When Is It Time to Upgrade from Shared Hosting? 8 Questions to Ask
There are plenty of benefits to using shared hosting, from its cost-effectiveness to its ease-of-use. And for most small businesses and bloggers, a shared hosting plan is more than enough for your needs. But there are other options to consider.
Think of a shared hosting plan as living in an apartment where people share walls and amenities. An apartment may be fine for your needs – until the neighbors start crowding you out of the hallways and shared common areas, or use up common utilities like the hot water.
Meanwhile, the alternative – hosting your site on a VPS or dedicated server – is more like living in a condo. You can make the customizations you want and have more control, even though you’re still living within the common walls shared with other tenants.
Depending on your business needs or preferences, there comes a point when you may need to upgrade your hosting. Have you been noticing your website isn’t working and loading as quickly as it use to? Or maybe you seem to encounter new frustrations every day over your website that you can’t quite put your finger on?
It could be that you need a VPS or dedicated server instead. However, knowing if it’s really the right time to upgrade from shared hosting isn’t always a straightforward process. To help narrow down your decision, here are eight questions to ask yourself before making the switch.
1. Am I experiencing too much downtime?
One of the downsides to shared hosting is that there can be the occasional downtime, depending on the nature of your business and how many people are on a shared server.
That said, plenty of businesses with high volumes of traffic do just fine on shared website hosting and don’t notice any significant downtime. But depending on your business and your hosting provider, a big spike in traffic could take your website down for minutes, hours, or even days.
That may not be a major issue for your business or personal website if you’re primarily focused on creating content and engaging a community, but it’s a disaster for e-commerce sites and businesses that rely on lead generation.
Consider how many sales you’d lose if your website were down for just a few hours. And it’s not just the cost of lost sales. You could also suffer from a tarnished business reputation that isn’t always easy to recover from. This is doubly challenging if you’ve invested heavily in a public relations, marketing or advertising campaign that’s promoting a website which can’t actually make sales or collect leads.
2. Is my website too slow?
A slow website may not bother you, but could be impacting your sales, lead generation, and even your SEO. According to surveys from Akamai and Gomez.com, nearly half of web users expect a site to load within two seconds or less, and will abandon a site that isn’t loaded within three seconds.
A slow website could have many culprits that have nothing to do with shared hosting. For example, a graphics-heavy site, a poorly-designed website theme, or even corrupt plugins could be the real reason your pages are loading slowly. Take some time to turn off your plugins, clean up old graphics and images you’re using to promote your brand, and switch up your website theme to figure out the real reason behind the slowdown.
Once you’ve ruled out other issues that could be impacting your website, it’s time to investigate whether your shared hosting is dragging down the speed of your website. Talk to your customer support rep to see what’s going on or if there are any techniques can try. But if nothing else pans out, it may be time to make the upgrade to VPS or a dedicated server.
3. Do I need enhanced security?
A big con to shared hosting is that these sites are more prone to attacks and hacking.
Shared hosting servers may be less secure, and they don’t always come with the robust level of security your website needs. In addition, hackers may be more determined to attack shared hosting servers because of the opportunity to hit many websites and businesses at the same time.
Though there are some third-party tools that can help protect your website from malware and attacks, they’re not always reliable or they may require a lot of manpower and monitoring on your part to ensure your site is safe.
Your site may also deal with sensitive information, like clients’ personal information, payment details, and even social security numbers. In this case, a dedicated server may be necessary to ensure the safety of your website.
It’s also worth investigating whether competitors in your industry use the security features made available by dedicated hosting. If they do, you could be missing out on customers who bypass your business in favor of someone they perceive as being more secure.
4. Do I need more server customizations?
Shared hosting plans are usually perfectly adequate for businesses, bloggers, and web publishers looking to install a straightforward content management system (CMS). It’s important to know, however, that the shared servers themselves can’t be customized.
This may not impact your own business if the shared server’s default configuration suits your needs, but larger companies may want to modify their server and retain more customization and control. In other cases, businesses may want to keep sensitive client information on one server and run their business process on another server. In these instances, upgrading from shared hosting makes sense.
5. Do I need more customer support?
Plenty of shared website hosting providers offer quality customer care, but that’s not always the case – and you may not find out until you’re in the middle of a crisis. If you run a large website with tons of traffic and complex customizations, shared hosting isn’t the way to go. You really need the dedication of not just a dedicated server, but also dedicated customer support.
Put your hosting provider through a few tests if you’re not sure how they measure up. Launch a chat session, open an email ticket, or call in and see how long it takes them to respond or escalate your issues. You may also discover that your shared hosting provider doesn’t even offer phone support, which could be a deal breaker if your business needs that extra hand holding from customer support.
6. Do I need more control over my website?
This question extends from those regarding wanting more customizations or customer support, but at the end of the day, you may just need more control over your website. If you find yourself frustrated that the fate of your website rests in someone else’s hands, you may decide that you need the control a dedicated server provides.
7. Can I afford a hosting upgrade?
One of the big pros to shared hosting is that it’s very affordable. Some plans (like iPage’s shared hosting offering) are just a few dollars a month and are well within reach for companies and bloggers of any budget – even if you’re bootstrapping your business.
Meanwhile, private plans are more expensive to navigate, though they’ve become more cost-effective over the years and may not be as expensive as you think. Another possible option is to look into is hybrid servers that blend a combination of shared and dedicated. These servers are often less expensive than a totally dedicated server and can offer more flexibility to website owners.
8. Do I want more options from my server?
Shared and dedicated website hosting plans are not the only options on the market. If you’re looking for a happy medium, a virtual private server (VPS) that uses a virtualized system to create a separate, dedicated server within a bigger server may be ideal.
This set-up mimics the feel and customizations of a shared hosting plan, but offers more flexibility for needed customizations. With a VPS you get the benefit of guaranteed computer resources, the ability to manage the server OS, and to install applications that work for you on your dedicated OS instance. VPS hosting plans are also typically less expensive than traditional dedicated servers, making them a happy medium for those who have outgrown their shared hosting accounts.
Whatever hosting plan you end up with, make sure it offers the flexibility to upgrade to the next step when you’re ready. Quality customer support that can step-in and help resolve issues and answers questions is also a must for finding success with your hosting.
At the end of the day, the only question you really need to ask yourself is whether or not your business or blog will run more efficiently and more reliably with the help of a VPS or dedicated server, or if you’re working just fine on a shared server. Just because you may need a server upgrade one day, doesn’t mean you need to rush the process if what you’re using right now is working for you.
Have you upgraded your own website from shared hosting? How did you know it was time? Let us know by leaving a comment below: