Websites are interesting little creatures. One thing every website has is common is that they all need a place to live. I'm not talking about a domain name (that's for another blog), I'm talking about the actual server(s) that contain those files, that makeup your website.
Here's the disclaimer, there's no one-size-fits all and there's no greatest hosting in the world. There are, however choice and options. Choosing the right Web Host is important to the integrity of your website (duh) but also your brand, reputation and (depending on what your website does) it directly and/or indirectly affects your bottom line ($$$).
But they all basically do the same thing right, seriously what's the big deal?
A web host is basically a company that provides you with a server (hopefully a web server) and it's either all yours (dedicated) or it's one that's you have to share with lots of other people (shared). Now this is a gross, massive, over-simplification. In reality you can choose from VPS (Virtual Private Server), Cloud Computing, Managed vs Non-Managed servers, websites as a service (where the website itself and the server it lives on are all managed for u, right up to upgrading the website software auto-magically for you).
But back to the question at hand, should you try shared hosting? The answer is simple, it depends. Okay now for the, why... Shared hosting means your data lives on the same server & same hard drive, as other peoples data. There's an inherent security risk with that concept so if you have any sensitive information or don't like people poking around in your stuff, don't do shared! The second issue to consider is performance, the "bad neighbor effect" as the name suggests, is a bad thing. With lots of people all sharing the one resource (yes your web host will pack your server to the brim) you're now at the mercy of Tom, Dick & Harry, and Harry's dog Jack. So lets review, security is at risk, performance is an issue and finally you have choice (well you have lack of choice) in what technologies and configuration you can use. If your after any sort of flexibility shared hosting is not for you.
There are plenty of reasons why you would choose sharing hosting, it's cheaper, easy to setup, there are less responsibilities and technical challenges and for low volume traffic sites that don't have sensitive data or fancy requirements security and performance risks are mitigated by saving bucket-loads if cold hard cash. Having said that there is a huge difference between paying $3 a month vs $30 a month for hosting and I'll give you a hint it's not the cost savings!
Dedicated hosting is really for those that are serious about web hosting. You can have your own dedicated environment (your own server) but share the basic resources of a server (it's called a VPS, Virtual Private Server) and you can think of it as getting one big server and slicing it into lots of pieces. It's more complicated than that but what you end up with is your own server (virtual as in your own OS not a physical server to call your own) free from the general security, performance and choice limitations of it's shared server counterpart, but without the huge price tag of it's dedicated friend. A VPS comes with it's own special advantages, and there are a couple of cases where it's not the best choice, but it does tend to mix the best of both worlds very well, a happy medium if you will. It's not as expensive as a true Dedicated server and it's easier to upgrade, backup and move to the other side of the world if you really waned to. Of course a Dedicated server can allow you to have the ultimate level of customization so if you have the money, and the tech know-how (or you could pay for that) you can do some serious crunching with your very own setup.
So Dedicated Hosting or Shared Hosting? I say show VPS Hosting some love!