Shared vs. VPS Hosting: What's Right for Your eCommerce Store?

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Guest Updated: June 01, 2021

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This is a guest post written by Jason Chow. Currently associated with WebRevenue.io, Jason is a self-professed Internet Marketer. He has spent the last half-decade actively connecting a formidable network of pro bloggers, website owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs.

eCommerce websites are generally built for high traffic volumes. Because of the multiple financial aspects of these sites, they also need more reliable web hosting as far as possible. The most common type of hosting plan is shared hosting, while Virtual Private Server (VPS) is the next option.

This article will be taking a deeper dive into shared and VPS hosting to showcase what exactly they are and why the latter is a better choice for eCommerce websites or online stores.

Table of content

Types of Web Hosting

In the world of web hosting, several options will get the job done (get your site on the web). While they typically function as a storage place for your website, they differ in many aspects. The more popular web hosting types are shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated server hosting, and cloud hosting.

Shared Hosting

shared hosting
The shared hosting market was valued at over $22 billion as of 2020

Shared hosting, as the name suggests, is an environment where several websites share the physical server, software applications and use the same resources, namely disk space, CPU, RAM, etc. In other words, everyone’s sites are in the same boat. If the boat sinks, so does everyone.

A good analogy to shared hosting would be that you share the swimming pool with others. You’ll have a jolly good time in the pool when it isn’t crowded. However, you’re aware that when more people go into the pool, the space gets cramped.

Why Shared Hosting?

There are many reasons that make shared hosting highly popular and dominating a significant portion of the web hosting market:

Affordable

Shared hosting is the least expensive of all hosting options. Generally speaking, you’re literally renting a space inside an already existing server with others. This makes it easier for web hosts to offer shared hosting at cheap rates.

Easy to Get Started & Use

Shared hosting is straightforward. The setup is easy and pretty much standardized. Chances are, you’ll only need to work on your front-end, and not much needs to be done at the back-end. Also, most shared hosting environments come with tools to help you manage your website. In short, shared hosting is a more beginner-friendly hosting solution as it generally requires less technical expertise - easy as pie.

Managed Infrastructure

You won’t need to worry about the nitty-gritty technical details. System downtime, maintenance, upgrades, etc., are all taken care of by the support team. They’ll also have a specialized team to resolve the more complex issues. So, you get to entirely focus on your core business which you should in the first place.

Why not Shared Hosting?

There are always two sides to a coin, and so the same applies to shared hosting.

Restrictive

While shared hosting is not complicated and easy to work with, it’s a highly restrictive environment where you have few options with which to work. You don’t have root access, and you have limited access to the backend. Should you wish to amend anything, you’ll need to seek permission. This is because anything you do may impact others’ sites.

Limited Resources

If one website is experiencing high loads, it will naturally use up more of the server resources. This, in turn, will affect other websites’ performance, as fewer resources are available. This is not good as your website’s performance is at the mercy of others.

Security

Security is a significant concern. Albeit your website has a separate domain, the fact that this directory is shared with others intrinsically links yours to the other websites as well. So, once a hacker gains access to this main directory or successfully hacks into one of the sites, all sites on the same server are in danger too.

Bear in mind that with shared hosting, all websites hosted on the same server will inherently have the same IP address. In the event, the IP address becomes blacklisted (probably due to the fault of another site), your website will ‘inherit’ the label of being malicious and be blacklisted.

When is Shared Hosting Used?

That said, shared hosting works best if you’re creating a blog or a small and focused website that does not have a massive amount of traffic. So, if you don’t have a big budget and own a small and simple eCommerce store, shared hosting may do just fine for you. Simply put, this is the preferred choice for new sites that do not expect heavy traffic in the short term.

Virtual Private Server (VPS)

vps hosting
VPS Hosting Conceptual Diagram (source: Namecheap)

Technically speaking, a VPS is a virtual operating system that resides within a parent server that uses virtualization technology, resulting in software-simulated machines that are independent, isolated environments within themselves. This enables VPS to provide dedicated resources to each user.

Virtualization is possible through a hypervisor. A hypervisor, also known as a virtual machine monitor (VMM), is a software that creates and runs virtual machines (VMs). Although you’ll still be sharing the same server, you each will get a dedicated virtual partition which means that the resources are always available to you and not shared. Therefore, unlike shared hosting, since each site will get a specified set of dedicated resources, other websites on the same server won’t affect you.

Why VPS?

VPS comes equipped with many benefits that explains why it is highly popular among many:

More in Control

You install the software you need and uninstall them as you please. You configure the software as per your requirements. You create the databases and websites. You manage the users. Also, you are responsible for the security portion, which includes the updates and fixes.

Unlike shared hosting, since you have root access to the server, you can make changes without going through the web hosting provider.

Stronger Security

A VPS is a closed environment and thus is more secure than shared hosting. If a website on a shared host is impacted by virus/malware, it can easily infect and affect other sites, including yours. In short, you’ll pay the price for something which is not your fault.

Since a VPS gives each of you an independent and isolated environment for your site, VPS solutions do not suffer from such drawbacks.

Enhanced Performance

Having explained earlier that VPS utilizes virtualization technology, thus giving you a dedicated virtual partition, this also means that, unlike shared hosting, your site gets a set of dedicated resources. Such resources are not shared, and so your site’s performance is not dependent on others.

In the event a website experiences a surge in traffic, you won’t have to worry about this causing a bad impact on your site’s performance. Additionally, you can easily scale up on the resources when you need to. Simply put, a VPS is more reliable and stable.

Why not VPS?

With more control in hand comes greater responsibility. This applies to VPS as well.

Require More Technical Knowledge

Although there are managed VPS solutions available in the market, if you’re more of the type who wants control, you’ll want to manage the VPS solution yourself. In order to do so, you’ll need to be equipped with the necessary know-how. So, unless you’re a system administrator, it is best not to opt for a VPS, especially if you want to be in the driver’s seat at all times.

More Costly

In general, VPS comes at a slightly higher price than shared hosting. This is not surprising since the former does provide you with more. However, many still opt for VPS hosting as it provides better reliability, security, and performance than shared hosting. Also, it is generally cheaper than dedicated hosting.

When is VPS Used?

VPS is often used for companies that have outgrown their shared hosting. Also, if you foresee that your business will take up fast and expect higher traffic in the near future, VPS hosting would suit you better. In short, VPS is best suited for anyone who wants better stability, performance, and security.

Shared vs. VPS Hosting: What’s Right for Your eCommerce Store?

shared vs. vps hosting
Shared Hosting vs. VPS Hosting Conceptual Diagram (source: Monovm)

Knowing shared and VPS hostings by definition is much different from whether either is right for you. So, here we discuss several aspects that clearly explain why VPS hosting is the better choice for eCommerce websites or online stores:

Security

Security is essential for all websites. With shared hosting, your site may be affected when another site experiences errors. In short, other sites’ activities on the server can endanger your site, putting it at risk of viruses, hacking, and other common security issues.

This can be avoided by using VPS hosting, where each site occupies its own space, isolated from its neighbors with independent IP addresses. It is very rare that a virus may bypass the hypervisor, causing all sites on the VPS server to be vulnerable. In short, VPS is more secure than shared hosting.

As such, it would make sense to go for VPS hosting for your online store as nobody wants their eCommerce stores to be dependent on or damaged by someone else’s activities.

Speed & Performance

Generally speaking, for shared hosting, these plans come with limited resources, as they are granted a fraction of the available system resources. It can happen, and other sites on the same server would monopolize resources, thus causing your site to slow down. As such, shared hosting is generally more suited for low-traffic and static websites.

On the other hand, since VPS operates in such a way that each site has its own space and is independent of one another, which means that the resources are not shared and dedicated for your site alone, this means that your site’s performance is no longer impacted by others. As such, VPS gives better performance than shared hosting.

So, if you’re looking for a reliable eCommerce hosting option that your business can rely on, your site should never be at the mercy of the resource utilization of another. Although a new eCommerce site may have low traffic, the nature of eCommerce websites is such that they display many products upfront with their respective media content, which can cause the site to be heavy. You’ll need more resources to ensure uninterrupted connections.

Additionally, your eCommerce store must be fast. There is a direct correlation between your visitor bounce rate, conversion ratio, AND the speed of your site. If your website is slow, you can forget about your audience staying on to browse through your catalog to buy something. They’ll just leave!

Speed affects Search Engine Optimization (SEO) too. Google demotes pages with high bounce rates. So, for your eCommerce store to rank well and do well, you need to ensure it is fast and has high performance at all times. As such, shared hosting is not eCommerce friendly, and VPS is the definite winner here.

Control

If you are the type that wants to be on the driver’s seat or simply need more advanced options for your site, VPS hosting is the more suitable option. You have root access to the server, so you can install your own Operating System (OS) and software needed to optimize your site’s performance and security.

You can configure and make changes without having to seek permission from the web host. In short, there are very few restrictions on a VPS.

Whereas for shared hosting, you’re pretty much limited to standardized server setups. You won’t have much control over the server and are highly restricted in the fixed environment. That said, this may be more suited for those of you who do not have specific and more advanced requirements for your site.

However, when it comes to your online store, it usually isn’t the simple run-of-the-mill operation. There are many aspects that need to be integrated rightly into a store to ensure its success, which includes the payment gateway. Therefore, having more control over your site would make more sense, so you have the flexibility to craft your store the way you want and need it to be.

This is why shared hosting simply won’t do for your online store.

Server Administration

If you opt for shared hosting, there will be little to no technical maintenance required of you. Shared hosting providers will do the setting up of the server, install and upgrade the necessary software. They will also monitor the servers, put in fixes and upgrades accordingly. In short, they effectively manage the back end.

On the other hand, VPS hosting is slightly more complicated as it requires more advanced technical know-how to effectively manage the back-end. However, if you’re not a tech-savvy type, you can opt for the managed VPS hosting option. This is where you take more of a hands-off approach, and your web hosting provider takes care of the technical side of things. As such, you can then focus on growing your eCommerce business without having to manage the core of the server. Scalability

VPS hosting is very flexible when it comes to scalability. You can add/remove resources easily through your hosting provider. However, they are limited by the available hardware on the parent server. So if you can predict your site’s growth, VPS hosting may be an excellent investment for you.

However, for shared hosting, its plans are generally not that elastic. You are pretty much restricted by the specific limits placed on bandwidth, disk usage, and other factors depending on the hosting provider. Although you can upscale your plan, this depends on the already allocated division of resources among the users.

On the whole, VPS hosting is much easier to scale up when compared to shared hosting. This is crucial, especially when it comes to online stores. The needs of a successful store change rapidly with time, and you need to have the flexibility to scale up as and when needed.

Pricing

Shared hosting plans are low-cost due to their shared nature. VPS solutions come in many forms, and since they are often built from the best hardware available to offer the many varied configurations for users, they are relatively more expensive.

That said, despite the slightly pricier VPS hosting plans, you should still use VPS hosting for your eCommerce store. This is because reaping in higher sales and greater revenue further outweighs the comparatively smaller figure that you save if you go for shared hosting. Remember, cheap isn’t always better when it comes to eCommerce.

Conclusion

By now, you should have a good understanding of what shared hosting and VPS hosting are and the key differences between them. While shared hosting is best for personal sites and startups, VPS hosting is the better bet for bigger sites and small businesses, especially in eCommerce stores.

Although VPS is slightly pricier than shared hosting, you get more flexibility over your resources along with higher security and improved performance in return. This is why VPS is the happy beginning for eCommerce.

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