Cloud hosting vs. shared hosting: which is actually better?

Cloud hosting vs. shared hosting: which is actually better?

Ever wonder why some websites load faster than others, or why you sometimes get the dreaded 404 error when you try to access your favorite site?

Often, the answer comes down to website hosting. That’s why the type of hosting you choose is so important when you create a website.

The two most popular hosting types are cloud hosting and shared hosting. But what’s the difference between the two, and which one is right for your website? Read on to learn more.

What is web hosting?

Web hosting refers to the storage and delivery of all the things that make your website unique, including your text, images and videos.

Just like every house needs a foundation, every website needs to live on a server. When you click on a link or type in a URL, your web browser sends a request to that server, which then retrieves the website and sends it to your device.

There are about 200 million active websites worldwide, and each one of them relies on some type of hosted services. So, it’s no surprise that the global market size for web hosting is expected to grow to a whopping $395.84 billion by 2030. Within that market are several options, including cloud hosting and shared hosting.

What is cloud hosting?

Cloud hosting leverages all of the on-demand benefits of cloud computing. In this model, your website’s resources are hosted on a network of multiple virtual servers that run from the cloud. If one server goes down, the other servers pick up the slack without missing a beat. This reduces the chance of website failure and allows users to access your website from anywhere in the world.

Because it’s a dependable model of web hosting, cloud hosting is the fastest-growing approach, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 18% per year. What’s more, many top providers have raised the game by entering into multi-cloud hosting agreements, allowing them to host websites across multiple large cloud networks. Wix, for example, provides multi-cloud hosting through a combination of Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud and its own servers.

What is shared hosting?

With shared hosting, your website’s resources are hosted on a single physical server. It’s called “shared” because multiple websites borrow bandwidth, CPU, RAM and storage from that same server. The primary reason people choose shared hosting is because it’s often cheaper than cloud hosting. However, it’s also less reliable and may create performance issues.

6 ways to compare cloud hosting vs. shared hosting

What’s the difference between cloud hosting and shared hosting? The best way to compare the two is to examine their pros and cons across each of these six categories:

  1. Scalability

  2. Performance

  3. Security

  4. Customization and flexibility

  5. Reliability and uptime

  6. Cost

chart showing the difference between cloud hosting and shared hosting

01. Scalability

Let’s say you launch a travel website. You know that you’ll experience web traffic surges during holiday seasons. So, you want to be sure that your server can handle the extra load.

Shared hosting is limited in its ability to meet these types of high traffic demands. Because multiple websites share bandwidth on the same physical server, there’s only so much to go around. When it runs low—or runs out—it can slow your website to a crawl or even cause a website crash.

By contrast, cloud hosting pools the resources of multiple servers, which means you can scale up to meet high traffic demands or scale down as traffic decreases. This also gives you the ability to easily grow your online business. If you’re an eCommerce merchant, for example, and one of your products goes viral, your website can manage the boost in traffic so you can drive more sales and maximize your profits.

02. Performance

According to recent research, 53% of website visits are abandoned when a mobile site takes three seconds or longer to load. That’s why it’s so important to ensure optimum website performance, especially if your online presence is your business.

With shared hosting, your compute power and bandwidth are limited by how many other websites are using your physical server at the same time. If other sites are consuming too many of those resources, your site’s load time will lag.

However, cloud hosting is designed specifically to help accelerate website load page times. Because your site’s resources can live on multiple servers in different geographies, cloud hosting lets a user connect with a server located in the same region as they are. This creates faster speed and a better user experience.

If you have a website now and want to know how to measure its current performance, use this bandwidth calculator to find the answer.

03. Security

Website security is one of the most crucial factors when comparing cloud hosting vs. shared hosting. While no hosting company can promise total protection for your website, any vendor you choose should offer you a robust set of cybersecurity tools.

Things like firewalls, login security and SSL certificates are table stakes for any hosting provider, cloud or shared. Ask vendors about their protection against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks. If you plan to accept payments on your site, choose Payment Card Industry (PCI)-compliant vendors to keep your customers’ credit card and financial information secure.

If you choose shared hosting, know that any security vulnerabilities are also shared. So, if one website on your server gets attacked, it can lead to attacks against every site that uses the same server, including yours. And once a bad actor has access to that server, they’ll have it for as long as it takes for your hosting company to find the root cause of the breach. That’s why it’s so important to ask the right questions about cybersecurity before choosing a web hosting provider.

By contrast, when you choose cloud hosting from a provider like Wix, you benefit from enterprise-grade security, including around-the-clock monitoring and rapid response. Wix also meets all PCI Data Security standards.

04. Customization and flexibility

When you learning how to make a website for the first time, you may be okay with the package your hosting vendor offers. But as you grow your business and expand your technical skills, you may choose to customize your experience to your unique needs.

With shared hosting, this can be difficult. You’ll likely have a control panel where you can choose different settings. But if you want to make larger changes, such as switching to a different content management system or adding storage capacity, you will be limited to the tools your vendor allows you to use.

Cloud hosting offers far more flexibility and customization. You can easily change control panel options, upgrade your RAM or even swap out operating systems. This will enhance your ability to create a one-of-a-kind website that wows your audience.

05. Reliability and uptime

Both cloud hosting and shared hosting claim to offer exceptional levels of uptime. But is that the reality?

Shared hosting providers may struggle to deliver on this promise for one simple reason: if the physical server that hosts your website goes down, your site will fail, and your users will receive that dreaded 404 error. In addition, if other websites on the same server experience high traffic and/or utilize excessive resources, it can impact the performance of your site.

This is rarely a concern with cloud hosting. Because your website is supported by multiple servers, there is no single point of failure. That means your site will stay live even if one or two servers fail simultaneously. For these reasons, cloud hosting providers like Wix can guarantee 99.99% uptime, the highest available. And for this reason, cloud hosting is a more reliable option.

06. Cost

One of the biggest benefits of shared hosting is its relatively inexpensive price point. Most shared hosting providers offer monthly plans. One estimate shows that entry-level tiers start around $2.51 per month, with mid-tier options averaging $4.62 per month.

With cloud hosting, you only pay for the resources you use. And while it has traditionally been considered more expensive than shared hosting, cloud hosting is starting to become more affordable.

Wix, for example, offers free cloud hosting for every website you create, including 500MB of free cloud storage. If you go beyond the storage requirements, you can upgrade to a premium plan and add as much as 50GB of cloud storage depending on your needs.

How do you know whether you need shared hosting vs. cloud hosting?

Now that you know how much your website’s overall success depends upon choosing the right hosting provider, it’s time to analyze which one will work best for you. Below are four steps to help you make the right choice.

Analyze your website’s needs

Consider how much traffic you expect your website to generate, both at startup and into the future.

If you’re building an online business in an area of interest that experiences natural surges in traffic, such as eCommerce or travel, then cloud hosting may be best for you. The same is true if you expect to grow your website’s audience over the long haul. Also, if you want your website to reach an international audience, cloud hosting is a smart choice.

If you’re planning a personal website (such as a blog) and expect only limited traffic, shared hosting might be a wise option.

Consider your budget

Set the amount you want to spend on hosting, and then search for the best hosting solution that fits your budget. While shared hosting is traditionally less expensive, you may find that cloud hosting is more economical over the long haul.

Look for the best provider

Don’t simply pick the first hosting provider who you find online. Do your research. Check software comparison sites and read the user comments. Watch for any reviews that mention problems you’d want to avoid, such as downtime or other performance issues.

Take a demo

Most hosting services will let you try before you buy, which is the best way to know if a provider’s services will work for you. With Wix, you can sign up and create a website for free. You only need to pay if you choose to upgrade to a premium plan.

If you walk through these four steps and still have questions about website hosting, this four-step guide will show you how to host a website.

The bottom line

You can build a beautiful website in just a few hours, but you’ll also want to make sure that the site you build will last for the long haul. Choosing the right website hosting provider will give you the reliability, scalability and flexibility you’ll need so launch your website and grow it with confidence.

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