What's the Difference Between Shared, VPS and Dedicated Accounts?

Navigating the waters of web hosting account types and sizes can be tricky for people who are not well-versed in technological terms. How do you know what type of account to order? What the heck is a "VPS?" How is it different from a Dedicated server? Why should you care about what kind of processor you have?

We understand it's confusing - it's ok; we're here to help.

This article is a work in progress - please don't hold its unfinished state against us! We wanted to get the basic information out there for people as quickly as possible.

We like to use a housing analogy to describe the various account types - that way, we're using language everyone understands.

The Shared Account

A shared account is the basic web hosting account, held by tens of millions of websites all over the world. For sites that are not high-traffic, a shared account is ideal because they are cheaper than VPS or Dedicated accounts.

The housing analogy: A shared web hosting account is like renting a room in a house. You have your own, small private space (your room,) and you share major facilities like the kitchen, living room and bathroom. In hosting terms, your private room is your home directory - no one else can put their stuff in your home directory. It is yours alone. However, you share major server resources with other customers, such as CPU, RAM (memory,) network connectivity, and some software packages.

Pros and Cons of a Shared Account:

  • Pros
    • Very affordable - our basic shared account starts as low as $5.97 per month!
    • A great way to get started with an online presence
    • Lots of resources - even though they are shared, there is still a lot of CPU and RAM to go around
    • Fully-supported by Home-Cooked Support
    • No need for customer intervention for system issues
    • Very easily scaled across the three shared account hosting types
  • Cons
    • As with renting a room in a house with other people, you are subject to each other's doings in the server. Because everyone is sharing the main resources, there may infrequently be times when two roommates are competing for the same resource at the same time - Think of this as someone hogging the bathroom when you need to use it. While we have automated scripts in place to make sure people aren't hogging the virtual bathroom, there may be moments when two processes require the same resource at the same time. Sometimes, the second person must wait briefly - but in computer terms, "briefly" is usually a matter of microseconds, instead of hours for someone taking a long, hot bath.
    • The IP address of a shared server is more likely to be blacklisted by parties like AT&T, Google, and so on, because of the sheer volume of email coming from it.
    • Less ability to customize. Just as landlords have rules about painting living rooms bright turquoise, our shared servers have rules about what "tenants" are allowed and not allowed to do.
    • Outbound email is restricted to 500 per hour
    • Root access not allowed
    • Must have cPanel
Most people starting out with blogs or small online stores begin with a shared account. We have three different types of shared account to accommodate everyone who is ready to get started.
 
The Virtual Private Server (VPS)
 
A VPS is the next step above shared hosting. A VPS is still kind of like a shared account in that some resources of the parent server are shared by all the child servers. But before we go too much into that, let's break it down with the housing analogy: A VPS is like renting an apartment in a building. Unlike renting a room and sharing major facilities, having an apartment gives a person much more freedom. In an apartment, you have your own bathroom, kitchen and living spaces that are devoted entirely to you. In a VPS environment, these equate to disk space, operating system, and RAM. However, you still share some resources with the rest of the building, including the building structure itself (the parent server,) the water system (network) and electricity.
 
Pros and Cons of a VPS:
  • Pros
    • Still very affordable, as compared with Dedicated servers
    • The next step up from a shared account for sites becoming increasingly popular
    • Very customizable - the constraints of the shared account are almost entirely gone
    • With managed or core-managed VPS's, Home-Cooked Support can take care of management for you
    • More resources dedicated to you - you have your own RAM (memory,) operating system and in some cases, your own CPU(s)
    • Outgoing email is not restricted to 500 per hour
    • Server's IP address much less likely to be blacklisted by AT&T, Google, and others
    • cPanel optional
    • Reseller-enabled
    • Scalable - very easy to increase or decrease system resources on the fly as needed with little downtime
    • Root access allowed
  • Cons
    • More expensive than a shared account
    • Still sharing some resources with other customers on the server, so there can be conflicts with server load or memory
    • Fewer resources than a shared server - If you're expecting a lot of traffic, the least expensive VPS products will likely not work for you, because they lack the memory (RAM) you'll need to handle a lot of traffic. Thus, we typically recommend 4GB or 8GB of RAM for cusotmers needing to upgrade due to exceeding shared hosting limits.
The Dedicated Server
 
A Dedicated server is a physical server with hardware that is exclusively for your use. Thus, the housing analogy: A Dedicated server is like having your own house. From the smallest cabin to the most elaborate sprawling mansion, it's really nice to have something that's yours. There are no other customers on your hardware, no one else competing for your resources. It's just you! Your server lives in a datacenter, which is like your neighborhood. If someone blows a fuse three doors down, it will not affect you; however, if the neighborhood's transformer goes out, you'll be affected - if something happens in the datacenter affecting network connectivity (a rare event,) everyone is affected. But for issues that are server-specific, your server will be unaffected by the goings-on of those around you.
 
The Pros and Cons of the Dedicated Server:
  • Pros
    • A Dedicated server is a physical server that is exclusive to you
    • cPanel optional
    • Root access allowed
    • No outbound email restrictions
    • Vast resources for high-traffic sites
    • Complete control over every facet of your server
    • Ability to add more RAM, bigger disks or RAIDs
    • Chances of the server's IP being blacklisted are low
    • Fully supported by Home-Cooked Support (with managed or core-managed Dedicated servers)
    • Reseller-enabled
  • Cons
    • More expensive than shared or VPS accounts
    • Cannot be resized "on the fly;" hardware additions or changes must involve a short period of downtime
We hope this sheds some light on the differences between our various account levels. If you have any further questions at all, please contact our sales team via support ticket and we'll be more than happy to go over it all with you personally!

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