Shared hosting is one of the cheapest hosting options available and is widely used by many small businesses. It has an $18.7 billion market valuation that is expected to grow. Being the most economical form of hosting available, it certainly has its advantages. It is one of the most popular choices for mom and pop shops, side hustle stores and more. Though it also has some drawbacks.

How do you know if shared hosting is an appropriate solution  for your company? Below, we discuss everything business owners wish they knew before investing in shared hosting; how it influences SEO to maintenance requirements, and resource limitations.

What is shared hosting?

Shared hosting is similar to a college dorm. Each person shares the area but doesn’t directly own the space. You live with other people and there are a set amount of shared resources, such as one gym and one kitchen, for the whole dorm. 

The same is true with shared hosting. It houses all of your data on a server that other websites also use (which is why it is often cheaper). All websites hosted on that server have the same access to the set amount of resources available on that server. 

So what are the finer details about shared hosting and how does it level up to alternatives?

Most companies offer easy scaling options.

If you decide to go forward with a shared hosting option, it’s a fairly simple process to transfer to another option, such as dedicated hosting, cloud hosting or VPS hosting. 

If you’re launching on a shoestring budget and decide on a shared hosting option, make sure that the company also offers a variety of other hosting options as you grow. You will also want to ensure that transitioning is a quick and painless process.

If one website is infected with malware on the server, yours is also at risk.

If one person in a dorm gets the flu, it isn’t long before the rest of the dorm gets sick. The same is true for shared hosting. If one website becomes infected with malware, your website is put at risk of becoming infected as well.

Shared hosting might make your website slower.

In a shared hosting scenario, your website isn’t guaranteed a set amount of resources. Rather, everyone on the server is using the same resources. This is similar to a college dorm in that all residents have access to one kitchen. The problem is that if one person decides to have some friends over to cook, nobody else will be able to use the kitchen. 

The same is true with websites. If one website on your server experiences a spike in traffic, that website will hog the server’s resources and your website could experience a slower load time. Some hosting companies also oversell space which can also result in slower load times.

Why is it important to have a fast load time? There are a few reasons. 

First, search engines (like Google) take site speed into account when ranking websites. So if your website loads slowly, it will be difficult to outrank a faster loading website. Secondly, it just provides a poor user experience and a poor user experience decreases session times. 

In a study that tested five-second load times against 19-second load times, the faster one had a 70 percent increase in session duration. In another study, an estimated half a billion dollars is lost to the economy annually due to slow websites.

It’s definitely the most affordable option.

Shared hosting is the cheapest option because multiple people are paying for the resources you are using.

 In fact, you can purchase shared hosting for just $5 to $10 per month, making it a popular choice for small business owners and mom and pop shops. Other options, such as VPS hosting, dedicated hosting and cloud hosting may give you more security options, customizations, and resource guarantees, though that all comes with a cost. 

Ask yourself, what would it cost me if my website goes down? If your website went down today and you couldn’t get it back up for another week, would it have a huge impact on your business? 

If, for example, you own a restaurant that drives mainly foot traffic, you may find that it is more expensive to pay for VPS hosting or cloud hosting than to lose a few meals that you would have sold that one week last April when your website was down.

You never have to worry about maintenance.

For those of you who don’t want to worry about maintenance or fixing server performance issues, shared hosting might be a great option. While it would limit a larger business that might benefit from customization options, it makes it easy for small business owners to “set it and forget it.” 

Unlike a dedicated hosting service which would require a skilled IT professional (and is mainly used by enterprise companies), you can trust your hosting company to deal with any performance and maintenance issues. In addition, if you ever have a problem with your hosting, most reputable hosting companies employ smart IT professionals that are accustomed to helping small business owners with little tech experience fix their problems.

What are the alternatives to shared hosting?

The most common alternative to shared hosting is Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. In addition to VPS hosting, cloud hosting and dedicated hosting also exist. Let’s take a look at each one.

VPS Hosting: This is typically used by small and medium-sized businesses that want an extra level of protection and a dedicated amount of resources just to their website (so that the website doesn’t slow down). It’s more expensive than shared hosting (typically $30-$55 per month) but less expensive than dedicated hosting.

Cloud hosting: This depends on a large network of servers that hold copies of data on multiple servers. So even if one server shuts down, the others will keep going. This makes it a popular option for larger businesses that depend on a great performance. It also runs in a similar price bracket as VPS hosting, though you only pay for the resources you use.

Dedicated hosting: This is reserved for enterprise businesses that require essentially their own data system. Implementing this requires an IT team and a significant upfront investment though it is the most secure.

Shared hosting is a great option if …

… You’re a small business looking to get on the web as quickly as possible. You want an easy solution that requires only a small investment and minimal tech knowledge. Look carefully at the web hosting company you are considering purchasing from and just make sure that they have a large amount of positive reviews.