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Shared vs VPS Hosting – What’s the Difference? Which Is Better?

Confused about the difference between shared vs VPS hosting and which type is best for your site?

In this beginner-friendly guide, you’re going to learn all the key details about this topic so that you can pick the right hosting for your WordPress site:

  • The key differences between shared hosting vs VPS hosting
  • The pros and cons of both shared and VPS hosting
  • Top shared and VPS hosting providers, plus how to choose

📖 Shared vs VPS Hosting Summary

If you’re in a rush, here’s a quick summary of the key differences between shared vs managed WordPress hosting.

Shared hosting:

Shared hosting is a type of hosting where your account “shares” resources with other hosting accounts on the server.

This is generally the cheapest way for non-technical users to host websites. Shared hosting typically offers easy-to-use control panels and website setup tools, along with generous limits such as unlimited sites, visitors, and storage.

However, the downsides are that your site will often load slower (especially in high-traffic situations) and you don’t have as much control over your infrastructure. 

Other accounts on your server can also affect your sites because you have to share resources with them.

Recommended for:

  • Non-technical users who want the cheapest way to host websites.
  • Low-traffic websites.

VPS hosting:

VPS hosting is a type of hosting where your account gets its own dedicated resources thanks to virtual isolation. This is why the full name is “virtual private server“.

Like shared hosting, there are still other accounts sharing the same infrastructure.

However, the key difference is that those other accounts will not affect your sites on VPS hosting because the virtual isolation still gives your site its own dedicated resources within that environment.

It’s kind of like the difference between sharing an apartment with roommates (shared hosting) and having your own apartment inside a condo building (VPS hosting).

Recommended for:

  • More advanced users who want the best experience possible.
  • High-traffic websites.
  • Money-making websites.

SHARED HOSTING VS VPS HOSTING COMPARISON TABLE

Shared HostingVPS Hosting
PriceStarts at $5+ / mo.Starts at $5+ / mo.
InfrastructureShare resources w/ other accountsDedicated resources via virtual isolation
Hosting DashboardcPanelDepends
Site LimitsUnlimited Based on server resources — no hard limit
Visitor LimitsUnlimited (usually)Based on server resources — no hard limit
PerformanceCan be slowGenerally fast
Managed or Unmanaged HardwareAlways managedCan be managed OR unmanaged
Top ProvidersGreenGeeks
DreamHost
Bluehost
Cloudways (managed)
Vultr (unmanaged)
DigitalOcean (unmanaged)

💡 Shared Hosting Explained in More Detail

Shared hosting is the absolute cheapest way for a non-technical user to host websites.

VPS hosting can actually be cheaper, but only if you have the technical knowledge to unlock those cost savings — more on that in a second.

Again, shared hosting achieves these cost savings by having your hosting account share its resources with other hosting accounts on that hosting server.

Beyond low prices, shared hosting also offers very generous limits. Typically, you’ll get the following:

  • Unlimited websites.
  • Unlimited traffic.
  • Unlimited storage.

Finally, shared hosting is usually very beginner-friendly because it’s the type of hosting that most people choose when creating a site. Most shared hosts make it easy to install software such as WordPress, which is great if you’re just getting started with your first site.

Those are really the only reasons to choose shared hosting.

In terms of performance and reliability, VPS hosting is almost always the better option.

Pros of Shared Hosting 👍

  • Very cheap. Shared hosting is the cheapest way for non-technical users to host websites, which is a big part of why this hosting approach is so popular.
  • Usually beginner-friendly. Because shared hosting is where most beginners start, most shared hosts offer very beginner-friendly dashboards and setup processes.
  • Unlimited resources. There are always fair use policies, but you typically don’t need to worry about hard limits for the number of websites, storage, and so on.

Cons of Shared Hosting 👎

  • Poor performance. While some shared hosts are better than others, websites on shared hosting generally won’t load as fast as websites on quality VPS hosting.
  • Can be unreliable. Shared hosting can have more downtime or slowdowns because other accounts on the server can affect your account. This is called the “bad neighbor” effect.
  • Limited access. You don’t get as much access to your underlying server, including not having root access.

💡 VPS Hosting Explained in More Detail

VPS hosting is a little bit more complicated to explain because there are a lot of variables.

But first, let’s recap the basics:

VPS stands for “virtual private server”.

The key thing to understand about a VPS is that it gives your account dedicated resources but through virtual isolation.

So while your hosting account doesn’t get all of the physical resources on a server (that’s called dedicated hosting), you don’t have to worry about other accounts affecting your sites because there’s still a virtual barrier keeping everything separate.

These resources could come from a single physical machine (a “traditional” VPS) or they could come from a network of machines (the “cloud“).

In recent years, this cloud VPS approach has become the most popular option because it allows for easier scalability (adding or removing resources from your account).

Unmanaged vs Managed VPS Hosting

When you purchase VPS hosting, you can choose between two baseline levels of service:

  1. Unmanaged — you literally just get the “bare metal” server. You’re responsible for installing the operating system and web server, securing the server, applying OS-level software updates, etc.
  2. Managed — the hosting provider sets up and maintains the basic server for you. It functions a lot more like shared hosting in that you can manage everything from a simple dashboard and easily install software such as WordPress.

All things equal, an unmanaged VPS will always be cheaper than a managed VPS.

In fact, an unmanaged VPS can often be cheaper than shared hosting for the same performance.

However, the tradeoff is that you need some technical knowledge to use an unmanaged VPS. That doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be a developer, but it’s definitely more complex than a managed VPS (or shared hosting).

For this reason, non-technical users will generally want to go with a managed VPS option even though it’s more expensive.

Pros of VPS Hosting 👍

  • Better performance. In general, VPS hosting can help you create faster-loading sites (though there are always outliers).
  • Better reliability. As with performance, VPS hosting is also generally more reliable than shared hosting because you avoid the “bad neighbor” effect.
  • More flexibility/access. VPS hosting gives you a lot more flexibility for setting up your hosting environment, including root access.
  • Easy scalability. You can easily add resources to your VPS plan as your site grows (or remove them if you no longer need them).

Cons of VPS Hosting 👎

  • More complex OR more expensive (but usually not both). VPS hosting can be cheaper than shared hosting, but only for technical users who can handle unmanaged servers. You can also find simpler managed VPS servers, but those are usually more expensive than shared hosting. Basically, there’s a trade-off between cost and complexity when you choose VPS hosting.

🤔 Should You Use Shared Hosting or VPS Hosting?

  • Non-technical beginners will still usually want to start with shared hosting because it’s a lot simpler to use.
  • More advanced users who are seeking better performance and reliability should go with a quality VPS over shared hosting.

In terms of website performance and reliability, and just the general quality of hosting infrastructure, a quality VPS is always a better option than shared hosting.

If you go with an unmanaged VPS, VPS hosting can even be cheaper than shared hosting, which eliminates one of the biggest advantages of shared hosting.

However, there’s one big issue with VPS hosting that stops me from recommending it to everyone — it’s more complex than shared hosting.

For example, with shared hosting, all you need to know is that your plan supports “unlimited everything”.

But with VPS hosting, you need to be able to figure out if your chosen configuration can support your traffic, which necessitates dealing with vCPUs, RAM, bandwidth, and so on.

Additionally, if you try to save money by using an unmanaged VPS, you’ll need some tech chops to be able to get everything working (though there are tools that can help non-developers do it).

For this reason, I think that non-technical beginners are still better off starting with shared hosting because it will give you an easy way to create a working website and learn the ropes.

Once your site starts growing (and you grow more comfortable with managing your site), I think that you should definitely consider moving to a VPS for faster, more reliable infrastructure.

What’s more, if you use an unmanaged VPS, you won’t even need to spend lots of money to achieve those benefits.

🏆 Top Shared Hosting Providers

GreenGeeksDreamHostBluehost
Starting price (one website)$2.95$2.59$2.95
Starting price (unlimited websites)$5.95$3.95$5.45
Unique featureSolid performance for the moneyLets you pay monthlyVery beginner-friendly
Learn MoreGreenGeeks WebsiteDreamHost ReviewBluehost Website

If you want the best performance, go with GreenGeeks because they use LiteSpeed Web Server.

If you want the most beginner-friendly experience, go with Bluehost (but the performance/reliability isn’t as good).

Finally, consider DreamHost for a solid all-around option that lets you pay monthly for a low price.

🏆 Top VPS Hosting Providers

Choosing a VPS provider will primarily depend on whether you want a managed or unmanaged VPS.

Top Managed VPS Providers

CloudwaysSiteGroundLiquid Web
Starting price / month$10$100$59
Starting vCPU142
Starting RAM1 GB8 GB2 GB
Starting Storage25 GB40 GB40 GB
Starting Bandwidth1 TB5 TB10 TB

Personally, I recommend Cloudways, which use a unique managed approach built on top of cloud infrastructure providers such as DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Google Cloud, and Amazon Web Services (AWS).

Top Unmanaged VPS Providers

If you’re searching for an unmanaged VPS, I recommend going with one of the many cloud VPS providers out there. 

VultrDigitalOceanUpCloud
Starting price / month$6$4$5
Starting vCPU111
Starting RAM1 GB512 MB1 GB
Starting Storage25 GB10 GB25 GB
Starting Bandwidth2 TB500 GB1 TB

💡Inside tip:

My personal approach is to pair one of these unmanaged cloud VPS providers (I use Vultr) with a server management panel such as RunCloud

This makes it a lot easier to configure and maintain the unmanaged VPS (I’m not a developer), but still lets you benefit from the cost savings and fast performance of these providers.

If you’re exclusively building WordPress sites, you can also consider WordPress-specific server control panels such as SpinupWP or GridPane.

What Other Hosting Options Are There?

Besides VPS, another very viable solution — if you’re running a WordPress-powered website — would be to opt for managed WordPress hosting.

Managed WordPress hosting may (technically speaking) be run on either shared or VPS servers, but, because such services are specifically tuned to running only WordPress, they come with a number of significant benefits — one of which is speed!

Most premium managed WordPress hosts use cloud VPS hosting, although some do still use shared environments on their entry-level plans.

Learn what managed WordPress hosting is 👈

If you’re looking to choose a hosting solution for a website running only WordPress, you also might want to look into our shared vs managed WordPress hosting comparison.

❓Shared vs VPS Hosting FAQs

Is VPS hosting faster than shared?

All things equal, a quality VPS provider will be faster and more reliable than shared hosting.

Is VPS hosting the same as cloud hosting?

Many people now use these terms interchangeably because they’re very similar. The main difference is that a traditional VPS uses a single physical machine while cloud hosting uses a network of servers. Either way, you get dedicated resources via virtual isolation.

Is VPS a shared server?

While there will be other accounts on the same physical infrastructure, a VPS is different from shared hosting because you still get your own dedicated resources instead of sharing resources with those other accounts.

Is VPS hosting beginner-friendly?

A managed VPS can be almost just as easy to use as shared hosting, though it’s still a little more complex because you need to choose the right server resources. However, unmanaged VPS servers are not good options for beginners as they’re more complex.

👉 Final Thoughts on Shared vs VPS Hosting

In technical terms, VPS hosting is almost always superior to shared hosting.

However, VPS hosting can be a little more complicated, which is why shared hosting can still make a good option for non-technical users just getting started with a website. GreenGeeks are a great option here.

Once your site starts growing and you begin learning the ropes, I recommend upgrading to a VPS for more control over your hosting environment, along with improved performance and reliability.

For the simplest way to benefit from a VPS, I recommend Cloudways.

Related Reading:

Still have any questions about VPS hosting vs shared hosting? Ask away in the comments!

By Colin Newcomer

Colin Newcomer is a freelance writer and long-time Internet marketer. He specializes in digital marketing and WordPress. He lives a life of danger, riding a scooter through the chaos of Hanoi.
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