Practical Ecommerce

Web Servers: Shared, Dedicated, and Virtual-Dedicated

When selecting a domain host for your business, one of the earliest questions you’ll need to resolve is whether you want a shared, dedicated or virtual-dedicated hosting plan.

The main difference between dedicated and shared hosting is how the web server is utilized. In a shared environment, the web server is shared with many different websites. With a dedicated hosting environment, there is only one client per server.

You might subscribe to a shared server for about $5-20 per month (that may or may not include setup fees) for about 2,000 MB of web disk space and 40 GB of bandwidth. A dedicated server might cost $100-1000 per month, but you get exponentially more web disk space and bandwidth plus greater stability and service. A virtual- dedicated server will cost somewhere in between.

Consider shared hosting similar to living in a house with several roommates during your college days. The rent is less because you’re sharing the cost with others, but you don’t have unlimited room to yourself. You’re often impacted by other people in the house and when there is trouble in one of the rooms, you’re often impacted because of your proximity. If each of the roommates is relatively quiet and cooperative, everything can work smoothly. If one of the roommates begins take too much space or get too loud in the house, the other roommates can become cramped and unhappy.

A shared hosting environment is often similar. If you are simply looking at cost, shared environment is the way to go – but you also get less space and less bandwidth and may be risking your site’s uptime.

If downtime is not an option, your best option will be either a dedicated or virtual-dedicated server.

A dedicated server is akin to a single-family home – it’s more expensive than living with college roommates, but you have the space all to yourself. With a dedicated hosting plan, a business gets a different quality of product and a different level of service. Dedicated servers provide a business with a larger amount of uptime, greater server access, the guaranteed ability to use custom applications, greater bandwidth and owners of dedicated servers often receive superior technical support.

If your company has multiple ecommerce businesses on several shared hosting sites, it may be cheaper in the long run to have all those sites on a single dedicated server where you have the entire ‘house’ to yourself. Before leaping to a dedicated environment, an ecommerce owner should consider if a virtual- dedicated server would meet his/her needs. Thomas Gorny, president and chief executive officer of IPOWER, Inc. (ipower.com) encourages serious ecommerce businesses to look at a virtual-dedicated server.

Unlike sharing space with college friends or owning a single-family home, a virtual-dedicated server could be likened to a hotel where a person has his own defined space, own bathroom, etc., within the confines of a larger facility that has other rooms with their own finite space. Gorny said such an option gives ecommerce operators stability, a higher level of security, storage capacity and bandwidth similar to a dedicated server at a cost between shared and dedicated.

A virtual-dedicated server is likely to come with the easy-to-use control panels and management functions of a shared server making it a viable option for business owners needing more stability and security than a shared server can offer. If you’ve outgrown a shared plan and aren’t ready to jump into the deep waters with a dedicated server, a virtual-dedicated server plan may be a great intermediate step.

So what is the difference between a shared server and a virtual-dedicated server? After all, they both are sharing a portion of space with other sites.

With a shared server, the domain hosting company is often making a calculated guess that you and other sites with which you are sharing a server will never use all the disk space, bandwidth, etc. that you purchased. If it turns out that your site grows to use all the space you’ve purchased and others on your server do the same, your server can become ‘overbooked’ and difficulties will ensue.

With a virtual-dedicated server, you are ‘sharing’ space with other sites. However, each person on the server has purchased an equal amount of space and they can’t extend beyond their area and impact your space. You are guaranteed a defined space and system resources regardless of what happens with your ‘neighbors’ resulting in greater stability with your site and an enhanced shopping experience for your customers.

For many ecommerce sites with low volume, a shared server is perfect. Should your ecommerce business grow beyond an intermediate size into a moderate- to high-traffic site, it’s possible you’ll find your activity is too much for a shared environment.

Keep in mind, however, that saving a few dollars per month might seem attractive, but it’s more important your customers can have a quality shopping experience.

“Trying to run $1 million company on a $20 hosting plan may work,” said Remik Kolodziej, dotCOM host co-owner and founder. “But it may not necessarily provide the best experience for your customers. A lot of people forget that when they move to the online world and want to sell online, they assume that Internet equals free and want the same in a hosting company,” Kolodziej said. “If you’re opening a brick-and-mortar store, you’re going to pay rent. Spending $500 on dedicated server is still a lot less expensive than rent and you have the stability and piece of mind needed to run your business.”

Most hosting companies provide an opportunity for a business to graduate from a shared to a dedicated environment if their business needs change, but be sure to inquire about the ability to upgrade when you’re doing your research into hosting companies.

Practical Ecommerce

Practical Ecommerce

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Comments ( 3 )

  1. Legacy User February 9, 2007 Reply

    Excellent article. I will be looking into virtual dedicated hosting.

    http://www.Gaander.com/

    — *Tom*

  2. Legacy User March 29, 2007 Reply

    A clearer cut answer is missing; some kind of synopsis.

    — *Oscar*

  3. Legacy User April 24, 2007 Reply

    Remik is right. I found my web host on the Miva Merchant users list about 5 years ago and have been very happy. Often times a good graphics designer will expand her service to hosting web sites and do fine until needing to install an SSL Certificate or install the Miva VM which is necessary to run Miva Merchant. I have seen many ads for $3.95 per month hosting and wonder how much support they give? If they support one issue per month, they may wonder if the account was profitable. When I call Hostiam, they know who I am and do whatever is necessary in a timely manner. I have been moved to faster servers over the years without a hitch. By the way, I really like this magazine. Thank you.

    — *Ann Messer*