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Types Of Web Hosting: How They Work, Features & Pricing

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With the growth of the internet, there are more types of web hosting available now than ever.

While you have many options available, that doesn’t mean every choice is a good option for every user.

If you’re in a rush and want a quick list of options, use our Hosting Finder to identify the best choice for your needs.

Otherwise, read on to learn more about web hosting options.

Basics of Web Hosting

Here are the basic things you should know about web hosting.

What Is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is the process of buying server capacity from a company to host one or more websites on the internet.

While companies can purchase and operate servers themselves, the term web hosting usually refers specifically to receiving this as a service from an external provider.

(For more on servers, check out the difference between a host and a server.)

Why Is Web Hosting Important?

Web hosting is vital because it’s the only way for many people to get a website onto the internet.

Without a server offering the site, nobody can access it.

Therefore, this is a fundamental part of the modern internet.

Overview: Best Web Hosting

The best web hosting depends on the site you’re trying to run.

Simple personal sites may get away with free hosting, but more elaborate sites (such as eCommerce websites) usually need more advanced hosting.

For quality, dedicated hosting is the best option you can get.

However, it also tends to be the most expensive, and it’s more than anyone except the largest companies requires.

What Is the Most Common Type of Web Hosting?

Shared hosting is the most common type of web hosting.

We’ll go into this in more detail below, but the simple version is that shared hosting involves having several websites on a single server.

This helps utilize resources effectively, and it’s easy to move websites between servers to balance performance.

What Is the Fastest Type of Web Hosting?

Speed depends on several factors, including facility connections, hardware, and traffic.

Dedicated hosting is usually the fastest type of web hosting, but most hosting types are fast enough for users because providers know how important speed is.

How Many Types of Web Hosting Are There?

There are eight main types of web hosting available.

Providers may also offer services that extend beyond these categories, but most options ultimately fall into one of these.

A Note On Recommendations: While we recommend three options for each of the primary hosting types, the fact is that most hosting companies offer most types of web hosting.

They’re all excellent options, but our recommendations are particularly good at the type of hosting we’re associating with them.

Free Hosting

Free web hosting is the introductory option for having content online.

This type of hosting is suitable for small websites, such as personal websites that don’t get much traffic.

Most providers offer a free plan for people who are just getting started with their services.

Pros of Free Hosting

The obvious benefit of free hosting is that it’s free for as long as you can keep using it.

This makes it especially appealing to anyone who’s on a tight budget or doesn’t have an easy way to pay the hosting provider.

Cons of Free Hosting

Free hosting is unquestionably the worst of all types of web hosting.

The hosting company may put ads on the site to help recoup the cost of managing it, and free sites tend to have sharp limits on data and bandwidth usage.

The drawbacks quickly outweigh the benefits for all but the smallest websites.

Free sites also tend to have fewer features than even the cheapest paid plans.

You might not be able to access the real potential of a server when you’re on a free plan, and chances are you’ll be sharing space with many other sites.

Who Should Use Free Hosting?

Free hosting is best for small personal sites.

It can also be a good choice if you’re still making a website and don’t want to start paying for hosting until that’s done.

Even a small income from the site is usually enough to cover a cheap hosting plan, so it’s best to consider this a temporary measure for most sites.

Our Favorite Free Hosting Companies

Here are some of the best free hosting companies currently available.

1. InfinityFree

InfinityFree is a high-speed free web service provider focusing on PHP and MySQL.

While InfinityFree only offers 5 gigabytes of space, they support many types of sites, and they don’t put any ads on them.

Given the flexibility and versatility, this is a great place to start if you’re looking for free hosting.

2. ByetHost

ByetHost has a large slate of options, including a load-balanced free option.

However, with only one gigabyte of disk space and limited domain name options, the limits are tighter here than in some other services.

It’s still a decent choice for hosting a small, low-traffic site.

3. Wix

Wix is mainly a website builder, offering immense customization and support for almost any type of website you may want to make.

They offer free hosting for simple sites, with a user-friendly drag-and-drop interface for quick site design.

Wix is one of the most powerful website builders, so this is a good option if you want to switch to different hosting later.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is a format where multiple websites share space on a single server, dividing up the resources between them based on access requests.

While this can sound bad on first look, it’s worth noting that most websites don’t approach anywhere near a server’s limits.

Realistically, one server can power hundreds of smaller websites.

Shared hosting is the most popular option for users.

It’s far cheaper than dedicated hosting without sacrificing much performance, and companies carefully balance site loads to keep access reliable and steady.

Pros of Shared Hosting

Shared hosting has many benefits, including low pricing, excellent performance, and outstanding scalability if you’re trying to grow your site.

It’s suitable for many business sites, small eCommerce sites, higher-quality personal websites, and more.

Shared hosting may be the basic hosting plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad choice.

Most shared hosting servers are powerful on their own, and companies keep a close eye on performance to distribute loads.

There’s no point in buying more computing power than you expect to use, so shared hosting is usually ideal for a site.

Cons of Shared Hosting

The main drawback of shared hosting is that it’s only practical up to a certain website size.

Most websites don’t need more power than shared hosting allows, but if you do, then you have no practical choice except to upgrade.

Who Should Use Shared Hosting?

Shared hosting is suitable for most small and medium-sized sites, especially those that aren’t too heavy on graphics or applications.

The vast majority of websites on the internet fall into this category, so it’s almost easier to define who shouldn’t use shared hosting rather than who should.

Our Favorite Shared Hosting Companies

Here are our favorite companies that offer shared hosting.

1. Bluehost

Bluehost is a robust provider and one of the top places to host a site with WordPress.

The shared hosting plans are generally affordable and include options for one or more sites, with plenty of SSD storage and access to customer support.

The price goes up a bit after the first year, but it’s still quite affordable.

2. HostGator

HostGator is another popular provider, with a selection of personal and business plans.

Notably, they offer unmetered bandwidth on these plans.

They will ask you to reduce usage if you go over a server’s resources for more than 90 seconds, but few sites using shared hosting will ever do this.

3. GoDaddy Hosting

GoDaddy is a business-oriented provider.

Although they’re a little more expensive than some other providers, their basic plans offer significantly more hard drive space, daily backups, and numerous other benefits.

While other providers also support businesses, GoDaddy stands out in focusing on them over personal websites.

VPS Hosting

VPS hosting dedicates part of a server’s capabilities to your website by creating a virtual private server, ensuring more consistent performance even if other sites on the server are active.

This makes it more reliable than regular shared hosting, and it’s excellent for hosting simple applications and other things that need guaranteed support.

Pros of VPS Hosting

VPS hosting is noticeably more powerful than shared hosting, making it a better option for mid-size sites and small businesses.

It’s also easier to scale up because a provider can easily change how many resources you get, and there are fewer restrictions on what you can do with the server’s power.

VPS hosting also gives far more administrator privileges.

This is the most powerful form of hosting that most websites will ever require.

You have to be quite large to need more than a virtual private server, and even many eCommerce sites won’t exceed the capabilities here.

Cons of VPS Hosting

The main downside of VPS hosting is that it’s more expensive than shared hosting.

It’s also more powerful than most small websites need, so there’s not much point in going to this level unless your business is big enough to require it.

Who Should Use VPS Hosting?

VPS hosting is ideal for companies that need more power and reliability than shared hosting offers.

It’s particularly popular with businesses, where problems with the site can result in losing customers and long-term damage to the company.

VPS hosting is also effective for running some smaller applications, assuming bandwidth permits.

Our Favorite VPS Hosting Companies

Here are some of our favorite companies offering VPS services.

1. InMotion Hosting

InMotion offers a selection of hosting services, but their VPS, in particular, gives an excellent balance of price and performance.

Options range from 4 to 16 gigabytes of dedicated RAM, with up to 360 gigabytes of space on an SSD and multiple cPanel licenses for managing websites.

2. DreamHost

DreamHost is an affordable VPS provider, offering unlimited bandwidth and traffic for websites.

They also allow for expanding RAM and storage as needed.

In short, this is the budget-friendly option, ideal for sites that want consistency but don’t need to pay for extra hardware.

3. Hostinger

Hostinger is another budget-friendly VPS host, with 2 gigabytes of RAM and 40 gigabytes of storage on an SSD.

However, unlike other hosts, they have a two-terabyte cap on bandwidth, which makes them a poor choice for data-heavy hosting requirements.

They’re best for personal sites rather than businesses.

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is the most powerful option available. In this format, you get an entire server exclusively dedicated to hosting your content, rather than sharing it with other users.

Pros of Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting has the highest speed and performance of any option, short of buying multiple servers or a mainframe.

With this capability, you can run websites and applications that lesser hosting options can’t match.

This is the ideal format for larger websites.

Cons of Dedicated Hosting

The main drawback of dedicated hosting is the price.

Dedicated hosting is easily the most expensive single-server option, usually costing several times what VPS hosting does each month.

It’s also far more power than most websites need, so in many ways, it’s unnecessary for most users.

Who Should Use Dedicated Hosting?

Dedicated hosting is ideal for larger businesses, including those with higher performance requirements than VPS hosting allows.

Dedicated hosting also gives you the highest amount of administrative access to the server, allowing you to do almost anything that won’t physically hurt the server.

Our Favorite Dedicated Hosting Companies

Here are some excellent companies if you think dedicated servers are correct for your needs.

1. AccuWeb Hosting

AccuWeb Hosting offers configurable servers, with hundreds of options based on network speed, system memory, storage space, processing power, and more.

This makes it much easier to find the perfect server for your needs.

2. A2 Hosting

A2 Hosting offers a relatively limited selection of choices for dedicated servers, but all of them have enough performance that most businesses won’t care too much.

Even the cheapest options have 16 gigabytes of RAM, root access for full control, and an excellent money-back guarantee.

They offer managed and unmanaged options, too.

3. Liquid Web

Liquid Web focuses on larger companies, so they aren’t as well-known as other, mass-market providers.

Their servers are suitable for high-traffic sites, resellers, software providers, databases, and other higher-intensity needs.

They’re also a little more affordable than some competing services, and such savings add up fast.

Managed Hosting

Managed hosting is available with most other hosting plans and involves the hosting company actively helping support one or more servers for the client.

This includes handling software updates, security checks, and other matters to ensure that the servers stay up and running as much as possible.

Pros of Managed Hosting

Managed hosting is essentially an advanced form of customer support, complete with dedicated staff who can help address issues faster than unmanaged plans allow.

They also directly reduce the time required to operate servers by having experienced personnel work on them, which removes a layer of complexity for having a larger site.

It’s worth noting that most hosting plans have at least a small amount of managed support.

This includes physical maintenance, replacing old components, and other system care since you may not have direct access to servers.

The main focus of managed hosting is on dealing with the software because they’re already taking care of the hardware.

Cons of Managed Hosting

The only real downside of managed hosting is its cost. Having extra personnel is more expensive each month than managing it yourself, but many businesses find this an acceptable price.

Managed hosting may not be available for lower price tiers, though, where users may have no choice but to accept any server changes.

Who Should Use Managed Hosting?

Managed hosting is good for companies that want the highest level of reliability.

It’s not necessary for most small or personal websites. In some cases, it can also save money, as the cost of hiring IT staff is usually far more than getting management services from hosting providers.

Our Favorite Managed Hosting Companies

Here are some of the best companies for getting managed hosting services.

1. Pantheon

Pantheon offers managed hosting with its higher-tier plans, including many business-oriented features.

A notable inclusion here is their sub-second page loads, which is possible thanks to having dozens of data centers around the world.

Pantheon caters more towards larger websites, too, which is an important specialty that someone should provide.

2. Right Networks

Right Networks is a little different from most providers.

They focus on specific applications, especially accounting software and things that can support it, which provides cloud-based application access for businesses that need it.

It’s not as flexible as regular managed hosting, but this can provide a lot of help for small businesses.

3. SiteGround

SiteGround is one of the top WordPress providers, running with Google’s servers to provide outstanding reliability.

Their management services focus on WordPress, where they provide automatic updates of core software and plugins so users don’t have to worry about that.

WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting focuses specifically on using the WordPress platform.

WordPress is about 43% of the entire internet and for simplicity many providers like offering this as a distinct hosting option.

The best-managed WordPress hosting services handle most core updates and plugins on behalf of clients.

Pros of WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting is often cheaper than most other hosting options while providing features and benefits specifically designed for people using the platform.

Even the higher-end plans tend to remain quite affordable, so you can grow your website quite a lot without investing too much more in hosting.

The cheapest type of WordPress hosting can be less than $5/month, and some providers even offer free hosting for starter sites.

If you’re not sure which type of hosting to get, this is a good place to start.

Cons of WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting is much less flexible than other hosting options.

Since you’re limited to one type of site (although you can do a lot with WordPress), you’re fundamentally constrained in what you can make.

That can be an issue for designing custom sites or hosting many types of applications.

Who Should Use WordPress Hosting?

Unsurprisingly, this is the option of choice if you want to use WordPress.

You can also install WordPress onto any other hosting option, but it may not come with the same features and managed support that the dedicated options provide.

WordPress hosting for education is also available for academic institutions, which have different needs than most websites.

Our Favorite WordPress Hosting Companies

Here are some top choices if you want to host a WordPress site.

1. WP Engine

WP Engine is one of the most reliable WordPress platforms, offering well-managed solutions for over a million customers.

They focus mainly on business clients, but personal users can also take advantage of their excellent customer support and reliable offerings.

2. Kinsta

Kinsta is another WordPress-focused provider.

Although not as large as WP Engine, they offer well-managed services and application monitoring that help detect problems quickly.

Being smaller also means shorter wait times for help, which is valuable in its own right.

3. DreamPress

DreamPress is a managed service from DreamHost.

They have a cheaper option for smaller sites, but this is the tier that many larger sites will want.

Notably, it comes with staging options to test updates, which can be quite helpful for sites that need to remain up and working as often as possible.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting services are a more recent approach for hosting companies.

In this format, multiple servers work together to offer resources like processing power on-demand.

Even if there’s a hardware failure, other machines in the network can keep operating to ensure websites and applications keep working.

Pros of Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is great at balancing loads between servers, scaling up resources as sites need them, and maintaining uptime.

They also offer much better security, as it’s harder for DDoS attacks to take them down and near-impossible for any physical disaster to destroy the cloud infrastructure.

It’s also possible to create private cloud networks for a single website or application.

This essentially gives the site the resources of an entire server cluster, which is far beyond what any single server can handle.

Cons of Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is relatively expensive because it requires more servers and isn’t quite as resource-efficient as shared hosting or VPS for most websites.

It’s also much more computing power than most websites ever need to worry about, even if working in a shared cloud.

Who Should Use Cloud Hosting?

Cloud hosting is a good choice for companies that need exceptionally high amounts of server power, such as major eCommerce websites.

It’s also a good option for anywhere that needs the highest possible uptime for services, like some government or emergency websites.

Cloud hosting is usually too much for smaller and mid-size sites that don’t have special uptime requirements.

Server costs add up if you don’t have a website big enough to pay for your hosting needs, so for most customers, the goal is to get the lowest price for the number of server resources required.

Our Favorite Cloud Hosting Companies

Here are some notable cloud hosting companies.

1. AWS

Amazon Web Services offers one of the largest computing clouds on the planet and serves as the provider of choice for many of the highest-traffic sites on the web.

For all practical purposes, AWS has unlimited computing power for your needs, especially if you can pay for what you need.

They can be expensive, but they’ll certainly get the job done.

Amazon also offers a full suite of other services as part of their cloud infrastructure, including a pay-as-you-go pricing plan so you only have to pay for the computing power you use.

2. Google Cloud

Google Cloud is another major provider of cloud hosting services.

Its hosting centers are located around the world, and even better, Google buys renewable energy to ensure it’s possible to sustain its performance.

Like AWS, Google Cloud has all the computing power you could realistically need.

3. DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean isn’t as well-known as AWS or Google Cloud, but they offer a solid selection of features for things like game development and video streaming.

DigitalOcean caters mainly to businesses as relatively few individual users buy cloud computing, but their pricing means they’re one of the best options for non-business users.

Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting is a special service that hosting companies offer.

Rather than hosting your content, reseller hosting allows you to turn around and sell the company’s processing power to others.

Essentially, this allows you to start a business, taking a portion of the profits from whatever you can sell to others.

Pros of Reseller Hosting

Reseller hosting allows you to make money more directly than any other hosting option.

It can also be effective for providing services to specific businesses or clients, giving them a single branded location for help and computational power.

Some of the other options on this list are resellers, rather than wholly independent companies.

Cons of Reseller Hosting

The web hosting market is relatively crowded now, and unless you have an amazing business plan, you’re probably not going to make a lot of money off of reselling services.

Many resellers only have a few customers.

This isn’t necessarily bad as a hobby or a bit of side income, but it’s probably a bad choice if you want to be your own boss.

Who Should Use Reseller Hosting?

Reseller hosting is most effective for anyone who wants to get some income by selling hosting services.

It’s much easier to start this kind of business if you’re essentially selling on commission, rather than buying and operating a modern server cluster.

This can also be good for some special cases, like selling at a discount to charities and other nonprofits.

Our Favorite Reseller Hosting Companies

Here are some reseller hosting companies to consider working with.

1. Hostwinds

Hostwinds is an affordable and effective reseller option.

They offer increasingly large discounts if you buy more hosting accounts, which can end up significantly increasing your profits over time.

They also have easy software installation and free website migration, both of which are appealing for reselling.

2. FatCow Web Hosting

FatCow focuses on reselling for small businesses.

They’re not quite as good for personal sites, but the host controls and competitive pricing structure make them a solid choice for budget-conscious customers.

The highly customizable client panel is also a nice touch, especially if you want to minimize complexity for customers who aren’t good with computers.

3. A Small Orange

A Small Orange is another lesser-known provider, but they offer a very budget-friendly reselling platform.

Hosting for a hundred sites is less than twice the cost of just thirty sites there, and realistically, most resellers won’t even hit their cap.

If you do, well, they can work on custom expansions for you.

Servers are relatively standardized here, too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions people have about the different types of web hosting available.

What type of web hosting do I need?

The best type of web hosting depends on your requirements.

Free hosting is fine for the smallest sites, while shared and VPS hosting are better for mid-size sites that get a decent amount of traffic.

Dedicated hosting is only necessary for larger companies and anyone with particularly high-performance requirements.

What are the different steps of web hosting?

Most people progress up through free, shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting as websites grow, stopping at whatever level is most effective for their site.

Wrapping Up

These are the eight main types of web hosting currently available.

Most people and businesses can start with a free plan while building a site, then upgrade to shared hosting or a VPS if site traffic grows enough.

Everything beyond that is for larger businesses, which have different needs.

Please comment below if you have any questions.

Otherwise, start evaluating your requirements, then look at our recommendations above to find the right host for your needs.

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