There are prognosticators and pundits far and wide who have been shouting from their virtual rooftops for years now that “Shared hosting is dead!” You hear it at all the conferences, on blogs, forums, in the checkout line at the grocery store – you hear it so much that it must be true, right?
Nah, not even close.
You might expect someone like me to say that. But the fact is, shared is still far and away the preferred hosting method, with every one of the world’s largest hosts providing more shared accounts than any other flavor. It’s just not a very cutting edge thing to talk about.
I don’t have anything terribly cutting edge to say about shared hosting myself, honestly. No “TEN GREAT REASONS SHARED HOSTING IS BETTER THAN BEEF STEW,” “TEN AWESOME NAMES FOR FTP SERVERS,” “TEN EXCUSES SHARED HOSTING PROVIDES FOR CALLING IN SICK ON MONDAY” or TEN anything. Instead, I present you with A Ridiculous, Meandering Smattering of a Few Random Thoughts That Will More Than Likely Lead to Nothing Profound (which is coincidentally also the title of my latest children’s book).
What are you talking about?
To begin, I should probably define what I mean when I say “shared hosting.” In the very early days of the web, most sites lived on corporate or university web servers. When the rest of the online world looked around and said, “Hey, I want to do that too!” their options were limited.
So some clever people invented commercial web site hosting; web servers with space for rent to anyone. These commercial web hosts set up web servers and partitioned out the space on those servers to individual sites. That’s still the way most web hosting works, and it’s more or less still the way we do it here at DiscountASP.NET.
As the web grew in popularity, some sites found that they needed more resources than were available on a shared server in order to accommodate their growing audiences. That need gave rise to the dedicated hosting industry. Instead of renting space on a web server, these companies would take a big stack of your money and provide you with an entire web server to do with as you pleased. Fast forward a few years and some even more enterprising folks came up with a way to run several separate web servers on one physical machine, they called these Virtual Private Servers.
While all this was going on, the “traditional” shared hosts continued to thrive and multiply, because for most people’s sites, they were (and still are) sufficient. So when I say “shared hosting,” I’m talking about traditional shared servers; web servers partitioned to accommodate individual sites.
So with that bit of probably-obvious-to-you information out of the way, here we go.
Random thought #1:
Cloud is awesome. There are a lot of cool things that can be done with it (just don’t ask most hosts to define “cloud” right now, because they all have different definitions).
But cloud will not replace, usurp or otherwise murder shared hosting. Anyone who tells you that a cloud service is fundamentally different than shared service is splitting hairs. Unless your site is on a dedicated server, you are using shared hosting. Your VPS is not a dedicated server. It lives on a physical server that hosts other VPSes. Maybe a whole lot of them.
Might some cloud technologies have benefits over traditional shared hosting? Absolutely! But at their core, they are still shared hosting. The sooner you come to grips with that, the better you’ll feel. About everything.
Random thought #2:
The unix/linux platform hasn’t been “cutting edge” or exciting for well over a decade. Or two. Yet many, many companies still sell shared *nix hosting successfully. Which would seem to be proof that you don’t have to re-invent yourself every six months to be of value to people. That’s a shocking fact, I know, but it’s something we’re just going to have to try to make peace with.
Random thought #3:
Ten years ago all of the world’s camera makers could have thrown their hands up and said, “Well, everyone’s phone has a camera now, we give up!” And actually, some of them essentially did just that.
But look around, plenty of people still buy cameras. In fact, having a camera available in your pocket all the time has created a new awareness of, and resurgence in, traditional film photography among the hip and the youthful (and wannabe hip and youthful) all over the world.
That’s partly a backlash against the inevitable complication of all things digital, but it can also be seen as a return to simplicity and function. So you could say (well, I’m saying) that shared hosting is the film photography of the hosting ecosystem. It’s simple, classic and frankly, it’s just cool. Admit it. You still love it. It’s the Holga camera of web hosting platforms. Full of soul and weird shadows.
Random thought #4:
Shared will never become extinct because regular people will always need it. You there — I see you with your wildly popular, million member web site that has tremendous resource requirements that fluctuate depending on how many television talk shows you appear on in a given week. You are not regular people. I’m not talking to you.
Random thought #5:
Some folks are fond of tossing around little nuggets of wisdom such as, “Hosting is just a commodity now, you’re chasing pennies, there’s no meat left on that bone.” Well, cable and satellite television are commodities too, but I don’t have to tell you that some of those providers are much better than others, and worth paying more money for, because they provide a more reliable, trouble-free experience.
Companies sell “commodities” as luxuries all the time. Cars are commodities, watches, clothes, electronic technology – and all of them have “high end” brands that return more to the consumer either through value, quality or simply prestige. You can bet if there was a “premium” electric company in your area, some of your neighbors would use it and willingly pay more for the same electricity you get from your regular old electric utility.
But it’s true that commodity hosting and premium hosting do exist, and the experiences they provide are quite different. DiscountASP.NET provides premium hosting, where quality of service is paramount. That approach is typically in direct opposition to a commodity host, such as — oh, I shouldn’t name names…but I will — GoDaddy, that is more about the numbers and less about the needs of actual people. I only know that because we get new customers every day who are refugees from commodity hosts like GoDaddy, and they tell us what they disliked about those hosts and what they like about us.
So you could say that the demise of traditional shared has been greatly exaggerated.
I think there will always be a place for shared hosting. Even if we don’t put a catchy new name onto it and sell it back to you as something different when it’s really not. As far as I can see into the crystal ball future of DiscountASP.NET, we will offer shared hosting.
Might we also offer something else in the future, something more cutting-edge? I think it’s safe to say that we will, only because it’s in our nature to provide our users with as much cool stuff as we can conjure up.
But I also think it’s safe to say that we’ll always have users who want a traditional shared account, for a lot of different reasons. And we’ll always be here to provide it.