A visual representation of shared hosting. Image credit: Flickr
A visual representation of shared hosting. Image credit: Flickr

Shared hosting is a type of web hosting as per which multiple web properties (websites, blogs, etc.) share the same server. The server’s CPU, RAM, storage space, operating system (OS), etc. are shared by different websites. Also called virtual hosting, shared hosting is the most inexpensive website hosting plan available since the server expenses are shared. This makes shared hosting the most popular hosting plan too. The majority of sites on the Internet are on shared hosting, or at least start their journey on a shared server.

Benefits

  • Price

The price is the biggest plus point of shared hosting. And the plan price goes down further if a yearly subscription is opted for. This is ideal for individuals and small businesses on a budget or people who are launching their first website and want something better and more reliable than free hosting.

  • Easy Upgrades

Upgrading from a shared plan to a higher plan is easy. Also, most hosting companies offer tiered versions of shared hosting. The bandwidth allotment, disk space, and additional features would vary across the variants. The user can switch between these plans seamlessly anytime.

  • No Technical Skills Needed

Server maintenance and upgrades are taken care of by the host. People who don’t want to be directly involved in the hosting aspect of their site would fancy this. Both server software and hardware can be upgraded. For instance, the drivers can be replaced or OS software can be upgraded. This also means securing the server would not be the site owner’s headache. The hosting firm would invariably install firewalls and necessary server security programs and applications.

Drawbacks

  • Underpowered

A shared hosting is probably the most practical and effective (for the money paid) hosting solution out there, provided the service provider is reliable. But sites that see thousands of daily visitors would find a shared hosting plan lacking. Such sites would benefit more from advanced hosting plans such as dedicated hosting.

  • Inferior Load Speeds/Time

The load time with shared hosting is not bad, but that’s nothing compared to other more powerful hosting plans such as cloud hosting, dedicated hosting and even virtual private server hosting. Moreover, since the server is shared, load speeds are not guaranteed. It depends on the activity levels of other sites on the server. If another website witnesses an activity spike, it could considerably slow down other sites.

  • Little Security & Reliability

A shared hosting service provider doesn’t disclose names of sites sharing the server. Also, any and every type of website can share the same server. For instance, an adults-only site may be on the same server as an education website. Since sites on a shared server share the same IP address, this may affect the credibility of the education website in the eyes of search engines. Also, other site(s) on the server could be built poorly and may run programs and scripts that hog system resources. For instance, if a site tries running a SPAM script, the shared server would have problems handling the task.

  • Limited Resources

Also, there is a limit to the number of sites that a single account can host on a shared plan. Usually, it’s one site. But there are hosting providers who offer to host two. People who’d like to host multiple sites will have to opt for more powerful hosting plans.

Number of Sites on a Shared Server

There is no standard or fixed number of sites that can use a shared server. Generally, hosting companies try to accommodate as many sites as possible on a shared server. Most shared hosting plans provide attractive features for a relatively low price, which reduces their profits per client. To recoup server-running costs and also make a profit, most companies would squeeze in as many websites possible onto their shared servers.

This obviously means a negative impact on performance. It’s therefore recommended to take up a hosting plan with a reputed company since such firms try to be more realistic about their shared server’s capabilities and ensure the websites sharing the server space stay relatively stable at all times.