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What is shared hosting? A beginner’s guide

By Will Stevens - March 11, 2022

In this beginner’s guide to shared hosting, we’ll look at the basics of shared hosting, what makes it different from other types of hosting and how you can decide if shared is the right hosting package for you.

What is shared hosting?

With shared hosting, your website is stored on a server with a number of other websites. The hosting server is shared between a number of websites.

The opposite of shared hosting is a dedicated server, where just one website is hosted on one server.

Not sure what a server is? Think of it as the place where website information is saved, ready for people to access it.

When someone wants to visit a website, they enter its address in their browser and the browser requests the website’s information from the server and loads it in the browser.

What are the advantages of shared hosting?

The biggest advantage of shared hosting is the fact it’s cheap. Shared hosting is cheap because the costs of the server are split between multiple website owners.

Shared hosting is also an entry level product, which means it’s usually designed with beginners in mind. That should mean a shared package includes a simple control panel interface, easy-to-install apps and straightforward support guides.

The fact it can be easier to use than other types of hosting is a big advantage if you’re launching your first website.

What are the disadvantages of shared hosting?

The biggest disadvantage of shared hosting is the fact the resources are split between multiple websites. This can mean that your website loads more slowly than if you use a dedicated server and there may be restrictions on the size of your website, the number of visitors your site can handle each month and/or how you can use your hosting package.

Another disadvantage is that your website can be affected by the other sites which share your server.

For example, if one website on the server gets a big influx of traffic, that could slow down all the other websites on the server, because the popular website will be using more resources.

However, for most small websites a shared hosting package will provide more than enough resources.

Why do I need shared hosting?

If you want to get a website online, you need some sort of hosting package. That’s because your hosting package is where your website’s information is stored. (It’s technically possible to host a website on your home PC, but if you switch off that PC, the website would go offline!).

Shared hosting is a great choice if you’re on a tight budget and want to get a basic website. You will need some technical skills, but using a shared hosting package is much simpler than using a dedicated server.

What can I do with shared hosting?

Share web hosting works best for smaller sites, such as blogs, personal websites, simple business websites and basic portfolio sites.

Although in theory there are usually no hard restrictions on what kind of website you can create with shared hosting, in reality the limited sever resources on offer will make it almost impossible to create a large, complex website using shared hosting.

For example, an image-heavy website like a photography portfolio would likely load very slowly if built using shared web hosting. Plus, you would be at risk of exceeding your storage and bandwidth restrictions, if any are in place.

Although you could create a large complex website on a shared hosting package, it would likely offer users a very poor experience with very slow loading times and frequent error messages.

How can I tell if shared hosting is right for me?

Shared hosting could be right for you if:

  • You have a small budget
  • You have basic IT skills
  • You’re comfortable with the idea of learning new IT skills, such as how to use a control panel
  • You’re willing to get to grips with a content management system such as WordPress
  • You want to build a blog, personal site, simple business site, basic portfolio site
  • You can find a shared hosting package with all the feature you need

What should I look for in a shared hosting package?

The perfect shared hosting package for you is one that has all the features you need. Here are some things you should keep an eye out for:

Unlimited storage/bandwidth

Many providers, including 123 Reg, offer shared web hosting with unlimited storage and bandwidth. By opting for this kind of package, you won’t need to worry about going over any limits about the size of your site or the number of visitors it can have each month.

A user-friendly control panel

You’ll use your control panel to manage your web server, so make sure you choose a hosting package one that’s user-friendly.

123 Reg’s shared hosting uses cPanel, which is one of the most popular control panels around.

A reliable provider

Look for an established and respected hosting provider. Check reviews on sites like Trustpilot. A strong track record and positive reviews indicates that you’re likely to get a reliable hosting package.

Top-notch support

If you’re new to web hosting, the chances are you’ll need help sooner or later. So, before you sign up to a package, make sure you’ll be able to get help when you need.

Check the details of the support offered by the hosting company you’re considering, plus have a look through their support articles.

Also, when you’re checking their reviews make sure you pay attention to any comments about support.

One-click app installation

Being able to install a content management system like WordPress with just one click will save you time and effort, so make sure this comes as part of your hosting package!

Added extras

Most shared hosting providers offer a range of added extras, so take these into account when deciding the best value package on offer.

123 Reg offers extras including free domain names, free personalised email and, with our Pro and Ultimate packages, free marketing tools and an SSL certificate.

What are the alternatives to shared hosting?

The main alternatives to shared hosting are:

  • WordPress hosting
  • Virtual private server
  • Dedicated server

WordPress hosting

As the name suggests, WordPress hosting is hosting designed to be used with the WordPress content management system.

It usually offers extra features designed to improve the way WordPress runs, so it’s well worth considering if you’re thinking of using WordPress.

You’ll probably find it’s slightly more expensive than shared hosting.

Virtual private server (VPS)

In one way a VPS is similar to shared hosting because you don’t get the full power of a dedicated server.

It’s different from shared hosting because you get a much bigger share of the resources. The method used to divide those resources is also different.

Even though you’re sharing a server with other hosting customers, each customer has a fixed share of the server’s resources. (Software is used to divide up the server’s resources, so it acts as multiple separate servers. Hence the name “virtual”.) That means if another website on the server gets a huge spike of traffic, it won’t affect your website’s speed.

A VPS will offer far more resources than shared hosting, which means it can handle large, complex websites without slowing down.

The cost of a VPS is significantly higher than that of shared hosting. A VPS can also require a higher level of technical knowledge.

Dedicated server

As the name suggests, with a dedicated server you have the whole thing to yourself! That means all its resources are at your disposal, but you’ll be paying a much higher price for it.

A dedicated server will allow you to create multiple large complex websites. It can also be used for large-scale data storage, app hosting and more.

The drawbacks to a dedicated server are the cost and the fact that you’ll probably need a significant level of technical knowledge to make the most of it.

123 Reg’s Premium Hosting does offer a control panel, but some dedicated server products don’t. Without a control panel, it can be impossible for someone without technical skills to use a dedicated server.

You only need a dedicated server if you’re looking to create an enterprise-level website or application.

Still not sure which package is right for you? Check out this guide on how to choose web hosting.

Summing up

Shared hosting is a great way to get your first website online. It’s designed for beginners to use and comes with high levels of support.

Choosing a reliable web host will make sure your new site gets off to the best possible start.

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