For decades, the food pyramid and scientists around the world have set the standards for how many sweets, carbs, proteins, and veggies constitute a healthy diet. Whether you’re a picky eater or game to try anything, you know the general rule for balanced nutrition.

In some ways, the same can be said when choosing a web hosting configuration to feed your online business success. There are a few standard ingredients to consider when choosing what type of server will work best for your specific objectives, but there are always concessions made. Just as some people have sweet tooths and others prefer salty and savory meals, business website owners may prioritize price, scalability, or support more than others.

The differences among shared hosting, virtual private servers, and dedicated services are easy enough to distinguish on the large scale — but how comfortable are you with the nitty-gritty details? Will shared server space give you enough security and computing power? Do you understand the differences in scaling VPS versus cloud resources? What about the intricacies of managing and maintaining a dedicated server?

Here, we’ll cover your options and the industry standards that may help steer you in the right direction when choosing a server and when migrating.

What to Consider in a Hosting Plan

More than 500,000 new businesses get started each month, many of which begin as one-person organizations with dreams of making it big. An early key step is building an online presence, from a website to social media accounts.

Although each new business may strive to uphold a different mission statement, the general steps to getting established online are essentially the same. Whether you’re selling homemade crafts or setting up your fledgling law practice’s first website, here are the basic components of web hosting plans you’ll want to compare:

  • Price and duration: Obviously you’ll want to minimize your new company’s expenses at first, and hosting plans typically become less expensive as you sign up for longer terms. But are you ready to commit to three years’ worth of hosting? Or would you rather go month to month to test the market before committing so many resources?
  • Computing resources: At every level, plans are typically well-appointed with ample storage space and bandwidth, but photographers and videographers may need to confirm there’s enough room for their large files. Have a sense of how much traffic you expect to see, and make sure your bandwidth will deliver speedy page loads to your potential customers.
  • Management tools: Most shared hosting plans come with the graphical cPanel interface to help site owners manage the behind-the-scenes aspects of their hosting environments, but it doesn’t always come with higher-tier plans like VPS or dedicated hosting. How comfortable are you with the command line interface?
  • Reliability and support: Will your website always be available when someone comes searching? Industry-standard uptime guarantees typically clock in at 99.9%, which should serve most new businesses well — but time is money and conversions, so higher is always better. Will your host be there for you if things go sideways?

The right business hosting plan balances affordability with modern hardware and features that set the stage for your success. First-time business owners may appreciate a plan that comes with a drag-and-drop website builder or design services, while more tech-minded entrepreneurs may prefer a host’s one-click WordPress installation.

Once you select the right domain name and identify the features you need, one of three server configurations may emerge as a likely candidate for your business. With traffic considerations and required computing resources in mind, let’s examine the various options below.

1. Shared Hosting Offers Low Cost and Lots of Support

The most common entry point for new site owners, shared hosting is exactly what it sounds like: One server’s resources are shared among hundreds or thousands of customers. Each environment is allocated a certain amount of storage, bandwidth, and processing power, along with a robust portfolio of added services such as site builders, control panels, advertising credits, one-click installations, and tools for email and search engine optimization.

Shared hosting is the most affordable and user-friendly option, as hosting providers are keen to make beginners feel right at home. Hosts will take care of security and all other technical aspects of maintaining the server, and they will often include additional perks like automatic backups, a free domain name registration, spam filters, and 24/7 support.

2. VPS (and the Cloud) Brings in More Resources and Scalability

Even if you sign up for a shared hosting plan that promises unlimited storage and unmetered bandwidth, your business will hopefully outgrow the crowded space and require more computing resources. Instead of splitting a web hosting server with 1,000 strangers, a VPS plan enables you to share a server with only a few dozen other sites.

Using virtualization, a server can be divided into several smaller machines with independent resources. Because a VPS is more isolated than a shared hosting environment, you can enjoy much more control over the hardware configurations and software installations. This requires more tech-savvy oversight, but many hosts provide managed services and support for this.

A close cousin to the VPS, cloud hosting is another virtualized way to capitalize on a host’s powerful infrastructure. Instead of creating a virtual environment on a single server, cloud hosting captures a network of servers that work together to support each site. As such, cloud-powered services often offer higher-than-average uptime and performance.

3. Dedicated Servers Provide Ample Power and Control

The crème de la crème of web hosting, dedicated servers have the most power, handles the most traffic — and carries the highest price tag. Most new businesses won’t need the resources of a dedicated server, unless you’re handling vast amounts of data and expecting millions of visitors right off the bat.

As the name implies, the server is completely dedicated to serving your website and applications. Because you are not sharing any resources, you have free reign to customize and configure your dedicated server exactly as you see fit. Unless you’re well-versed in server maintenance, you’ll likely want to employ a system administrator or other IT-minded professional to help manage operating system updates, security patches, and the like.

Given the high price tag and demanding maintenance, considering a dedicated server indicates a rapidly growing and well-established business; this type of hosting will help you continue your trajectory to limitless heights.

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