What is Shared Hosting & How Does it Work?

Shared Hosting is web hosting where server resources are shared among multiple hosting accounts. This is a simple and affordable hosting option for most websites.

How shared hosting works

The concept of shared hosting is very literal. It has no technical meaning. You are just sharing a server to other websites. A hosting company configures and maintains a shared hosting server that runs resource management software. They manage and allocate resources between accounts. They are completely private and do not share information with other accounts.

For a second, imagine real-world housing. A shared hosting server works like a condominium. Although each owner is the property owner, the actual property and structure are owned by them both. Each condo can have its own amenities and floor plan. As long as the owner does not damage the building or litter the common property, they can do what they like.

A shared server can be configured to work smoothly and without interruption between accounts. Because resources are shared, the hosting company has the ability to impose limitations and rules on every account to prevent downtime.

What is shared hosting used for?

The majority of websites that are hosted on the Internet use shared hosting. Most website owners don’t need any other services due to the limitations of a server and the requirements of a website.

A shared server allows you to know what your rules and limits are, and to trust the hosting company with providing those resources for your website.

You can set a fixed price for the resources you need if you know how many people visit your site and how efficient it is.

The shared structure is a good idea if you know how many people will live in your condo, and what your average day looks like.

Publishers will often switch from shared hosting plans around 25,000 to 35,000 visits per month. That’s when I upgraded. An eCommerce site will often see the switch occur at around 10,000 visits per month.

These numbers are not benchmarks. Your website’s specifications can make the numbers vary greatly. It is always a good idea to monitor your memory, bandwidth and CPU usage from your hosting account’s cPanel.

It is also important to understand how your website performs, what your traffic patterns are, and the customer service provided by your hosting company.

Some shared hosting services are known for failing to function under high traffic spikes. This is not the whole story. Most accounts aren’t spiking simultaneously on the same server. Even if you have a website that is wildly out of control, even a great shared host can handle lots of traffic.

In 2013, I wrote a blog post about my personal experience that became quite popular. At the time, I was using a HostGator shared server so I could give support an alert when the piece was picked up by a large website. I created a static cache for the page. My site was able to handle 10,000 visits in an hour with no problems.

Shared hosting can and does crash. Many sites can outgrow shared hosting, and there are many other types of hosting products.

Differentialities in Shared Hosting

There are many hosting products that offer shared hosting. Here are the differences.

Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting

Shared Hosting has fewer dedicated resources than VPS hosting. They will often be on the same server, but with VPS, more resources are pre-allocated than shared. It is a bit like a condo versus a townhome. Both are private property within a building. With a townhome, however, all the property is shared (including the attic space and land). A condominium allows for more sharing.

You can share the server resources of shared hosting with other websites. You will usually be able to get a lower price than VPS, and the same performance as VPS. The hosting company will balance the server load.

A VPS hosting package will give you more control and freedom. Because you don’t know what another website is doing, you’ll be able to determine how much your website can handle.

Shared Hosting vs. Dedicated Hosting

Shared Hosting allows you to have dedicated resources on one server, but it is also shared with other accounts. Dedicated hosting allows you to use the entire server. You basically lease a server with support and a top-tier Internet connection.

Shared Hosting vs. Cloud Hosting

While Shared Hosting provides dedicated resources on one server, Cloud Hosting distributes your website files and databases to thousands of servers all over the world. You only pay for the agreed-upon resources with shared hosting. Cloud Hosting is a service that charges only for what you use.

It’s almost like buying a townhome instead of having an Airbnb subscription that allows you to stay anywhere and anytime as long as you pay.

Cloud Hosting gives you unlimited resources, but you have to pay per use. You pay a fixed price for stable resources with Shared Hosting. It’s similar to ordering an entree at a fixed price, but with Shared Hosting.

Many hosting companies mix and match their advantages and disadvantages, which can be confusing. Cloud Hosting can be used as a backup to Shared Hosting and for a fixed price.

Cloud Hosting is rarely included with customer support. Cloud providers include all major tech companies such as Google, Amazon and Oracle. It is a commodity that can be sold.

Some hosting companies now offer innovative Cloud Hosting plans that combine support and pre-purchased credit for a single-priced plan.

In this case, however, you still pay for the uses and not the resources. You are just pre-purchasing those uses.

What to Look For in Shared Hosting

Shopping for Shared Hosting is easier than other hosting products because you’re paying for shared resources.

What are you really looking for?

  • Server Resources & Performance (memory, bandwidth, processors, etc)
  • Account Rules & Limits (ie, databases, domains, disk space)
  • Technical & Customer Support
  • Account Management and Ease of use
  • Software & Server Configurations
  • Plan bonuses (ie, automated back-ups, etc.)

Hosting companies that share their servers

I have used many Shared Hosting providers for both my projects and those of clients. This is a complete list of web hosting providers with customer reviews.

ReviewMy RatingUptimeMoney GuaranteeMigration is freeWebsite
A2 Hosting8.5/10100%30 daysLearn More
BigScoots8.0/1099.88%45 daysLearn more
Bluehost9.5/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
DreamHost9.0/10100%97 DaysLearn More
FastComet8.0/1099.99%45 daysLearn More
FatCow6.0/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
GoDaddy8.0/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
GreenGeeks8.0/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
HostGator9.0/1099.96%45 daysLearn More
Hostinger8.0/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
HostMonster7.5/1099.98%30 daysLearn More
HostPapa8.0/10100%30 daysLearn More
Hostwinds7.0/10100%3 DaysLearn more
InMotion Hosting9.0/1099.95%90 daysLearn More
IONOS from 1&17.0/1099.9%30 daysLearn More
iPage7.5/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
JustHost8.0/1099.99%30 daysLearn More
Namecheap9.0/1099.98%30 daysLearn More
Network Solutions6.0/1099.71%Learn more
SiteGround8.5/10100%30 daysLearn More
Web Hosting Hub8.0/1099.99%90 daysLearn More
Web.com7.5/1099.66%Learn More

The Best Web Hosting

Understanding the basics of servers and speed will help you make your shared host work better. A Beginner’s Guide to Website Performance & Speed was written by me.

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