Shared hosting

Shared hosting is a basic, cheap form of web hosting used by many companies

Shared hosting is good for publishing business websites or blogs that don't receive large amounts of traffic, and can be a cost-effective way to get your website online.

This article explains what shared hosting is, to help you understand whether it's right for your business.

Shared hosting: how does it work?

Shared hosting is when your web hosting space resides on a server that is shared by other people. It is most often used to host websites, and one single server can hold hundreds of websites. That may sound a lot, but it works because most of the websites don't receive too many visitors, or use enough of the server's resources to cause problems.

That's why shared hosting packages tend to be cheap. Entry-level packages can start from as little as £2 - £3 a month, although these may have with significant space and bandwidth restrictions or limited support.

Typically, a shared hosting package gives you access to a certain amount of disk space on the server, as well as a certain amount of website traffic each month. Most packages will also include lots of other features, like:

  • A choice of Windows or Linux operating systems.
  • A set of applications that are easy to install. For instance, tools to help you create a blog, online store or cloud computing applications.
  • Scripting languages - also sometimes called programming languages - which are commonly used to create websites.
  • Databases, which are a central part of many websites, most often used to store a website's content or customer registration details.
  • Email addresses, which allow you to send and receive email. These often offer basic email features compared to a separate email service.
  • An analytics package (also sometimes called ‘website statistics'), to help you understand who's visiting your website and how they use it.

Shared hosting is generally regarded as the most basic form of web hosting. Many web hosting companies refer to their shared hosting services as ‘web hosting'.

Shared hosting: what's it good for?

Shared hosting is a cheap, basic service. It's mainly good for:

  • Publishing simple websites. If your company website is a simple brochure-style site, or a straightforward online shop, shared hosting should be adequate. Shop around to find reliable web hosting.
  • Starting an online shop. Many shared hosting packages come with tools that make it easier to create an online shop so you can start selling online.
  • Publishing a blog. Shared hosting packages are ideal if you're starting a business blog. Most come ready-to-go with popular blogging packages so you can get set up quickly.
  • Website design and development. If you're building a new website from scratch, maybe with a web designer or developer, a shared hosting package is a good place to create and develop your site.

It takes relatively little technical knowledge to start using shared hosting. Packages usually come ready-to-go for most common uses, and if you're hosting a website you simply need to follow the instructions to upload your files.

Shared hosting: what are the limitations?

Very cheap web hosting packages can be a false economy. In order to keep costs down, some shared hosting companies cram as many customers as possible onto each server, meaning your website can become slow or completely unavailable.

And although you may see shared hosting packages advertised as having unlimited capacity, in reality such services will be unable to cope with large traffic spikes.

Overall, shared hosting is less resilient than other forms of hosting, and therefore not usually appropriate for busy, complex websites or important applications. The very fact that your data sits on a server along with data from lots of other people gives you less control – and potentially makes things less secure.

It's better to purchase virtual server hosting, dedicated hosting or cloud hosting, as these services offer greater capacity and reliability – with better guarantees from the companies providing them.

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