Shared web hosting means your website is hosted on a professionally-run server along with hundreds of other people’s websites. It’s generally an excellent value for the money but carries certain limits that mean shared hosting is not for everyone. The main benefit of shared hosting is that it’s cheap for what you get. The shared hosting market is extremely competitive, driving providers to offer incredible deals for very low fees. The services available are generally simple.

Expect the standard portfolio of databases and scripting languages. As it’s on a professionally run server, opting for shared hosting generally means not having to worry about server maintenance and operating system updates. The few things that can still go wrong can generally be addressed quickly by the hosting provider’s support team. Who should use shared hosting? It’s ideal for small websites of the sort run by individuals and small businesses. Since it does involve sharing a server with hundreds of other (possibly not-so-nice) people, security is not very high — it’s best used by people for whom their website is not mission critical.

On the other hand, it’s a good fit for website owners whose needs fit within the normal limits. If you don’t have particularly high levels of traffic and have no unusual hosting requirements, shared hosting may be right for you. Pricing The shared hosting market offers services at just about any price — even remarkably low ones. Even large hosting providers often advertise entry-level plans for a few dollars a month and up. Of course, businesses that do e-commerce will want to pay a little more for business-friendly features like SSL certificates and the requisite dedicated IP address. These allow secure order handling, with the assurance that the customer’s credit card is not being intercepted by criminals as it traverses the Internet.

Bandwidth The main downside of shared hosting is the comparatively limited bandwidth. Many hosting providers advertise “unlimited bandwidth” — as a rule, that’s a myth. “Unlimited bandwidth” means you can use as much as you like until it inconveniences somebody (including the hosting provider). Each server has a fixed amount of bandwidth (generally 100Mbps or 1Gbps) which is shared over the hundreds or thousands of users whose websites are hosted on that server.

The idea is that, since nobody is likely to need a lot at once, that bandwidth would otherwise go to waste. If you do need to use a substantial fraction of it for long periods of time, expect an email suggesting you move to a higher-priced dedicated hosting plan. Who Needs Bandwidth? Bandwidth roughly said, is the amount of traffic per second that a website gets. The more popular you are, the more you need. If people are downloading files off your website or if you have large pictures, you need more. While there are indeed services oriented towards people with significant bandwidth needs, expect to pay commensurately more for the privilege.