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You might be looking for the best way to host your website and it is an important decision for both technical and financial reasons. Your web hosting service will dictate just how much traffic your website can handle and how much access you have to core functionality.

Web hosting is just a fancy way of saying that your website is on a server that you’re paying for. You have four options to choose from for your hosting server: shared, dedicated, cloud hosting, and virtual private servers (VPS). Each option has its own advantages and choosing one depends on your current needs for the site and what you anticipate your site to need in the future.

Shared hosting

A shared hosting server is where most people start. Shared hosting is going to be the absolute cheapest option and it will require the least amount of technical knowledge. Just like the name implies, you are sharing a server with other websites. It could be a handful of sites or it could be thousands of other sites.

The main thing you need to know here is that typically all of the websites share the same server resources like the CPU and the RAM. This could cause your website to run slowly if another site is using more of the resources. If you are just getting started and you don’t expect much traffic, a shared hosting package might work well for you.

Dedicated hosting

Dedicated hosting servers are the opposite of shared hosting servers. Instead of having a bunch of websites on the same server, this one just has yours. It’s your solo server that you can do whatever you like with. This will give you complete control over everything that the server does. You can easily scale up resources as you get more and more traffic.

This type of server does require more technical knowledge to work with and you need to understand a bit about how to configure your settings. Since you have absolute control and no one else is on the server with you, expect to pay more (a lot more) than you did for shared hosting. Usually this is for bigger applications and companies, but if you know you’ll get a large amount of traffic you might consider this hosting.

Cloud hosting

Next is cloud hosting. You probably know this already, but Azure and AWS are the biggest names in cloud hosting. This type of hosting works a differently than the others because it uses a network of servers to host multiple websites. The advantage of this over shared hosting is that the network of servers can give the right amount of resources to each site.

Since a server network can have a bunch of servers that means you have the ability to scale your website to handle more traffic without being affected by any other websites. You won’t have full access to the server root, but you will be able to change the amount of resources you have available to you. Most cloud hosting will charge you based on how many resources you use. This could be a good option if you want to try a pay-as-you-grow strategy.

Virtual private server

The last type of hosting package is the virtual private server. This is an interesting version of hosting. What happens is there is a single server that’s being shared amongst multiple websites but the server is divided into virtual servers. So each website will behave like it’s on its own dedicated server but they are actually sharing a server.

Virtual private servers give you more control than you would get in shared hosting or cloud hosting, but it’s cheaper than dedicated hosting. It doesn’t really scale like cloud hosting can, but you also don’t have to worry about resources as much as in shared hosting. If you want to have a little more control over your server without paying for a dedicated one, this is a good option to look into.

How to choose a hosting package

Choosing the right package really comes down to what you expect for your website. You can also switch hosting packages whenever you get ready so you don’t have to worry about picking the wrong one too much. Here are a few things you should consider before you choose a hosting package:

  • How much traffic do you anticipate?
  • How much control over the server settings/software do you really need?
  • How much does it cost?
  • Is there a subscription period and how long is it?
  • Can you upgrade to a different hosting package later?
  • What is the server reliability and responsiveness like?
  • Is there good tech support available?
  • Can you add new domains or subdomains?

Now you can get out there and find the hosting package of your dreams! Or at least one that won’t cost too much and be down half of the time. I like Azure (sometimes) and HostGator because my clients use them the most. I hear that AWS is really similar to Azure, but I haven’t messed with it much. Does anybody have experience with both? I’d like to hear your take on AWS.

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