Most websites are hosted in a shared hosting environment, which means that there may be dozens, even hundreds of sites running on the same CPU, RAM, and hard drive configuration. This might seem odd, but in fact if the sites don’t have too much traffic and are relatively undemanding of the server then this is a perfectly acceptable use of computer resources. Not every website needs the full power of a server to run!

Trouble can loom though if, say, a number of the sites on the shared server starts to grow in traffic and complexity, as the other sites may suffer slower response times because of it. If a lot of the sites begin to grow, they will all suffer. But those aren’t the only problems with shared hosting.

A hosting company will set up its hosting servers with a certain configuration based on a number of factors such as the power of the server, security, and the software available at the time. Again, this can be perfectly fine for a lot of sites, but what happens if a particular site wants to move from PHP4 to PHP5? What happens if a site wants a certain Apache module to be available? The fact is that the site is at the mercy of the host, and hosts will almost certainly not be able to provide these options to a site at least until they go through their regular server upgrades, which could be months or even years in the coming. And even then, they may not provide them for reasons of their own.

And worst of all, if the servers provide PHP or CGI and just one of the sites on the shared server has buggy code, then the whole server can potentially be dragged to a halt, bringing all the other sites down with it. The hosting company is in a difficult situation when this happens, and may be slow to react, although in the end they may have no option but to close the offender’s account. Clearly, this is all completely out of the control of the other affected websites on the same, shared server.

You may be recognising these issues, and if so, then you might be wondering if it’s time to move to a dedicated server. Factors to weigh in making this decision are considered next.

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