Web Hosting Services – What is Shared Hosting? Dedicated Server? VPS? Cloud Hosting? Reseller Hosting?

In this article, I will explain to you all the different types of web hosting services you will encounter when searching for a web host. They are actually very easy to understand and at the end you will understand why most people will just need a cheap shared hosting.

What is a web hosting Server?

Web hosting server is nothing but a computer. Just like the one you are using at home, it needs a processor (CPU), memory and hard disk drive. We usually have 1 or 2 computers at home but for a web hosting company, they will have hundreds if not thousands of servers. To save space, servers are designed to be flat and stackable so a small room can contain a lot of servers. Since they are all networked together, you don't need an individual monitor and keyboard for each of them. Administrator will can easily control them through any computer connected to the network.

See how servers are stacked together in a rack.

server cabling
The other reason why servers are stacked as closely as possible is because you can save a lot of cables and make the wiring easier.

What is a Datacenter?


The room/hall where we put all the servers and racks is called the datacenter. Operating a datacenter is very expensive and so most web hosts will just rent the space from a datacenter operator. BlueHost is so large that they actually own and operate their own datacenter. A datacenter provides 3 important needs to a web host, i.e. super high speed internet connection to the whole world, super cooling system to control the temperature and mega power supply to power the servers.

What is Dedicated Server Hosting?

When you rent an entire server for your hosting, you are using dedicated server hosting. Not all web hosts provides dedicated server hosting. HostGator Basic Dedicated Server with Quad Core Intel Xeon 3360, 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 2 x 150GB hard drive will cost you $174/month. Their Pro Dedicated Server cost up to $374/month!

What is Shared Hosting?

99% of us don't need a dedicated server to power our websites. Web hosts allow us to share the server with other customers. Depending to the specs of a server, it can easily power 300 to 2,000 normal websites! Due to the huge market and demand for shared hosting, most web hosts such as BlueHost and iPage decide to offer just shared hosting.

What is Semi Dedicated Hosting?

It is the same as shared hosting. The only difference is they are shared with less customers. Say instead of sharing with 2,000 customers, the same server is now shared with only 5 customers. Of course, you are expected to pay more for it.

What is Colocation Web Hosting?

For all the web hosting we have discussed so far, the server is still owned by the web host and the customers are merely renting it. Some businesses will actually buy their own server and ship it over to the datacenter to host it. That will be refer to as co-location hosting. The reason why they need to place their server at the datacenter instead of their own office is for the high speed internet connection that most office space is lacking.

What is VPS (Virtual Private Servers) Hosting?


When you are on a dedicated server hosting, you are given the "root access" which means "God mode". You have full control with your server and you can do anything to it such as rebooting it, installing new software, etc. However, when you are using shared hosting, the root access remained in the hand of the web host. They will perform the maintenance on behalf of all the clients.

VPS is a technology where even when you are sharing the server with other customers, you still have the ability to be God. The server is now divided into a few "virtual" servers using software. You now have the same root access just like you are using a dedicated server. The advantage over a real dedicated server is that you can now pay less because you can share the cost with other customers.

VPS is sometimes refer to Virtual Dedicated Server which I think is a better term than "Private Server". Sometimes they are also being referred as Virtual Machines (VM).

What is Cloud Hosting?

cloud hosting

Cloud hosting is the most advanced a complicated type of hosting. They say it is the "future" of web hosting. But I am hearing that since many years ago and I still can't see how it can compete with the popularity of shared hosting.

I try to explain it as simple as I can. Cloud hosting means lots of servers are connected together so everything become like just one computer, i.e. the cloud. Your website is not really on one specific server like the case of traditional dedicated hosting and shared hosting but will be in multiple servers. You won't know which one and don't need to know which one. The software will do the "magic". The advantage is that now you can share the computing power of the massive cloud instead of relying on just a single server. And even if half of the servers are down, your website can still be power up by the remaining servers. Google.com is powered by the largest cloud hosting in the world.

I think it will still be a long long time before cloud hosting can be common enough. It is still very expensive when compared to shared hosting.

What is Reseller Hosting?

Anyone could start a web hosting business in 5 minutes by purchasing a reseller hosting account. This is the reason why the internet is flooded with so many mum and pop web hosts. For example, BlueHost Reseller Hosting account is only $19.95/month. By paying this small amount of money, you can start selling web hosting to anyone. Although everything is hosted by BlueHost, you can still have your own website and own brand everywhere so your customers won't have a clue that you are actually using BlueHost.

A reseller hosting account is useful to web designers and web developers who are building websites for several clients. They can bill their client a higher price and make a profit out of it. For normal users like us, we don't need a reseller hosting account. We can easily host all our websites with the cheaper unlimited hosting plan.

What is Unix Hosting? What is Windows Hosting?

This refers to the operating system of the server. It is either Unix or Windows. However, Windows command only a very small percentage of the market, probably less than 5% and it keeps losing market share to Unix every day. The biggest reason is that Unix is free and yet more powerful than Windows. Your choice is simply to stick with Unix hosting.

There are many variation of Unix such as Linux, FreeBSD, Ubuntu, CentOS, etc. but it doesn't matter to us because we will be controlling everything though the web-based control panel.

What is Managed Hosting? Unmanaged Hosting?

Managed hosting means your web host will be in charged of managing and upgrading the operating system and other software. Since shared hosting are share with many customers, the web host will have no choice but to manage it and make sure the operating system and other software are up to date. However, for dedicated server, you have the choice to manage it yourself or allow your web host to manage it for you. Businesses that have their own IT technician won't need the managing service from their web host while those who don't have any will need it. Managed service is already included with shared hosting. You will have to pay for it if you are using dedicated hosting. 


If you doesn't know what you need, 99% of the time you will just need a shared hosting plan. They are cheap and easy to setup. Check out my homepage to compare the best web hosting with up to 50% discount.

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