Unless overtly listed otherwise, most web hosting packages youÃ¢â¬â¢ll come across in your search are what are called shared hosting providers. What this means is that the server or servers that host your website are simultaneously hosting numerous other websites also. This gives you a discounted rate on web hosting services in exchange for tolerating certain technical constraints, like bandwidth, disk space, upload and download speeds, security and privacy, traffic, and probably the most notable restriction -- total control.
If you want total control not only over the administration of your website but also over the very hardware and software used to run it, then you should be evaluating not shared hosting providers, but dedicated hosting providers. If your business is large enough or growing fast enough that it requires its own internet connection and server, you may need a dedicated web host.
WhatÃ¢â¬â¢s the downside to going with dedicated hosting providers? In a word: responsibility. In most areas of life, with total control comes total responsibility, and itÃ¢â¬â¢s no different with hosting providers. With a dedicated server, the onus is on you to buy, install, and maintain the actual equipment -- the server itself -- mounted in the dedicated hosting providersÃ¢â¬â¢ data center.
Fortunately, you still get the benefit of their presumably top-notch, around-the-clock security over the physical premises, but you remain fully responsible for the security of your cyber-premises. Likewise, dedicated hosting providers will ensure that the systems in the building are all provided with redundant uninterruptible and backup power and environmental controls, but itÃ¢â¬â¢s you who must keep your machines and cables maintained and functioning in this idyll environment.
How do you identify whether itÃ¢â¬â¢s time to switch from a shared host to a dedicated host? There are 3 main indicators to stay alert for:
If the traffic streaming through your shared server is slowing down your customersÃ¢â¬â¢ pace as they browse your site (or your employees, if an in-house site), it may simply be time to look for more unencumbered shared hosting. But if youÃ¢â¬â¢ve tried several shared hosting providers with the same results, then it may be time to remind yourself how impatient the average web surfer is. While youÃ¢â¬â¢re jumping from shared host to shared host trying to save a buck, your customers are jumping ship. Your ability to respond promptly and effectively to customer transactions and inquiries cannot be overemphasized either.
The limits to your control are nowhere more apparent than in the areas of reliability and security. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s not simply that problems can arise: problems do arise. ItÃ¢â¬â¢s the nature of the biz. And if you donÃ¢â¬â¢t have unlimited access to your own operating system, software and database apps, etc., thereÃ¢â¬â¢s not much you can do when one arises.
If your company is growing fast, youÃ¢â¬â¢re going to be changing many aspects of your web presence along with it. You may regularly need to tweak your disk space and bandwidth and experiment with using different applications to better serve your changing needs. On a shared host, upgrading in such a way usually involves leaping from one Ã¢â¬ÅpackageÃ¢â¬ï¿½ or Ã¢â¬ÅplanÃ¢â¬ï¿½ to another. These packages are generally preset and may or may not serve your immediate needs. They may be riddled with programs you donÃ¢â¬â¢t yet need, for example, yet lack in the one singular program you do. Or the next leap up from your current plan has way more disk space and bandwidth than you need at the moment. With a dedicated server, you can make changes incrementally, step forward, step back, heck, step sideways if you need to -- and when you need to.
In large part, itÃ¢â¬â¢s the size and growth rate of your business that will dictate whether you need a shared or dedicated host. Affordability and personal time commitment are nice secondary considerations, but if your business is booming, you would do it a great injustice to try and save on a few bucks and few extra hours per week of your time in exchange for slower and poorer quality of service for your customers.
By the same token, however, if your business is small enough to function quite smoothly on any of the shared hosting providers out there, donÃ¢â¬â¢t squander your precious capital on a dedicated server just so you can have total control. Because sometimes total control isnÃ¢â¬â¢t all itÃ¢â¬â¢s cracked up to be.