Monthly Archive April 2021

AvatarByJames Golding

VPS Hosting: All You Need to Know

In previous instalments, we’ve looked at a couple of different types of website hosting you could choose, including shared hosting and dedicated hosting. Of course, both of those are very different, but equally as useful. In this blog, I am going to introduce you to a new type of hosting, namely VPS hosting. We’ll see some of the advantages and disadvantages of using it, as well as whether or not it would be the right choice for your website.

What is VPS hosting?

VPS hosting, or Virtual Private Server hosting, is a relatively new type of web hosting, which has started to gain popularity in recent years. A virtual private server is basically a partitioned part of a physical server. Due to the partitioning, this server has its own operating system, disk/storage space and bandwidth etc.

So, what does this actually mean? A physical server is a server/computer that is located in a data centre, the location of which will differ depending on your hosting provider. That physical server is then divided up. When each division is created, that division will act as its own virtual server. Even though the ‘virtual private’ server is part of a larger, physical server, the user of this VPS server will see only their virtual environment and therefore they can make changes to it as they wish, as if it were a dedicated server.

Since a VPS server acts as its own server, even though it is technically part of a larger physical server, it is perfect for sites which may need to use a dedicated server in the future but aren’t quite there yet. As such, you could consider it as a ‘bridge’ between shared and dedicated hosting.

What are the advantages of VPS hosting?

There are a number of strong reasons why you might want to choose VPS hosting for your website(s). Let’s take a look at some of the key ones now.

#1: It is more cost-effective than dedicated hosting

There are many situations where you may find that your website needs more than simple shared hosting. Maybe your brand is going global. Maybe you’ve got an online store with lots of products. Whatever the reason, VPS hosting will give you most of the benefits of dedicated hosting using a physical server, without the much heavier price tag. That’s perfect if you need better performance than shared hosting, but you are operating on a limited budget.

#2: It gives you more control than shared hosting

When you’re using shared hosting, you have no control over the configuration of the server on which your website is hosted. That’s fine if you aren’t particularly tech savvy, or even if you just don’t want to have that control. On the contrary, VPS hosting will give you much more control. It is likely that you will have what’s known as ‘root access’ to the server, which means you will be able to change settings and even install unique scripts and software. That’s perfect for an organisation that has specific standards, or that is just keen to experiment, to improve performance.

#3: It gives you better performance than shared hosting

Unlike with shared hosting, but in a similar manner to dedicated hosting, VPS hosting essentially means you have access to your own server, with its own resources. Not only are these resources usually of a higher standard (such as more powerful memory and solid-state SSD storage, instead of traditional HDD storage) but the user is also not sharing them with anyone. That means the user’s website will perform much better and will score much higher in tools such as GTmetrix and Pingdom. That’s very important for anyone whose website might have a lot of traffic (visitors) and whose visitors are likely to be global.

#4: It is easily scalable

A great feature of VPS hosting is that you can start off with the minimum amount of resources and you can gradually increase the resources you have, through your hosting provider. This means that you can start off on a cheaper plan if your budget is limited and as your website grows, attracting more and more visitors each day, you can add more resources, to cope with the demand. You can even downgrade if at a point where you have more resources than the minimum, you decide you don’t have enough budget or traffic to continue with those resources. That’s perfect, right?

What are the disadvantages of VPS hosting?

Although there are clearly many reasons why VPS hosting is a great option, we do of course need to consider the reasons why it might not be ideal.

#1: It is more expensive than shared hosting

As we have seen previously, shared hosting means you’re sharing resources with other users on the server, and therefore you are also sharing the costs. When you’re just starting out, or you are on a budget, that’s perfect. With VPS hosting, however, you aren’t sharing the resources with anyone. That means that although you don’t have a whole physical server, you are still footing a lot more of the bill yourself. Typically, the cheapest VPS hosting plan could be around 10x the cost of the cheapest shared hosting plan, depending on the provider. Whilst that might still be manageable for many users, it might be out of the price range of some. However, most good hosting providers will allow you to start on a shared hosting plan and then upgrade to VPS, or even dedicated hosting at the right time, so you can’t lose.

#2: There can be service issues, depending on your host

Whilst most good hosting providers will ensure you don’t have any issues with your website hosting, if a provider doesn’t take enough care, you may find that you have issues. It is possible that a provider doesn’t actually allocate the physical server’s resources properly. By this, I mean that a hosting provider could potentially over-sell resources, banking on the assumption that most users won’t use their full resource allocation, in a similar way to how a train company might over-sell tickets, leaving you stood in the aisle on a busy journey. In this scenario, if down the line a website uses resources at their peak, it could cause server issues, affecting all other websites on the server. The best way to prevent this is to ensure that your hosting provider does allocate its resources properly.

So, is VPS hosting right for you?

VPS website hosting is a fantastic bridge between shared and dedicate hosting, giving you resources and performance on a similar level to dedicated hosting, whilst being more budget friendly. Knowing this, you are now in a position to decide whether or not VPS hosting is right for you. Generally speaking, if you fall into one of these categories, then it would be a great choice.

  • You have a growing website, with lots of content and visitors/traffic
  • You run a growing company or organisation
  • You need greater security and performance guarantees for your website
  • You want some control over your server, but aren’t completely tech-savvy
  • You have a large, but not unlimited budget

Clearly there are many reasons why VPS hosting would be the most suitable option. One thing is for sure – you shouldn’t let the price put you off, especially if you need this level of hosting to help grow your business. With the right hosting provider, you can always find the package to suit your budget. Some of the most reputable hosting providers are:

Of course, there are many other hosting providers out there. You just need to make sure you find the right one for you.

How will Digital Lychee help you?

At Digital Lychee, I make sure that I tailor all my clients’ website to suit their individual needs. In your initial consultation (free and no obligation, of course) we will discuss your needs in full and I can advise you on the best type of hosting to suit your needs and how you can upgrade it going forwards, if necessary. If you are interested in my services, or you want to find out more about my blog, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.

AvatarByJames Golding

15% off web design services

Until Monday 19 April, I am offering 15% off my web design services for all new clients. Get in touch now to start your digital journey.

AvatarByJames Golding

Dedicated Hosting: The Pros and Cons

In a previous instalment, I introduced the concept of shared hosting, which is a type of hosting in which multiple websites are hosted on a single server (or computer) bringing financial and convenience benefits to the user, whilst introducing various performance issues. In this blog, I will introduce you to the concept of dedicated website hosting as an alternative to shared hosting. We’ll see some of the advantages and disadvantages of using it, as well as whether or not it would be the right choice for your website.

What is dedicated hosting?

Dedicated hosting is a form of website hosting where any given physical server is used by a single customer only, unlike shared hosting, in which any given server would have multiple users, or websites. That means the user has complete control over the server and none of the resources are shared, so they are able to optimise it for their unique requirements. Of course, a good hosting provider would still provide all the technical support the user needs.

That sounds ideal, right? Clearly in a lot of instances, this will be the perfect solution. However, it won’t be in all cases. Let’s now take a look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of this type of hosting, to help you decide whether or not it is right for you.

What are the advantages of dedicated hosting?

There are a number of strong reasons why you might want to choose dedicated hosting for your website(s). Let’s take a look at some of the key ones now.

#1: It offers very reliable performance

When you’re using shared hosting, your website’s performance is likely to be directly affected by that of the other websites on the same server. For example, if one of the websites suddenly has a lot of visitors, or it has been badly coded (and is therefore very resource-heavy) then the other websites’ performance would likely be impacted.

On the other hand, dedicated hosting means that there are no other users on the same server. Therefore, you won’t need to worry about any of these sorts of issues. Since you’re not sharing resources with anyone else (go on, I know we all like to be a bit selfish once in a while) you’ll get a much faster and more reliable performance. Even better, lots of dedicated servers used improved hardware, such as a solid state drive (SSD) compared to the more traditional hard drive (HDD) which would definitely help your website to load much faster. That’s excellent if you’re looking to provide your visitors with the best experience possible.

#2: It gives you complete flexibility

With shared hosting, you are unable to change any of the features to suit your needs, as they are managed by the web host and are kept consistent on the server, for all users.

However, when you have dedicated hosting, you have complete control over the server, which means you can change anything you like, such as installing new software, applications or programmes. You’re even able to make changes to the resources, any time you need. That’s perfect for companies or organisations who need to be able to constantly adapt their website in a more dynamic environment.

#3: It is safe and secure

As you know, shared hosting means you’re sharing a server with other websites. That unfortunately means that you’re also susceptible to their flaws. For example, imagine that a website you’re sharing the server with has some security vulnerabilities and that those are exploited by a hacker, or even just by some malware of some sort. Suddenly, the server could be taken down. That means your website would be down as well, even if it were perfectly secure.

On the contrary, if your website is on a dedicated server, you avoid all of those issues. You won’t be exposed to the security vulnerabilities of other websites. What’s more, you would even be able to take any additional security measures to meet your individual needs. That’s perfect since website hosting really is not a ‘one size fits all’ product.

#4: There are no visitor limits

Most providers of shared hosting services will place limits on the capabilities of your website. By that, I mean depending on the standard of packaging, they may limit certain features, such as the processing power of your hosting (the number of CPUs) or the bandwidth (linked to the number of page and resource views of your website). They may even directly limit the number of unique visitors your website can have. This is all done with some sort of fair usage policy in mind, to prevent the other websites on your server suffering as a result of yours, given that the resources are shared.

With dedicated hosting, these limits are not applied. There is no fair usage policy, since you are the only user of the server. This means you have the freedom to have a potentially unlimited number of visitors to your website. You might be limited by the hardware capabilities if you’re on, for example, a smaller dedicated server, but that’s about it. That means it’s perfect for website owners who know they’ll have a lot of visitors, such as event booking sites. Can you imagine the Glastonbury Festival website using limited shared hosting, whilst trying to take thousands of bookings every second?

What are the disadvantages of dedicated hosting?

We can see there are many reasons why dedicated hosting could be the ideal choice for hosting your website. However, it is important to understand that it isn’t all it is cracked up to be. Let’s take a look at some of the disadvantages, so you can get a complete picture.

#1: It can be very expensive

It’s important for you to understand that server costs don’t really change much between shared and dedicated servers. The reason why dedicated hosting is so much more expensive than shared hosting (generally speaking, of course) is that the server costs are no longer being shared with anyone else.

Let’s imagine that a server costs £1000 per year to run. If there are 100 users on a shared server, they will each be paying £10 per year for their hosting in the simplest scenario. However, on a dedicated server, the sole user of that server is responsible for paying the full £1000 per year. In reality, the costs will be overall higher than this example, but it should give you a clear understanding as to why dedicated hosting is much more expensive.

The upshot of this is that despite the performance and security benefits, dedicated hosting usually isn’t suitable for small business or start-ups, who may not have the budget of a larger organisation. If you fall into that category, you should still be able to upgrade at any time though, if you find your finances allow.

#2: It is technically demanding

If you’re starting off on a shared server, you’ll realise just how little technical knowledge you actually need. That’s because the service provider will be looking after the server for you and the others, with whom you share that server.

Dedicated hosting is different. We’ve seen that it gives you much more flexibility with your server to, for example, install any unique software. The issue here is that you generally need the technical knowledge to understand how your server works, so that you can manage it effectively.

However, you usually aren’t left alone by your hosting provider. You can often purchase a management package from your hosting provider, such that they will still maintain your dedicated server for you. That, of course, comes at an additional cost. A really great hosting provider will offer 24/7 complementary technical support, so you may still be able to get the advice you need, without having to pay for a management package. They may also have a comprehensive online directory of information and tutorials, to help you on your way. Either way, whilst dedicated hosting is more complex, you shouldn’t let it put you off, since there’s always a way to get the help you need.

So, is dedicated hosting right for you?

Knowing all of this, you’re now in a position to decide whether or not dedicated hosting is right for you. Generally speaking, if you fall into one of these categories, then it would be a great choice.

  • You have an unlimited budget
  • Your website is growing, so needs to be able to handle more traffic
  • You run a large company or organisation, with lots of visitors
  • Security is a particular concern for your website
  • You need your website to have fast loading times
  • You need control over your server

Clearly, there are many reasons why dedicated hosting would be the most suitable option. One thing is for sure – you shouldn’t let the price put you off. Even within the realms of dedicated hosting, there is a range. With the right hosting provider, you can always find the package to suit your budget. Some of the most reputable hosting providers are:

Of course, there are many other hosting providers out there. You just need to make sure that you find the right one for you.

How will Digital Lychee help you?

At Digital Lychee, I make sure that I tailor all my clients’ website to suit their individual needs. In your initial consultation (free and no obligation, of course) we will discuss your needs in full and I can advise you on the best type of hosting to suit your needs and how you can upgrade it going forwards, if necessary. If you are interested in my services, or you want to find out more about my blog, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.

AvatarByJames Golding

Shared Hosting: The Inside Track

When you’re thinking about creating a website, you’ve got many decisions to make, from the design of it, to the content, the type of platform and everything in between. One of the other key things to think about, something you can’t avoid, is the hosting. No matter the type, size or design of the website, you need to know where it is being hosted, for the best balance between your website’s performance and your bank balance. That’s why, in this blog mini-series, I will take you through the different types of website hosting you could choose. First stop, shared hosting.

What is shared hosting?

Shared hosting is an entry-level type of hosting, which is capable of providing the perfect number of resources for certain websites, such as a local business, a personal website or a start-up’s website. It is one of the most popular options for new websites right now.

Before we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages, it is important for us to understand what shared hosting actually is. That’s the only way we will be able to decide whether it is the right solution for any given website. First, let’s take a look at the definition.

The Definition

Shared hosting is a specific type of web hosting, where often hundreds of websites are hosted on a single server (or computer). Each of these websites, or users, makes use of the same resources on this server, helping to keep costs low. Each user gets a section of the server to host their website and has access to the same features, such as databases, email accounts, disk space, traffic etc. The resources of the server, on which all these websites are hosted, are shared on-demand by these websites. This means that whilst the resources are not permanently used by a website, when people are visiting it, it will have access to its share of the resources.

The Metaphor

For those of you for whom the definition is still a little confusing, this metaphor may help. Imagine you’ve just landed in Crete (or anywhere else, for that matter) on an amazing package holiday. Once you’ve got your suitcases from baggage claim, you’re directed outside to a vehicle, to take you to your hotel. Instead of a taxi, you’re directed to a coach, which already has other families or groups on board. As the coach leaves the airport, it drops each group off at their respective hotels, one by one. If you were in a taxi, you would have gone straight to your hotel and it would have been much quicker. As it happens, you were on a coach, so your journey to your hotel was much slower, as you had to drop others off at their hotels first.

This is essentially what shared hosting is. Instead of a website having its own fast, dedicated server (the taxi) it is on a shared server with lots of other websites (the coach) which means the resources are shared and it is most likely slower than a dedicated option.

What are the advantages of shared hosting?

Now that we understand what shared hosting is, let’s take a look at some of its benefits, and why you may find that it is the right solution for you and your website.

#1: It is very economical

Since there are lots of websites or users hosted on a single server, the hosting company’s server costs are shared between all those users. That means that overall, even on a more expensive shared hosting package, it is still much cheaper than dedicated options. You can get shared hosting packages for as little as £30 + VAT for a year, which is fantastic for those on a budget.

#2: It is very flexible

When you are on a shared hosting plan, with most hosting providers it is very easy to upgrade (or downgrade, of course) your hosting package at any time, without and issues, which is especially important as your website grows. In fact, if you choose the right hosting provider, all migrations and upgrades will be done for you.

#3: It is easy to self-manage

With the hosting being shared, the management of it is generally not done for you. However, that’s no problem, since you are usually provided with a very easy-to-use interface to help you sort everything, very intuitively, without much effort or stress. One of the most common interfaces is the cPanel. That’s perfect if you’re not tech-savvy, or you don’t have hours to spend managing things.

#4: You’re able to host multiple websites

You’ll notice on a lot of shared hosting plans that they state a number of websites you can host with that package. That’s one of the brilliant things about shared hosting. Since a server can host multiple websites simultaneously, you can do the exact same thing with your own account. For example, if you’ve got a website for your business, but you also want to run a website for the local village hall (or anything else) then you can do that from within your account with no issues. You just need to make sure that you connect the domain for that website to your account as well.

#5: The server is professionally managed

It’s one thing managing the website yourself. It’s a whole other thing managing the server, which is a lot more technical. On shared hosting packages, you can leave the technical server management to the experts, allowing you to focus solely on your own website. That takes the stress of server management for the less tech-savvy amongst us, whilst helping to improve things like performance and uptime.

What are the disadvantages of shared hosting?

It is important to remember that whilst shared hosting does clearly have many benefits, there are of course some reasons why it may not be the best option. Here they are.

#1: Shared resources can lead to performance problems, for others

If you’re using shared hosting, it means you’re sharing resources with other users. Under normal usage, this isn’t an issue. However, if for any reason your website starts to get a high amount of traffic, especially in a short amount of time, this will almost certainly impact the performance of someone else’s website. The reverse is also true. It might not even be down to traffic. For instance, if someone has a poorly coded website on the server, which becomes a drain on resources, you’ll almost certainly be affected. Most good hosting providers have shared servers with a much higher physical capacity than required and a fair usage policy, to try and prevent this. Even so, shared hosting is always vulnerable to these issues.

#2: Traffic can be limited

Most shared hosting packages from good providers will have a limit on the number of visitors you can have to your website, to be fair to all users on the server, preventing them from having issues caused by your website, and vice versa. One aspect of this is bandwidth, which is the amount of data that can be transferred to visitors by the server in a year. Whilst a lot of packages state ‘unlimited bandwidth’ what they really mean is that their packages are subjected to a fair use policy, so if your website has too many visitors, it will be restricted.

The other aspect is the hosting CPU. Each visit to your website (i.e., each time a page is requested) a certain amount of processing power is required. With a shared package, you’re generally limited as to the number of CPUs you can use, which means you are limited as to how many users can visit your website at any one time. If the number of visitors to your website exceeds the processing capacity available, your website will be temporarily ‘down’, until the demand has fallen.

#3: You don’t get as much disk space

In this case, by disk space, we are talking about the amount of ‘hard drive’ space, in Gigabytes (or GB) allocated to your website, a bit like the storage space on your computer. Shared hosting packages generally limit quite strictly how much space you are able to use. Whilst this isn’t so much of an issue for small websites, it can become a big issue for websites as they grow, or when email accounts exist. If your website on a shared host exceeds the amount of space it has been allocated, then you will no longer be able to make changes, or receive emails, until such time as you either upgrade your hosting (to give you more storage space) or you delete something, to free up space within your existing allocation.

#4: The server uptime can be an issue

We have already seen how just one website on a shared server can potentially cause issues for the other websites on the same server, in relation to performance. The same goes for things like vulnerabilities, and other issues. For example, if one website has a security vulnerability that is exploited (sadly no website is invulnerable these days) it could then have the potential to affect the server, possibly even taking it down for a short while. Any other website on the server would be affected, even if it did not have the issue itself. With most good hosting providers, this is not much of an issue, since they guarantee uptimes of at least 99%, backed up by good security and backup servers, amongst other things.

#5: It’s not as customisable

There are many circumstances in which you might want to have specific, or unique software installed on your server. This could be something as simple as a different type of database. The database software most commonly installed on shared servers is known as MySQL. You may, however, want to use a different type of database, such as PostgreSQL or even MariaDB. Whatever the software, you simply cannot customise it if you are using shared hosting, as the hosting provider will always keep things consistent, for all users on the server. In this instance, you would need to upgrade your hosting to a dedicated version.

So, is shared hosting right for you?

Knowing all of this, you’re now in a position to decide whether or not shared hosting is right for you. Generally, if you fall into one of these categories, it would be a great choice.

  • You are operating on a strict budget
  • You are running a small business, or start up
  • Your website is for a small business, or something simple for friends or family
  • You have little experience with web hosting or are not tech-savvy
  • You are just experimenting with web design and coding
  • You don’t require access to extensive programming features

When you’re starting out, it is very hard to predict just how busy your website will be, but one thing is for sure – until people start to hear about your website, it probably won’t have many visitors. That’s why shared hosting could be the perfect option. Even though the performance might not be great, it is perfect for the tight budget you might typically have when starting a business and it is very flexible, so you can upgrade very easily, once you are aware of your requirements, or as your business expands.

How will Digital Lychee help you?

At Digital Lychee, I make sure that I tailor all my clients’ website to suit their individual needs. In your initial consultation (free and no obligation, of course) we will discuss your needs in full and I can advise you on the best type of hosting to suit your needs and how you can upgrade it going forwards, if necessary. If you are interested in my services, or you want to find out more about my blog, I would love to hear from you. You can get in touch with me here.