What Kind of Web Hosting Do I Need, Exactly?

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Web sites are now as ubiquitous as business cards, and as the marketplace becomes virtual, a well-developed and engaging online presence is no longer optional for successful businesses. In 2012 alone, more than 51 million new websites appeared online, spread across shared, dedicated and virtual or cloud-based hosting platforms. If you’re looking to join the fray (or need to upgrade your existing site), chances are you’ve run across each kind of hosting in your search.

Shared hosting is the go-to solution for those looking to set up their site quickly and affordably. This is definitely the preferred entry-level option. As we all learned in kindergarten, sharing can be a very good thing; shared hosting is so affordable because it spreads the resources and costs of running a powerful web server across many users. However, every site hosted on a shared server has to rely on a single machine’s capabilities—including a single operating system (OS), meaning if one site crashes the system, all the other sites hosted on the server may go down with it.

For those ready to move on from shared hosting and exercise a little more direct administration of their server and its content, Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting is an attractive and affordable option. Users still share hardware resources, but each site is hosted on a fully-customizable virtual machine that has its own Internet Protocol (IP) address and operating system. If your site is growing in popularity and needs more flexibility and power to support increased traffic, VPS hosting may be right for you.

Dedicated hosting is the way to go if your site receives heavy visitor traffic, requires top-notch security, or simply contains a lot of content. Running your own physical server gives you unparalleled power and security. You’ll find premium features—such as control over upgrades and expansions, OS management and custom application development and deployment come along with the premium price tag.

Choosing the right Web host for you is all about striking a balance between budget and bandwidth. Understanding the capabilities (and limitations) of each option is the first step in building online success.

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