A shared web hosting service or virtual hosting service refers to a web hosting service where many websites reside on one web server connected to the Internet. Each site “sits” on its own partition, or section of the server to keep it separate from other sites. This is generally the most economical option for hosting as many people share the overall cost of server maintenance.The hosting service must include system administration since it is shared by many users; this is a benefit for users who do not want to deal with it, but a hindrance to power users who want more control. In general shared hosting will be inappropriate for users who require extensive software development outside what the hosting provider supports. But on the other hand, shared hosting costs relatively cheaper than other types of hosting such as dedicated server hosting.
Shared hosting typically uses a web-based control panel system, such as cPanel, DirectAdmin, Plesk, InterWorx, Helm, H-sphere, Ensim, Sphera or one of many other control panel products. Control panels and web interfaces have been causing some controversy lately as Web.com claims that it holds patent rights to the hosting technology with its 19 patents. Hostopia, a large wholesale host, recently purchased a license to use that technology from web.com for 10% of retail revenues.Web.com recently sued abtinfo.net as well for similar patent infringement.
In shared hosting, the provider is generally responsible for management of servers, installation of server software, security updates, Technical support and other aspects of the service. The majority of servers are based on the Linux operating system – LAMP (software bundle), which is driven by the low cost of open source software. But some providers do offer Microsoft Windows-based or FreeBSD-based solutions. For example, the Plesk and Ensim control panels are both available for two operating systems, Linux and Windows. Versions for either OS have very similar interfaces and functionality, with the exception of OS-specific differences (for example, ASP.NET or Microsoft SQL Server support under Windows, and typically greater security and stability under Linux).
There are thousands of shared hosting providers in the United States alone. They range from mom-and-pop shops and small design firms to multi-million-dollar providers with hundreds of thousands of customers. A large portion of the shared web hosting market is driven through Pay Per Click advertising (PPC) or Affiliate programs.
Shared web hosting can also be done privately by sharing the cost of running a server in a colocation centre; this is called cooperative hosting.