When building web projects for clients as a freelancer or agency, deciding how you host your projects is crucial. The options on the market can seem staggering, and even feel a bit overwhelming. So I thought I’d shed a little light on the two major types of managed hosting to answer one question:
Is hosting on individual shared hosting plans better than going with your own managed server?
To help me find an answer, I reached out to IONOS Agency Partner Fachwerk Media. As experts in webdesign, they have years of experience hosting dozens of client projects and shared their knowledge with me for this post.
Both approaches are managed solutions. With both options, you’re sacrificing the flexibility provided by root access in exchange for the added convenience that comes with allowing your web host to take care of stack updates. Most hosting providers use the same data center for both types of hosting products and choose similar quality hardware. The key difference is that shared hosting plans, as the name suggests, share hardware with other websites, whereas with a managed server you’ll get your own dedicated hardware. With a managed server, hosting providers usually allow you to select your CPU model, and how much RAM and/or storage you need. Shared hosting plans, on the other hand, come with a set amount of storage, domains, databases, and mailboxes, but processing power specifics are often lacking.
Going with this approach means that you purchase a new shared hosting plan whenever you start a new client project. Manuel Kling from Fachwerk Media reveals that this comes with the following pros and cons:
- It’s more secure since clients are virtually separated from each other
- Buying a new plan for each client is cheaper — especially if you’re just getting started
- You can individually manage project performance. Some hosts like IONOS offer scalable performance levels that you can change daily depending on traffic. Most web hosts require a plan change.
- There’s no performance guarantee. If other websites located on the same hardware see traffic peaks, your site's performance might be impacted.
- You need to manage FTP access for each web hosting plan
- Switching between hosting contracts can be time consuming. IONOS has built a free client management dashboard to make this easier. Read more.
Having your own, fully dedicated server located in a secure data center sounds good, right? Not so fast. Let's take a look at the pros and cons.
- All your projects share the same hosting account and FTP access and customer contract
- You only need to instal CMS backup tools like Akeeba Solo just once for all your projects
- You know exactly how much performance you get
- You decide how you share each server — depending on how you set up your server, this may even save you money in the long term.
- It’s less secure because client folders are not physically or virtually separated. This could also lead to mistakes if you navigate to the wrong folder.
- You have to manage the server load yourself. If one site's traffic goes through the roof, your other sites might not get enough resources. Also, you don't have an out-of-the box solution for managing the performance of each project separately.
- If you’ve just started with your first client project as a freelancer, renting a managed server can get expensive. Managed servers from IONOS, for example, start in the $40.00 range/month.
"We use individual servers for multiple clients, but it wasn’t always this way. In the beginning, we didn’t have all the possibilities that exist today. Both approaches have their benefits and which one you choose depends on the particular situation." - Manuel Kling, Co-Founder of Fachwerk Media
When deciding on a hosting setup, Manuel suggests first asking yourself these three questions:
1. Which is the best way to make sure that your projects get the right performance, but still stay secure?
If you choose a hosting provider that can guarantee enough performance, shared hosting is a good option. If you feel comfortable estimating your own performance needs, a managed server might be the better option.
2. Which workflow works best for you?
If managing all your projects with just one FTP access feels secure enough, you can save time with a managed server, since you don’t have to switch hosting contracts or FTP access. If your web host offers good multi-client tooling, shared hosting is also a good option.
3. Which setup is the better for business?
Having your own server sounds awesome, but it comes at a price. So if you’ve already got a lot of client projects lined up, a managed server can be a great long-term investment. For those just starting out in the industry and looking to cut initial costs, shared hosting is the more affordable choice.