Exploring Shared Hosting: What You Need to Know

Exploring Shared Hosting

Hey there, friends! If you’ve ever delved into the world of website design, you have learned that hosting is an essential component that can often have layers of confusion. While working on a couple recent projects, I received a few questions regarding hosting that further confirmed it’s a murky topic. I’m here to lend a helping hand and reduce the overwhelm that can accompany trying to get your website off the ground.  In a previous post, “Demystifying Website Hosting: A Beginner’s Guide,” I covered the basics of hosting and highlighted key factors to consider when choosing a hosting provider.  Today, we’ll get a little more granular on one type of hosting – Shared Hosting. We will provide valuable insights and guidance to help you make an informed decision on your hosting provider. Additionally, we’ll break down the cost for year 1 and beyond from a handful of popular hosting providers. Furthermore, we’ll explore are security features, uptime guarantee, and customer service.

What is Shared Hosting?

In the sea of web hosting options, shared hosting reigns supreme as both a cost-effective and user-friendly solution. However, as the name implies, shared hosting involves multiple websites sharing resources on a single server.  A server is a power computer that stores and delivers information to other computers, websites, emails, or files. It’s a centralized hub that connects requests for information to the resources they’ve asked for. There are many types of servers, in the context of shared hosting, a server is the computer that stores multiple websites files / data, making them accessible to visitors on the internet.

Think of it like an apartment building where you and your neighbors share amenities like a parking garage and gym.  Further more, shared hosting is an ideal choice for entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups that are just beginning their online journey. On the other hand, it's a harmonious blend of affordable, convenient, and manageable -  making it a popular option for those without a ton of tech skills or financial backing.

Apartment Building to show the comparison of shared hosting to a shared building

Selecting the Right Shared Hosting Provider

When it comes to selecting a shared hosting provider, several factors should be considered in your decision. In this section we’ll review the key items you should keep in mind to ensure you find the best fit for your website. After looking at each one individually, it’s important to bring them all together to get a clear picture of the entire offer from each service provider. So, let's dig deeper into the security features, uptime guarantee, customer support, and cost. Keep in mind that these are not the only factors to consider. But these are vital for most service providers. For example, if your business relies on a great deal of media (photos, videos, etc.) you may also want to pay close attention to the allotted webspace offered.

Security Features

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Security is a must – for you and your visitors. Common website security threats are brute force attacks, DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service), malware, and password attacks. As a result, it is important to thoroughly review your security requirements may vary depending on what your site is used for, information collected, etc. There are a few basic security tools that you should look for to protect against these: SSL certificate, Automatic backups, Firewall, and DDoS protection.

SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate – enables an encrypted connection between the web server and the website visitor.

Automatic backups – routinely saves a copy of your site in case you need to restore from a backup.

Firewall – network hardware or software device that monitors incoming and outgoing traffic. This information can be harder to find – reach out to the provider’s customer support to find out if your current or prospective provider offers a network firewall.

DDoS protection – monitors, detects, and prevents malicious attacks on the web server. DDoS attacks overwhelm the server with request making it unavailable for legit visitors.

According to their websites, the table below shows the security features currently offered by these hosts. Again, note that it is important to thoroughly review security requirements according to your specific needs.

Provider SiteGround BlueHost HostGator GoDaddy
Includes SSL? Yes Yes, for Year 1 Yes Yes, for Year 1
Includes automatic backups? Yes No Yes Yes

Uptime Guarantee

Subsequently, let's discuss the uptime guarantee. Uptime is the measurement of the server’s availability and reliability. It is usually reported as a percentage and is the SLA – Service Level Agreement between the host provider and their customers. Forbes recommends choosing a provider that reports at least 99% uptime.

To better understand what that means, let’s break down how it’s calculated. Calculate the expected uptime for a day, week, month, or year by first calculating 100% of the seconds in the time period.  As an example, we’ll calculate the expectation for 1 week. There are 60 seconds in 1 minute, 60 minutes in 1 hour, 24 hours in 1 day, 7 days in 1 week. Let’s multiply: 60*60*24*7 = 604,800 seconds in 1 week.  Next, we’ll take our recommended minimum of 99% uptime and get it into fractional form: 99% / 100 = .99.

Now, multiply the uptime fraction by the number of seconds in the entire week. .99*608,400 = 598,752 seconds would be the expected time the server is up for the week. That translates to 6 days, 22 hours, 19 minutes, and 12 seconds that the server should be up. Consequently, you may experience less than 2 hours of the server being unavailable.

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The table below shows the reported uptimes of our hosts:

Provider SiteGround BlueHost HostGator GoDaddy
Uptime Guarantee 99.9% 99.98% 99.9% 99.9%

Customer Support

Next, let’s chat about customer support. When technical difficulties arise, you may need some help. I think by now, we’ve all been in the position of arguing with an artificial voice. You know what I mean? The conversation where you’re saying “customer service” or “representative” over and over hoping that you’ll be transferred to a real human. In short, we've all endured an experience that emphasized the value of good customer service! Hosting providers offer various features in customer support. In many cases, customer support features increase with a higher priced plan. For example, the more you pay, the more support you receive. The table below compares the customer support offered by our providers:

 

Provider SiteGround BlueHost HostGator GoDaddy
Customer Support 24*7 Phone, chat, tickets Phone and chat Chat only 24*7 phone & chat
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Cost Analysis for Year 1 and Beyond

Last, but not least, let’s talk budget. Money is a significant consideration, especially for entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, and small business. As discussed in other posts, it’s standard for host service providers to offer a significant discount during the introductory period. Introductory term lengths can vary among companies and signing up for a longer term may earn a steeper discount.

piggybank

I’ve compared 1-year terms for four host service providers. The table below shows the monthly fee for SiteGround, BlueHost, HostGator, and GoDaddy (as of this writing). All are billed for the annual term and all increase significantly after the first year. While affordability is important, its crucial to weigh the pros and cons of all data points we reviewed. Focusing too much in one area could hinder other areas. For example, don't forgo security for budget. Therefore, take the time to carefully analyze all options, pricing, security, uptime guarantees, customer support, etc.

Provider SiteGround BlueHost HostGator GoDaddy
Monthly Price (paid for year)  $2.99  $2.99  $2.75  $6.99
Annual (without tax)  $35.88  $35.88  $33.00  $83.88
Renews at (monthly)  $14.99  $10.99  $7.86  $9.99
Annual Renewal (w/o tax)  $179.88  $131.88  $94.32  $119.88

Conclusion

By now, you have a clearer understanding of shared hosting and the factors to consider when selecting a shared hosting provider. Moreover, I hope that this post arms you with knowledge so you can confidently embark on your website design journey. In conclusion, shared hosting offers an affordable and user-friendly option for beginners and small businesses. Ultimately, take the time to analyze all options, evaluate their plans and pricing, security options, uptime guarantees, and customer service. If it helps, take notes and jot down pros and cons of each. If you need assistance If you need assistance choosing the best host for your business, feel free to email me at hello@paintcreekdigital.com