Shared hosting and VPS hosting are different types of web hosting categories. While shared hosting is generally well known, there is often some confusion about VPS hosting. Because of this confusion, it can be challenging to compare shared hosting vs. VPS hosting accurately.
What is Shared Hosting
Shared hosting is the most basic web hosting category available. To create a shared hosting plan, web hosts use software to divide servers into hundreds of individual spaces. Each space is a shared hosting plan, and one customer occupies each.
The critical thing to understand about shared hosting is server resources are for common use. Resources refer to system resources like processing time (CPU), memory (RAM), and to some extent, even storage space (HDD or SSD).
All of this means that resources are served “on demand.” When your website needs them, it attempts to dip into the shared pool. If those resources are in use, your website (and hence, the visitor) needs to wait.
Think of this as organized chaos, where it’s generally first come-first served.
What is VPS Hosting
VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. Like shared hosting, the hosting company splits servers into individual spaces. The critical distinction is that each of these spaces has its own resource set. Technically, VPS users get any time use of their allocated resources, eliminating wait time for website visitors.
The problem with VPS plans is that application licensing becomes somewhat of an issue. Because of that, most standard VPS plans require customers to pay extra fees for some Operating Systems, control panels, or other features.
Server management also becomes more complex. VPS owners will need some familiarity with networking and other technical knowledge. Managed VPS options are available, where the host handles server management, which further drives up the price.
Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting
Understanding the core differences discussed above between shared and VPS hosting is essential to learning how they differ in critical performance areas.
When we talk about speed, the initial reaction for most people is to think about hardware performance. However, this isn’t necessarily true when comparing shared and VPS hosting. For example, a VPS server may be technically slower than a shared hosting server yet still offer better web serving speeds.
There are two main reasons for this. The first is that VPS servers are often less populated, potentially putting less strain on the server. To give you a scope of comparison, web hosts typically pack as many as 250 to 500 users onto a single shared hosting server. On VPS servers, this number can drop to anywhere between 10 to 20 per server.
The second reason is simply due to the way the two plans behave. VPS plans will almost always be able to server web pages more quickly thanks to the constant availability of dedicated system resources.
Many often claim that VPS hosting is more reliable than shared hosting, which is somewhat valid. Because of the isolated environment that VPS users occupy, they aren’t affected by problems affecting other VPS users on the same server. Unless a hardware-level fault exists on the physical server, most VPS accounts are relatively stable.
However, the hardware on most servers is more or less similar in most aspects. In the comparison between shared hosting and VPS hosting, they are both based on the physical hardware of a single server. If there is a problem with any physical component, VPS hosting accounts will also suffer.
Security is one area with the most significant difference between shared and VPS hosting. Hosting your website on a shared hosting plan occupies more or less the same space as hundreds of other people. Comparing that to a crowded bus, one person with the flu may infect the entire crowd.
The virtualized environment of VPS hosting plans protects VPS users from this phenomenon. However, VPS security highly depends on how well the user secures their virtual server. Unless the VPS owner is skilled at this, the potential for security loopholes may be even greater than shared hosting.
Most shared hosting plans offer users limited access to any server-level features. You can manage your account with a control panel and use it to install applications. However, you can’t change much else.
VPS hosting is an entirely different beast. Since VPS owners get what is essentially a blank server, they can do almost anything. That includes having their choice of Operating System, web server application, web hosting control panel, and more.
Pricing is also an often misunderstood aspect when comparing shared hosting vs. VPS hosting. The general theme is that VPS is always more expensive than shared hosting. However, that isn’t entirely accurate.
Shared Hosting Pricing
Prices of web hosting vary significantly between service providers. For example, shared hosting costs between $2/mo to over $13/mo. To illustrate this, here are the prices for shared hosting that some hosts levy:
You may be surprised that some web hosts offer VPS unmanaged plans at much lower prices compared to the upper end of shared hosting.
Managed & Unmanaged VPS Pricing
Consider the unmanaged and managed prices for these web hosts as an example:
As you can see, the most significant factor driving up the cost of VPS hosting is server management. VPS hosting is a far superior choice for those with the technical expertise to handle their own server.
Final Thoughts: Choosing Between Shared and VPS Hosting
The question of “which to choose” when considering shared and VPS hosting has a simple answer:
You should choose the one that meets your needs.
Consider your skills, the potential requirements for your website, and the amount you’re willing to pay for your hosting. Factoring these together will likely give you the answer you want. Some VPS service providers do an excellent job of balancing price and performance and can be a happy middle ground.
However, shared hosting will always trump if you just want ultra-cheap hosting.