If you own or are maintaining a website, you’ve probably come across the problem of juggling cost, convenience, and scalability. A lot of larger corporations may simply opt to purchase top-of-the-line dedicated servers, hire a bunch of web developers, and get their websites up and running smoothly regardless of the huge user traffic. For the rest of the Internet population who simply need a host for their blogs and other relatively low traffic sites, however, this is overkill. This is where shared web hosting and semi-dedicated server hosting come in. This article seeks to compare and contrast the two types of web servers, to help you identify one that would best fit your site or blog.
Web Server: An Overview
To make things simple, a web server is simply a computer with specialized software and a fast Internet connection that allows other devices to connect to it. Whenever you visit a website, you’re basically communicating with a web server, sending messages to it as you click and scroll through the website, and receiving messages from it in return by receiving images, text, and other forms of data.
One might think of web servers as houses, with websites as the inhabitants. Just as houses are assigned street numbers, computers are assigned IP addresses. Just as you’d have a hard time finding a house with no street number, computers would find it next to impossible to reach other computers with no IP addresses.
Shared Web Hosting
If dedicated web servers are like mansions that house only a single family, then shared web hosting can be thought of as apartments jammed with different families. Shared web hosting is the most economical way to host a site, since people are basically chipping in on the server maintenance costs and other expenditures one would normally need to shoulder alone with dedicated web servers.
Just like apartments that often come fully furnished, shared web hosting will likely provide you with all the basic tools you need in getting your site up and running, like email services, web statistics, updated PHP, MySQL, etc. You’re also given a simple web-based control panel to help you manage your site easily.
Because you’re sharing a single web server with possibly hundreds of people, you do not need to continuously backup, update, and configure computer components and software, as the system administrator does all of that for you. However, for the same reason, you also can’t have too much site traffic that may cause the entire server to slow down.
Semi-Dedicated Server Hosting
Semi-dedicated server hosting is a rather cloudy term, as some people refer to it as a better version of virtual private server (VPS), while some refer to it as glorified shared web hosting. However, based on most of the services provided by semi-dedicated web servers, they seem to fall short of being a VPS, which gives you more flexibility it gives in terms of software customization because of root access, and dedicated web servers, which allow full customization of both hardware and software. In that regard, semi-dedicated server hosting can be compared to living in a bigger apartment; you are still sharing a web server with a few people, though your allocation isn’t as limited as in shared web hosting.
Shared Web Hosting vs. Semi-Dedicated Server Hosting
A lot of people think of semi-dedicated server hosting as a simple upgrade from shared web hosting. However, a closer look into the areas of web hosting they excel in is needed to make sure that you’re getting the best bang for the buck.
Resource Allocation: a semi-dedicated server will naturally have more bandwidth and space, therefore allowing heavier site traffic and faster loading times. Websites with heavy traffic are often blocked or banned under shared web hosting whereas under semi-dedicated servers, your site may simply slow down, in which case it’s probably time to upgrade a dedicated server.
Security: since semi-dedicated servers host fewer sites, the risk of malwares from other sites breaking into your own site is significantly lower.
Cost: as mentioned before, shared web hosts are often the cheapest, since the operating costs of the servers are split towards more people.
Convenience: in terms of convenience, shared web hosting and semi-dedicated server hosting is at a tie since both have their own system administrators making backups and configuring and upgrading software and hardware.
Flexibility: unfortunately, for power users who need root access and custom applications, both shared web hosting and semi-dedicated server hosting are bad options.
Before virtualization technology became popular, semi-dedicated server hosting was a viable upgrade from the heavily stocked shared web hosting servers. However, with virtualization becoming increasingly common among servers, more and more people are taking a leap from shared web hosting services to VPS services instead of semi-dedicated server hosting services. If you’re looking for better security and customizability, you’ll want to take a look at VPS or dedicated web servers. If however, you’d like a convenient way of managing simple websites with small to medium user traffic, shared web hosting services and semi-dedicated server hosting services are your best options.