These two programs have significantly reduced the technical barriers to entry into the web hosting and dedicated servers game. So low in fact that we believe they are largely responsible for a lot of bad web hosting experiences inflicted upon the poor website and application developers whose clients end up using them. To be fair, Plesk perhaps doesn’t do quite such a bad job as CPanel.
EASE OF USE
Typically shared hosting uses a control panel such as Plesk, or cPanel. This software allows you to do most things with the click of a button. It is written for most customers and anything outside of this … well, you are just out of luck or are required to open a ticket for something ‘custom’.
After emails or long phone call hold times, you are then told that they cannot install XYZ because it’s not allowed on the server, or version 123 of software ABC is not the version they are using and it will affect other customers so they can’t change it.
This customization is often not granted because it doesn’t fit the shared model/cookie-cutter setup the admins are using. So…. you are just out of luck.
Sometimes they will upgrade a client or patch something, often without telling you or testing the result. If your old setup and software won’t work on the new version…. you have to scramble to fix it or pay someone to do it. In the meantime, your site is down and you are losing money!
Backups are often more difficult to automate in a shared environment, or a backup of the server and a restore might overwrite your settings of that day – even though nothing was wrong with your site!
DNS is often forced and limited without redundancy. This makes things easier for the hosting company that is managing 10,000+ DNS records, but hard for you when you need to make changes, add a mail server, update SPF records, add a new A record, etc. There is often downtime because their TTL records are set for very long timeouts, forcing you to wait days to see DNS updates.
In summary, shared hosting is actually harder to use because:
- Plesk/cPanel limitations
- Submit a ticket to everything
- Lower skill level of the support personnel
- Each tech has to learn your environment
- Servers are set up for the lowest average needs, not yours
- The environment is forced on you and you have to work with it
- You are responsible for manual backups
- Waste days on DNS updates
SERVER RELIABILITY / RESOURCE OVERUSE
Shared hosting servers often cram 200 or more customers on the same server. They count on not having 200 busy websites or even 1 website that is out of control with traffic or CPU resources.
Because of this model, sites are often down or unreliable. You might get database connection errors, long load times, service unavailable, or connection resets that break site functionality.
One of the 200 shared customers might get popular and bring in too much traffic, crushing all of the other sites on the same server.
You might also get popular and not have the bandwidth or CPU cycles left to show your site to new customers.
Bad programming can cause a script to loop on another customer’s site, eating up CPU and making all other sites take 30s or more to load.
The bottom line is that shared hosting is simply not as reliable as other hosting methods like virtual dedicated or dedicated hosting. The few dollars you saved will cost you hundreds or thousands in lost business.
A spammer might get a shared account or hack an account on your shared server. In that 10 minutes of them sending out 50,000 emails you’ve been added to blacklists and can no longer get customers that use those blacklist subscriptions (schools, corporate offices, certain blocking software). Even if they fix the spammer problem, the consequences last for months.
Even worse, when admins try to fix problems for one customer they might need to install new versions of the software or libraries and all users depend on that software. If the version they install works for MOST customers, then they’ll probably accept it – even if it shuts down, causes errors to display, or makes your site stop working!
- bad programming can use up resources
- servers are oversubscribed
- spammers can shut down your server
- traffic spikes affect any of the 200 customers
- admins might patch/fix one problem and create many others
SITE ACCESS BLOCKED
Because you are on a shared server, you share with some ‘bad neighbors’. All it takes is one to cause a law like the ASIC Section 313 which shut down almost 250,000 websites without warning, even though only some of the websites in their target shutdown were actually the ‘bad guys’. The entire group of customers on shared hosting was simply shut down.
Corporate filters like those used to keep employees and students from visiting ‘bad sites’ will often block the IP and surrounding IPs. A shared server might have 200 websites sharing the same IP… all of them will be blocked! Cutting your potential market in half is bad business practice!
There is no server or hosting type that is actually secure. They all just have various levels and difficulties of security. With that said, there is a good reason to protect your server and make it more difficult for hackers.
On a shared hosting plan, all it takes is one customer to not update their software or to use a weak password, and then an attacker can easily gain root access to that server. The attacker could get a user account and then leverage it to provide anything they want from the server, thus eventually gaining root/administrator privileges.
Essentially, any breach on the entire server and all shared accounts become YOUR breach. Shared hosting is the least secure way of hosting and it’s only a matter of time before a shared server is hacked, costing you business, embarrassment (they often replace your website with illicit pictures), or even legal fees (they often share illegal data using your website).
Here are just a few of the ways a shared account is more vulnerable and easier to hack:
- Weak passwords on other accounts
- Out-of-date software on other accounts
- Even normal accounts allow read, write, and execute permissions on other accounts
- Your passwords are visible or easily hacked
- Your databases are easily stolen/manipulated
- Any upload or theme could have an embedded trojan/attack
- Your security is only as good as EVERYONE’s security
- Security standards are impossible to enforce
- Session data can easily be read by any software hacked
- Any account knows all the account names easier to hack
- Any account knows your file locations and can any shared file
No server is hack-proof, but a shared server is begging to be hacked
SEARCH ENGINE RANK
We’ve already talked about bad neighborhoods, but if you share a server with a spammer Google has been known to penalize you, removing you from search results and stopping customers from finding you.
Even without a bad neighborhood, though, slower load times will affect your SEO rankings, costing you customers. Shared servers are notorious for slow load times.
This isn’t just an inconvenience, shared hosting actually prevents you from making money!
Finally, most managed VPS or managed dedicated server plans usually offer much better support. You get things done faster, without as much hassle or questions, and are able to get back to making money with your website instead of trying to fit your business model and needs to match their “average customer needs” plan.
At digital crunch, we offer much more personalized support and will make your VPS fit your needs. Our goal is to make you money, not simply sell you a server. We use Digital Ocean which costs only $5 per month (that link pays us a small fee but also gives you $10 credit, and we would use them ourselves too).
We also personally know the business model and goals of each customer and keep that in mind as we suggest ways to solve problems. It’s like having an in-house consultant for pennies on the dollar.
You are free to use them without our help and only pay $5 a month for a VPS (which is a killer deal). But if you’d like professional help and a partner in your online profits, let us help! We offer server maintenance, updates, security checks, and 1 hour of “anything” for a low monthly subscription fee that you can’t beat. Check out our Managed VPS Hosting package which includes several freebies like a 5-page website and auto-responded setup and email capture.