How Shared Hosting Works

Recently I ran into a major problem with a client website. After much angst and several days of the inability to access it I got to the bottom of the problem. Of course the root cause is what I suspected from the beginning but of course both the hosting company and my ISP made me walk through days of technical support hell first. After all a non-IT person reading from a script is smarter than someone with over 20 years of IT troubleshooting experience. But alas, that is a different post [rant].

The root cause of the problem was the shared hosting and the hosts inability to own up to the problem. Another website on the shared server was a malicious phishing site and my ISP blocked that server in their DNS and thus, no access.

How Shared Website Hosting Works

So what does this mean to you as the business owner?

Let me explain how this all works in non-technical terms.

When you buy shared hosting, your site gets thrown on a server that is jammed full with as many sites as the host can possibly put on it. That is how they get the hosting cost super-low.

Shared hosting is like the community pool on a hot summer day. As many people as humanly possible jam into the pool and you likely have no idea who these people are or what they are up to.

In and of itself this isn’t a problem. Where the problem comes in is when one or more sites on the shared server misbehave. Then your site has to deal with the consequences like bad performance, downtime, no access, getting blacklisted, etc..

It’s like someone pooping in the community pool. You weren’t the one doing the pooping but you get all the fallout and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Compare this to dedicated hosting where one site is housed on the server.

Dedicated hosting is like your backyard pool. You know exactly who is swimming in it and what they are doing.

If you poop in your own pool, we’re not even going to go there. You are solely responsible for the problem.

Is Shared Hosting Bad?

Not necessarily. You really cannot find a relevant and comparable alternative at the shared pricing price point (under $10 a month). Some hosts are better than others at managing their community pool in terms of shutting down the offending party and minimizing impact to others. You just need to understand what you’re getting and be willing to deal with the consequences ranging from slow performance to downtime or malicious attacks.

Alternatives come at a price. A dedicated web server gives you your own backyard pool all to yourself. However, this is cost prohibitive for most small businesses.

A VPS or virtual private server is a cordoned off piece of a dedicated server that is all yours. Think of it as a separate fully independent pool within a community pool that does not share water or resources between the two. These will run you $40+ per month.

For WordPress sites there are reliable managed WordPress hosts like WPEngine where you don’t get your own server, but someone is actively managing and securing the whole enchilada minimizing problems and downtime. This will run you $30/month and up.

What Should You Choose?

There is no one right answer. It depends on how you use your website, how critical it is to your business activities and marketing, and your budget. The good news is you are not married to one host or hosting type for any length of time (usually).

Need help sorting out your website needs? Click here to contact me for a complimentary conversation and I will help you make a wise choice.

Note: None of the links in this article are affiliate links and the offending host will be left unnamed (at least in this article) to keep things educational.



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