Shared hosting or VPS hosting: Which is Better for the Professional Photographer?

Shared vs VPS Hosting for Photography Hosting

Virtual Private Server, in short, VPS hosting, also known as Virtual Dedicated Server (VDS) hosting, is one of the most exciting new trends in the web hosting world. VPS combines the best features of shared and dedicated server hosting. On the one hand, you get as close to your own machine as is possible without actually having one, right down to your personal operating system (often with “root” access) and percentage of allocated CPU and other system resources, at a cost significantly below that of a dedicated server. One consumer hosting forum user reports seeing costs as low as $10/month.

Overall, VPS hosting represents a great value. Is it a good enough value for the professional photographer to shell out the extra expense? That depends on a lot of factors. Here are some questions to ask yourself if you are considering this option:

Better Protection But Not Bulletproof

While the appeal of a virtual private server is obvious, it should be remembered that this privacy is still virtual. This shields you against a lot of what would normally be a drawback of a shared server, but not everything: there is still one computer trying to service everyone, one CPU (or set of CPUs) that all of the instructions are going through. No matter how the balancing is handled, at some point there is going to be a bottleneck: if something goes wrong with how the instructions are handled, the advantage of your “private” server disappears. And of course a virus or denial-of-service attack won’t likely care that you are “virtually” on a different server (not that these are all that likely these days: web hosts are well shielded against them. But this is a cat-and-mouse game that never entirely ends).

Do you really need this type of upgraded hosting plan?

A photography web site usually does not involve an intense amount of resources or databases that a standard, shared, web host can’t handle. Unless you are using some complex slideshow or presentation software, likely your site is pretty straight-forward. And even moderate surges of interest in your site are things that the average shared server can handle well, again, assuming that there isn’t some complex CGI or other programming associated with it.

Is cheap worth it?

On top of that, note that if a web host is offering a very cheap VPS solution, it brings into question how many users they are hosting on that machine. Beyond a certain point, the number of users can be so prohibitively high that it runs the risk of negating the very advantages that it is supposed to be offering. Some hosts can be pretty secretive about this information: push them for an answer. It’s not like you don’t have a choice of hosts to go to that will tell you this if they refuse.

All that said, Virtual Private Servers are still a popular choice for the professional photographer who needs more oomph than they would get from even a high-end shared hosting account. Double-check to make sure that you really do need that; but if you do, this is a fast growing service that can give you just what you need.

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