If there is one thing I get asked the most I would say it would have to be “Which web host is the best?” You might be surprised that the answer to that question is not always the same. Each website is unique and may have its own requirements which may lead me to recommending a specific type of hosting. You may be wondering why that matters or thinking “aren’t all hosting plans the same?” so let me explain.
There are several different kinds of hosting solutions. I’ll go over a few of them here that are the most common I see.
Shared hosting is the most common, mainly due to its affordability. When a web host can cram as many accounts on one server as possible, they will make more profit having those accounts “share” the resources of the server’s processors, physical memory, and disk space. Most shared hosting plans range in cost greatly, but for a single site you can expect to pay less than $5.00/mo, or for an account that allows unlimited sites you could expect to pay between $5 and $15 depending on which host you go with.
If you are just starting out with your online business, a shared hosting package would be the right choice for you and offer you an inexpensive way to get started building your website. As your website grows, you can upgrade your shared hosting plan, or migrate your site(s) to a Virtual Private Server (VPS).
Shared hosting has somewhat of a reputation for not being as safe as other forms of hosting, however that really depends on the web host that you choose to go with. Some have pretty bad security, while others take security measures to such an extreme that it would be nearly impossible to do anything more than host an html page on your site. These “extremely secure” hosts usually got that way after a lot of security breaches, hacking, and attacks on their server from bots that want to use sites for malicious activity (more on that in another future post).
Shared hosting is not right for everyone. Obviously if you are going to run a membership site and have a few hundred members who are constantly logging in and checking things, then it might be time to consider a VPS server.
A good way to know when the right time to change to a VPS server would be if your host has alerted you several times about exceeding the allowable resource limits within your shared hosting account, and you have already optimized your site with caching plugins, and other tools to help reduce the server loads.
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a step up from, but still is a form of Shared Hosting. Basically a VPS is going to give you a dedicated amount of resources and also have far less hosting accounts on the server. These are like having your own server, but it is just a virtual server running on a much larger machine, so there is somewhat more security to this as well as a much more performance since nobody else on the server can take away from your dedicated resources.
A good entry level VPS is going to set you back at least $25 to $80/mo depending on who you get one through. I have personally found that the options vary quite a lot between different web hosts as far as the options go. Some only dedicate disk space and memory, and “share” the server’s CPUs (processing power) among all accounts on the server, which might not be the most ideal, but could offer a lower cost VPS.
The true benefit of a VPS is you can pretty much do whatever you want within reason, and you get a lot more control. Some web hosts restrict the “root access” and some don’t. Root Access will give you direct control to modify about any setting you want.
Then there are Managed versus Unmanaged VPS. I’ll admit you’re a bigger geek than me if you manage your own “unmanaged” VPS.
For most of us, a “Managed VPS” will be enough, and the web host will make any necessary tweaks you want (so you don’t do what I did the first 5 minutes I had my first VPS and break stuff!).
I prefer having a managed VPS with Root access. This gives me the opportunity to have my web host manage all the updates and security for me, while I’m still able to pretty much manage my own settings on the server. I have learned over the years what NOT to touch!
A VPS is right for you if you need more resources and control over your hosting environment than basic shared hosting can provide.
Once you outgrow a VPS, and have the biggest VPS plan there is, then you would want to consider going with a Dedicated Server.
If you need dedicated hosting, which essentially gives you complete control over an entire server, then that means you have some really huge need for resources. The least expensive Dedicated server that would be worth having (as far as I have seen) would run you about $160/mo. I’m sure there may be some available for less, but the memory and CPU power are quite inadequate to say the least. With those really cheap dedicated servers, you would be better off with a VPS in most cases.
The customization is not very limited when it comes to a dedicated server. This kind of hosting plan shouldn’t be considered unless you have a solid business and are already making significant profits and actually need the resources. If you are not very tech savvy it might be worth having someone in your business who knows how to manage a dedicated server so that it keeps running smooth. I personally wouldn’t consider a dedicated server unless my business was making over $200,000 a year in profits.
While the cost of a dedicated server might not be much of a factor, at that stage in your business you are more likely going to need to hire someone to manage the server for you. Your valuable time as an Entrepreneur shouldn’t be wasted on tasks that can be delegated to someone who specializes in that area. That would allow you to do what you do best.
But which hosting plan should I go with?
Ah back to the main question! Personally I use shared hosting as well as a VPS. As I have many websites, I like to separate my established websites that take more resources from the ones I’m “working on” or from my sites that I use strictly for testing. I use the VPS to host my “established” sites on, and a shared hosting account for my testing sites, or newer sites that haven’t got much traffic yet. Once a site starts to perform well I’ll move it over to the VPS.
If you have just a few websites that don’t take much system resources then I would recommend a shared hosting plan.
If you require more resources then a VPS will work great for you.
The best thing I could suggest is evaluating your current hosting situation and the needs of your site to determine the best course of action. Obviously if you ask your host if you should upgrade, I’m sure they’ll find every imaginable reason to say “yes” and probably won’t give you the best answer.
If you say things to yourself like:
“My site is slow!”
“Why do I keep getting random errors”
“I wish I could have more control over how my server runs”
Then you may wish to consider a VPS server or maybe even a dedicated server if it is within your budget.
My Top Choices for Shared and VPS Hosting
Now that you have an understanding of the 3 main type of hosting plans, let me tell you about the web hosts that I like to use, and what they are best at providing.
SiteGround.com offers quite a few options. Their support is awesome, and the quality of the servers is very good. They meet all of OptimizePress’s minimum requirements right out of the box with no tweaking necessary (even with their basic shared hosting). I have a site hosted with them right now that I’m working on and have been very pleased with it so far.
I personally recommend the GrowBig plan which is flexible enough for anyone getting started with their site(s) and has enough power to handle several websites. Once you grow out of that plan they have more options to help you find the right solution.
A2hosting.com is great if you don’t think you’ll need a lot of “how to” support. They are good at answering their support tickets, but sometimes they do tend to take some extra time getting back. With that being said, any tickets submitted are usually for more advanced technical stuff. Their live chat can handle some of the basic stuff and the wait time is not that bad.
When I started with A2 Hosting I went with a Shared Reseller plan (around $29/mo if memory serves me right) so I can keep client sites on their own cPanel in case they ever wanted to take over the technical side of their hosting. Once that grew enough I went with a Managed VPS server that was running about $80/mo at the time.
Overall I was very satisfied with the VPS solution, but I wanted more control and started searching for Managed VPS with root access (so I could change my own PHP settings and control my own server backups). They didn’t have that at the time so I went with Knownhost.com. A2 Hosting now has Managed VPS with root access but the pricing is just a little higher.
Despite the name, I have found that not too many people know about KnownHost.com, but they do seem quite popular and a company that has been growing. They specialize in VPS and Dedicated server hosting. They have also recently launched a Managed WordPress hosting solution, but I have not tried that out yet so I can’t really say that I would recommend it (it does look quite nice though).
I actually have two VPS servers (with the SSD option) here and both of them cost me less than $100/mo which is great. I have had almost no downtime, and the servers are very stable and reliable. I actually have no complaints in that area.
The support is ticket based, but you can expect a reply quite quickly no matter the time of day. I have personally submitted over 20 support tickets (mostly asking questions, upgrading server, or asking for the newer php versions), and I have never waited more than 15 minutes for the first reply. I honestly don’t know how they manage that. Being a support person myself, I would love to sit in the corner of their office one day and find out their secret!
If you are looking for a great VPS solution (or even dedicated server) I would highly recommend either A2hosting or Knownhost as you really can’t go wrong with either option.
I hope you have found this information helpful. Drop me a comment here if you have any questions! 🙂