Home Lifestyle What Is Shared Hosting and How Does it work?

What Is Shared Hosting and How Does it work?

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Shared hosting is entry-level web hosting that stores multiple websites on a single server to make web hosting affordable for the average person expecting fewer than 400,000 views a month on their website.

Let’s look at how shared hosting works and what you need to consider before purchasing a specific hosting plan.

What is shared hosting?

A website must be placed on a specialized computer called a web server to be published online. The service that provides server space to websites is called web hosting.

Shared hosting is a type of web hosting that hosts many websites on one server. Each site gets a section of the server and a percentage of its resources. Shared resources include disk space, random access memory or RAM, and the central processing unit or CPU.

Websites on a shared hosting server split the costs of maintaining the server. Dividing this cost between numerous websites means shared hosting plans can be provided to individual site owners at lower prices when compared with other kinds of web hosting. For instance, shared hosting plans usually cost $2 to $5 per month to start, whereas a dedicated server sets you back $80 or more per month.

The shared hosting server is maintained by your web hosting company. This ensures optimal performance for all sites on the server and removes the need for individual site owners to perform complicated server configuration and maintenance.

WordPress hosting is a type of shared hosting

WordPress logo on a cellphone WordPress logo on a cellphone

Pavlo Gonchar via Getty Images

WordPress hosting is optimized for websites using the content management system WordPress. This open-source software is used to create, publish and organize website content like web pages and blog posts. Most WordPress hosting plans use shared hosting.

All WordPress hosting plans come with this software pre-installed on your web server. Many plans also offer automated updates to the core WordPress software. They may also offer additional benefits, such as:

  • Specialized caching tools to improve WordPress loading times
  • Custom site templates, referred to by WordPress as themes
  • Site extensions, called plugins, for enhanced functionality
  • Customer service teams with specialized WordPress experts

Some web hosts provide WordPress hosting for the same price as regular shared hosting. Others charge more for it, typically $1 to $5 extra each month, to pay for the additional level of software maintenance.

Hosting companies may also offer managed WordPress hosting through a virtual private server for sites needing more web server resources.

A note about WordPress.com: WordPress.com is a for-profit hosting company that uses the free WordPress.org software. This is technically WordPress hosting, but I rarely recommend it because the plans are expensive, especially if you want e-commerce functionality.

Who should use shared hosting?

I recommend shared hosting for anyone creating a for-fun hobby site, blog or small business website. The simplicity and affordability make it a great choice if you don’t expect massive amounts of traffic to your website.

If you expect to have more than 400,000 monthly visitors, consider other types of web hosting as alternatives. Similarly, if you plan to host numerous large files such as videos, you may want to choose a different type of hosting with more storage space.

Another instance where you may want to consider other web hosting options is if you need to store highly sensitive data. While the security risks of shared hosting are low, they are higher than the risks associated with other types of hosting. This could lead to your data being compromised.

Advantages of shared hosting 

Affordability

Shared hosting often starts at $2 to $5 a month, billed annually. These plans often rise to $10 to $20 a month upon renewal, which is still considerably less than the typical $30-plus a month of the next level of web hosting, VPS hosting.

Accessibility

Shared hosting plans provide the tools you need to start building your website right away. Most use cPanel, an intuitive dashboard that provides one-click setup options for popular CMS tools like WordPress and Joomla, easy access to email settings and other essential tools for website management.

Your hosting company will maintain the web server by performing hardware maintenance, software configuration and updates. Server maintenance requires significant technical expertise, so letting the hosting company handle it makes website ownership much easier.

Some shared hosting companies further streamline your website operations by providing plans with WordPress pre-installed, caching and automated backups.

Capacity for growth

Shared web hosting providers usually offer multiple plans at different prices for scalability Shared web hosting providers usually offer multiple plans at different prices for scalability

Screenshot/CNET

Most web hosting services provide multiple shared hosting plans for sites of different sizes and traffic levels. For example, SiteGround offers plans rated for sites with 10,000, 100,000 or 400,000 visitors a month.

When your site outgrows one plan, you can easily upgrade to the next one.

Disadvantages of shared hosting 

Lack of server customization options

Web hosting companies configure shared servers to their own specifications. They maintain full control of this configuration to optimize the servers’ performance and security for as many sites as possible.

If you want to make changes to your server, such as installing a different operating system, you’ll want VPS — virtual private server — hosting or another option that lets you configure your server. For example, if you want to run your server on Windows to make it compatible with Windows programs, you might choose VPS hosting, as most shared hosting plans use Linux.

Potential performance issues

Shared hosting servers split a limited amount of bandwidth and other resources between dozens, hundreds or even thousands of sites. If one or more of those sites experiences a traffic spike, they can hog resources like RAM, CPU power and bandwidth, slowing other sites down.

Downtime — time when your site won’t function — and crashes can happen if a website on the server experiences a sudden surge in traffic. Web hosting companies go to great lengths to prevent these issues, but they can still occur.

Possible security issues

If one site on a shared server is compromised, the entire server can be at risk. This can lead to your data being leaked or damaged. Your site may even go down in the case of a severe security breach.

Websites on shared servers are partitioned off from each other, and the best web hosts take security precautions, like installing firewalls, to prevent these issues. This minimizes the risk but doesn’t eliminate it completely.

Potential blacklisting

Your website will share an IP address with all of the other websites on its server. If one site breaks the terms of service for Google or another search engine, the IP address may be blacklisted, leading to your site being blacklisted as well.

Similarly, if websites on your shared server are sending large numbers of spam emails, the IP might be put on email blacklists. This can result in your marketing emails being directed to spam folders or not being sent at all.

Limited capacity for growth

For most websites, shared hosting provides more than enough room to grow. However, if your website experiences exponential growth, you’ll eventually need to switch to a form of web hosting like VPS hosting or dedicated server hosting capable of handling larger web traffic loads.

Factors to consider when choosing a shared hosting provider

Some of the things to consider when choosing a shared hosting company and plan include:

  • Uptime: The best web hosting services guarantee 99.99% uptime, meaning your site will experience less than 45 minutes of downtime per month.
  • Secure sockets layer certification: The SSL protocol encrypts your website data and all data sent through your website by users for enhanced security. This is the minimum security requirement for high-quality web hosting.
  • Site scanning/malware scanning: This scans your site regularly for malware and other security issues, ensuring its continued safety.
  • 24/7 customer service: You should be able to access customer service at any time of day or night. Most companies provide live chat, email and/or phone customer service. You can even contact many web hosts via social media.
  • Pricing: Most web hosting companies offer steep discounts for your first term and require you to pay for at least one year to receive a discount. Be sure to think about future price hikes and introductory promotional rate periods when calculating your overall costs.

Other features you may want to look for include email hosting for creating custom email addresses at your domain and automated website backups so you don’t lose your data if something goes wrong with your site.

Our shared hosting recommendations

Here are three of CNET’s top recommendations for web hosting. You can find more detailed information about these and other web hosting companies in our guide to the best web hosting companies.

A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting logo A2 Hosting logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

A2 Hosting provides four shared hosting plans. All of these plans include at least 100GB of storage, unlimited data transfer, SSL certification, a high-quality firewall and 24/7 security monitoring. A2 Hosting customers also get access to 24/7 customer support via phone, live chat and email.

A2 Hosting’s most affordable shared hosting plan starts at $3 a month and goes up to $13 a month upon renewal. These prices are based on annual billing, so you’ll need to be prepared to pay for 12 months upfront to receive these rates.

Ionos

1&1 Ionos web hosting logo 1&1 Ionos web hosting logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

Ionos also offers four shared hosting plans. Every plan includes at least 10GB of storage, a free domain for one year, email hosting, SSL certification, daily backups and site scan. Ionos customers can access 24/7 customer support via phone or live chat. 

The most affordable Ionos shared hosting plan starts at $4 per month and renews at $6 per month. However, you can access the introductory deal only by signing up for a three-year term.

InMotion Hosting

inmotion-hostingbest-web-hosting-2022-011 inmotion-hostingbest-web-hosting-2022-011

InMotion Hosting has a variety of shared hosting plans available, including WordPress-optimized plans. All plans include at least 100GB of storage, email hosting for 10 or more accounts, SSL certification and hacking/malware protection. InMotion Hosting offers 24/7 support via phone, live chat and a ticketing system.

Its most affordable shared hosting plan starts at $2.29 a month and renews at $9 a month. The corresponding WordPress hosting plan starts at $3.49 a month and renews at $11 a month. However, you’ll need to sign up for a three-year term to get these low prices.

Shared web hosting is a budget-friendly solution, but may not be right for more demanding sites 

Shared hosting is an affordable, accessible type of web hosting ideal for hobby sites, blogs and small business websites. If you plan to use WordPress for managing your content, you can get even more out of shared hosting by choosing a specialized WordPress hosting plan.

However, shared hosting isn’t perfect. There are small but noteworthy risks in performance and security, as well as strict limitations on server customization. 

You may want to choose another type of web hosting if:

  • You expect large amounts of traffic.
  • Your website will store video or other large data files.
  • Your website will store highly sensitive data and you want to maximize its security.
  • You want to customize things like the operating system used to host your website.

Check out our guide to what web hosting is to learn more about how to choose the best hosting type for your site.

Shared web hosting is a great option for hobby sites, blogs and small business websites expecting relatively low traffic levels. For example, the highest-tier SiteGround shared hosting plan accommodates 400,000 monthly visitors. If you’re expecting more traffic than that, you’ll want to consider another type of web hosting.

Hosting is the act of putting a website on a web server. Shared hosting is a specific type of hosting that involves placing numerous websites on a single server.

Self-hosting involves building and running your own web server. Shared hosting is when you rent space on a shared server built and maintained by a web hosting company.

You should use shared hosting if you’re starting a portfolio website, blog or small business website expecting fewer than 400,000 visitors per month.





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