What is Shared Hosting?

What is Shared Hosting

When it comes time to find a home for your website, one of the first questions you may ask is, “What is shared hosting?”

That’s a good question and answering for you is the purpose of this post.

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Shared hosting can be described as:

Definition: An inexpensive web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.

What is Shared Hosting

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All done!

Just kidding! To really understand shared hosting, we’re going to break down the description above into two smaller bits that make up the whole.

What is Shared Hosting?

“An inexpensive Web hosting setup where different parties share one Web server…”

As with many service businesses, Web hosting companies typically offer different plans, each tailored to meet the needs of its clients at different levels. Web hosts typically offer three primary types of hosting setups:

  1. Shared server hosting
  2. Virtual private server hosting
  3. Dedicated server hosting

As the first tier offer, shared hosting is the least expensive and that’s a good thing, especially for small businesses. For this reason, shared hosting is the first home for many a business website — it’s a place to get its feet wet and begin to grow.

Why is the cost lower? From the hosting company’s perspective, shared hosting trades off higher process for higher volume. They can fit more hosting accounts on one server and that means that maintenance costs are divided across many parties driving down the price on the customer’s side.

While the price of shared hosting is low however, the limitations imposed are high.

You see, when a hosting company says shared, they mean shared: all the sites hosted there use every resource on a shared server. That includes CPU power, memory and bandwidth. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem however, if one of the sites sees a spike in activity, it can slow or even freeze the other sites on the server.

That’s not a good thing.

Another downside of the low price is the low level of support provided to shared hosting accounts. While you can often purchase a higher level of support, since you’re not paying a lot at the basic level, you don’t get a lot.

“…to securely host their own websites on a server maintained by a hosting company.”

Though the server is shared, nothing else is. Each party hosting on a shared server can see and manage only their own site, no others. Even though they share an email server, email is delivered to, and accessible by, each individual party.

That said, security is of higher concern on a shared server. Simply by virtue of being on the same machine, it’s harder to lock down a website completely. Most hosting companies handle this as well as they can, so it’s not a huge risk factor, just a potential one.

Since multiple parties coexist on a shared server, concerns for security lead to limited access to the back-end of server. Under a shared hosting plan, a lot of the back-end is locked-down.

A benefit of this is that maintenance is typically taken care of by the Web hosting company, leaving you free to focus on business.

Unfortunately, this also means that you have very little control over your hosting server. You can’t install anything unless the hosting company provides it and, while that’s fine for many small businesses, it does start to chafe as a business grows and wants to add more functionality and design to its site.

What is Shared Hosting?

When to Consider Upgrading Your Hosting Plan

Shared hosting can be an excellent choice for many small businesses and startups due to its affordability and hands-off maintenance. However, as your business grows, you may find it necessary to consider upgrading your hosting plan. Here are some key factors to consider:

Resource Demands:

  • Shared hosting plans allocate resources like CPU power, memory, and bandwidth among multiple websites.
  • If your website experiences increased traffic or resource-intensive tasks, it can strain a shared server, leading to slower performance or even downtime.

Security Concerns:

  • While hosting companies take measures to secure shared servers, the nature of shared hosting means that security risks exist.
  • If you handle sensitive customer data or require enhanced security measures, it may be time to consider a more secure hosting option.

Limited Control:

  • Shared hosting limits your control over the server environment. You can only install software and configurations provided by the hosting company.
  • If your website requires custom software or advanced configurations, upgrading to a hosting plan with more control may be necessary.

Business Growth:

  • As your business expands, so do its resource needs. More traffic, transactions, and content can strain a shared server.
  • Upgrading to a higher-tier hosting plan can provide the resources and scalability needed to accommodate growth.

Back-End Control:

  • If you need greater control over your website’s back end, including the ability to install additional software or make advanced configurations, consider moving to a hosting plan that offers more flexibility.
Factors to ConsiderDescription
Resource Demands- Shared hosting plans allocate resources (CPU, memory, bandwidth) among multiple websites.
- Increased traffic or resource-intensive tasks can strain a shared server, leading to performance issues.
Security Concerns- Shared hosting carries security risks, although hosting companies implement security measures.
- Sensitive data handling or higher security needs may necessitate a more secure hosting option.
Limited Control- Shared hosting limits control over server environment and software installations.
- Custom software or advanced configurations may require a hosting plan with greater control.
Business Growth- Expanding businesses may experience increased resource demands (traffic, transactions, content).
- Upgrading to a higher-tier plan provides scalability and resources to accommodate growth.
Back-End Control- Consider the need for greater control over website's back end, including software installations.
- Hosting plans with more flexibility can offer advanced configurations and control.

What is Shared Hosting?

Choosing the Right Hosting Plan

Selecting the appropriate hosting plan is a crucial decision for your website. To help you make an informed choice, consider the following factors:

  • Website Requirements: Evaluate your website’s specific needs, such as traffic volume, resource demands, and scalability. Different hosting plans cater to various requirements.
  • Budget: Determine your hosting budget. Shared hosting is cost-effective, while VPS and dedicated hosting may be pricier but offer more resources.
  • Technical Expertise: Assess your technical skills. Shared hosting is user-friendly, while VPS and dedicated hosting require more technical proficiency.
  • Security: Consider the sensitivity of your website’s data. E-commerce sites or those handling confidential information may require higher security levels.
  • Future Growth: Think about your website’s growth potential. Opt for a hosting plan that can accommodate future expansion.
  • Control: Evaluate your need for control over server configurations. Shared hosting offers less control, while VPS and dedicated hosting provide more customization options.
  • Support: Research the level of customer support provided by hosting providers. Ensure they offer timely assistance when needed.
  • Backup and Recovery: Check for backup and recovery options. A reliable hosting plan should include regular backups to safeguard your data.
  • Uptime and Reliability: Review the hosting provider’s uptime record and reliability. Look for high uptime guarantees to minimize website downtime.
  • Scalability: Consider whether the hosting plan allows easy scalability to accommodate traffic spikes or increased resource demands.

What is Shared Hosting?

Tips for a Smooth Hosting Transition

Transitioning to a new hosting plan or provider can be a smooth process if you follow these tips:

  • Backup Your Data: Before making any changes, back up all your website data, including databases, files, and configurations.
  • Select the Right Plan: Choose a hosting plan that suits your current and future needs, ensuring it offers the necessary resources and features.
  • Notify Stakeholders: Inform your team, clients, or users about the upcoming transition and any potential downtime.
  • Set Up Test Environment: If possible, create a test environment on the new hosting before migrating your live site. This allows you to identify and resolve issues in a controlled setting.
  • Migration Tools: Utilize migration tools and services provided by the new hosting provider. Many offer automated migration assistance.
  • Verify Compatibility: Ensure that your website’s software, applications, and scripts are compatible with the new hosting environment.
  • Update DNS Records: Update your DNS records to point to the new hosting server. This may involve changing domain name settings.
  • Monitor Post-Migration: After migration, closely monitor your website for any issues, broken links, or missing features. Address and resolve them promptly.
  • Testing and Quality Assurance: Thoroughly test your website on the new hosting environment to confirm that everything is functioning as expected.
  • Security Audit: Conduct a security audit to identify and rectify any vulnerabilities that may arise during the transition.
  • Communicate with Support: Maintain open communication with your hosting provider’s support team. Seek assistance if you encounter any challenges.
  • Post-Migration Optimization: Optimize your website’s performance on the new hosting, taking advantage of any enhanced features or resources.

By following these steps and being prepared, you can ensure a successful hosting transition with minimal disruptions to your website and users.

Transition TipsDescription
Backup Your Data- Back up all website data, including databases, files, and configurations, before making any changes.
Select the Right Plan- Choose a hosting plan that aligns with your current and future needs, offering the required resources and features.
Notify Stakeholders- Inform your team, clients, or users about the upcoming hosting transition, including potential downtime and changes.
Set Up Test Environment- Create a test environment on the new hosting to identify and resolve issues in a controlled setting before migrating the live site.
Migration Tools- Utilize migration tools and services provided by the new hosting provider, many of which offer automated migration assistance.
Verify Compatibility- Ensure that your website's software, applications, and scripts are compatible with the new hosting environment to avoid compatibility issues.
Update DNS Records- Update DNS records to point to the new hosting server, which may involve making changes to domain name settings.
Monitor Post-Migration- Closely monitor your website after migration to detect and address issues such as broken links or missing features promptly.
Testing and Quality Assurance- Thoroughly test your website on the new hosting environment to confirm that all functionalities are working as expected.
Security Audit- Conduct a security audit to identify and rectify vulnerabilities that may arise during the hosting transition to enhance security.
Communicate with Support- Maintain open communication with your hosting provider's support team, seeking assistance and guidance if challenges are encountered during the transition.
Post-Migration Optimization- Optimize your website's performance on the new hosting environment, leveraging enhanced features and resources available.


Its low price and hands-off maintenance requirements makes shared hosting a very viable option for small businesses that stay small or are just starting out. The security risks on a shared server are higher, but it’s more of a situation you need to keep an eye on as opposed to being a show stopper.

As a business grows however, the resources its website demands grow as well. As more traffic and transactions begin to strain a shared server, it’s time to upgrade to the next tier of the hosting plans.

The desire for more control of a website’s back end, including the need to install software beyond that offered by the hosting company, is another common reason for upgrading your hosting plan. Once you’re at the next tier, you have much more control over your website’s home.

Web Hosting Photo via Shutterstock


Matt Mansfield Matt Mansfield is the Tech Editor and SEO Manager at Small Business Trends where he is responsible for directing and writing many of the site’s product reviews, technology how-to’s, and lists of small business resources as well as increasing the reach of our content.

5 Reactions
  1. Not having to maintain a server is the biggest benefit for me, but the cost savings are huge as well. Just keep your fingers crossed that your server-mates aren’t getting hacked or doing bad things.

    • You avoid that by placing on shared hosting accounts smaller and not crucial websites related to your main business, like the domains you buy for specific marketing campaigns.

      For your main websites, dedicated or VPS are still the best way to go.

  2. Nice article. I completely agree with you that shared hosting is cheap and ideal for small businesses.

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