You wouldn’t buy a used Civic to get you to and from work, and then complain that it’s not a Jaguar. Those are the type of complaints you often hear, though, about shared hosting packages. The clients who are most vocal about “poor hosting” or “come-on sales techniques” are the ones who subscribe to a $5/month hosting plan, and then discover that their complicated e-commerce website isn’t as fast or responsive as a that of a competitor who’s using a dedicated server costing hundreds of dollars more per month.
Even the best shared hosting packages are Civics, not Jaguars. But that doesn’t mean they’re not a good value for their price – in fact, they can be a real bargain, as long as you’re not expecting a 550-horsepower V-8 under the hood.
The best shared hosting will provide you with the server space and tools you need to run a normal website- or several of them – and keep them online 24 hours a day. The reason we say “normal” is that sites which receive thousands of visits a day, feature lots of resource-intensive long media clips or have a busy, full-featured online store aren’t “normal,” and aren’t good candidates for a shared hosting plan. The reason is implicit in the word “shared.”
On a shared server, a large number of clients share the same pool of storage and processing capacity, under the assumption that they’ll all use approximately the same amount of resources. If your website demands a lot more of those resources than anyone else on the server, the performance of your website (and everyone else’s) will suffer and you’ll quickly be asked to upgrade to a more robust hosting plan. Conversely, if another client is using more than their fair share of storage or computing power, the best shared hosting providers will either ask that client to upgrade, or disable their account to protect you and the server’s other tenants.
Undoubtedly, many web hosts heavily promote their $5 or $10 shared packages in hopes of obtaining new customers who will eventually need to move to a more expensive hosting plan. However, that doesn’t make the best shared hosting plans “come-ons.” What they really are good starting points for web hosting, allowing an individual or business to get online and discover whether a small, shared plan is enough for their needs or if they need a bigger package with more power and storage.
When you’re looking at shared hosting, be realistic. Sure, the sales pages may say you get “unlimited” features – but in reality, there are limits to everything. A server with a total of 2 GB of onboard storage obviously can’t provide you with 4 GB of storage. It can’t even realistically give you anything close to 2 GB, since the machine is accommodating dozens of other clients as well.
If you know your site will be receiving thousands of visitors a day, don’t try to get away with a hosting plan that will only cost $3.99 a month when you use a discount coupon. You’ll end up with a website that crawls, locks up or will be disabled by the host, and you’ll be upset and dissatisfied. Simply ask the provider whether the package you’re considering will be sufficient; the best shared hosting companies will be glad to tell you, because they want long-term, satisfied clients.
If you want or need a Jag, don’t buy a used Civic. On the other hand, if you need reliable transportation without power or style, the Civic will be a bargain. Similarly, even the best shared hosting won’t accommodate a complicated, powerhouse website – but can be a real bargain for smaller websites or ones just starting out.