Shared Web Hosting

Updated April 30, 2013

Shared hosting: Accessible and affordable

Most small and medium-sized websites use shared web hosting. In this option, several websites are housed on the same physical web server, so you're actually renting your own section of disk space from the web hosting service. Once you've signed up, you just have to create your website and maintain the content. The web hosting service is responsible for keeping the web servers running, and updating and expanding them when needed. The service also provides technical support and ensures that all the websites remain secure and safe from hackers.

Shared hosting is the most economical type, starting at around $4 per month for a basic service. The costs generally increase if you add features such as email, extra bandwidth or more disk space, and if the web host provides tools and templates for you to use to create your website. If you plan on making your site interactive, then look for shared hosting plans that offer customizable forms for feedback, polls and surveys; for multimedia sites, check for photo galleries with slideshows and the ability to embed and play video.

There's a downside to shared web hosting, though, and it may be significant depending on the policies of your web service provider. Since you're sharing the physical web server with other sites, their performance or use of the resources can directly affect you. If one of your neighbors' sites becomes very popular and generates heavy traffic, it will affect (at least temporarily) the bandwidth available to you. If your web host also houses spammy websites or adult-content sites, any complaints against those sites could disrupt your service as well as theirs: If the web host's IP address is blocked, this can cause problems with your emails and search engine placement. Conversely, if your site contains adult content, be up front with the service provider about this to ensure that the company can -- and is willing to -- provide the support, privacy and bandwidth you need. In either case, be sure to check into the web service provider's policies about hosting such sites.

Even with this drawback, shared web hosting is chosen by many web owners, both new and experienced. As with any service that you buy, thoroughly research the company and read the fine print.