Dedicated means you get a whole server to yourself. Virtual Private Server (VPS) is like taking a dedicated server, splitting it into multiple mini-servers, and you getting one of those mini-servers. Both require extensive knowledge of system administration and network security for one to operate. If you know nothing about system administration, then you need a "Managed" solution where someone else helps you deal with all the administration stuff. Definition of "Managed" varies from host to host; you need to inquire about how much management you will receive from the host.
Well, that is one part I am still strugllgin to understand. Many dedicated hosts like Softlayer and hostgator, offer cpanel. Isn't that managed enough? What else is there? Besides rebooting the machine (which as far as I can tell, anyoen can do with their admin area).
So VPS = semi dedicated but you can still run into issues similar to shared hosting becasue the person sharing with you can be reselling to a bunch of others thus... meaning VPS could potentially be equal to shared hosting problems?
CPanel is just an interface for you to manage your server. If anything goes wrong, i.e. web/email server down, you got hacked, databases corrupted, performance issues, etc.. you're on your own if it is unmanaged.
VPS you do share with other people, however, unliked shared hosting, you are guaranteed your portion of resources. Also, there are less people sharing on a server with VPS's than there are in shared hosting.
mealto, semi-dedicated is more often than not simply a larger reseller account and in many times the hosting provider will limit the amount of sold accounts per server to a lower number. This way there's less resource overhead so to speak.
As such semi-dedicated is not a root level account whereas a VPS is. I hope that explains enough.
VPS/VDS: root level portion of the server/host - think of the main server being a pie, you're given a portion of the overall resources of the server (typically the more you pay the more you get), can be managed or unmanaged/self-managed.
Semi-Dedicated: typically a larger reseller account - again the more you pay the more you get typically. Also in many cases hosts guarantee a maximum number of accounts per server. As semi-dedicated plans normally don't include root level access the host maintains the server.
Self-managed/unmanaged dedicated server: just as it says, you'd have the entire server all to yourself for your use. root level account (you have full control of the system). keep in mind this type of account requires unix (or windows) knowledge depending on the OS.
managed dedicated or managed VPS: your host provides the management services for you. Keep in mind hosts typically define different levels of management provided, again usually the more you pay the more you get (eg # of say application installs per month, number of additional admin time tickets per month, and so forth).
Hope the above elaboration assists you in your venture, and best of luck mealto.
Justin: Thank you for your time and your explanation. That is helping alot. It is almost all sinking in now. So in our scenario, we would probably not need root access as we won't know what to do with it.
What do you think the pros and cons are for Hostgator's semi-dedicaetd vedrsus their Dedicated (which is also fully managed I think). Thoughts?
My first thought here would be definitely ask them pertaining to whether or not it is indeed managed and what level of management they'll be providing you with. Also budget wise if you can I'd probably just go straight to the server and skip the migration down the road (as you're talking more downtime then anyhow). It really all depends on what type of hosting you actually need.
If you want to start out smaller and grow I'd go with a managed VPS first then semi-dedicated and then your own server. This would also allow you time to further develop your plan of attack on possibly generating revenue from your website.
Shared hosting is shared hosting and will probably affect you the same way regardless of how much resources you get or how little people are sharing your account. If you think of it this way: A semi-dedicated plan, although it has less customers, is more likely to be filled with customers who have high demands for bandwidth and disk space versus a small plan, which could consists of a bunch of people just storing their family photos. In other words, shared hosting with affect you depending on what kind of people you are sharing with and you will never know what kind of people you share with. If you really want to be guaranteed resources, I'd suggest going for a managed VPS.
But if those few customers end up becoming big time resllers
HG's semidedicated is not a reseller account. It comes with cPanel only.
A semi-dedicated plan, although it has less customers, is more likely to be filled with customers who have high demands for bandwidth and disk space versus a small plan, which could consists of a bunch of people just storing their family photos.
That is a true concern, and a VPS can protect one from performance issues caused by "neighbors" to a good extent. Still, even in a shared environment there's always the resources abuse clause that can be used when the situation asks for it (albeit after some damage has already been done). After all, there's a point when a site just needs a dedicated of its own.