We’re asked now and again what the difference between our business class shared hosting and our managed dedicated hosting/servers is? So we thought we’d try and give a quick 5 minute run down on what the main differences are. The main thing most people notice first is the cost difference between the two services, hopefully the next few paragraphs will give you an idea of why they are so different.
Learning to share
As the name may suggest to you, shared hosting is a service that shares the hardware resources of a server/servers between a number of customers – It doesn’t mean that you are sharing your hosting account with your friends/family. Quite simply, we place multiple isolated user accounts on the same server hardware, where they are free to host as many domains as the package allows, using up to the web space and data transfer allowances each month.
As it is a shared service, like all providers we do have some provisos in our terms of service that prevent a single user from using all the CPU time or all the memory on a shared hosting service – After all you wouldn’t want someone monopolising the server and your site being slow, the same as they wouldn’t want your site to cause problems for them.
At KDA we place between 50 and 100 user accounts per web server as a maximum, we like to give every user a good portion of server resources such as CPU and memory – some providers will place 10x this many on a server, which increases the potential for problems massively.
Dedicated to the task
A dedicated server, unlike shared hosting is solely for your use – no other customers will use the same hardware. You can place from 1 site to 1000 sites (although we’d not recommend that) on your server, or you can use it just for email or databases, or serving video files if you want. As long as it fits within our terms of service and is legal, you can use it for what you wish.
At KDA we only use high quality server hardware from Tyan or Supermicro, we use enterprise grade SAS hard disks – designed for 24×7 operation in a server environment and we use hardware RAID to duplicate your data over at least 2 hard disks, increasing data security and performance.
With a dedicated server you have the ability to use 100% of all CPU and memory resources all the time if you need to (although we’d be recommending some changes/upgrades if you found that happening), unlike shared hosting where you may use only a fraction of the resources for an extended period of time – You can use more, but only for limited periods to keep it fair to other customers.
Our base specification managed dedicated server comes with a single Quad Core 2.26Ghz CPU – giving you a total of 9.04Ghz of CPU dedicated to you 100%, not only that it includes a massive 12GB of RAM dedicated 100% to you.
In theory shared hosting and dedicated hosting should be as reliable as each other, all things being equal. Whilst our own shared virtual hosting is incredibly reliable, it is inevitable that as time goes on that at some point a website will get featured on Digg, on the TV, or elsewhere that causes it to see a large increase in website traffic – which can sometimes cause problems for other users of a server, such as their sites slowing down or in very very rare circumstances the server crashing.
With a managed dedicated server the only time this will potentially be a problem is if it is your own website getting 1000s of extra users visiting it or buying from it – which if you’re getting 100s of extra sales might not be a problem in your eyes. Of course with all those extra server resources 100% dedicated to you, you might not even see any performance issues with 1000s of extra users visiting your site or buying from it.
Features and Flexibility
With a dedicated server you have the potential to run different software compared to shared hosting. If you need a specific version of PHP/Perl/MySQL/Some other software then you can have that on a dedicated server, whereas with shared hosting that just isn’t possible – as it would have an effect on all other customers on that particular server. Not only that, but if you need to run some software that integrates with one of your suppliers, or a site search engine software service then you can do those, as the server is dedicated 100% to you.
When it comes to security the fewer people that have access to a system, the more secure it tends to be. With a dedicated server we can restrict who has access to FTP, who can login to any optional control panel etc. As part of our standard server setup we restrict all access inbound and outbound to your server, except for public services such as web serving, incoming email etc. and all other potentially sensitive services are restricted to a specific set of IP addresses. With shared hosting we obviously cannot do this, as the administration required to cope with end users changing IP address all the time would require several full time staff.
All of our shared hosting systems are designed to be secure and isolate users from each other, but unfortunately you can’t always guard against unknown bugs in software used (such as web servers, PHP etc.) and there is always the potential that such a bug allows users to interfere with other users or the smooth operation of the server – With a dedicated server you are the only user.
With a dedicated server you are the only user, so you have to bear all the costs, there are no other users for those costs to be spread between – So that means we have to make sure your monthly fee covers the cost of the server itself, the power, the cooling, software licenses, staff time – which are the main reasons for the large cost differential. We realise that for many users the jump in price is quite considerable, which is why we also have an alternative that provides many of the benefits of dedicated hosting, but at a price between that of shared hosting and dedicated hosting. That solution is virtual dedicated servers which we’ll cover next time.
Please don’t let any of the above put you off of shared hosting at all, it is still suitable for the vast majority of websites, especially when implemented well and not shared between 1000s of users. As they say on Crime Watch, “Don’t have nightmares” if you’re using shared hosting, chances are it’s the correct choice for your website.