6 Types of Web Hosting (Game of Thrones Edition)
This will not be your run-of-the-mill review of the hosting industry and all it has to offer. You have already read plenty of those.
Today we are going to look at the various types of web hosting…with a twist.
We are going on a journey to Westeros, the land of Game of Thrones, to see what hosting services would look like through the eyes of the ancient folk. We’ll check out the pros and cons of each type and their price range, all while, you know, trying not to get killed along the way.
Let’s start with:
A Few Words about the Types of Hosting Services
Imagine someone introduced the internet to the venerable kingdoms of Westeros and taught them how to use it. Jamie Lannister giving his sister a poke through LannisterBook or Tyrion becoming a famous travel and lifestyle blogger? Hilarious, I know!
But do you think the ancient folk would have the tools and drive to grow and evolve the Web to the stature we’ve managed to achieve in modern times?
Varys certainly seems to have a thing for webs but still…
The internet currently houses over 1.6 billion websites, with 380 new ones born every minute.
(This article will tell you more about it.)
While these numbers are hard to believe, they’re actually spot on. The entry-level for building a website has dropped so low that you only need a computer, a few hours to check some tutorials, and you are good to go.
Well, those tutorials will actually reveal there is one more step before you dive into it — choosing a web host. The careful selection of your website’s new home starts with identifying your needs.
What Does Website Hosting Mean?
Whatever your website is, if you want it online for other people to see — you need a host for it.
Quality providers realize that the needs of online projects can vary significantly in terms of software, incoming traffic, or support. So, they employ different types of servers, assistive hardware, and workforce to meet the rising client demands.
This is key.
Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
All the major hosts that followed this mantra managed to rise through the ranks and amassed millions of clients. Even though the industry is highly saturated, the top 10 hosting providers hold a whopping 37% of the market. GoDaddy is leading the pack with over 42 million web projects under its belt.
One thing to note here:
While GoDaddy is surely racking up some impressive numbers, someone else is lurking in the shadows, gathering a considerable army of its own.
The Endurance International Group (or EIG for short) is a prominent name among industry professionals, known for its aggressive expansion through company acquisitions. In fact, the consortium currently holds the reigns of over 80 hosting brands, big and small. Its combined client base can surely put GoDaddy’s numbers to the challenge.
I actually wouldn’t recommend either.
To give my words some solid backing, I have to first outline the different types of web hosting and their capabilities.
1. Shared Hosting — House Frey
Much like the Freys, shared hosting is at the crossroads of everything that’s happening on the internet. Old Walder Frey will always find a place for you for the right price.
But beware, if you double-cross him, you might end up on the wrong side of the Red Wedding.
Shared services are the most common hosting type, responsible for housing the majority of websites worldwide. The concept is rather simple — you and a bunch of other people get an account on a web server, sharing all its resources.
And when I say “a bunch,” I mean a big bunch!
Shared hosting is perfect for beginners or smaller web projects that don’t accumulate a lot of traffic. The process of signing up and setting your account up is as straightforward as they come. You can have everything ready and start building a website in a matter of minutes.
Sounds great, right?
It gets even better!
Shared Hosting Pros
Let’s say you didn’t know anything about websites. We have all started from somewhere, haven’t we?
Early on, it makes sense not to go all in and spend your entire budget on unfamiliar services. Sure, abundant resources and skilled support are great perks, but in the end, the price still remains a tipping point for most.
Who can blame them?
If I were in ancient times, trying to buy, let’s say, my first means of transport, I wouldn’t spend all my hard-earned gold on a dragon (plus, I would surely not have nearly enough). Instead, I would probably opt for a sturdy donkey, which would get me to my destination while letting me get used to the saddle.
You want your shared host to be like that adorable donkey — reliable, compliant, and easy-to-operate.
Another notable benefit of quality hosts is the level of support you can expect as a shared client. You might think that renting a fair amount of resources at such a low price would not grant you such extras.
Luckily, that is not the case. Web providers are well aware that this many people who use shared hosting need technical help, so they try to support as many communication channels as possible.
Shared Hosting Cons
Remember I mentioned a bunch of people utilizing the same server resources as you? That could easily mean hundreds and even thousands of accounts crammed on a single server.
Much like Walder Frey and his progeny, things can get crowded and messy. When it comes to GoDaddy and EIG, that’s definitely the case.
And that can be bad news.
Because the more people you have on the server, the easier it gets for someone to hog the system resources, resulting in all the websites running slow. Back in the day, it was even worse — web hosts were generously offering impossible features like unlimited space and bandwidth, and the clients were happy to take the bait.
As if something as tangible as server space can be infinite… Imagine that.
Nowadays, quality providers are much more cautious in what they offer, ensuring each client on the server gets an even amount of resources. Still, should a neighbor’s house catch fire, the damage can spread to your digital lands as well.
Which brings us to the matter of security.
You can surround your castle with the highest walls and lock it behind the strongest gate, but what’s the point if hundreds of people hold a key? After all, it only takes one careless gatekeeper to compromise everything.
Another major drawback of shared hosting is your ability to grow. You are confined to the limitations of your hosting account and can’t add more resources as you go. Your sole option then would be to upgrade to other suitable hosting options.
Shared Hosting Price
Being at the lowest rung on the hosting ladder, shared accounts are relatively cheap. With so many providers fighting for a piece of the pie, prices for new clients can go down to ridiculous amounts, like $1 – $2 per month.
Keep in mind that the initial price and renewal price often are different things. While you can secure a fantastic deal to start with – here at Hosting Tribunal usually there are a few of those – renewal fees are often twice or thrice higher. Freys are skillful at bargaining and so are shared hosts.
My advice would be to sign a longer initial contract and use the trial period most hosts offer to try things out and see if the service fits your needs.
If it doesn’t — simply request your refund in due time and move elsewhere.
Usage of Shared Hosting
Make sure to befriend House Frey on your own terms. They might not be the biggest or strongest ally, but you are going to need them at some point.
2. VPS Hosting — House Stark
What can you say about the Starks? Trusted, reliable, honoring their word… even to a painful extent sometimes. When the Starks need reinforcements, they call upon their loyal bannermen and grow their army at impressive rates.
Much like the Northmen, Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are all about balance. VPS hosting is the next logical step when your website outgrows the limitations of the shared environment. You are still sharing a server with other people, but this time there are 10-20 tops.
How does that work?
Hosts can divide a server into several virtual machines, each with its separate amount of system resources. As a result, you enjoy more control and better security, but you also get a whole lot of responsibilities in return.
Ruling over a vast domain such as Winterfell or a private server comes with its responsibilities and requires a certain skill.
VPS services are a hybrid of shared and dedicated hosting that combines the best of both worlds.
In terms of security and control, you are getting a much better deal, compared to a shared account. While the overall structure is seemingly the same, the way admins split the accounts on a VPS guarantees that each client is completely isolated from the others. So even if a breach occurs on the same server — you are pretty much safe.
This means the resources you pay for – disk space, RAM, CPU speed — are yours only.
Then comes flexibility.
The way VPS hosting accounts are set up allows much greater customization. A virtual machine acts as a standalone server, so you can apply specific changes without affecting other customers on the same VPS.
Having your own share of resources sounds excellent, but what about scalability? What do you need to do if your needs outgrow the confines of your VPS account?
Well, then you sound the battle horns, and the reinforcements start marching your way.
Just kidding, of course…
Or am I?
The actual process is remarkably similar. Once your resources start running low, you call upon your trusted hosting provider, who adds whatever you need, without any downtimes or structural changes. Whether you need more RAM to handle traffic or extra disk space to expand your project, a quality web host should be able to provide a solution.
It doesn’t even matter if your project requires WordPress, Joomla, or Magento hosting — a proper server setup will let you grow, regardless of the chosen application.
Still, it’s not all roses and unicorns with the VPS server environment. For starters, you have to expect a steeper monthly bill compared to what the average shared host is likely to charge you. Think the likes of House Stark as opposed to House Karstark.
To be fair, there are some very affordable deals for VPS services out there. Some even go as low as the price of a shared account.
You know what they say, though — if it sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Put yourself in the shoes of a hosting provider for a moment. You need to:
- Buy a server
- Set up the machine (or hire extra staff to do it)
- Split it into virtual hosts
- Monitor their performance at all times
- Provide support for all users on the machine
Now imagine after all that hassle selling your accounts for 5 bucks a pop…the numbers don’t quite add up, do they?
Beware of VPS deals that seem too cheap, as the provider may be overcrowding the servers.
If you are a newbie user, there is another downside to VPS servers.
You might enjoy the enhanced control associated with this type of hosting, but if you are unsure of what you’re doing, the sheer amount of options can easily overwhelm you. Make note to never tinker with the settings on your live website, as a single wrong click can bring your whole website crashing down like a house of cards.
As mentioned, stay away from the super cheap deals. You can expect any decent VPS service to start at around the $20 mark and go all the way up to $50-60 per month. Essentially, the cost increases with the complexity of your demands, the size of the virtual server, and the hardware it uses.
Ensure your new host is scalable enough to accommodate the possible growth of your website, so you don’t have to switch servers every time you need to add a little more.
Usage of VPS
It’s great to be part of the Stark family – provided you can keep the head on your shoulders. You are always welcome in their castle, even if you are traveling with an entourage. Taking advantage of the famous northern hospitality will guarantee you a private room and plenty of warm coats to get you through the blistering Northern winds.
3. Dedicated Server — House Lannister
Some people are just born lucky. Being part of the Lannister family means you can afford practically everything. What you can’t buy with money — you can buy with a lot of money.
Still, without your trusted generals to lead the Lannister army, you’d be helpless on your own.
Dedicated hosting services are where the big boys play. You get an entire host machine at your disposal, and you can tinker with it as you please. You can stumble upon many different types of servers, but what they all have in common is the massive computing power they contain.
Dedicated servers were once a must-have for large-scale and high traffic websites. The rise of cloud-based web hosting shook the market pretty hard, and now only projects with a very intricate setup find renting an entire server viable.
The US is the leading provider of web servers, holding 35-40% of the global market. Germany is second with 15%, and China ranks third with 7%.
Pros of Dedicated Servers
So what can justify having an entire server all to yourself?
How about full control?
In many cases, the hosting provider grants you root permissions to the server, and what you do with it is entirely up to you. Free from the risks of “bad neighbors” or lack of resources, you can customize every little aspect of your website environment.
Choose an OS? You got it.
Change hardware elements? Why not.
Run a social media dating site for wildlings beyond the Wall? Weird, granted. Still, it’s your server. You can do with it as you please.
As you can imagine, scalability is effortless with rented machines. Whatever component you wish to add or replace, go ahead and do it. In recent years a similar type of service has emerged — colocation hosting.
You are still renting data center space, cooling, physical security, electricity, bandwidth… Everything but the server itself. The machine is yours and its management is up to you. It’s your responsibility to transport your host machine to its new home and set it on the spot. Then it will benefit from the data center goodies fully but still remains yours.
Cons of Dedicated Servers
Do you really need to rent or buy an entire server, though?
Cloud-based services have eliminated most of the reasons why one would need dedicated hosting services. Cloud is significantly more affordable, more scalable, and more user-friendly.
The main reason to pay a monthly rent for an entire server nowadays is if you are running a setup-specific application which requires complex customizations.
Another thing with dedicated services is that you must know how to manage a server or have a system administrator at a payroll. Sure, you can find managed hosting providers, but they typically would take care of system updates and nothing more. Configuring the server to accommodate your needs is your responsibility.
In short, if you don’t have the needed expertise (or a trusted mercenary to cover for you), you are as good as lost. Considering the potential expenses for hiring additional personnel, we come to the biggest shortcoming.
If you need to resort to dedicated hosting services, you better be prepared to break the piggy bank. We are talking about $100+/mo for starters, while robust enterprise solutions can easily hit thousands in their monthly bill.
Those are server costs only.
Add that to the expenses for admin staff, monitoring software, emergency crew, and additional hardware… you are now looking at one hefty lump of money every month.
Dedicated solutions are not for everyone and certainly are beyond the means and needs of small to medium websites. Most big sites can do just fine with VPS too.
Usage of Dedicated Server
It’s not hard being a Lannister. You have servants running around, tending to your every whim and treating you as the rightful King of Westeros. At the end of the day, they are all siding with you for gold, so you better be a good Lannister and always pay your debts.
4. Cloud Hosting — The Faceless Men from Braavos
The Faceless Men meticulously serve the Many-Faced God while cutting all ties with home, family, or friends. Members of the guild come out of nowhere and are always effective at what they do…deadly effective.
A man has no name…nor does a cloud server.
Cloud computing took the tech industry by storm. It provided an on-demand availability of web resources and a decentralized method of operation. So it’s no surprise the hosting market quickly adopted it as well.
Cloud providers make use of a whole network of virtual web hosts, spread across the globe, all acting as one giant server machine. This configuration significantly reduces the risks of security breaches, resource exhaustion, and website downtimes – all of which are associated with a single-server setup.
And that’s only scratching the surface.
Cloud Hosting Pros
Boy, where do we start?
As your website popularity grows, more and more people will come and check out what you have to offer.
If you run your own server, what happens when you outgrow the borders of your online kingdom? You have to leave it and move elsewhere or add a whole bunch of costly resources.
Doesn’t sound like a great deal, right?
Cloud services are not bound by the physical limitations of a single server, so you can scale resources on-the-go and take up as much as you need at the moment. This way you can handle even the most sudden traffic spikes associated with a new product promo or marketing campaign.
The full scalability of the cloud reflects on your monthly bill as well – you are only paying for what you have used in the period. Nothing more, nothing less.
What about security, though? Is the cloud any safer than all the other types of host services?
To an extent, it actually is.
Many cloud platforms automatically copy the sites they host across several servers for redundancy reasons. In case one of the hosting servers goes bust – be that because of a security issue or technical malfunction – then the others begin to serve the site automatically, without any interruption of service.
Many servers, one result: redundancy and security.
With such a wealth of benefits, it’s hard not to join the cult of the Many-Faced Cloud whenever you get the chance.
Cloud Hosting Cons
Providers tend to use the term “cloud hosting” rather loosely, which could easily lead to blatant false advertising. This marketing trick largely relies on people’s unfamiliarity with the phrase and what it should entail.
Even a simple VPS setup can resemble a cloud…until you actually need some cloud capabilities.
Watch out for suspicious deals and always double-check your potential host. Our reviews revealed SiteGround and FastComet as two hosts that are willing to go out of their way to educate users about cloud services.
Make a note to closely monitor your resource consumption, as the on-demand billing plan has its downsides. Traffic spikes aren’t the only thing that can drain your pockets.
Poorly optimized websites can quickly turn into a resource hog, which can result in a hair-raising hosting bill.
Putting a price tag on a pay-as-you-use service is hard. Depending on your consumption, you can expect anything from a cheap VPS to a costly rented server. One thing is certain — enterprises seem to adopt cloud services significantly more often than smaller businesses.
24% of big companies take advantage of the cloud environment, while only 8% of SMEs can afford to do the same.
Much like the Faceless Men, it’s pretty hard to define a quality cloud host. They do not rely on flashy advertisements. Instead, they simply do their intended job without asking too many questions. If a Man says he will safely keep your website, you can be sure he is up to the task.
5. Managed WordPress Hosting — The Unsullied
The Unsullied represent a considerable army of fighters, all born and bred in the art of war. They are loyal, reliable, and proficient in the only thing they can do — fight. With a skilled commander at the helm, the Unsullied can do wonders in conquering new lands.
Imagine if you were that general…
The best managed WordPress hosts employ and train professionals everything there is to know about the most popular web-building application. Which means that you don’t have to worry about updates, backups, and security setup — you have your little WP army for that.
In some cases, managed WordPress services indicate your level of support, rather than the server infrastructure.
However, there are many truly managed WordPress platforms which are tailored to serve the popular CMS to perfection.
Pros of Managed WordPress Hosting
That’s the best thing about managed WP hosts. Instead of directing you to various tutorials and self-help guides, the in-house WordPress experts are more than ready to lift that burden so you can focus on what’s most important — growing your business.
Sure, you can grow to become a WordPress master yourself, but why not trust the professionals along the way?
Depending on how much you pay for your army, you can expect anything from basic app-specific assistance to staged tests for updates compatibility.
Another benefit of your host knowing how to utilize the full power of the most popular CMS is they will know how important it is to apply proper security measures to WordPress.
Over 73% of WP installations are vulnerable to exploits, with old plugin and app versions being the main culprit.
A quality managed host will start by tweaking your server for optimal performance and speed. Then, it will apply a layer of security precautions and monitoring systems and will top it all off with an automated daily backup system.
Cons of Managed WordPress Hosting
Much like cloud services, managed WP hosting is a term often shrouded in a fog of marketing vagueness. Shady providers love to take a basic shared account and slap the words “managed WordPress” on it.
Two simple words that immediately raise your monthly bill.
That’s the thing.
You might not get a lot more additional resources (or any at all), but if you go for a managed WP service, you have to be prepared to pay a hefty fee.
Or you could send a dragon to take over the headquarters of your web host but leave their Unsullied soldiers alive to serve your cause.
That could work, too.
The monthly fee is a key differentiator between shared and managed WordPress accounts. While you can find a shared host for the price of a goblet of Westerosi wine, the app-specific services can easily cost you $15/mo or more.
Think more along the likes of the price of a good Dornish red.
Usage of Managed WordPress Hosting
The Unsullied are right there for the taking, and you don’t have to be the highest bidder – there are enough for everyone. You can even have your own Gray Worm to lead the pack. You just point your army in the right direction, and they will help you win your battles.
Quality WP host can do the same.
6. Reseller Hosting — Littlefinger
Petyr Baelish doesn’t belong to any of the major kingdoms, but he doesn’t need to either. Littlefinger is always aware of where the power lies and how to best take advantage of the situation. He can provide food, shelter, and entertainment if you have the coin for it. You can expect him to even throw in a piece of helpful advice.
Just as the name suggests, reseller hosting essentially means buying services from another host, masking them and selling them as your own.
How much will the reseller charge their clients?
How much space and system resources will they get?
What level of support should they expect?
The reseller has full control over who gets what – provided their web host can supply the goods. How well the middle man can hide his relationship with the primary provider is entirely up to him as well. Some choose to erase all tracks; others pick the opposite route and even introduce the client to the main host for future support queries.
Web developers and designers regularly adopt the reselling approach. They deal with multiple projects, and this way they can bring everything under one roof for easier management (and a few extra bucks).
Pros of Reseller Hosting
We already outlined what is shared hosting, so is this any different?
Well, yes and no.
More often than not resellers are offering shared accounts to their clients, but that is only because most websites require nothing more anyways. Should the client need, let’s say, a VPS, and the host offers this service — then why not?
The major selling point for trying out reseller services is the enhanced control. You get access to an advanced control panel where you can split and manage the virtual accounts as you wish, set your own billing, or monitor the resource consumption stats.
Many resellers like to set their own rules, so they choose to remove any connection with the host altogether. The greatest thing is that the hosting provider doesn’t mind at all.
Most of them are even prepared to help you along with a little something called “white-labeling.”
The host essentially strips its name from any visible element that might reveal its presence — billing forms, nameservers, control panel logos. It’s like Khaleesi “renting” you one of her dragons to take for a ride and impress some chicks.
Cons of Reseller Hosting
If you are a reseller, “full control” sounds fantastic, but you must know the host you are buying the service from really well. If its servers are bad, then what you resell will be equally bad.
Reseller hosting is much more of a business than technical endeavor. Granted, if you know your way around a server it would be hugely beneficial, but the skills that will determine your success are marketing and customer support.
Becoming a successful reseller is not an easy thing. Make sure to choose the right hosting provider or your descend down the ladder of Chaos will be swift and painful.
Just like Littlefinger, the resellers set their own rules. Often, just like Lord Baelish, they can bargain hard for the price due.
As you can imagine, reseller packages vary is size and price wildly. There are deals for about $40 per year as well as for $100 per month.
Usage of Reseller Hosting
Petyr Baelish can be your wonderful friend and trusted advisor. He really can. He can shelter you, wine and dine you, and ease your worries.
It’s just that sometimes he chooses not to. Whatever the case, every move is calculated meticulously, to the tiniest detail.
If you aim to become a reseller, you must definitely follow suit. Study the host extremely well, devise a business plan, and be ready for some tough decisions that should be met with the utmost composure.
Comparing computer technology to Game of Thrones might have sounded ridiculous at the beginning of the article, but I am sure by now you see my point. Initially, I was surprised to find so many parallels that helped me define web host services with relatable GoT characters.
Here’s the bottom line:
The hosting industry is vast and full of opportunities. Its market value in 2017 wfas $32.14 billion, and by 2023 it is supposed to pass the $72 billion mark.
There are many different types of servers, providers, and ways of operation. The hosting industry is a land that hides a plentiful bounty.
But cunning enemies lurk behind the corner. Avoid putting your complete trust in the seemingly friendly merchants; instead, do your own research!
When you play the Game of Hosting Thrones, your website either wins or dies.
Q: Which website hosting service is best for a startup?
A: There is no such thing as “best hosting” that perfectly fits every need. Most new users can start on a shared host and upgrade the service once they outgrow it. Choose a provider that offers a free trial or decent money back guarantee. You can take your money back and go elsewhere if your expectations are not met.
Q: Which web hosting service is best — Linux or Windows?
A: The type of server you choose depends on your web project technology. Most CMSs are PHP/MySQL-based, and that configuration is most efficient in a Linux environment. On the other hand, if you are using a .NET framework, a Windows server will be your only option.
Q: What are the different types of web hosting?
A: There are six distinct categories:
- Shared — One server for many clients
- VPS — One server for a few clients
- Dedicated — One server just for one client
- Cloud — A network of servers all working as one
- Managed WP — Shared or VPS server that is optimized for WordPress
- Reseller — Buy a hosting service, resell it as you wish.
Additional offerings, like hybrid cloud or colocation hosting, are variations of the existing host types.
Q: What is self-service web hosting?
A: Self-servicing doesn’t really qualify as one of the different types of web hosting. It involves using your own hardware and administration, as well as cooling, racks, and physical security. Much like building your own data center.
Q: Does the Night King like data centers?
A: Of course he does, their cooling is sublime!