If your web site has outgrown its shared hosting solution, it may be time to move it to virtual hosting, which is often seen as a low cost alternative to getting your own dedicated server. A virtual server gives you most of the advantages of a dedicated server at a fraction of the price. The web hosting service takes advantage of the fact that few small to mid-size web sites need the full resources of a machine and puts several web sites on the same server.
But, you're thinking, that sounds like the shared hosting plan I'm using now. What's the difference, and why do I pay more for a virtual server?
While there are some similarities, there are also marked differences between shared web hosting and virtual server hosting. While a web hosting company puts multiple accounts on the same server in both kinds of hosting, the resources of the machine are portioned out differently.
On a shared hosting server, generally the cheapest kind of web hosting available, all the server resources go into a common pot. If one account gets 'greedy' and scoops out more than its share of CPU time, for example, every account on the server is affected.
When you're on a virtual hosting account, that can't happen. All the resources of the server are portioned out and assigned to each account in the amounts that they're allowed to use. Rather than every web site reaching into a common pool and grabbing what they need, each one is handed a 'bowl' of CPU, server space and traffic. When they use it all up, they can't just grab more.
In addition, each web site is set up with its own operating system and assigned an isolated segment of the disk that's separate from other web sites on the same disk. In some cases, each may even have their own hard drive on the server. If something crashes one web site on the host server, it doesn't affect any other web site.
Having your own operating system also means that you can make changes to it that you may not be allowed to make on a shared server. This allows you to customize the way your web site behaves almost as if you were on a single dedicated machine without worrying about affecting other customers on the same machine. To go back to our bowl of soup analogy, if your next door virtual neighbor decides to add extra salt to his bowl, your web site visitors aren't stuck with over-salted soup.
Prices for a virtual server range from about $35 a month to $99 a month and up. Your own dedicated server will run several hundred dollars a month, depending on the options that you choose for it. Overall, it's an excellent web hosting choice for a small-to-mid-size web site that needs more flexibility than shared server hosting allows without overstretching their budget.
To view our top recommended companies for web hosting, visit: Recommended Web Hosting Companies Online.
Carrie Reeder is the owner of eZerk, an informational website with articles and the latest news about various topics including web hosting.