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When Does Shared Hosting Have to Grow Up?

If you’re looking for a really cheap website hosting solution, then shared hosting is the way to go: you share the resources of a hosting computer with other websites and domain names. With the price of disk space constantly falling, a service provider may ‘throw in’ as much as a gigabyte or two of disk space, together with the annual fee for your domain name. Unlimited gigabytes shared hosting space plans are available for a few dollars per month. Just one gigabyte is a lot of space for a website with text, content and graphics, but can disappear rather fast if you also put video clips on your website. However, there’s a solution for that too, simply upload your clips to a free video hosting service like YouTube and embed a link to them from your website.

 The Downside of Popularity
 So what more could you possibly want? In a word, bandwidth. Yes, disk space capacity has grown by leaps and bounds, but network bandwidth remains a scarcer commodity. Providers know they can offer apparently huge amounts of storage space, because on average a website will use relatively little. On the other hand, a website that becomes very popular and that offers video files for download can have a substantial impact on the amount of network traffic being generated. Providers of shared hosting typically have two ways of handling this scenario. The first is to hope that your site is the only really popular one, so that once again everything averages out to something manageable. The second is to limit bandwidth per domain name, or per website. In that case, over a certain level, users will find that the response from your website s-l-o-o-o-w-s right down.

Hosting Providers and Neighbors
 Unfortunately, poor response time may not even be your fault. Even if your website is not as popular as Facebook, network performance may suffer if the provider you chose oversold its capacity. Overselling of capacity is common enough in many industries. Airlines do it to avoid leaving empty seats on flights. However, the number of passengers in the plane does not exceed the number of seats. For web hosting however, the logic is different. There’s always room for one more, but consequently, everybody’s slice of the bandwidth keeps getting smaller and smaller. If you want to know more about how many other domains are being hosted on the same server as yours, a service like MyIPNeighbors will let you see which other sites are being hosted on the same server where your website is located.

How Important is Your Web Site
 At this point, whether it’s you, a greedy website neighbor, or the provider, it may be worth considering other hosting solutions. The first thing to consider is your objective in having a website, because that will affect whether or not you decide to live with a sub-optimal shared solution, or find another one. If your visitors are happy to come to your site at three in the morning when everybody else is asleep, then shared hosting may be acceptable. However, what if you’re relying on your website to be available to visitors at any time as well as with reasonable response times, for example because it has information on your business or because it provides a service to a community? In those cases, slow response times could reflect negatively on your brand or your image.

Upgrade Choices
The next step up from shared hosting may be to either a virtual private server (VPS) hosting solution or a dedicated hosting solution. Both are typically more expensive than a shared hosting solution, but they should of course both offer more as well. A dedicated hosting solution means you get exclusive use of the computer server for hosting your website. You should also get information about the amount of bandwidth made available to you, so that you can dimension your hosting server correctly for your needs. A VPS solution is between the shared and the dedicated solution. You still have to share the server with others, but for a higher rental charge, you should get more bandwidth, more disk space, and greater control of the administration of your hosting resources.