There are a lot of terms to learn when you are first starting out building your website. Which option of hosting services to choose can be a bit of a daunting task. Here are the different hosting options in laymen’s terms to give you a better understanding of what each type of hosting means.
The Main 5 Hosting Options
Free websites are offered by companies such as Wix or Blogspot (Blogger) and will give you a “subdomain” under their domain, but it’s not really your own site (you can’t choose a unique domain name, etc.) These are for people who want to just create something for themselves (like a travel journal) and don’t actually intend to use this for a business. You will pay nothing and the slow loading speeds and ads that you have to endure speak to this. This might be compared to staying at a friend’s house where you have to deal with sleeping on an uncomfortable couch with a strange dog. You get what you get.
This is the cheapest (paid) version of hosting and is basically like living in an apartment. You share everything with the building you are in (electricity, parking, etc.) but in the online world this is you sharing your storage/bandwidth/availability with others. This works great unless something happens to the “apartment complex” you are in, and then all the units are out of power, including yours – hypothetically.
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. This is pricier than shared hosting and comparable to a townhouse. You still have the HOA (hosting company) dictating restrictions, but you have your own little piped off area that you can call your “own”. Your bandwidth and everything else is kept separate by what is basically a virtual fence.
Typically very expensive, this is like having a house with no HOA. You own your space and don’t share it with anyone. You can do whatever you want and you will pay a lot for all of it. Companies that use dedicated hosting usually need a lot of storage/bandwidth/speed for supporting an already existing business with high traffic and a lot of customers. Or, if you have requirements for larger than normal applications such as intense Business Intelligence data collection or software creation you might opt for this choice.
Dedicated Bare-Metal – This is a sub-category of Dedicated servers, but means that you have your own physical box in a data center somewhere. Bare-Metal servers (considered at one time an antiquated notion) seem to be making a comeback lately. This makes me laugh because it reminds me of a Silicon Valley episode. All of the efforts towards modern “virtual” technology and we’ve gone full circle back to the idea that dedicated, physical hardware can sometimes be more reliable than the issues that come from the proposed heavenly, dream-like “cloud” solutions.
Cloud servers don’t actually live in the air, the servers providing your resources have a physical presence somewhere. The idea with cloud hosting is that the content is more easily scaled and is configured for on-demand power/storage/content delivery. Cloud solutions use virtualization, meaning they pull what they need from a network of available computing resources. This is a desirable option as it can lower prices with the pay-for-what-you-use model and also delivers a fast and reliable upscaling/autoscaling options on-demand. However, your average sole proprietor business probably doesn’t need anything this sophisticated and the costs will be more than Shared Hosting. You might think of this like staying at a hotel that has adjoining room doors, so if you had friends coming with you, you have the option of upgrading your stay to include them as well. A lot of huge companies like NetFlix use cloud hosting services (for part of their architecture at least).
This just means you have purchased the ability to sell shared hosting packages. While you might also use one of your accounts for your own website, the intent is to allow the reseller to offer hosting as a service. Typically, this is for companies or business owners who create websites for others and want to offer the convenience of including the hosting package in the list of services they offer – most likely with a surcharge for the setup/support and allows you to package your website creation price in one bundle. Be aware that you will most likely have to do your own technical support and troubleshooting for any sites you resell to – at a minimum check with the host you are reselling to see what support they will provide with this service.
The prices for all of these fluctuate greatly depending on the host and what they offer or what sales/promotions are happening at the time.
Most companies and individuals building a website start with Shared Hosting plans because they are affordable and actually capable of handling quite a bit of traffic these days. You will know it if your company has grown big enough to move to a VPS long before the need arises. You will most likely not need anything more powerful than Shared hosting until you reach 200,000 visitors a month or so, which is no easy feat.
Start small but choose a host that is reliable and capable of upgrading you to a better plan for when the day comes that you need it. If you’re ready to take the plunge and do some comparison shopping on different hosts, see our recommended hosting solutions here.