Blog & Company News

May 5, 2011

Shared, Dedicated, or Cloud Hosting: What’s the Difference?

[caption id="attachment_393" align="alignright" width="340" caption="Difference in web servers"][/caption] As a small-business owner, you already know that you need a website and that in order to have that website, you must have a domain name and a web host. However, that’s about as much as most of us know. In order to get a better understanding of what you are purchasing, you’ll want to clear up the confusion regarding the definitions of shared, dedicated, and virtual-private-server hosting.


Shared hosting is the most affordable type of hosting on the market. A shared server contains many different websites on the same server and must include a system administrator. Each site, to keep it separate from the other sites, sits on its own partition of the server. The sharing of the server is what allows for the lower costs. Shared hosting is a good option for people who have smaller sites and don’t expect large amounts of traffic to their sites. It’s also a great option for people who don’t need a lot of control of, or access to, the more technical aspects of their sites. On a shared server, the web host is in control of managing the server, installing software, updating security, providing technical support, and taking care of other details. Shared hosting typically uses a web-based control panel such as cPanel, InterWorx, or one of many other control-panel products that are customized to the hosting company. If you have software-development needs beyond the scope of what the hosting company offers, you may prefer dedicated or virtual-private-server hosting.


A dedicated server is one over which you have complete control. You, as the user, decide what goes on and comes off your server. When you buy a dedicated server, you buy the entire server for your own use. There is no sharing or virtualization involved. For that reason, it’s a more expensive option. A dedicated server includes an operating system, related software, and a connection to the internet. Although the server is physically located in the data center, it can usually be operated remotely. Dedicated servers also have the option of being managed or unmanaged. For managed servers, the techs at the hosting company provide backup and support for updating and troubleshooting. For unmanaged servers, the clients handle all aspects of maintenance and routine work. Dedicated servers are best for business owners who need instant access to their sites at all times and want to be in complete control of the content. Business owners who expect large amounts of traffic to their websites, or those who have a group of related sites, can benefit immensely from dedicated hosting as well.

Virtual Private Servers/Cloud Servers

Last, but definitely not least, is the virtual private server (VPS), or what we at The Small Business Authority refer to as the cloud server. The cloud server is the happy medium between shared and dedicated, and it’s what many companies are now promoting as the most affordable and available hosting option. A cloud server operates as a dedicated server in terms of virtualization and user controllability. However, a cloud server is actually one server with many different domains on it, like a shared server. The ability to cut the server into different parts while allowing user control is what makes it affordable and appealing to business owners. A cloud server is also useful when a copy of a live website is needed. When updates need to be made, they can be tested in a second section of the cloud to avoid the hassle of dealing with a completely separate dedicated server. The cloud is great for clients who don’t need high levels of access to their sites all the time but need guaranteed resources for their websites. It’s also great for small- to medium-sized-business owners who need some control and customization as well as prices closer to those of shared servers.