Shared hosting is just that- you share a server with a whole number of other businesses, sharing the same resources, like memory and CPU. It tends to be a cheap option, because hosting companies often cram as many websites onto each server as they can get away with – thousands even. So, if you’ve seen ads for £5 hosting, or even less, this is what you’re getting.
While tiny hosting bills might sound great, they do come with downsides. If any of the total strangers sharing your server start to dominate its resources, that can slow your websites down massively. And if any of them have a security breach that gets them blacklisted, your websites could be too – dramatically compromising search rankings for you and your clients.
Basically, when you share hosting, you’re not in complete control – and you’re easily impacted by other people’s mistakes. You’re also less able to tailor what you’re getting, so if you need a certain piece of software to make your website work, your hosting provider might not be able to help.
Cloud hosting is one of those vague terms that we’ve all heard, but most people can’t quite pin down. At Nimbus, when we talk about cloud hosting, what we actually mean is cloud VPS hosting, with the VPS bit standing for virtual private server. Yes, it’s a bit of a mouthful, and that’s why we tend to just call it cloud hosting. No actual clouds involved.
Like with shared hosting, you’re using a server. But this time, it’s split into several virtual private servers, each with a dedicated amount of resource, unable to impact, or be affected by, anyone else on the wider server. So whatever they get up to, your resource and search rankings are protected – giving you extra peace of mind.
It tends to be a little more expensive than shared hosting, but a whole lot less than dedicated hosting (which we’re coming to next). For creative agencies, it strikes a great balance between manageable overheads and the kind of security and reliability you can build your business and reputation on. We’d always recommend it over the shared route.
A quick word of warning though – there’s cloud hosting and there’s cloud hosting. If someone’s offering you unlimited disk space, steer clear. In reality the server space absolutely will be limited, they’re just counting on other clients not using their full capacity.
That’s a real gamble. And that’s where those three little letters come in – VPS. They guarantee you separate, private space other people can’t impact, so don’t settle for anything less.
Dedicated hosting is kind of like the Rolls-Royce of the hosting world. You get your own completely private, physical server, shared with nobody at all. It dramatically reduces risk, giving you complete control and tonnes of resource.
A dedicated server isn’t cheap, but if the websites you build handle loads of traffic or expect rapid growth, it could be a wise investment. You’ll get a massive amount of power, the capacity to handle any amount of multimedia traffic and better performance than any other kind of hosting.
While it’s possible to have a dedicated server on your own premises, it comes with a whopping great price tag and you’re 100% responsible for its upkeep. That brand-new bells-and-whistles server might be top of the range today, but this time next year? Not so much.
So, getting a dedicated server from an experienced hosting provider is a more affordable option for most agencies. You still get your own server, but it’s based at their data centre and if anything goes wrong or needs fixing, they’ll foot the bill, notyou. Before you commit, ask what kind of server hardware they’re using – look for a reputable manufacturer like HP. Our tech team won’t settle for anything less.
One more benefit of a dedicated server? You can add a virtualisation layer and split it into several virtual servers, helping you manage your agency’s clients and websites really flexibly. Unlike with cloud VPS hosting, where you’ll usually have to pick from a range of packages with fixed amounts of RAM or disk space, having a dedicated server means you can custom-build your virtual servers so each one gives you the exact spec you need.
Here at Nimbus, we have a variety of dedicated server solutions, with the option of adding a platform like STORM to make managing them easier. Each one comes with expandable hardware and all the support you need to create your very own virtual servers or clouds.
A quick analogy (buckle up)
There’s a handy analogy we like to use for the different types of hosting. It involves an imaginary long-haul flight, a crying baby and a choice of tickets. Ready?
Let’s picture shared hosting as the economy class ticket. Not much room. Minimal baggage allowance. Lots of noise from your neighbours, and a crying baby giving everyone nearby a cracking headache. It might not be the baby’s fault, but that doesn’t make it any more fun.
Now let’s think of cloud hosting as the first-class ticket. You get your own closed-off area that can’t be encroached on by anyone else. You get more room, more baggage allowance, more attention from the crew and a load more peace of mind. Comfy, right?
Finally, let’s think of dedicated hosting as a ticket on a whole different plane. A private jet, completely sealed off from the rest of the world. You can do what you like, with loads of space and freedom. Pretty luxurious. But probably not in everyone’s reach.
Weighing things up.
For a lot of agencies, the dedicated route is just a non-starter. And for the reasons we’ve just looked at, that’s not necessarily a terrible thing. There are cheaper, more flexible routes out there, and if you pick the right hosting company, you’ll get a bunch of extra benefits too.
While shared hosting providers are often the pile- em-high, sell-em-cheap kind, who’ll offer you very little in the way of support, cloud hosting providers usually offer a lot more. Pick a good cloud hosting package and you won’t just get a better server setup, you’ll also get a team you can call on for troubleshooting, tech advice and all sorts of everyday queries.
It’s a great way to get things fixed fast, which means you’ll spend more time earning money and less time scratching your heads. In turn, that means you’ll be able to look after your clients better, building the reputation you need to scale up, and up and up.