Shared Hosting vs VPS – Which is the Right Choice?
Last updated: August 2018
Are you going back and forth attempting to choose between shared hosting and a VPS? The choice isn’t always clear, but there are some questions you can ask yourself that might make the choice a bit easier. Taking into account your needs and other factors might help you decide that shared hosting is a better fit for you, or that you need a VPS. Before we go any further, let’s take a look at the differences between shared hosting and a VPS.
Quick disclaimer: If you buy hosting using any of the various links below, I might receive a commission. However, I can’t stand sites that recommend low quality hosting based solely on commissions, and that is NOT what I do. I even have a page that’s dedicated to talking about hosting I don’t like (see that page here), to help readers understand that I’m fair and honest in my recommendations.
VPS vs Shared Hosting – Basic Differences
When looking at shared web hosting vs VPS hosting, there are many differences but also a lot of similarities.
The main difference between shared hosting and VPS hosting is that with a VPS, your resources are dedicated and you don’t share them with anyone else, unlinke shared hosting—which is why it’s called “shared” hosting. With a VPS, a dedicated server is partitioned into smaller, Virtual Private Servers (VPS) and each VPS acts like its own mini dedicated server. The nice thing about this is that since your resources are dedicated on a VPS, it doesn’t matter what other people on the server are doing (for the most part). So, if someone else on the server gets a huge traffic spike, it shouldn’t affect the amount of resources that you have because they are pre-defined dedicated to your VPS.
With shared hosting, it’s a bit different. You’re sharing the memory and CPU, so if another person on the server gets a traffic spike, it could slow down your site, or if the spike is big enough, it could take your site offline. Again, when you share server resources, this is what happens—you and other people on the server are competing, in a sense, for the same amount of memory and CPU.
If you’re using a reputable host that does a good job of managing shared server resources (like HostGator), the difference between a shared hosting plan and a VPS might not be that apparent at low traffic levels. However, if you have medium to high traffic levels or a website that requires a lot of CPU or memory (such as a WordPress site with database-intensive plugins or other features) you may notice the difference between a shared hosting account and a VPS even at low traffic levels, especially on the backend of your site.
Questions to Help You Decide on Shared Hosting or a VPS
Do you have a lot of traffic?
If you get a lot of visitors (300-500+ per day), then you may want to consider moving VPS hosting, or possibly managed WordPress hosting. The problem with having a higher number of visitors on shared hosting is that you’re continually using resources from the server, and often at the same time as other people. If your traffic is sporadic or the overall level is relatively low, it’s not a bad idea to try shared hosting to start because it’s much cheaper than a VPS or even managed WordPress hosting.
However, if your traffic levels, in my opinion, are in the 300-500+ range per day then you may want to consider moving away from shared hosting. Some people might think that 300-500+ visitors per day isn’t a lot of traffic, but in my experience it’s enough to give shared hosting some trouble. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will be down at this traffic level, but if you have a moderately complex WordPress theme and a lot of images on your site, it’s often just enough traffic to reduce page load times, especially when you’re competing with other people on the server for resources.
Is your website a business or personal site?
If your site is a business site and you sell anything or collect any type of lead information (for example, if you’re a contractor, plumber, etc.) you may want to consider something beyond shared hosting. Generally speaking, sites that are on a VPS are much snappier than shared hosting, and this can lead to better conversions. In this day and age, people have come to expect websites and web pages to completely load in less than 3 seconds. When you’re on a shared host sharing server resources, there are other people more or less competing for those same resources, which can really affect your conversion rate if you’re a business. Also, businesses tend to have larger budgets to work with than individuals, so it makes sense for them to spend a little extra money on their web presence in order to make sure their site loads as quickly as possible, which may mean getting something better than shared hosting. With a VPS, you also typically have more room to customize your server and run special scripts, which is not something that’s always available on shared hosting.
Personal sites, and business sites that are more or less just placeholders for the time being are usually ok on shared hosting. However, if you’re a blogger who is trying to grow your audience, you may want to consider upgrading to the best hosting that you can afford as the faster your site loads and the less it’s down, the more credible you’ll be in the eyes or your readers.
Are you a blogger planning on monetizing your site?
If you’re blogging in order to monetize your content and earn money, the faster your ads load the better, and the faster your pages load the better. This is important because as mentioned earlier, a site that loads slowly will generally make you seem less credible to your audience. On top of that, if your ads don’t load properly or your conversion and opt-in pages don’t work as they should, you’ll likely be losing money. So, in this situation, you should buy the best hosting that you can afford. I recommend WP Engine a lot because they are basically the best WordPress host out there in my opinon, and their plans start at $29/month, which should generally be affordable for people who are serious about blogging or monetizing their websites.
Do you need the ability to customize and fine tune your server?
If this is the case, shared hosting is typically not the best fit. Because server resources are shared between many different people, most hosting companies need to have the resources optimized and they don’t usually allow customers to tinker with the server settings or run custom server-side scripts.
With a VPS, because it’s your own virtual server, you can generally tweak a variety of settings as you would be able to on a dedicated server. You can make a lot of changes that can affect the way that your site loads or runs, and you can also control a lot of other different things. If you’re someone who likes to or needs to have this amount of control over a server, then you should choose a VPS over shared hosting.
Recommendations for Shared and VPS Hosting
Shared Hosting – HostGator or Bluehost
These are two of the most reputable shared hosting companies out there. I currently (at the time of writing) use both of them for business projects, and can honestly recommend them as reliable shared hosts. They also offer VPS hosting, but I think that there are other companies who do that better (although they are a bit more expensive). You can see an in-depth comparison of Bluehost vs HostGator on this site, and also read about who has the best WordPress hosting.
VPS Hosting – Liquidweb
I’ve mentioned this many times on the site in other places, but at the time of writing—this site (WebHostingBuddy.com) is hosted on Liquidweb. Their support rocks and their VPS servers are very snappy. They are a little more expensive than other VPS and dedicated hosting companies, but I truly believe that you get what you pay for in this situation. I’ve used them for years and have been very happy overall. I’ve also reviewed Liquidweb on this site if you’re looking for more in-depth information on the VPS and dedicated servers.
Alternate Recommendation – WP Engine
If you’re interested in hosting a WordPress site, there really isn’t anyone better in my opinion than WP Engine. Their plans start at $29/month, which is definitely more than the price of shared hosting, but you get a tremendous amount more for your money. All they do is host WordPress sites, and their hosting is built from the ground up to be optimized for WordPress. This means extremely fast page load times, as well as amazing support. As much as I like Liquidweb’s support, I have to say that when it comes to WordPress, WP Engine is even better. That said, if you’re not looking to host a WordPress site, then you may want to look at one of the other hosting options.