If you’re interested in putting a website online, you’ll need a server to host the site’s information and distribute it to your visitors. While some people use their own servers, it’s also common to outsource servers to a hosting provider like Bluehost, HostGator, or Hostwinds.
In turn, those providers offer a wide range of hosting arrangements, each one coming with a unique set of pros and cons. With so many different options available, it can be tough to determine which provider or which type of service is best for your website.
In this article, we’ll explain what shared web hosting is and how it compares to other common kinds of web hosting. We’ll also walk you through the process of getting started with shared web hosting — whether you’re starting from scratch or switching from an existing hosting arrangement.
As the name implies, shared web hosting arrangements allow multiple users to share the same server. Providers typically hold each user to a certain limit on server resources, ensuring that the server remains accessible to every user. Even though you’ll be sharing those resources with other sites, providers generally take measures to prevent them from impacting your performance.
Since the server is being shared among several users, things like maintenance, setup, and configuration typically are handled by the provider. Instead of setting up your own server, you’ll be able to leave the technical side of hosting to your provider and manage your site easily through the built-in control panel. Furthermore, shared hosting plans often come with 24/7 customer support to answer any questions or technical issues.
In contrast, dedicated server plans provide an entire server for an individual website. Since dedicated servers aren’t being used by anyone else, they generally come with a higher level of control than you can get from a shared hosting plan. Of course, those advantages make dedicated hosting significantly more expensive, which is one reason why many small websites opt for shared hosting.
With that in mind, there’s no right or wrong answer when it comes to shared web hosting vs. other hosting arrangements. While shared hosting is perfect for some businesses, it’s impossible to recommend it for every possible use case. It’s important to find a hosting plan that matches your company’s unique budget and needs.
Along with shared and dedicated web hosting, virtual private server (VPS) hosting is another popular option. VPS hosting still splits server resources between your site and other users, but each user gets their own virtualized server instead of sharing the same server instance.
Dividing the physical server into multiple virtual instances eliminates the need to share resources, which can potentially lead to higher speeds and less downtime for your site. In other words, while shared server arrangements put every user on the same server with access to a common pool of resources, VPS hosting gives you a clearly defined portion of those resources along with more control over your virtual server.
If you’re looking for a way to get your new site up and running, shared web hosting may look like the most practical solution. It’s the most affordable way to host a website, allowing users to get started for only a few dollars per month. However, shared hosting arrangements come with some notable limitations that you should carefully consider before investing any money in a new hosting plan.
Pros and Cons of Shared Web Hosting
Of course, the key advantage of shared web hosting plans is their affordability. For example, Bluehost offers a starter shared hosting plan for only $3.95 per month when you commit to 36 months. By contrast, its most affordable dedicated hosting plan starts at $79.99 per month, roughly 20 times the price of shared hosting. VPS hosting lies between the two at $19.99 to $59.99 per month.
Beyond its pricing, shared hosting plans also come with lower barriers of entry compared to other forms of web hosting. Your provider will maintain the server and enable you to manage your account, site, and more through a dedicated control panel.
Meanwhile, dedicated servers typically give users root access, allowing them to manage every aspect of their web hosting. This gives you the chance to take full control of your website, but it also involves significantly more work and requires far more technical skills. Shared web hosting is usually more convenient if you don’t want to be responsible for the technical side of your hosting arrangement.
Another downside of shared web hosting is its unpredictable speeds, particularly for large sites or sites that receive large volumes of traffic. Your provider will place restrictions on your resource utilization, and you may be charged extra or experience longer load times if you go beyond their allotment.
HostGator, for example, offers three shared hosting tiers with different features and limits. The Hatchling plan is available for $2.75 per month with the introductory offer, and it’s limited to a single website.
The Baby subscription ― $3.50 per month for the first three years ― is generally similar, but it doesn’t place any limits on websites. Finally, Business starts at $5.25 per month with the introductory offer and comes with a dedicated internet protocol (IP) address as well as a positive secure sockets layer (SSL) upgrade.
With that in mind, the limits of shared web hosting can be either a pro or a con depending on your situation. You won’t have the same access to resources, but you’ll also be able to pay for what you need instead of spending more money for a dedicated server.
- Lower prices
- Less work to set up and manage
- Doesn’t require any technical skills
- Reduced control over your hosting arrangement
- Less reliable performance, especially for high-traffic sites
- Performance may be impacted by other sites on your server
If you’re interested in shared web hosting, the next steps involve finding a provider that fits your needs and uploading your site to their servers. Whether you’re using web hosting for the first time or switching from an existing plan, you should be able to get started quickly and seamlessly using your provider’s setup instructions. While the specifics may vary from one provider to another, the process will largely be similar regardless of the platform you’re using.
In the next section, we’ll walk through everything you need to know to find your first web host or a new provider to switch to. While we’ll cover some of the main factors to consider in a potential web hosting provider, our provider comparison is a great resource if you’re looking for more details about specific platforms.
If You Don’t Have a Web Host, Do This
Deciding which provider you want to work with is the first step toward setting up shared web hosting. It’s impossible to offer a blanket recommendation — the right shared hosting provider for you will depend on the needs of your site.
Most shared hosting plans are relatively affordable, so you won’t need to break the bank to get reliable performance. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the listed prices often come with a catch.
For example, HostGator starts at $2.75 per month if you take advantage of the introductory offer, but that requires a three-year commitment. Furthermore, the three-year price goes up to $6.95 per month after your first subscription ends. Similarly, the Bluehost Basic plan starts at $3.95 per month for the first three years before increasing to $8.99 per month for the three years after that.
Other factors to consider when selecting a shared hosting provider include uptime, customer support, scalability, disk space and bandwidth limits, and ease of use. Your provider will walk you through the process of setting up your new website.
Hosts like Squarespace and Wix come with a website builder while others only offer stand-alone hosting. Some stand-alone hosts provide easy access to third-party website builders. HostGator, for example, supports one-click installs of WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Wiki, and phpBB.
Switching to Shared Web Hosting
If you’re switching from an existing hosting arrangement, you’ll need to migrate your website to the new provider. Fortunately, that process isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Most web hosting providers offer free migration assistance, so you usually won’t be responsible for the migration itself.
Note that you don’t necessarily need automatic migration to set up a new hosting plan. Manual migrations are possible in a few simple steps, and there’s little to no risk of any major problems as long as you back up your files before you start migrating. Our guide to switching web hosting providers is a terrific place to start if you’re interested in running your migration.
In short, migrating a website manually involves downloading the site’s database and files, adjusting them to fit the new provider, and uploading them into the new host. Of course, it’s more complicated than that in practice, which is why you should always back up your entire site before any migration.
Users who are switching from another hosting plan should make sure that the new one fits their needs. If you’re moving to a plan with lower bandwidth limits, for example, you may notice a substantial drop in performance. Similarly, if you’d rather leave the migration to professionals, look for a hosting plan that comes with free automatic migration from your current provider.