The Pros and Cons of Shared Web Hosting

by Jimmy Martin

Advantages of Shared Web Hosting

Price. - As the webhost can serve hundreds of small websites on each server, the costs are shared out between several hundred people. Cheap shared web hosting accounts start at as little as $5 per month, and $10 per month buys a very respectable shared web hosting account that will suit most home users and small businesses.

Security. - The server is being maintained by a professional web host, who will keep the operating system and software secure by applying all security updates.

Simplicity. - The complicated business of installing software and security updates is taken care of by the web host. Most shared web hosting providers give you a simple web-based interface to control your website. For instance, checking how many visitors your site has had is as simple as logging into the control page and clicking an icon.

Features. - The most commonly required features for a website are easily found on cheap shared hosting accounts. For example, the PHP programming language and the MySQL database are almost universally supported.

Disadvantages of Shared Web Hosting

Reliability. - The server is shared by several hundred websites. This means that if one website starts to eat up a lot of the server's memory space and processor time, the whole server will slow down and all of the websites on that server will suffer. The worst case scenario is that one website can crash the whole server, taking everybody else's site down with it.
Good webhosts minimize this risk by keeping a close eye on the server's performance to make sure that one site cannot monopolize all of the resources. Any site that endangers its fellow sites will be removed from the server.

Resource usage. - As there is a large number of sites hosted on one server, each site is limited to a small amount of the server's total resource usage (in other words, memory and processor usage). A popular site will pass this limit and require to be upgraded either to a more expensive shared hosting account, with less sites per server, or to another kind of web hosting. Sites are also often limited in the number of databases they can store on the server, as database use is very resource-intensive.

Software limitations - As the software is shared between all websites, you are forced to use the same version of the software as everyone else. Web hosts usually only apply security updates, and are reluctant to upgrade software to obtain new features. This can be a good thing as new versions of software are not always fully compatible with all websites, but if you need special versions of software, shared hosting might not be an option. However, there are so many shared web hosts that you may well find the features you need by shopping around.

Next we will look at Virtual Private Servers, which are the next step up from shared web hosting.