a nice perk. Best of all, WordPress-specific plans are typically priced about the same as their more generic counterparts.

Pros of WordPress hosting:

  • Often comes with some level of managed service.
  • You get access to WordPress-specific perks, such as free plugin licenses and one-click installations.

Cons of WordPress hosting:

  • It’s only of use to WordPress users and limits your ability to use other platforms.

Who should consider using WordPress hosting: You can set up WordPress on any type of web hosting plan you sign up for. However, if you want to use a plan that’s tailored to the CMS from the ground up, WordPress hosting can be an excellent investment.

7. Reseller Hosting

If you run a business that revolves around building websites, such as a development or design agency, you’ll probably have to deal with hosting. A lot of clients don’t quite understand how hosting works and could use help getting everything set up and working.

Reseller hosting offers a solution for those types of situations. In a nutshell, you get access to an account that enables you to provide hosting to your clients. Those clients pay you directly, and you’re responsible for managing their accounts.

If you think that sounds like extra work, you’re 100% correct. However, reseller hosting does offer a lot of benefits if you can pull it off. Most web hosts that offer reseller accounts enable you to charge whatever you wish for hosting. This means that if you run a web development agency, you can transform hosting into a source of recurring revenue.

Taking control of client hosting also enables you to take care of their websites’ maintenance, so you can make sure everything’s working as it should. What reselling hosting is not for are individual projects or regular users. If all you’re looking for is a type of plan that will enable you to set up a website of your own, then you’ll want to consider another option on this list.

Pros of reseller hosting:

  • You can set up hosting accounts for third-party users and charge them directly.
  • You’re in full control of the hosting experience.

Cons of reseller hosting:

  • You’re usually responsible for billing clients, which comes with a lot of responsibility.
  • In most cases, you have to take care of maintenance and support tasks on your own.

Who should consider using reseller hosting: If you run a business that regularly needs to help with web hosting for clients, it can make sense to offer that service in-house. With reseller hosting, you can bill clients directly for hosting and take care of maintenance for them, while having another company provide the infrastructure.

Which Type of Hosting Is Best for My Website?

Making a broad recommendation when it comes to hosting services is a difficult task. It may sound cliche, but every web project has its own unique needs. What we can do, however, is point you in the right direction depending on what you want from your hosting provider:

  • Consider using shared hosting if you’re going to spend the minimum amount of money on getting your website up and running.
  • Try a VPS if you know you require more customizability than what shared hosting can offer or a bit more firepower.
  • Opt for managed hosting if you know you might need some extra help with basic website maintenance.

Once you have some hosting experience under your belt, assessing your needs becomes much more manageable. If you need cloud hosting or a dedicated server for your website, you probably know that better than anyone.

Signing up for your first web hosting plan is an entirely different matter, though. As a rule of thumb, we don’t recommend you opt for a multi-year hosting contract right off the bat. It can be smarter to pay a little extra for month-to-month hosting at first until you’re sure you want to stick with that provider, and you have a better idea of the quality of their service.

Finally, remember that you can always upgrade your hosting plan later on if you need to. Ideally, you’ll graduate from shared hosting in time and move on to a more robust plan that provides you with the additional firepower or features you need to take your website to its full potential.

Hosting Services, Simplified

The best web hosting services will give you plenty of options when it comes to plans and features. That way, you have flexibility when it comes to getting the resources you need for growing your website.

So which web hosting options are best for you? If this is your first time building a website, shared hosting is usually a safe bet, and you can only move upwards from there. On the other hand, if you’re a more experienced user and need full control over your configuration, a VPS can be a more fitting option.

Are you ready to get to work on your first website? Our shared hosting plans are very affordable and offer all the features you need to build the website you’ve been dreaming of!

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