This guest post is by Jesse of Professional Intern.
Blog owners have a lot of decisions to make if they want to be successful. What will my blogs focus be? What audience do I want to target? Should I use a formal tone or a more personal one?
One of the questions to which blog owners rarely give enough thought is what kind of web hosting solution they’ll use. In this article, I’ll explain the differences between shared and dedicated servers, as well the benefits that each can offer you and your blog.
Shared web hosting is the lowest cost hosting option available. With this type of hosting, your server is basically one of many server programs run on a single piece of hardware. You share physical resources with other clients whose servers also inhabit the same machine.
This spreads out the cost of hardware, bandwidth and maintenance among all of the hosts clients, but it also means that each client only gets a portion of the power and speed of the server, which can significantly degrade performance if one or more of the clients starts using more resources.
If, for instance, your site is hosted on a shared server and begins attracting significantly more visitors than normal, the performance of the other sites on the server will be degraded and, eventually, your site may be temporarily deactivated to reduce the strain on the server and its impact on other clients.
Customizing a shared server
Most shared web hosting services offer simple, one-click management options for their servers. While this makes it easy to set up a basic WordPress or Drupal blog, the options are often limited to whatever the host decides to support and, often, more extensive customization is not available.
With this specialization, however, often comes better customer support. Because the host carefully chooses the programs and options available, they’re better able to serve their users.
While shared web hosting can be a great choice for blogs that are intended to be personal and small, if you want to grow your blog, host multiple blogs or begin offering additional content, like forums, you’ll need to start considering a switch to a dedicated server.
Dedicated servers offer a wealth of benefits you can’t receive with shared servers, but they do have one major drawback: increased cost.
Even a moderately-priced dedicated hosting package can cost upwards of $99 per month. If you add on management, technical support, a firewall or upgrade to a more powerful server, the price can increase dramatically. A powerful, fully-configured, managed and serviced dedicated server will often cost over $1000 per month.
How can that kind of expense be worth it to a blog owner?
Reliability and security
The biggest advantages of dedicated hosting are increased speed, reliability, security, and control. If you’re not sharing resources with other clients, you won’t have to worry about their sites slowing down your site’s load times and degrading your site’s user experience.
Further, because the server won’t be split among multiple clients, there’s less of a chance of it experiencing a critical failure that could take your site down.
Hosting your site on its own server also results in fewer security vulnerabilities. If you share a server with someone who doesn’t practice good security measures, your site is vulnerable, too; on a dedicated server, however, your site’s security rests on your choices, not those of another user you may never meet.
With a dedicated server, you’re in control
Having a dedicated hosting plan gives you far more control than a shared plan would. After choosing your server’s operating system, you may have as much or as little control of the workings of your server as you desire. Unless you wake up every morning excited about server administration, you may want to look into either hiring someone to perform those duties for you, or look into a managed hosting plan on your server.
Many hosts will give you several levels of management options, ranging from little user intervention to full user configuration. The more control you give someone else over your dedicated server, the more you’ll end up paying, but it can definitely be in your best interest to let someone with experience in server administration handle those tasks for you.
In addition to multiple levels of control, you’ll be able to choose which features you want to include on your site. Generally speaking, the more features you want on your site, the better off you’ll be with a dedicated server.
When to switch to dedicated hosting
If you already have a shared web hosting plan, you might be wondering when it would be most beneficial to switch to a dedicated host. If you’ve noticed an increase in user complaints about slow server response times, degraded performance or an inability to access your site reliably, that’s a good indication that it’s time to start looking into alternate hosting.
Also, if you’ve been experiencing a marked increase in traffic, you might want to switch to a dedicated server to head off any capacity problems you might experience if your growth continues. As I previously mentioned, if you plan on adding more advanced features to your site, you should definitely consider a switch from shared hosting.
Who needs a dedicated server?
Basic shared web hosting is a great choice for a new or amateur blog, but if you’re planning on getting serious with your site, you’ll probably end up needing a dedicated server at some point.
Shared servers often end up slow, crowded and vulnerable, in addition to leaving you with few options for control. Dedicated servers, while the more expensive option, feature none of those drawbacks and give you as much performance as you need. You also have a wider range of options for control over your site’s server.
If you desire a faster, more reliable site or want to add many advanced features, you should seriously consider switching to a dedicated server. Your users will have a much better experience and you’ll likely end up dealing with fewer performance issues.
How’s your blog hosted? Have you transitioned from shared to dedicated hosting? Tell us about your experiences in the comments.
Jesse L. is a recent college graduate who blogs at http://www.professionalintern.com and enjoys all things social media and Apple-related.